Ages ago I wrote about using an SRS for learning L2 songs. I’d been elaborately chopping up songs and pasting the audio into SRS cards along with lyrics snippets.
And you know what? It worked really well. I learnt quite a few Cantonese songs that way. The only problems were that splicing and dicing the audio using Audacity took too long and that forcibly listening to the 10-12 second audio clips grated a little after a while.
So, I used the L2IR (Second Language Incremental Reading) format that I’d been using for other Chinese text and applied it to some songs I wanted to learn in an entirely new deck. It includes both Cantonese and Mandarin songs, differentiated by differently coloured flashcard text.
The difference this time is that I’ve not been adding audio to the cards. The requirement of each card is just to read the text, followed, where necessary, by reading/singing the verse it comes from. (I’ll read it if it’s a fast song, or sing it if it’s slow enough to be able to focus on both the tune and lyrics.) I’ll keep adding cards based on the 90% comprehension “sweet spot” – fragments where you’re 90% of the way to being able to read out and understand the words – over as long a period as necessary until the song is finished.
When it gets to the point where I can read through the entire song fluently, then the secondary challenge of actually singing/rapping the lyrics, up to speed, is dealt with outside of Anki (i.e. just with lyrics and .mp3). Realistically, situations in which I’m going to be singing an L2 song all the way through are unlikely to be situations in which I have Anki open.
Obviously, there’s a requirement of having listened to whatever song I want to learn several times over a many-day period before starting to learn the lyrics, to get used to the sounds, rhythm, cadence etc. of said song.
Here be Dragons!
The most important thing that should be highlighted here is that although reading through the passage from which the sentence/lyric fragments come is labelled as “optional”, it is only optional once you fully understand the entire passage and have learnt all the relevant vocabulary.
The sweet thing about this way of learning is that it largely eliminates having to learn stuff outside of Anki – virtually the entire learning process can be performed within the bounds of the software. (This applies to both songs and other written passages.) Once you’ve read, understood and written out portions of the same 100-word passage several-times-over-a-many-day-period, you ain’t gonna forget it – and Anki can do its job of helping you retain learnt information thereafter.
Also, don’t forget that there’s no rush. The longest period taken to learn an entire song so far has been 3 months; the longest time it’s taken me to understand a 100-character passage has been 6 months. Although it may seem an inefficient way of learning, don’t forget that a tiny amount of time is being invested overall in learning, so it’s not a big deal. By always focussing on the 90% comprehension sweet-spot, it also means that you’re doing the equivalent of graded reading without having to invest in expensive graded readers.
Over the course of the three weeks since starting the new deck, I’ve learnt-to-usefulness* ~5 songs, with a further ~10 nearing completion. One song (明年今日, by Eason Chan) took just a two-day period to learn since I already all the characters in the song and could easily understand it. It also worked well for Mandarin songs – even though I’ve never made any special effort to learn Mandarin, by breaking down songs in this way it’s still possible to learn them quickly.
As ever… comments are oh so welcome. Any other techniques out there for SRS-assisted L2 song learning? Do share 🙂
* So that I can bust them out in karaoke bars. Or just whenever the mood strikes, y’know?