Building Basic vocab

Any tips on building Vocab? Should I use a premade Anki deck for n5 or should I just dive into books and make my own deck??
Could you guys recommend a deck for n5 too?

Sentence mining is better than premade. So if you’re reading, watching, or playing something make a deck from those. It helps keep the vocab relevant to your interests and memorable.

For an N5 deck the JLPT tango n5 mia omega deck on ankiweb is supposed to be pretty good its ~1k words and all sentences have audio


Quick questions:

Are you looking specifically for N5 (i.e. to match the test), or common vocab?

Are you using any textbook?

For pre-built decks I’d probably recommend either the Core 1000 (from the Core 1000 vocab series here: Japanese Core 1000 - iKnow!) for common vocab, or one of the various decks that match Genki, etc., if you are using a textbook. I don’t have any experience with decks specifically for the N5.

If you’re interested in trying a new platform for SRS instead of Anki, maybe also check out kitsun, or the new site the kitsun creators launched, MaruMori, now in open beta: - [NEW: - Now in open beta!] (note: Kitsun is a subscription and MaruMori will be as well).

For the question of whether you should use a pre-built deck or dive into books and make your own, I’d say that depends on how much you want to read books vs. how frustrated you will get by having to read slowly and look up lots of words.

As @Lizziemanan said, words you learn in context and create the flashcard yourself for with the original context sentence are likely to stick better than anything you learn only from a pre-made flashcard list, so it does have that benefit. However, I know my learning personally suffered early on from trying to read books I wasn’t ready for (vocab knowledge wise) and getting really discouraged and giving up, instead of just working from textbooks a while longer.

A possible middle ground would be to pick a book or manga from on of the WK Master List of Book Clubs that has a vocab list already made by people participating in the bookclub (saving you from having to look up quite as much, and making it easier to quickly create flashcards for review) or using a site like or a pre-built vocab list for Anki to pre-learn some vocab for the book you want to read.


Build basic vocabularies from grammar books / textbooks, if you can make it; then dive into native materials.

If you somehow fail to make it, probably some smallest possible Core decks.

There is also other introductory decks to native materials, such as or; but then native materials would still eventually be needed for particular uses and nuances.


While I agree premade is more “effective” it is also considerably more time consuming, especially if you dont have the base 2500 most common words. I recommend going through the Anki Core deck series. Those are all i+1, and I have seen people do much better than me progress wise.

  1. Yes, for N5 specifically, but not strictly for N5, I just wanna learn basic vocab so i thought learning N5 vocab would be a good start
  2. I have genki 1 and 2 but I have not started them yet
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I feel like I would get very frustrated by looking up words and meaning too much. I would prefer to have 1000-2000 common vocab down before reading.
I also plan on taking N5 this yr and N4 later in december.

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If youre not looking for N5 for jlpt purposes but just for vocab building then I wouldn’t limit premade decks to N5. Tango is still a good option but there’s also an anime 1k deck for learning vocab common in slice of life anime. Like @deliana88 mentioned is an option it has an n5 deck, a wk ordered 10k deck, a genki deck and a handful of others. I personally couldn’t stick to the core decks they’re really stiff because it uses a frequency list based on newspapers, but others have had success with it.

Personally I use NativShark for grammar and vocab. It integrates with wk and will auto archive kanji already learned here. I archive all the kanji cards. It doesnt have a placement test but you can archive what you already know and choose your pace by max number of reviews you are willing to do per day. It’s not based on jlpt level but usefulness instead (still follows jlpt mostly but there are grammar points from n1 early on because they are used frequently in real life.) All the sentences are written and voiced by native speakers. The free trial doesn’t require a credit card for anyone who wants to check it out. Its not the cheapest sub but I feel is worth it.


I think the answer depends on a couple of things:

  1. Do you want to acquire your 1k-2k vocab asap or is a more leisurely pace acceptable?
  2. Do you want a pure vocab source or would you be happier if grammar were being taught in parallel?

Here are a few resources along with how their use answers the above questions:

a. Core decks:

  1. Can go fast.
  2. Grammar not taught in tandem.

b. Tango decks:

  1. Can go fast.
  2. Grammar not explicitly taught in parallel but I gather that you can figure some out from the sentences in the deck.

c. Jalup:

  1. Can go fast.
  2. Grammar is taught heavily at the start and vocab is acquired fast as well. Really depend son your pace and ability. An added benefit is that it teaches you to switch from E-J to J-J asap (which is a good idea, it seems).

d. Lingodeer:

  1. Like Duolingo, but not crap. You can go fast.
  2. Grammar and vocab are taught but it can feel like you are making else progress per unit of time than you might like.

e. MaruMori:

  1. Can go fast.
  2. Grammar and vocab in a single SRS. Brand new. Currently good for beginners. In beta. Worth testing at least to see if you like it. Made by the developers of Kitsun.

f. Textbook:

  1. Glacial.
  2. Grammar included, obviously.

There are more. But this is probably enough.
Making your own deck sounds great. People keep saying that it is necessarily more effective, but no one can really quantify it. Personally, I’d rather spend the extra time it takes to make cards having a family life outside of work and grammar study.


I you like listening and watching stuff, you can acquire a bit vocabulary from sound. Though you might now know how to write those items yet, they will be a bit help on your WK journey as you recognize those items as you move up the levels. :eyes: