3 Reasons Why to Use Back-To-Front Reverse Flashcards for Language Learning

Backward Shirt Boy
Why should you flip your flashcards to learn languages, so that you also learn new vocabulary from words, not only images? I’m going to share with you my experience and reasons why I’m now implementing this in my language learning strategy, as I learn Spanish, French, Tagalog and Chinese.

What do I mean by “Back-To-Front” or Reversed or Flipped Flashcard Learning

Firstly, I want to explain what I mean by the concept, before I get into the reasons why. When I refer to “Back-To-Front” or Reversed or Flipped Flashcard Learning, I am referring to how in Anki or in other flashcard software programs, you can study your cards each back-to-front or reverse or flipped.

Let me get into the reasons why you should consider doing this, and you’ll understand more.

1. Highly Recommended by Polglot Gabriel Wyner’s Foreign Language Strategy

I’ve been using Gabriel Wyner’s foreign language studying and maintaining techniques for over a month and a half now. Originally when I read his strategy, he suggested to create cards with the FRONT of it using only an image (for example, an image of a cat). Then the BACK of the card would have the word in the foregn language, such as El Gato, along with the audio of a native saying the word. Important Reminder: NO ENGLISH WORDS (or words in your native language) at all on your cards!!!

This has already been effective as I’ve been studying with Spaced Repetition System learning (via Anki), but Gabriel aso suggested to create cards where you study the reverse as well. For instance, you also create a card where the the FRONT of the card would be the word El Gato with the audio of the word from a native speaker. Then the BACK of the card would be the image of the cat. Again, NO ENGLISH anywhere on your cards.

See now what I mean by back-to-front, reversed and flipped cards.

So you add cards like these to your deck. It will double up your work, but only slightly, as you already have the audio and text and images from your front-to-back versions. This is now what I’ve been doing – and it’s what Gabriel Wyner also suggests.

2. Easily Visualise Images from Words

Doing this, I’ve found, also helps you with word recognition. The front-to-back cards were great especially for situations if I physically see the item in real life, and I wanted to know the word for it. For example, if I see a cat in real life and I want to immediately recognise it as El Gato.

On the other hand, the advantage of learning word-to-image is that if I see the word only (and not the image or the actual item) in real life, such as if I see a sign or a poster or read a book with the word, then I would easily identify the word El Gato as the image of a cat in my mind. This is really smart!

3. More Practice from Variations is Better

And simply, I think that adding reversed and flipped flashcards to your deck just gives you another way to practice your deck. It adds variety and tests you in a more varied and therefore, fun way.

The downside with the Anki software is that it has been really hard to figure out how to automatically take my front-to-back cards and then simply duplicate them but then in a back-to-front fashion. I read forums and no one seemed to be able to figure it out, so I’ve had to manually add new cards for each back-to-front card.

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