What is it about these MCDs? Part 4: The Active Output

This entry is part of 14 in the series Best of AJATT+ Forum
This entry is part of 7 in the series MCD Revolution

Why are MCDs so effective?

My hunch (and limited experience) is that MCDs convert into output faster and more accurately than the “original glazed” sentence cards because we’re doing a deeper form of practice.


Both vanilla sentences and MCDs familiarize you with the language and expose you to vocab and syntax, but the key difference is that sentences are passive whereas MCDs are active.

This active form of practice leads to easier, faster, and more natural output.

I find that I use MCDs simply for writing.  … I already knew what it meant from the Kanji and also from my sentence deck.  I knew what it meant but I couldn’t write it. …

中華料理…I can write that on command thanks to MCDs.


I personally don’t use MCDs exclusively.

I love my vanilla sentence deck, and I still add to it daily. But I’ve found that MCDs are amazing for helping me memorize 四字熟語. Before experimenting with MCDs, I had a few 四字熟語 in my sentence deck, but I could only recognize and read them. I couldn’t write them out from memory.

Now that I’ve gotten into MCDs, I can write those suckers one right after the other without breaking a sweat.

Here’s an example of how I would use MCDs to learn 合縁奇縁:





合縁奇縁 あいえんきえん






合縁奇縁 あいえんきえん





合縁奇縁 あいえんきえん





合縁奇縁 あいえんきえん

I would also add a vanilla sentence card with no cloze deletions just for learning the readings.

Based on what I’ve read at the AJATT+ forums, some users love MCDs and have completely scrapped the sentence method. Some have tried MCDs and found that sentences were a better match. Others, like myself, are experimenting with a combination of both. Some write out their MCD answers, others don’t 1: I know that Khatz is lazy, so he can’t be bothered. See what works best for you.

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  1. They just say them aloud or whatever

  23 comments for “What is it about these MCDs? Part 4: The Active Output

  1. Narcoleptic
    March 13, 2012 at 02:10

    In regards to writing (copying) and using MCD’s, I’m assuming you’d only write the answer as opposed to writing the entire sentence with the old method. Does the volume of MCD’s you’re able to go through compared to the sentence method offset the difference in writing practice? I can see this being a much more attractive option for lazy people like myself if so. 

    finishing up RTK1 this week, and I’ll most likely do my first 500-1000 as sentences with translations… would it be a good idea to transition to mono-lingual and MCD’s at the same time?   

    • rigabamboo
      March 13, 2012 at 12:59

      >> I’m assuming you’d only write the answer as opposed to writing the entire sentence with the old method.




      >>would it be a good idea to transition to mono-lingual and MCD’s at the same time?  


      You can start MCDs before you go monolingual. I’m currently learning Korean as a beginner with bilingual MCDs.


  2. Routine
    March 13, 2012 at 02:57

    I think combining the two would be a good idea… I have rather limited experience with MCDs (been trying them out for like… 4 days? lol), but I feel that they would be better for learning the writing or particular grammar points, while I find vanilla sentences to be working just fine for readings (although so far I’ve just been doing core2k – about 600 words in, but I’m starting to put some other sentences in).

    I also have a rather unrelated question to anyone who bothers to read this: what do you think about Rikaichan? For those who dunno what that is, it’s an add-on for firefox that shows readings and English translation when you mouseover a Japanese word. I find it rather useful when reading stuff on the internet, such as, well, dictionary entries in a monodic, but I’m wondering, wouldn’t it turn out to be too big of a crutch? What do you guys think?

    • アミール
      March 13, 2012 at 05:52

      Can someone shed light to me on how to make a Vanilla sentence? I’m clueless and can’t find anything..

      • ライトニング
        March 13, 2012 at 09:55

        Sentence on front, and on the back there are readings and definitions for the words.
        For monolingual, here is how one of my cards look.
        屁「へ」を 放出「ほうしゅつ」 することを 放屁「ほうひ」 と言う
        放出(吹き出すこと。また、あふれ出ること〔2〕蓄えていたものを外部に出すこと。持っているものを手放すこと) If there are multiple definitions, I copy both.
        Yeah, I have strange sentences…
        If it was bilingual, for me, it’s the same, except the definitions are in english

        • アミール
          March 14, 2012 at 00:24

          Ahh sorry to the original commenter, I didn’t meant to reply to your post!
          But thanks ライトニング for the reply! This info was very useful (:

      • March 14, 2012 at 05:26

        My “vanilla” cards (why does vanilla have such a bad rep as boring…it’s a great taste D:) tend to take this format:
        And then the definition of any words that I feel I need. In this case, it was only 周期 since the others were all very familiar to me. Incidentally, it’s “+1” cards like this that are by far the most fun and useful in this format.
        I usually look for the specific definition that fits and add only that. For words that have about 8 million different uses like かける or とる, this can be time-consuming to prepare, but is more useful when actually reviewing the cards.
        I’ve never had any bilingual cards for Japanese, and haven’t attempted to do this for any other language I’m interested in yet, so I can’t tell you how those would look.

