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Should I include monolingual definitions on the back of my Anki cards, even if I don't fully understand them?

January 22, 2024 — Tatsumoto Ren

It is a good idea. But it is not strictly required to do so.

We recommend going monolingual eventually in the learning process. And it is highly advisable to do it at an early stage. The monolingual definitions added in advance will prove to be useful when the time comes. It's important to learn to understand them and grow accustomed to the language style used in monolingual dictionaries.

In my opinion, it's definitely a good idea to include monolingual definitions because you will continue reviewing these cards. As you do AJATT, your proficiency in the language improves. Eventually, in a few months from now, the card will come up, and you will have gained enough proficiency in the language to understand the monolingual definition on its back. This, in turn, may lead to a deeper understanding of the subtleties and nuances of the target word because typically monolingual definitions are much more detailed than simple translations found in bilingual dictionaries.

Furthermore, even if you don't fully understand the definitions, partial understanding can still provide you with valuable clues about the word's meaning and expose you to the language style used in definitions. Therefore, it will be helpful.

However, it is important to be cautious when coming across words with multiple definitions. Sometimes you look up a word, and each monolingual dictionary shows you a list of different monolingual definitions. Simply copying all definitions verbatim into Anki will result in an unreasonably long and overwhelming card. Instead, you want to carefully select the most relevant definition and add it on your card. If you're not yet at the stage where you can determine which definition is relevant out of the multiple options, then it is a little early to start using monolingual definitions. You can wait until a later stage.

Once you've reached a point where you can understand some parts of the definitions, even if some parts are still incomprehensible, it's a good time to start including monolingual definitions on your cards.

Tags: faq