I'm currently learning Japanese as my L3, using flashcards (Anki) for kanji vocabulary.

My L1 is Portuguese and L2 is English (fluent). Is it more efficient to make flashcards for L3 in L2 and L1? Would it make me associate information faster because of the information diversity?

  • 1
    Not sure, but this question might be close enough to be considered a duplicate of languagelearning.stackexchange.com/q/2351/85 However, this question deals with efficiency while the other asks about confusion.
    – Hatchet
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 20:01
  • 1
    @Hatchet I think this question is different enough not to be considered a duplicate.
    – fi12
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 1:03
  • Are you looking for scientific studies to support this?
    – fi12
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 1:03
  • 2
    I think the answer to this question depends on what you mean by "efficiency." Is your goal to learn your L3 as easily and quickly as possible? Or is your goal to reduce interference with your L2? Since your L3 and L2 are very different, you're not likely to experience a lot of interference, but some amount is inevitable, so it's still worth clarifying. Further, what are you trying to learn in your L3? (Reading, writing, speaking, comprehension, all of the above?)
    – Flimzy
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 20:42
  • 4
    In any case, you should consider using only your L3 on your flashcards, at least once you've achieved a minimal reading comprehension level in your L3. I talk about this more here, but the basic concept is: Flashcards from L1:L2 teach you to translate, which is usually not what you want. So you're usually better off with flashcards entirely in your target language.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 20:45

1 Answer 1


In terms of efficiency, it is likely better to make the flashcards in conjunction with your L1. In terms of effectiveness of retaining your non-native languages, however, then it would be better to make the flashcards in conjunction with your L2. This technique is called laddering.

Here is one of the most popular (non-scientific) laddering articles, and he describes the technique as a way to help avoid confusion among several languages and also an effective technique to learn, and maintain, multiple languages.

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