How to SRS Better - Making Good Flashcards that Stick - Learn Thai from a White Guy

How to SRS Better – Making Good Flashcards that Stick

2020 Update: Anki is still not as easy to use as it should be, but I do go through phases where I use flashcards.

2015 Update: I no longer use an SRS (Spaced Repetition System) to the extent that I did years ago. While they are very effective at moving information into your long-term memory, they are not very fun.  I also found that being able to produce an answer for a flashcard does not always translate at being able to use that information in a real-life conversation. I would limit your time spent on flashcards each day and increase the time and frequency spent actually trying to speak and read the language you are studying.   

Start simple, but not too much so.  We usually want to learn words in phrases because without them you won’t know how to use the word properly.  We use the SRS to keep those patterns fresh enough in our mind so they stay at the fringes where things are hard to pull back, but just close enough that we can reel them back in when we encounter them.

Don’t put a whole lot of crap you don’t understand into a card.  This won’t help you.  Neither will overloading yourself so much with SRS cards early on that it makes the task too stressful.  One or 2 new points per card.  Build on what you know.  Its ok to build on cards you already have as long as you don’t make them too long.   Trust me on this, I suspend cards all the time because they are boring, too long, or for whatever reason they don’t seem to wanna go into my head.  Whatever the reason, suspend them or get rid of them.  You don’t need it now, that’s all.

As per Bob’s request, here is an example plus clarification in how to go about making good SRS cards.

Here is something I just grabbed from the news…

ตำรวจฮ่องกงจับชายผู้หนึ่งหลังขับรถพุ่งเข้าชนรถแท็กซี่ทำให้มีผุ้เสียชีวิต 6 คน

This sentence is long.  You probably won’t ever want a card this long.  When you can read stuff like the above sentence no problem, you should already be reading books and the news like a normal literate person.

But lets say you struggled through the above sentence and wanted to break it up into managable chunks that you can review in your SRS.  This sentence can be broken up quite nicely actually.

ตำรวจ ฮ่องกง จับ ชาย ผู้ หนึ่ง – police-HK-arrest-male-person-one (HK police arrested one male..)

Its still a bit wordy and a bit strange because its a headline.  Let’s say you kn0w the word for police – ตำรวจ, but this is your first time encountering the word จับ.  Since police are often doing the จับ-ing, we could google that to search for more examples, or we could just fill in the blank if we know any words for bad guys.

For example, if you learned the word pirate from my bad joke post, you could say:

ตำรวจ จับ โจรสลัด – police captured the pirate(s)

Now thats a lot easier to grasp.  3 words.  1 or 2 new words per SRS entry is ok.  Don’t put in a sentence full of stuff you don’t understand.  You need comprehensible input, reviewing a sentence you don’t understand at all won’t help much and will cause frustration later.

And there isn’t anything wrong with reinforcing that card with other cards that are similar.  So you may even have another card that says ตำรวจ ฮ่องกง จับ ผู้ร้าย – (HK police catch crimnal).

Mess around with the cards.  You can always delete cards later if you don’t like them.  Cards that stress you out when you encounter them are cards you aren’t ready for.  The point of the cards is to keep the information accessible in your brain via exposure.

Other parts of the original sentence which are worthy of SRS-ing:

  • รถพุ่งเข้าชน
  • มีผุ้เสียชีวิต 6 คน or ทำให้ มี ผุ้ เสียชีวิต 6 คน (caused the deaths of 6 people)
  • ขับ รถ ชน รถแท็กซี่ (crashed a car into a taxi)

Anyways, I hope that helped.  As with anything else, you will get better at SRS-ing with practice.

Rules to follow:

  1. Reviewing is more important than adding
  2. Its ok to delete or suspend cards that cause you to not want to review
  3. Its gotta be a daily thing – no matter how busy you are, spend 2 min and do 5 cards a day at the very least.  Do more when you can, but don’t ever do none.

If you want to read up more on SRS-ing, check out Antimoon’s site here.


  1. Bobthemonkey says

    Firstly thanks for the blog and giving me the drive to believe that with consistent effort one day I’ll be able to understand and say something more than ไม่เข้าใจ. Crikey just realised 2 months ago the writing was just a pretty design to me. Anyway back to the point, I am struggling to get memorable SRS entries so an example here would reinforce your message so much more clearly.

  2. I am mixed with Thai and black and am 9 years old and I have always wanted to know more about my genes and origins. Therefor this helps alot with me talking accurately and reading decently. Majority of the people I know call me articulate but I also want to be articulate with Thai!


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