After my posts about flashcards, a small, but extremely vociferous minority of people have decided to carry on a raging holy war in the comments section of my blog. These few people seemingly never sleep, commenting at all hours of the day, keeping the war alive and reminding me, through sheer persistence and strength of will, that they're right and I'm wrong.
So I give in. I admit that I was completely wrong about flashcards. Apparently, they're really awesome, and I just needed to be more open-minded. And after I finally sat and thought about it, and gave them a fair chance, I realized that there actually are several things that are really great about flashcards.
They help you to take action
As they say, "perception is everything", and there will always be some people who are more concerned with seeing action taken than they will ever be with getting effective results.
So whether it's yourself who you're trying to fool, or the people around you, flashcards are a good tool for the job. You can be seen "doing the work" that's necessary to learn. Wow, won't your friends be impressed when they see you've decided to keep that New Year's resolution to learn a language!
They make you a better person
You believe in hard work as a virtue, and you are philosophically opposed to the idea that anything worthwhile can be fun. Perhaps you're that really irritating guy (everybody knows that guy) whose entire identity consists of how hard he works. If so, flashcards are perfect for you! It takes work to make them, and it takes work to use them, and it's a really great way to feed that martyr complex of yours.
But the benefit doesn't end there, because after you give up, when you're not getting the results you wanted, you can get sympathy from people by whining to them about how hard you've worked and studied.
They help to give your life meaning
You spent hundreds of dollars on the latest, greatest smartphone, and you think it's the neatest thing since sliced bread, but when people ask you what you need that for, you're left with a blank look on your face because you can't really justify the novelties you buy.
Now, thanks to your flashcards app, you can justify that Google phone or iPhone or iPad or Kindle, or whatever shiny object it was that finally got you off of your ass and into the store to spend your money. Now when people ask what you need that for, you can proudly proclaim that it helps you to learn languages!
They help you learn exactly what you want
Flashcards give you all the power to learn exactly the words you want to learn, while conveniently allowing you the freedom to completely avoid learning all those pesky words you need. Study the words you want to know, no more, no less.
Learn how to say really useful words like choking, bondage, untie, prostitute, underage, illegal, bribe, and prison — you know, really important words that you'll probably use a lot — but don't waste any time on rare words that people never say, like download, install, deposit, investment, boil, fry, air conditioner, etc.
That other guy does it, so it must be great
Who can argue with such pristine logic? That other guy — Khatzumoto, or Kaufman, or name anyone else — uses flashcards, so that means they're great.
Yup. And Kobe Bryant is a polyglot who plays professional basketball, so maybe we should all start practicing our jumpshot, because you know, if it worked for him it will work for me too!
They can help you make friends
Sturdy, lightweight objects can make a great way to get someone's attention. Language hacker Benny Lewis has found a fantastic way to use flashcards to meet new people:
Yes, flashcards are very useful. You can use them to flick at an interesting looking person from a few metres away to get their attention. It's like a poke on Facebook. They'll yell "why the hell are you doing that??" and a beautiful friendship would have begun.
That sounds like a great idea to me!
They make you strong and powerful
You know what they say... there's strength in numbers! And apparently, if you use flashcards, you know all about running up numbers. Flashcard users have honed their skills for repetetive, boring tasks, which makes them really good other useful tasks, like returning to a blog every hour or two, in order to write another argumentative response and keep a battle going.
I'm sure this same skill is also useful in many other areas of life, such as returning to the same job you hate every morning, ordering the same combo meal you eat every day for lunch, or telling the same stale lies to your spouse about where you where when he or she called. I'm sure we could all think of a situation where flashcards could help make us better the repetition of mundane tasks.
Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.