How to use your Flashcards



While learning a new language, our brain gets bombarded with information continuously. This information is provided by all our senses. It is simply too much to store. Luckily, our brain developed sophisticated algorithms for throwing away information. It's necessary and it is called forgetting. A simplified model for this forgetting ability is that we have an ultra short term memory (10 seconds), short term memory (10 minutes), medium term memory, etc. Most data is lost in the ultra short term memory. If it is important information, it should be passed to the next longer memory and so on. Most of our language learning material are not considered essential by our brains. If we find a way to repeat the information shortly before we lose it, then the chances are much greater to remember the information.

Flashcards provide you with this repetition pattern, so that facts are remembered much longer. It focuses your time on the information you need to learn and not on what you already know. It provides you also with a visible way to check your progress.


This system is based upon the works of Sebastian Leitner, a German psychologist, as documented in his work - "So lernt man lernen".

It works on just a few principles. All cards are asked from a box. The box is divided into 5 partitions. When a card is presented for review, it is either promoted to the next section if known or demoted to the first section if it can not be recalled.

Thus, each box section represents a level of proficiency. This allows you to set your own priorities, investing more time into the 'lowest' boxes (with the most difficult question cards). With some effort on your part, each flashcard climbs to the last box section in time. This principle ensures that each card is learned when your brain is ready for the encoding to take place.

The cards

At Learn Dutch Fast, we work with the so called A7 format. You can buy pre-cut cards at Hema, but you can also cut them out of an A4. Write a sentence, 3 numbered, unrelated words or a question on one side (or even better: make a drawing) and write your answers on the other side. Always have your Dutch checked by a native before you start working with the cards.

Only make cards with vocabulary that is useful for YOU. So the best thing is to write down your own mistakes on the flashcards. But if you want to make more cards, take sentences from a language travel guide or visit Before starting an activity, click on "word-list" and you'll get many ideas to make into cards (idiom / verbs / spelling / prepositions, etc.)

Decide if you want to say the new words (so you will have to memorize them from English to Dutch), or if you just want to be able to understand them (Dutch to English). Holding the "question-side" up front, cut away the top-right corner of your cards. For this, you can also buy a special "hoekpons" in any hobby store, or at

The box

Put 4 coloured dividers in a (shoe) box.


  1. When you begin for the first time, the box is empty. A bunch of completed cards are outside of the box in a stack or pool. This represents the pool of flashcards that you want to learn.
  2. Read the question on a flashcard. Say or write down the answer.
  3. Check the answer on the back.
  4. a. If you knew the answer: put this card in compartment 2.
    b. In case you didn't know the answer, try to remember the answer using mnemonics. Cover the answer, count till 4 and repeat the answer. Put the card in compartment 1.
  5. Check whether any of the compartments are full*. If none of the compartments are full, take a new card from the pool in and start again with step 1. If one of the compartments is full, ask for the first card from that compartment.
  6. If the card is answered correctly, promote it to the next compartment; otherwise, always demote it to compartment 1.
  7. Continue step 1 - 7 till done.

* The "max allowed" number is 30 for the first compartment


  • When you move a card into a box, always put the card behind the last card in that box.

  • When asking a card from the compartment, ask the first card.

  • Use your flashcards regularly (at least once a day).

  • Use at least 10 cards at each session.

  • Don't think too long: think, look, repeat out loud, store and "forget".

  • Never play the same card more than once a day

  • Don't worry if you forgot to use the flashcards for a few days, just use it again as soon as possible.

  • You can give the cards that have traveled all the steps to your peers.

  • Only start playing this game after your pronunciation is right!!

  • On each card is 1 sentence, or 3 numbered, unrelated words (so for example no "reference cards" for all the days of the week).

  • Some people can learn better when they move.

  • Variations: For any card you play, you can do more than just say the answer. Here are some ideas:

    1. 10 card game: 1 or more players, each with their own cards or mixed cards (if each uses a different "hoekpons", it's easy to give the cards back to the owner at the end of the game). Each player chooses 10 cards from ONE compartment. Each player takes a piece of paper and draws 5 columns on it. Take a card, write down in the first column what you think is the answer, and in the second one if you think the answer is totally right (R) or maybe not 100% (W). Then check the answer, and write in the third column if your answer in the first column was right (R) or wrong (W). The score: RR = 2 points, WW = 1 point, RW / RW = 0 points! Write your score in the 4th column. If the answer was wrong, rewrite the answer in the last column after covering the card & counting to 4.

    2. Game board: 2 or more players. Use your imagination and make a game board for two or more players. Use a dice and print out the rules (e.g. when you land on white, you .) Example for 2 players: lay some cards in a wavy line, each player starts at a different end. Throw a dice, go to that card, and give the answer. Take one step back if the answer is wrong and try the card you're standing on now. Who is on the other side first?

    3. Quiz: 3 players. Each player answers 5 cards. Player 1 can appoint 1 wildcard. For each right answer, he gets 10 points (20 for the wildcard). But the other two players have answered the same 5 questions, and player one gets -2 points for each right answer from the other players (-4 for the wildcard). Then another player is the main player. Who has 100 points first?

This system is also available as software at, but unfortunately not yet with flashcards to learn Dutch. Some of this text is also from this site. For other tips on memorization refer to the eBook "Be Smart - Learn to Learn" available at


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