Why I deleted my RTK and Sentence Decks

I figured this caused some stir (okay, well, like TWO people but they’re worth typing this thing up) when I mentioned I deleted by RTK and Sentence decks.

Yes I really did.

Yes I deleted my 4,000+ RTK deck. That I meticulously went entry by entry through this dictionary.

And, honestly? No regrets. I actually feel like a weight has been lifted!

For some time now, those decks have seen little to no action. And when I’ve been employing my recent Hanzi/Kanji study method, along with one mentioned by Khatz over here, I’ve just found my RTK to be downright boring and tedious to do. I would open up my RTK, do a few entries, and just felt that either a) I forgot the keywords since it’s been so long, b) it was pretty boring and I LOVE writing so this wasn’t a good sign, c) it was getting stagnant. Yes, despite having more than 4,000 entries, I still found it so boring that I stopped doing entries for months. When I replaced it with the above mentioned study method, I just had much more fun doing it. I learned the characters in context, I had keywords/definitions to back me up (infinitely better than lone keywords and out of context situations), and I just had fun finding them in different situations.

Now, as I said in that entry, it may have been easier having been studying and amassing a base of generally recognized characters, so I can’t say if this would work well for beginners. What I can say is, I’ve felt I have gained more recognition and retention—that is, when I did RTK, sure I could remember to write with KEYWORDS, but what about when I really needed it? On a document? Forget it! Only by studying them in CONTEXT (like my current address in Taipei!) could I really start to retain how to write them. So maybe RTK would be good for a general base of 300-500 then move on to context based entries? Either way, I get a lot more out of these entries than I ever did with RTK.

Now! For the sentences. I hadn’t done that deck in an equally long period of time. I just found I could read through the sentences without really having to try. Sure, I’d focus on some tones here and there, but I think my brain (which is amazing at finding the lazy way out of things) would get the general idea of the sentence just so I could pass it. I knew I was in trouble when that happened. Eventually, I also noticed (before I stopped doing my reps) that my retention rate was really low. I had all these sentences, was doing them 2-3 times a day, and STILL found myself not able to produce anything. After a year and a half (again, this is my experience, your mileage may vary), I felt still kind of behind.

Anyway, I just got tired of both decks and finally deleted the two of them and starting over anew!


11 thoughts on “Why I deleted my RTK and Sentence Decks

  1. I’ve thought sometimes I may end up deleting large decks more than once. The perfect method at one stage of learning is not the perfect method later on.

    With sentences, while I haven’t been doing them long enough to decide this for sure let alone do it, I think that once a sentence’s interval is more than three or four months you may as well delete/suspend it. One would hope that if a card is passed easily at that time, three or four months later one would have learned enough more that that particular card would never pose a problem again; so, no point reviewing it any more. Maybe consistently deleting or suspending mature cards would even allow one to carry on with the same large deck for as long as one needs a deck at all.

    • Do you feel any good outcomes from the sentences? I just found myself glossing over them so much that they really weren’t effective. That is, I wasn’t doing any actual “thinking”–it was too much of a passive activity. Nothing for me to work on, even on cards that scored low retention. I just felt I could read a book with a dictionary and get about the same results with a much more fun activity.

      • So far, yes, I definitely do. I have however felt that same “glossing over” effect you mention – one ends up just memorizing the card, and absent-mindedly hitting “pass”. The highlighting I do in the question – you’ve seen my post on that – has helped tremendously. When a grammar card comes up, the highlighting reminds me to consider that point, and when a vocabulary card comes up, I have to write the kanji for the highlighted hiragana word so I pretty much have to concentrate.

        Over time, the deck will progress to having the vast majority of its cards be vocab, and as that progresses, I’ll be adding fewer and fewer new cards. So as my ability grows my SRS use will decrease. You are quite a bit further along than I am, so you’re maybe noticing that effect?

      • Your entry “sentence srs – the middle of the beginning” is actually the kind of thing I’m feeling, specifically “Enough to make me not want to start reviewing it. That isn’t right. I should be looking forward to it. For the time being I stopped adding new cards …” Anyway, I took the “delete” mindset to the full and just got rid of the whole thing 😛

        Well, since I have been starting Japanese lately, I’ve been going back to sentences after reading through your comments/blog a bit. I am trying a few different methods with Japanese, and trying to start “from scratch” (in essence, forgetting all I learned from my previous three years of study). For Chinese grammar points, I’ll just cloze delete the term in question. I’ll admit that I haven’t had a chance to try out your methods since I commented on your post, but now I’ve got time freed up to give it a shot.

        I think a big problem with my deck was creating relevant material to living in Taiwan. I learned some great vocab, but I also need to learn vocab for daily usage. I can’t talk about topics that may come up in manga, for instance, during job interviews, class, or at 7-11 paying my electricity bills. So there is some added pressure to create relevancy in the deck, something else I am trying to put into my new decks.

  2. Well, it’ll be interesting to follow your progress. Do keep in mind I’m pretty new to this, so take my notions with a bucket of salt 😉

    • Part of the fun is just experimenting with everyone’s methods while combining them with your own. Who knows, maybe we’ll create the ultimate method in the end and make millions of dollars.


  3. Hello! I saw your article on AJATT at the bottom and was wondering if you could help me understand the lazy Kanji method. Right now I’ve been using a Lazy Kanji Primitive Deck (By Kendo) and it’s so boring.. I’ve been forcing myself to do this and not sure how to make it fun. I guess it’s a memorizing deck but I keep on forgetting them since there is nothing besides the story

    Well, I wanted to make my own Lazy Kanji cards that’s Khatz’s has showned but not sure exactly how to make it for a beginner. I can’t read the japanese he posts on the back of the card and not sure what it means so I’ve been stuck..Could you please help me out if you can? Sorry for bothering you if I am. 😦

    • Well, not story but keyword and page number that Heisig uses.* That’s it :C

    • Are you looking to make Japanese or Chinese cards? I’ve been trying to think of a way myself as I’m starting Japanese. I have a few ideas, as well as what I do for Chinese, so depending on which you want to learn, I’d be happy to share!

      • I’m looking to make Japanese cards. x3 Right now I’m working on Kanji and thins haven’t been go so great..I’d love to hear your ideas anyway! 😀

      • Sure thing! I’ll write up a blog entry about my ideas, including both Chinese and Japanese cards. It may take a few days as I’m currently on a little vacation due to Chinese New Year, hope you don’t mind the wait! For now, though, a basic answer (to save you some waiting) is to place the word plus the Japanese definition on the front, with the English on the back. That way, you get used to the Japanese definition and can get the gist of it from the English. Of course, if you’re looking up something with 15 different definitions in Japanese and you can’t figure out which one it is exactly, then just make your life easy and stick with the English. At any rate, you can slowly build up to definitions you recognize as you go through more cards. So, in the beginning it may seem like they’re all English, but if you’re consistently looking up the Japanese definitions alongside the English ones, you’ll be gradually getting used to it. I know it can be a bit time consuming but it is actually quite helpful. Even if you only do one a day, as Khatz may say, it’s still more than none!

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