Well, I kind of obsess with being
perfect efficient. Most of the time, people only concentrate on the content, but are not aware of how that content gets digested by others. The worst example that I know of that bad displayed information (not missing information) can lead to a disaster is the case of the Columbia shuttle: it blown up in the air because of a bad PowerPoint slide. You see, a good design is not only eliminate hindrances of your mind flow, but also can save the world.
OK, now back to the point. I’m studying GRE by using Anki, and while there are numerous already built decks, the process of my learning was not satisfy me (or was I expecting too high?). There were a lot of cards that becoming leeches (a leech card is a card that I keep forgetting, and will be buried automatically by Anki). This is a waste of time, and a waste of effort. As a consequence, my Verbal score didn’t improve.
Note that I’m not saying that learning these decks didn’t help me, it just didn’t meet my expectation. I do have learnt a lot of useful words, and since then I learn English with a different eye: I don’t have to suffering learning it any more, but exploring it with joyful.
OK, now back to the point. Many people will say: well, that’s the limit of being a foreigner, there is nothing I can do. I don’t think it’s impossible. After hunting high and low for the best deck, I found that the Verbal Workout GRE 4th edition (شخصی سازی شده) had a lot of built-in IPAs, images and sounds. And yes, it has Persian meaning in each card. It is the good deck to start, a very good one, but not the good deck to learn (except Persian people). So I wrote a Python script, extracted the data, crawled more data and redesigned the deck. Here is the final result:
The more relevant information you have, the easier you remember it. This is how the brain works.
There is not much I need to say, and I’ll try to keep it short:
- Word: enlarged and emboldened because it is the most important thing in the deck. If the definition is unclear to you, click on the word and your browser will open a new tab which contains its definition in Dictionary.com.
- Sound: taken from the original, which I don’t know the source of it. In the front side, try to pronounce the word. The sound will be play after you turn the card so that you can check how close you are.
- IPA: taken from the original, which in its turn taken from Merriam – Webster dictionary. Another source for you to check your pronunciation. User No-More-Stars from Reddit dedicated his time to build a script for getting IPA from WordNik (just because I asked, so here’s my thank to him), but unfortunately the database doesn’t have some words in my list.
- Image: taken from the original. Wow, I admire the creator of the deck I based on because they have the images in every card. I don’t know how they did that, but for me it will require a lot of effort to code, or I have to manually google every word to find their images. Anyway, there are some images that are vague to the words, and you may want to google it again. To do that, simply click on the image. One tip to find the image which reveals the meaning explicitly is not to find the word directly, but to combine it with other words or alternate it with its synonyms, or an example of the word.
- To change the image of a card, simply right click on the image you want on Google, choose copy image, then paste it on the Edit window of the card.
- Full definition: taken from EasyDefine.com, which in turn taken from WordNet. A full definition is not necessary in most case, but crucial to fully understand how to use that word, especially when it has some “secret” nuance, usage or meaning. Don’t underestimate those extra information. The more you know, the more you remember.
- Short description: taken from Barron word list, which (I suspect) taken from Merriam – Webster. This is more utility than the full definition most of the time. It connects to the word more directly, and that’s why I put it in the front side, along with the picture. But, as I said above, sometimes you will likely to remember the full definition better.
- Spelling checking: another exercise for you to remember the word, besides its pronunciation.
Some more insights about the design:
- I don’t use colors to emphasize. Colors are used to draw attention. They say: “Hey, look at me, and always keep an eye on me“. If you want to emphasize something, but not to get distracted, try to make it larger or embolden it. In contrast, if you want to downplay it, you can make it smaller or make it subtler (e.g. light gray color).
- I also left-align all the content. Middle-align should only be used in short content. Since we read from left to right, left-align will create an anchor for our eyes when move to a next line.
OK, here you go:
Good luck with your GRE test 😀
PS1: BTW, Stack Exchange has a proposal for language learning. If you are interest, go there and make it succeed to the beta stage.
Update 11 Aug 2016:
After a year after making it and using it myself, I have been taking a step back to see why learning new vocabulary is important, why solely learning from the context is not entirely effective and how to optimize your learning process. Everything is based on the latest scientific evidence. I also realize that I can even make the deck more informative and it will motivate you to use it. For more information, please visit lightninged.cards.