Going monolingual

Hi everyone,
I been learning japanese for about a year now. So far there have been steps in my learning journey that have been tough to take at first but eventually turned into great investments… immersion it’s one of those, I struggled so hard for months and now has becomed a plesurable activity that always gives me a surprise in terms of new words, different connotations of known vocab or grammar, etc… (or just getting the plot of my show).:slightly_smiling_face:

Well, going monolingual was one of those pending steps during my entire first year, I tryied halfway through and failed miserably… the neverending spiral of new words and unending branching really hit me, so I desisted. I mean, I wasn’t reading much then , so If I was struggling with the most basic of materials to read it was logical that a dictionary didn’t probe to be any easier.

After this last months of really making reading into an habit, I decided to give monolingual vocab cards a go again. And it was like :exploding_head: … I was able to get the deffinitions, not only in Sanseido (kids dictionary) but in actual adult dictionaries.

So yeah, I started working on it, and thanks to the kind help of another WKnian I was able to transform my cards for vocab, to carry now the japanese definition, instead of the english translation.

Now, I will like to ask some questions to all people here that have taked this step.

  • How deep would you let the branching go? I mean, I have a collection of dictionaries (using the qolibri program) and sometimes there’re a couple of definitions that will contain 1-2 unknown words. In that case most of the time there’s another dictionary with a simpler definition or just using another synonim that I know. If not I then make an extra card for the new word, and fortunatly there’ll be no more branching (so far I won’t go too deep and I’ll keep the english translated card If I see that the monolingual card would mean much more than an extra 1-2 words). 9/10 times I’m getting a deffinition that don’t involve branching.

  • Would you just use pictures or similar (just the kanji), if the deffinition proves too much a hassle for a simple concept?

  • Any extra benefit in revising my previous cards? So far there’re thousands of mature cards in there. So far I’m adding new monoligual cards or changing the ones that I’m failing when reviewing, as to get some extra workup for those.

  • Any tips or thoughts you can provide?:hugs:

Cards are looking like this so far (back side, front should be just vocab and example sentence)


So far one of the benefits I see in this transition It’s related to english not been my mother language. Sometimes I was making wrong assumptions of what a kanji word meant based on my so so understading of some not well known english word. So after seeing a couple of weird matches of context for that word I finally realized that the problem was about that in the first place…

Anyway, I will love to hear of anyone that has done this already, or planning or maybe tried and came back to tranlations.


I can’t help answer your questions, I’m sorry, but I just wanted to say how super impressed I am with your monolingual cards!



Hey! Nice to see that you are starting to use a monolingual deck :slight_smile:
I did it for about a year, but basically stopped learning after I got the N1 ('cause I got lazy…).
I tried to get back to it a couple of times, but the 5000+ reviews pending (I set 5000 as a daily limit in anki :sweat_smile:) are always scaring me away.

Well, I guess that describes me. My problem (other than the review pile) is with anki, though, rather than the monolingual deck. It was too easy to fool myself into thinking that “ah, well, close enough, I totally knew that.”
Having an actual input (like in WK or floflo) forces me to prove I know the answer. However, that method is unwieldy in the monolingual case (I don’t plan on typing a full definition).
If you have any good idea about that, please let me know :sweat_smile:

About your questions:

It depends. If it’s a string of words that are meaningful (i.e. interesting), as far as I can without getting overwhelmed. I usually measured that as “up to 15 new words”. That was usually 3~4 layers deep. After that, I would take a note of the words I haven’t completed yet, and start from there the next day, and in the mean time add a additional simplified definition instead of leaving lose ends.

If those were words that are either uninteresting (e.g. 物事) or have definition using the word itself (also 物事), I would try to look up a bunch of example sentences using the word, and, eventually, would google some explanation of its meaning (rather than a dictionary definition that has to be short to save space). If that still didn’t work, I would throw my hands in the hair and look up an English translation (but that only happened a couple of times).

No, I would put the definition anyway. The image would definitely help make sure I understand the definition though. Eventually, you will understand the definition too, anyway, and it’s extra reading practice.

I did pretty much the same thing as you. It was a deck from the Internet, though, so I just stopped learning new cards and slowly turned the one I had to monolingual as well.

Enjoy the experience :slight_smile:


Thanks!! :relaxed::relaxed: … truth be told, I have used card styles and code from different sources to improve the looks and function (like furigana on hovering over) on the basic Core 10K deck I use make my own deck. Anki card making it’s an art in itself, with a delicate balance in making the entire process as automatic as possible while leaving room for making an appealing deck you actually want to review.

:sweat_smile:… and there I was feeling I was giving my 110% with merely 2-3 words of extra words-

I totally get that. Actually I’ve addressed that before. I followed the advices provided in this blog regarding cards for japanese vocab . One of the main improvement was having only 2 options (basically no hard or easy buttons). With that and the improved intervals I have no problem on pressing the “incorrect” button, as I won’t be punished that much if it was an word with already a long interval.

:thinking: … I guess I’ll have to learn to deal with this amount of extra uncertainty. But a nice and more concrete way to have a reference word could be synonims and antonyms, of which many of the dictonaries provide… so far I try to put those if available.

