Learn all the districts of Afghanistan with Anki!

A friend was asking about using Anki to learn to recognise the districts of Afghanistan so I made her a deck that provides tests in the following way;

On the front of the card the question is presented along with a computer-generated audio pronunciation of the district name:

Then if you know it, you'll answer Badakhshan and then you'll click/tap through to the next screen to see if you got it right. You'll see this:


Then you can mark whether you got it right or not. There are around 400 districts to learn, so if you learn 13-15 new cards each day you'll finish the whole lot in a month.

Why learn all the districts of Afghanistan? Sometimes you'll hear someone talking about a particular place or part of the country, and without knowing which province they're talking about you might not understand the context or the conversation. Plus, a little bit of geography never hurt anyone.

Give it a try. And let me know if you manage to complete the deck. You can download the full Anki file here. Enjoy!

How to become a memorisation and language ninja

I’m very glad to be able to announce two new things I’ve been busy with over the past few months.


Firstly, I’m launching an email course showing how to learn long lists of items by heart. This course is outwardly directed towards Muslims, since the list that you learn over the course of a week, is a list of 99 Names of God — the so-called Asmaa ul-Husnaa. But the broad principles are the same for learning any long list of things, so don’t think you need to be a Muslim to take the course. The materials come with lots of handouts and supplementary information about memory and the like.

Note that this first course is part of something new I’m calling Incremental Elephant, a place where I can offer more courses related to memory, language-learning and productivity.

Secondly, as regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve been blogging about technology, productivity, language learning and the intersection between the three for several years. Along the way, I’ve fielded dozens of questions from readers about which programme to use for this or that scenario, or which textbook to use when starting out with language x or y. I’ve increasingly been taking on longer-term clients to coach through these issues, so I’m taking the opportunity now to announce officially that I offer one-on-one coaching for language learning or productivity-related issues.

The language you’re learning doesn’t need to be one that I already know, because my coaching is usually targeting the meta-issues of how you’re studying rather than what you’re studying.

I offer weekly or biweekly Skype coaching sessions. This will include a mix of reviews of work you did the past week, planning your studies for the coming week and brainstorming techniques to get you over specific problems that are preventing you from moving forward. (For example, I’ve recently been working with someone who has problems declining verbs, so we’ve been tackling that from several angles using a variety of techniques).

More news on the Ph.D. front in a few months, I hope, but for now, go check out the 99 Names course and get in touch if you would like to discuss working with me to improve how you go about learning languages.

UPDATE: I've written up a more extensive explanation of what one-on-one language coaching involves, and what kinds of problems it's best suited to tackling. Read more here.