I’d like to plan my own English to Japanese SRS, but I need your help.
I’ve made several Anki decks, but they’ve had issues that I couldn’t make work. I’ve tried Kamesame and KaniWani, which are wonderful tools, but they don’t quite solve the problems that I’ve faced.
Here’s the first problem: speaking isn’t thinking of one specific word.
I have dyspraxia, which means that even in English, I’ll try to think of a word and my brain makes that clicking sound like when you try to start a car with a dying battery. I’ve found that reversing the polarity of WaniKani isn’t enough to get practice in going from English to Japanese. Every SRS tool I’ve ever used (even the ones I’ve made) center on thinking of the specific Japanese word on the backside of the card.
Both English and Japanese both have a lot of near-synonyms with slippery/nuanced differences. Thus, this exercise gets murky fast. It devolves into a guessing game.
So that brings me to my main design principle. Like WaniKani, English clues should have multiple answers in Japanese. The best I’ve found is weblio, but if anyone has a better one to use, I’m open to suggestions (Jisho doesn’t quite do the trick for this task).
Let’s say I made a card where the English prompt was “threat.” To get this correct, I’d have to type in one of these words (via weblio): 脅し、脅迫、脅威、脅威となるもの、兆し、恐れ。
For a while, I thought this was what I was looking for. I’d go to weblio, type this stuff in on each side, and I’d be off to the races. Then I realized there’s a second problem: Japanese and English use words in multiple contexts that don’t always overlap.
Let’s go back to “threat” up there. 「脅迫」 means “threat” in the sense of, “Do what I want you to do or I’ll hurt you.” But 「脅威」 means “threat” in the sense of a menace, like how Magneto is a “threat” to the X-Men (whenever he’s not a hero or a baby or a young amnesiac clone or whatever). I wouldn’t want to use one word where I mean the other. And this is an easy mistake to make with a whole lot of words. I speak from experience with a lot of native speakers who finally beg me to just speak English.
Then a huge number of English words raise a third problem: English often uses the same words when Japanese doesn’t.
That’s why intransitive/transitive verb pairings are such a pain in the ass for us English-speaking Japanese learners. This also raises a number of problems if my English prompt is a word like “present,” which has multiple meanings across parts of speech. As you can see, the weblio entry is way more info than would be useful to write on a single flashcard.
The logical solution would be to make the English prompt more specific, right? Maybe make one card where the prompt is “present (gift)” and another is “present (now)” and another is “to present.” But that’s not how we think in English. I use the word “present” when it occurs to me to use the word “present.” I don’t think, “Here’s the context in which I’m using this word and how will I now put that concept in Japanese?”
That raises the fourth problem: if I make the English prompt too specific, I’m right back at the same guessing game that I’m trying to avoid.
Well, that’s where I’m at now. I want to make a tool that isn’t just guessing one specific Japanese word per flashcard, but I still have no idea how to go about doing that. If you have any insight or ideas, I’d love to hear them. From my decades of experience, I believe efficiently studying Japanese production is an open problem. Maybe we can find some solutions!