Ohh yeah. I can vouch for that, the reading practice it’s great as there’re many words related that I get to practice while reading the definitions as I choose one. Synonims and antonyms are also a great plus.

As for people wondering why to do this. As I told before english it’s not my L1.
The most recent confusion related to english defs came with while learning 織る… which here in WK goes with the “to weave” definition. I wasn’t too acquainted with that verb (I guess I mostly heard “knit” in that context)… so somewhat in my head I related to … must be “to wave” :thinking: … so it’s similar to 振る (to wave) …Of course in WK that went unnoticed, as I don’t put much care to the sample sentence :sweat_smile:
Weeks later I bumped into 機織り (weaving) while reading… and the context was obvious enough that both this and the last “weave” were now clear.

Anyway, I think now with the j-defs and the synonims it’s much claerer, and that kind of mistake won’t be happening anymore :blush:

Thanks! Will do!

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I’m preparing to make this step. I’m doing immersion in the sense that I now don’t watch, listen to or read in any other language but Japanese except when necessary. My anki cards have English definitions on the back. Do you suggest just deleting them and copy and pasting definitions from monolingual Japanese dictionaries?

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I started partially replacing my cards with monolingual ones about half a year ago. Basically what I do is I try to look the word up in japanese first, and if that didn’t work out for whatever reason I add it as a normal jp->en card.

I think it’s useful not only as reading practice but also because it often provides a more detailed explanation than a simple translation would get.

Here’s what became of mine (theme obviously inspired by stolen from WK).

Front side: This is actually the kanji->reading card, I have another one for kanji->meaning, but the backside is the same. I also added a font-randomizer thingie since I suck at reading anything that isn’t in computer typeface.

Back side:

Scrolling down you get a full definition, kanji list, example sentence (if available) and any notes I’ve made: The bullet point beneath the definition lists any unknown words in the definitions themselves. These also have their own cards, like this one.

Now to answer your questions!

I basically limit myself to what I can realistically contain in a list of notes below the main definition… so in practice this means that looking up more than one word in the definition is OK, but I quit if those words start branching as well.

When I give up, I add whatever words I’ve looked up (including those present in the definition) as jp->en

I’ve just stuck with the definition in text.

I tried doing that, but gave up :slight_smile: If you do it I’d recommend only doing it for the ones you fail, so that they’re at least somewhat likely to come up in the foreseeable future!

Er… 頑張ってください? :slight_smile: Apart from that… I guess 無理しないでください? I started out with the intention to NEVER look up ANYTHING in english EVER again, but I felt that that was just inhibiting my learning since I was forcing myself to use definitions I didn’t really understand because I had to follow my self-imposed rules.

Also Sanseido daily concise has shorter definitions that are easier to fit on a flash card!


That’s a nice setup. I’m gonna implement that right away :muscle:

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I posted a few days ago asking for help related to making the card transition. @Sinyaven was super helpfull in helping me transform my previous card style into something that would be easily adapted if I added the j-def to an existing card.

In the post you’ll find my card style and the added code provided :+1:

I’ll try not been too anal about this as well. I’m taking this as a transition instead of a cold turkey switch… so far so good. I’ve encountered some words with very complicated defs… so they will remain with eng defs until my vocab and reading comprehension gets better as well.

interesting :thinking::thinking: … indeed. handwritten japanese it’s like a thing in its own… could you explain a bit more regarding this thingie? :wink:

you’re totally right :astonished: … adding extra work to a card I’ll be seeing again in a year sounds like totally wasting time… glad your mentioned this.

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Well, I pretty much built my own version of the jitai user script via CSS and javascript in anki.

The way I went about this was to hunt down a ton of Japanese fonts, install them on both my computer and place them in the Anki media folder, and finally add each one as a separate CSS class (just named font1 - font[however many fonts I have])

The javascript would then randomly pick a number (say 33) and set the class of the text to font33.

I also added a :hover version that displays the default font (just like the jitai user script does)

The most time-consuming part of all this was to check which fonts would display

  1. on my computer
  2. on my phone
  3. even the more uncommon kanji properly.

I guess I could copy-paste the javascript and css if you want, but there’s not much of a guarantee any of it will work for anyone but myself :slight_smile:

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I’ve no idea this existed!! thanks. I’ll try first with WK reviews.

sure!! I don’t know anything about programming, but I might copy paste it and try to eventually make it work for me too. :muscle:

Well, this’ll still require a bit of programming knowledge I’m afraid, but here goes… maybe it’ll be useful to someone

I added the randomFont class to the vocab item like so:

<p class="word randomFont">{{EN_Kanji_Reading}}</p>

Then in my css I have

.font1 {
font-family: "Droid Sans Japanese";

[... same for each font I have ...]

.font36 {
font-family: "JF Dot Shinonome Mincho 12";

@font-face { font-family:"Droid Sans Japanese"; src: url('_DroidSansJapanese.ttf'); }
[... same for each font I have ...]
@font-face { font-family:"JF Dot Shinonome Mincho 12"; src: url('_JF-Dot-ShinonomeMin12.ttf'); }
@font-face { font-family:"JF Dot Shinonome Mincho 12"; src: url('_JF-Dot-ShinonomeMin12B.ttf'); font-weight: bold; }

Note that if you want to use the bold style you may need to add the bold typeface separately.

