Problems with Using SuperMemo

There are six major problems with SuperMemo:

  1. The learning curve is steep. It will take some time getting used to the program. Also, since it is designed for long term memory retention, it won't help you study for your test in two weeks. (Of course, it will help you remember how to write that kanji a year later, which is definitely more useful).
  2. You have to use the program every day. (You can miss a day occasionally, but it will significantly impact your rate of learning).
  3. You have to enter most or all of the information you want to memorize yourself. This can take a lot of time-- but entering the information is another way of review, and because you have to enter it yourself, you are much more likely to only enter what you actually need to remember a year or two from now.
  4. It's not free ($45). Although the author sells cheaper versions of the software, SuperMemo 2006 offers by far the best support for the Japanese language. You could use the 2004 version, but I recommend paying the extra money-- the trouble you'll save yourself will definitely be worth it. Still, though it isn't free, considering the price of Japanese language classes, it's a real bargain.
  5. The program is prone to glitches and crashes. You have to be make sure to use the backup feature to back up your data every day. My Guide on Backing Up
  6. There is no demo for the 2006 version. This was done to prevent piracy. Although you can try the 2004 version, it doesn't handle Japanese so well. How, then, do you know if the program will work for you? The author of the program says that SuperMemo appeals especially to an engineering mindset, and I agree. If by reading about the SuperMemo approach you think it sounds like something that would work for you, it probably will. If it sounds like a bad idea, it almost certainly won't help you, so there's no need to bother checking it out. Honestly, even if you have a demo with SuperMemo it won't give you much time to notice the effects anyway-- although you will see some improvement, the real improvement doesn't come until after several months of use when you still aren't forgetting things you learned twenty weeks before.

Obviously, SuperMemo is not for those who give up easily. But if you want to be fluent in Japanese, you'll never make it if you aren't willing to grind some vocab.