        • アミール
          March 14, 2012 at 05:55

          Ah, thanks for your explanation aswell. Interesting way of making the back card. If I can get my ・ to get small again, I’ll definitely try that!! I don’t really make bilingual cards, ONLY when there’s a totally new word I was just introduced to, or a new grammar point(although I eventually delete the English on those card after it’s understood).. since I’m still working on genki books at the moment, I’m still fresh with grammar. Not sure how I would write a definition in Japanese.. soo.. hopefully I can get to doing that soon!

          • ブライアン
            March 14, 2012 at 09:56

            “Not sure how I would write a definition in Japanese.. soo.. hopefully I can get to doing that soon!”
            You don’t.  You copy the definition from a (online/software) dictionary.  Or failing that, something like Wikipedia — I’ve even defined オタク slang using the tag database on pixiv.  Writing your own is far too error prone and too slow to be of use.

            • アミール
              March 14, 2012 at 12:06

              Oh, sorry, I used the wrong expression. I meant I wouldn’t be able to read the definition.. my vocabulary is small at the moment, maybe 300, 400 words? Or does not being able to read the definition even matter at all? I was able to read all but 2 kanji from your example, 周期・現象 (I got the dot fixed!)

              • March 14, 2012 at 15:51

                Being able to read the definition does matter, at least to the degree that it helps you recall what you’re reading. I tried using definitions I didn’t understand and it didn’t work very well.
                Look up the words you don’t know in the definition in a bilingual dictionary as a “jumping off point” to use the monolingual dictionary. You’ll get a lot of basic descriptive words by doing that, and the process will become much easier as you go along.

              • ブライアン
                March 14, 2012 at 20:14

                You need to *understand* the definition, or else it doesn’t do you any good later.  (But, personally, I don’t bother getting the readings for every word in a definition I don’t know.  Understanding is the important part.)
                Early on, what you’re going to end up doing is a *lot* of recursive lookups.  For example, let’s look at the word 【景気】(けい・き):
                Okay, so the first word I don’t know (I can read it from the kanji, but let’s check to make sure) is 売買, so let’s look that up:
                For the sake of length, we’ll stop there, but if you anything gave you trouble in that definition, you’d look up that term, and so on.  Return to the original definition, take the next new word, and define it.  Then, when you understand the original definition, you take that entire tree of definitions and make a bunch of cards out of them.
                This is a fair amount of work, but the rewards are huge — obviously the dictionary becomes a lot easier to use.  Also, it will teach you generalized vocabulary and how to describe actions and situations you don’t know the exact word for.  This is *huge* when holding a conversation, because even a software dictionary is too slow to be doing tons of lookups in the middle of a conversation.

    • Serena
      March 13, 2012 at 05:56

      I can see Rikaichan becoming a crutch. For me, it isn’t but I guess it depends on how you use it. Its a great resource and is especially handy for beginners. I use Rikaichan with Chrome and at the top right I can switch Rikaichan on and off. So I only use it when I absolutely need it. 

    • gankoo
      March 13, 2012 at 09:58

      I use Rikaichan a lot, but I changed the default settings so it doesn’t display english translations. I just use it for the readings. Mostly.

    • ナカツ
      March 15, 2012 at 12:39

      If you’re worried about the bilingual aspect of rikaichan, but want more than just readings, check out rikaisama. It uses the sanseido monodic (and I think can use more, though I haven’t tried), and it’s awesome!
      If you’re worried about it being a crutch generally… Well don’t, it’s better than not reading at all 🙂 You’ll outgrow it in time.

      • Matt
        March 16, 2012 at 19:05

        Definitely agree.  Use crutches.  Use training wheels.  Use floaters.  You’ll outgrow them and swim on your own eventually, but you won’t get any bonus points for having done it the “hard core way”, so in the mean time just do what is easiest.

  3. フレヂィー
    March 13, 2012 at 02:58

    I say that, I’ve only been on the MCD bus for a week or so now, and it might sound like hocus-pocus but I can definitely see why people are saying that you are no longer glancing over a sentence but actually paying attention to the portion you set out to practice/study/remember.

    So far… thumbs up! 

  4. Sebbe
    March 13, 2012 at 04:42

    Why does part 4 come before part 3 in the series?

    • rigabamboo
      March 13, 2012 at 10:14

      That was totally on purpose. Totally. >_>

  5. Nova
    March 13, 2012 at 12:10

    Cool, cant wait

    Everytime I see MCD I think of McDonalds

  6. March 14, 2012 at 04:50

    I’m going to be using a combination of sentences and MCDs. I think once I go fully monolingual I will be adding more MCDs than sentences. However, I don’t see ever stopping sentences since they obviously worked for Khatz.

  7. アメド
    March 14, 2012 at 12:52

    I’ve read the MCD posts now but all I need to do now is: make it all automatic (furigana,monolingual-look-ups,etc) I don’t add that much sentences anymore but it’s definitely time I try new things to reach the next level. I’ve been learning for 2.5 years now and I feel that learning Japanese isn’t hard at all anymore but now it’s time to fill in the gaps and reach complete fluency.

  8. beneficii
    September 16, 2013 at 13:57

    I’ve got my MCDs ready to go. For now, I want to focus on particles and which verb endings are used (whether it’s present tense or past tense, continuous tense, etc.). I think that will help me build sentences faster.

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