There is a lot to be said for physical flashcards. You can touch, manipulate and write on them by hand, but digital flashcards, or at least the ones created with spaced repetition software, have two advantages:

  1. the automation of card order and periods of repetition
  2. the ability to create an endless variety of cards based on information you only have to enter once.

The most simple example of the new ways digital flashcards can offer is the three – sided card

What is a three sided card?

Three – sided cards are actually one of the reasons Anki was created. Learners of Japanese need to connect words and sentences with at least two aspects of Japanese first a symbol and second its pronunciation. In fact those of Japanese are faced with more than one set of symbols (kan’ji,hiragana and katakana) making four or even five – sided cards desirable.

Why would you use three-sided cards?

I use three-sided cards to help extend and maintain my vocabulary here Galicia; a bilingual part of Spain.

Another use is for bilingual Anki decks with images: the kind I described in a previous article.

What Anki actually does when creating three-sided flashcards is to make three two-sided flashcards from a note with three fields:

This diagram shows how Anki uses three pieces of information all with the same meaning can be turned into three-sided cards

The rest of this article assumes that you understand the basics Anki terminology and are familiar with its menus. If you have any doubts please take a look at Alex Vermeer’s Essential Anki guide or read the Anki Manual.

  • 1.Create a note type called Three-sided:

    You can make a new Note type based on any of the first three Basic Note types

    You can call the note type anything you want, but it should make sense to you.


  • 2. Choose the newly created note type Three-sided
  • 3. Edit its three fields. In my example I have called them english,castellano and galego

    The default fields for new note type depend on which of the Basic Note types you chose. If you only see two fields add another

    three fields with the correct field names. I prefer to keep mine lowercase and use the name of the language in that language. You do what you want but be consistent

    Three fields with the correct field names.
    I prefer to keep mine lowercase and use the name of the language in that language.
    You do what you want but be consistent

  • 3. Fill in a card with the new card type to get started

    Tthe word throat in English, Galician and Spanish

  • 4. Take a look at the Three-sided’s templates. Name the cards and rename them to something meaningful like ES>EN and EN>ES
  • 5. the front template needs to do two things. First check to see if the note has the fields necessary to make the card and secondly put up some text to what language you need to translate to. Copy and paste this into Front Template
<h3 class="heading">English to Galician</h3>

This is the code to copy and paste in the Back Template:

<hr class="dashed">

If you’d like to use the styling I use for my cards copy and paste this CSS into the Styling

.card {
 font-family: Avenir Next;
 font-size: 25px;
 text-align: center;
 color: black;
 background-color: white;
 color: #f2f2f2;
background: #8E44AD;
font-size: 20px;
line-height: 40px;
font-weight: 700; margin: 0 5px 24px; 
padding: 10px; margin: 0 5px 24px; font-family: Avenir Next Condensed, sans-serif;
border: 1px dashed #8E44AD;
    • 6. Now you have to add the cards for the other combinations. Again call them something useful like:
  • ES>GA
  • GA>ES
  • EN>ES
  • ES>EN
  • GA>EN
  • EN>GA
      • 7. Use the code from above in the Front and Back Templates of the code, remembering to change the field names and the title to match the correct fields of each card.
        Now every time you create a new note you’ll create notes testing every combination.

        Tell me how you use three-sided cards below!

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