Guest Post-Create Anki Flashcards using OS X Mountain Lion Dictation

This post was originally written as a guest post for the popular Chinese learning blog Chinese Hacks  which can be viewed here.

Here is a simple hack to help you create language flashcards quickly by using the in-built dictation feature of Mountain Lion.

This post is specific to Apple OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion users (but similar methods could perhaps be used on Windows using other software such as Dragon Dictate).

When Mountain Lion was released for Mac, there were only a  few minor updates. One of which was the ability to use the in-built microphone to dictate your speech into text in any field that showed a flashing cursor.  It allowed you to do this in multiple languages, although was limited in its uses for language students or bilingual people that regularly use two or more languages because you couldn’t readily switch between two or more languages without delving into the settings.

Last night I discovered a small application by René Fouquet called DictationSwitcher which allows you to quickly switch between dictation languages using a keyboard shortcut of your choice.  Using this app, I set about making a new Anki deck of example sentences without having to type a single word, and doing so while relaxing in bed.

1.First, make sure you’re running Mountain Lion by clicking on the apple logo in the top left corner and selecting “About This Mac.” It should be running 10.8 or above.

Check you're running Mountain Lion 10.8+

Check you’re running Mountain Lion 10.8+

2.Next, if you haven’t done this already, enable your computer to type in the language of your choice by clicking into the Language and Text settings on your system preferences window.

Here I have Chinese Pinyin selected as my secondary typing input.

Here I have Chinese Pinyin selected as my secondary typing input.

3. Thirdly, enable the dictation feature, again in the system preferences panel, and choose the language that you are studying. You may have to download a language pack if it’s not already there. Currently supported languages are shown below. I find that using my external Snowball microphone works best, but the internal one works fine for most situations.  You can also choose how to activate the dictation feature, (I use a double tap of the fn button)

Turn on dicate, choose your input microphone (an external one works best I find) and select your language.

Turn on dictate, choose your input microphone (an external one works best I find) and select your language.

Supported Dictation Languages

Supported Dictation Languages

4. Now head over to the DictationSwitcher website and download the 1MB application.

DictationSwitcher App

DictationSwitcher App

5. Open up the app, and it should open up in your status bar near where your clock is.  Click into the settings and select which languages you want to switch between.  Select a hotkey for moving between them, (I use cmd , for dictation and alt . to switch between typing languages because they’re next to one another).

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 23.20.33

Select your languages and then your hotkey

6. Now you’re ready to rock and roll.  Compose an email to your friend by hitting the dictation button (fn) and then use your hotkey to quickly start writing in another language by speaking to your computer (people might think you’re crazy if you do this in Starbucks).  So far I have found it to be very accurate  and is good speaking practice for you.

7. Take this new-found function one step further and create some flashcards on Anki.  It you’re just creating single word flashcards, stick to typing, but if you are adding sentences as I was last night from my textbook, then a simple double tap of the fn button in the english box, then a quick switch of language, followed by a second double tab in the Chinese box should have you creating new cards in no time.  A screen capture shall demo this below.

Feel free to comment if you need any help, or if you want to add some suggestions and tips

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