More Javascript with Anki

I wrote a piece previously about using JavaScript in Anki cards. Although I haven’t found many uses for employing this idea, it does come up from time-to-time including a recent use-case I’m writing about now.

After downloading a popular French frequency list deck for my daughter to use, I noticed that it omits the gender of nouns in the French prompt. In school, I was always taught to memorize the gender along with the noun. For example, when you memorize the word for law, “loi” you should mermorize it with either the definite article “la” or the indefinite article “une” so that the feminine gender of the noun is inseparable from the noun itself. But this deck has only the noun prompt and I was afraid that my daughter would fail to memorize the noun’s gender. JavaScript to the rescue.

Since the gender is encoded in a field, we can capitalize on that to insert the right article. My preference is to use the definite articles “le” or “la” where possible. But it gets increasingly complex from there. Nouns that begin with a vowel such as “avocat” require “l’avocat” which obscures the gender. In that case, I’d prefer the indefinite article “un avocat”. Then there’s the “h”. Most words beginning with “h” behave like those with vowels. But some words have h aspiré. With those words, we keep the full definite article without the apostrophe.

So we start with a couple easy preliminaries, such as detecting vowels:

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//	returns true if the character
// is a vowel
function vowelTest(s) {
return (/^[aeiou]$/i).test(s);
}

Now we turn our attention to whether a words would need an apostrophe with the definite article. I’m not actually going to use the apostrophe. Instead we’ll fall back to the indefinite article “un/une” in this case.

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// returns true if the word would need
// an apostrophe if used with the
// definite article
function needsApostrophe(str) {
if(str[0]=='h') {
// h words that do not need apostrophe
var aspire = ["hache","hachisch","haddock","haïku",
"haillon","haine","hall",
"halo","halte","hamac",
"hamburger","hameau","hammam",
"hampe","hamster","hanche",
"hand-ball","handicap","hangar",
"harde","hareng","hargne",
"haricot","harpail","harpon",
"hasard","hauteur","havre","hère",
"hérisson","hernie","héron",
"héros","herse","hêtre",
"hiatus","hibou","hic",
"hickory","hiérarchie","hiéroglyphe",
"hobby","Hollande","homard",
"Hongrie","honte","hoquet",
"houe","houle","hooligan",
"houppe","housse","houx",
"houblot","huche","huguenot"
];
return (aspire.indexOf(str) == -1);
}
return vowelTest(str[0]);
}

Now we can wrap this up into a function that adds an article, either definite or indefinite to the noun:

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//	adds either definite or indefinite article
function addArticle(str,genderstr) {
if( needsApostrophe(str) ) {
return (genderstr == "nm" ) ? "un " + str : "une " + str;
}
return (genderstr == "nm") ? "le " + str : "la " + str;
}

The first step is to make sure that the part of speech field is visible to the script. We do this by inserting it into the card template.

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<span id="pos">{{Part of Speech}}</span>

Don’t worry, we’ll hide it in a minute.

Then we can obtain the contents of the field and add the gender-specific article accordingly.

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var content = document.getElementById("pos").innerHTML;
var fword = document.getElementsByClassName("frenchwordless")[0].innerHTML;
artword = addArticle(fword,content);
document.getElementsByClassName("frenchwordless")[0].innerHTML=artword;

And we can hide the gender sentinel field:

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var content = document.getElementById("pos").style.visibility = "hidden";

Ideally, French Anki decks would be constructed in such a way that the gender is embedded in the noun to be memorized, but with a little creative use of JavaScript, we can retool it on-the-fly.