The thing after “font-family” needs to match in both lists and also match the name of the typeface on your computer (as it appears in font selection lists, the typeface browser etc).

The thing in url(‘…’) needs to be the filename of the font file that resides in the collection.media folder.

Finally, this javascript will do the actual randomization.

<script src="_jquery-3.1.1.min.js"></script>
        var fontno = 1 + Math.floor(Math.random() * 36);
        $('.randomFont').addClass('font' + fontno);

You need to have the JS booster for this to work with the desktop version, and you need to have the jQuery library downloaded to the _jquery-3.1.1.min.js file in your collection.media folder. The jQuery file will of course have the filename you choose, which could be a different version.

The leading underscores are there so that Anki knows not to delete the jQuery library or font files even if you choose to clean up unused media files.

A note on the collection.media folder: the easiest way I’ve found of locating it is to go to Preferences → Backups and click “Open backup folder”. This folder will be in the same parent folder as the collection.media folder, which is where you’ll want to put all your fonts and whatnot.


Of, yeah… I’m totally lost.:sweat_smile::sweat_smile:

I will try the Jtai user script first, eventually I’ll give it a try to that lines of code.

little by little my deck it’s looking very fancy…:smirk: . … I’m sure that handwritten fonts will help to make it even more easy on on the eye.


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I’m not ONLY using monolingual dictionaries but my anki cards are purely monolingual now with the exception of some of the grammar and expressions.
Most of the time, I still look up a words meaning in English when I encounter it. If I decide to add a card to my Anki deck I use a monolingual dictionary to find a suitable description of the word.



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Ohh, I see you’ve taken the extra step. So far I’m leaving a few aids besides the jp text still (radical names and picture mostly). But, the goal it’s to departure from english when possible.

The really appealing and ulterior motive for going J-J it’s eventually been capable of learning japanese in japanese. Vocab, grammar, etc.

So far it’s proving to be an excellent reading practice time. So many synonims come to serve as aids for every deffinition, specially for compound verbs, which lots of times have a similar version using the same suffix verb (込む、出す、付く、etc) plus a different version of the root verb. I love how that it’s creating new connections in how I think about a particular word, having much more to grasp and eventually fix the new vocab.

I see many words have different meanings and small nuances that are noted as a different meaning altogether… do you put every meaning in the card or just the the one related to whatever brough it to your attention?

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Haha well since some words can give you up to 20 different definitions I only pick 1 or sometimes 2 that really make sense to the context of my card. I only study vocab in context with sentences so there is no real need for the other definitions to be on the card.

Below for example, I felt like either of the meanings could relate to the context of the sentence so I added both “encountering something unexpected and losing calmness” and “doing something terribly rushed”.



I guess 慌てないで!would translate to “don’t panic!”
It just feels great to slowly distance yourself from the English translations since they really don’t allow for great nuance.


Would you guys recommend adding a monolingual card if the definition is simple enough? I’m still a beginner but I encountered the definition of 署名 as 自分の名前を書くこと. Should I add it as a monolingual card as I understand the definition or stick to English?


I’m not the voice of experience, as I’ve been following this routine for only about a month. In any case…
So far I add all new vocab cards with j-def, exeption to this are super simple concepts (like “thing” or “condition”), where a lot of going around would be added for such a simple word.
Anyway most of those words are covered in WK, oand you can also check them
here, as this happens to be basic vocab you should manage before jumping into j-j defs (mostly because are mainly used in deffinitions).

Another exception for me are animal, plants, etc. A card with picture with or without the english def it’s much more valuable than the sometimes super scientific definition.

Concepts that are easy to define, like 署名, I go with the j-def, it doesn’t take almost any time, and sometime I encounter easy cards that are in the 6 or more months intervals, and if I fail those and I would rather see the j-def than more english. In any case the definition it’s helping even if only to do some reading.:yum:

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Thank you! That website is a wonder. Thanks for the feedback. Currently, as of 30 minutes ago, I’m looking at the Japanese definition and if I can’t decipher that then I add the definition from Jisho, and may add a word or two that I didn’t know from the Japanese one in the hopes that one day I can come back and understand it and swap the English out.

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I would say don’t worry too much, it’s a transition, no need for the cold turkey approach.
I’m comfortable with adding maybe up to two new words for any given definition, and most of the time I get to find a def that doesn’t include any new vocab (or maybe I’ll chop off to its bare bones for make it happen :laughing:). But then again I’ve gone into some branching spirals as well. Specially when topics that I’m totally new… last time was because of political terminology, which was totaly new for me up to that point (but actually quite basic if I thought about it in my native language).

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Oh yeah, definitely a transition. I’ve done dumb stuff before like change my then ~700 flashcards to Kanji because “it’ll help”. Took a few hours and after few days I had to change it back. I’m slowly introducing sentences as well so hopefully everything falls into place.

Thanks for the help! :blush:

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