Advice for learning vocabulary?

I had a similar problem. I went through SRS’ing 2,000 vocabulary over a number of years, and in that time forgot most of it.

My best advice here is to make liberal use of Anki’s feature to suspend leeches automatically.

Where you are with vocabulary right now, you want to spend more time on vocabulary you’re able to learn and not waste time on vocabulary you’re struggling with. If it’s vocabulary worth knowing, you’ll encounter it when reading, and you’ll start to become used to it at that point.

Once you start reading, you’ll see the most common words often enough that you won’t need SRS for them.

I currently use SRS for vocabulary for two purposes:

  1. To “pre-learn” words I will encounter in what I’m reading. This increases the chance I’ll recognize the word when I see it. (This relies on having a vocabulary list and/or frequency list for the material.)
  2. To try to retain less common words that I will likely encounter again. (This relies on having frequency lists for what I’m reading and series I’m considering reading.)

For an absolute beginner with Japanese, I’d recommend looking up a deck of the most common Japanese words. If the price tag isn’t an issue, Refold has a fairly optimized 1,000 vocabulary deck for Japanese. (Disclaimer: I saw a pre-version 1 of this deck, which showed promise. I haven’t followed the progress since, but it’s now on version 3.)

I’m not familiar with the Bunpro vocabulary that @wct mentioned, but since you’re already using Bunpro, I recommend checking their vocabulary solution before looking for other “common vocabulary” decks, simply because it’s already there and available.

Some people can spend a year learning grammar and vocabulary and still struggle with more than a basic sentence.

This is because, at some point, you need to start reading to really understand and internalize the grammar.

The less grammar and vocabulary you know going in, the more you’ll have to learn as you read. Some people excel with this method. Others do not.

Once you get comfortable with vocabulary and grammar, the Absolute Beginner Book Club (ABBC) here on the forums is a great way to put that learning into practice and start getting used to seeing vocabulary and especially grammar in the wild.

The ABBC uses vocabulary lists. Although typically they’ll be manually created by people who are reading along in the club, sometimes we get together an auto-generated list in advance, which helps for pre-learning some of the vocabulary. (Frequency lists, when available, help to know which words are best to focus on.)

What are some things you’d like to read? Are you considering manga? Light novels? Novels? Visual novels? Subtitled television?