Changing my reading and vocab study method

Hi everyone!

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on my current reading routine, as I progress with my Japanese learning. The issue I’m facing at the moment is that making a flashcard deck for each and every chapter I read for Yotsubato! and then reviewing it from time to time through anki, can get pretty overwhelming, especially when I can finish a chapter of Yotsuba per day. On top of that, there’s already a lot of vocab I’m learning from wanikani itself, as well as vocab from my Japanese tutor. Already learning around 300 vocab words per month and to add more flashcard decks for manga chapters is too overwhelming at the moment.

So I’m thinking whether or not I should give up the flashcard bit altogether, and just keep reading manga. Reading the chapter first, then search up vocab via a dictionary and read again for the second time. And just keep going, hoping I’ll be able to retain the vocab? Anyone have any suggestions?

Additionally, I think I’m at the stage where I need slowly start transitioning to Japanese sentence flashcards. I’ve read an article about moving on from vocab flashcards, but I’m still confused about how to go about doing it. Is it just writing out the vocab word on one side, saying aloud the sentence that relates to it, then turning to the back, and seeing if you remembered it?

To provide a bit of context, I’m at N4 level. I’ll be finished with it by the end of the year, moving onto N3 soon as I’m halfway through it.

So to sum it up, I really want to hear if anyone has experiences in moving on from Japanese vocab to sentence flashcards, and how you ended up studying them? As well as how people go about their reading practice? Do you just keep using the tadoku approach, search up words in jisho and then keep reading, without making flashcards? Or do you only select useful vocab and put that in your flashcards? My main aim in learning Japanese is being able to read manga (and hopefully light novels!) so I really do want to be able to retain a lot of the vocab I encounter in manga, as I believe it will be my biggest obstacle as I advance in Japanese.

Also, I’m very interested to hear if anyone has any experiences when needing to change up their reading routine a bit, as you progress and advance in general, what changes were made, what you found worked or didn’t work for you.


Ditch the flashcards. You want your brain to remember this stuff, not your computer. Ideally you will see important stuff over and over and over and get it from context eventually as it carves out a place in your brain. You can also read an English translation so you know what the gist is and then read the Japanese after. The best Japanese speaker of English I have ever met had never left Japan, he just watched unsubtitled American sitcoms and then cross-referenced them with the Japanese version, for hours a day.

One of my biggest helps w/French was getting a French dictionary for French speakers. It’s a heavier lift in Japanese b/c kanji, but what most people do with sentence cards is put J-to-J definitions on the back for words they don’t know. I think that can be a good limited intermediate strategy, but it’s like everyone thinks the only way to learn a language is an Anki deck these days.


In general, the research of languages that I have read basically agrees that while tackling native stuff is obviously required to learn nuances and process in a native like fashion, the best way to learn concepts to apply is to work on learning them directly.

Think about your native language. There are words you encounter that you don’t know, and you look them up, right? But then, the next time you see them, you have to look them up again, since you likely forgot. And probably repeat a few times. Notice if you SRSed words in your native language it would be faster to pick it up.

The “sentences in SRS” deal is mostly helpful in showing how a word is used, which can be fine except that many words have many different ways they can be used, and it may just be best to get the basic meaning and then learn from context when you see them. So I’d prefer just the words in the SRS while paying attention to sample sentences.

So tl;dr, unsurprisingly:

  • The best way to learn words is to focus on words

  • The best way to learn grammar is by grammar resources

  • The best way to learn reading is to read

  • The best way to learn listening is to listen

  • The best way to learn speaking is to speak

  • The best way to get native like processing is to regularly speak with natives

So, I generally dont recommend cutting out things under the excuse of learning better. You can if you find it more enjoyable and are willing to sacrifice speed of learning with enjoyment, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it is making you a better learner. All parts are important.


Note: I agree with @Q-P in general.

If you want to try out a sentence deck, here as some basics (some of which will be a repeat of what’s in the article you linked):

The front of the card contains a sentence. You should already understand the entire sentence except for one thing. This is the +1, the one thing you’re learning, where you’re taking what you already know, and adding one more item to your knowledge.

Here’s an example of a sentence that would be really bad for me to place on a sentence card:


Reasons this would be a bad sentence:

  1. It’s long. Sentences should be as short as possible (without being too short that they lack context).

  2. There are multiple things I don’t know in this sentence. If I don’t understand everything except for the one item I want to learn, it’s a bad sentence for me to use.

A good sentence for me to put on a card would be:


It’s short, and I understand everything in this sentence, except for one thing. I’ve never encountered 鳴らす before (although I do know the kanji/reading from 鳴る).

The back of the card needs to be useful. If you know the entire sentence except for one thing, you may put the unknown word and its meaning in English or simple Japanese. That way if you forget the word, you have a reminder on the back.

The important thing is that viewing the front, trying to understand the sentence, and viewing the back if needed, should take as minimal amount of time as possible. The more cards you add, the more reviews you have, the longer it’ll take. SRS is review, not study, so you don’t want to be spending a lot of time analyzing sentences during a review session.

Currently, I’m not using sentence cards. I may give it a try if I feel the need after I reach level 60 in WaniKani, and make more progress in iKnow. Currently, I encounter too many unknown words when reading to know which ones are good ones to focus on learning and which I may never see again.

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