Anki flashcards and the countries of the world

I've been aware of Anki (the flash card program) for a long time, maybe a decade? I enjoy learning unusual alternate ways of doing things, and Anki was built to maximize memorization. Apparently the algorithm it uses is called "SuperMemo." It optimizes to show you the cards you're having the most trouble with, while periodically testing you on the things you previously knew. By default, Anki introduces 20 new cards each day.

Technically there's Anki the application you use to look at cards, plus "AnkiWeb" that lets you sync your progress and cards with a server. I'm a little mystified as to why but the application and the synchronization are all free.

Recently I decided to look at Anki again, and I realized I could search online for best Anki decks. To that end I'm studying decks for

12x12 multiplication table
I know this sounds silly but I wanted to remember these fast and never really memorized 12x9.
NATO phonetic alphabet
Extremely good for sharing passwords over the phone, I have referred to NATO phonetic alphabet charts but I've never memorized all the letters.
Essential Spanish vocabulary 5000
Vocabulary was always my weak point with Spanish, and I haven't tried to speak for a long time.
This is advanced English vocabulary (for English speakers); so far I know most of the words but there are a few (e.g. peculate) that I am learning.
Ultimate Geography
This very current deck is by far my favorite. It has highlighted my ignorance to simple things, such as where Croatia is.

For all of these except "Ultimate Geography," I have a very high success rate and looking at the cards is mostly a review.

For the geography one, though, wow. It's been extremely challenging! The deck reviews:

  • Country → Capital
  • Capital → Country
  • Flag → Country
  • Map location → Country

So far it's taken me through Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and now Asia (mostly in that order).

The review takes me probably 30 minutes a day! Some of the cards are very hard for me because I have no context. For example, it's taken me a long time to learn that Equatorial Guinea's capital is Malabo. I've probably seen that card 50 times and it hasn't sunk in until today.

Especially when I'm tired, I can see the same cards over and over and over again and they just don't stick. It's pretty disheartening.


  • I can look on YouTube to learn more about the countries, which is really fun!
  • As I start to learn about countries I start to make other connections, e.g. I now better understand how the US rewarding Mauritania for recognizing Israel by declaring that Mauritania controlled a piece of contested land restarted a war between Mauritania and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
  • As my knowledge slowly, slowly starts to stick, I feel really proud of now understanding basic things I never understood (e.g. the Balkans vs. the Baltic states)

It's embarrassing to me that I knew so little about the world, but before realizing this Anki deck existed I didn't know there was a way to learn! I guess I'd figured the only way to learn was to take a class.

So if you're interested, I recommend checking out Anki! Maybe you don't want to learn geography, but there are other great decks too!