I recently saw somebody talking about how once they were at the point they could consume Japanese media they basically completely gave up SRS and studied purely through immersion and having it so repetition of words encountered while consuming content be how they memorize new words. What I’m wondering is if this is really the best way and if I’m wasting my time continuing to use SRS rather than just diving head on into immersion and letting repetition do the teaching. This could also just be a preference thing, I’m not sure as I’ve never thought about it until now. So just out of curiosity for those who’ve at least started to immerse yourself in Japanese media, how are you memorizing words that you encounter?
Does that repetition method mean they watch that, say, episode over and over until they memorize the words?
It means that say for example they hear a word, look up the definition and if later in the episode or series they keep hearing the same word it’ll get internalized just by sheer repetition
There are few words that have made it in my long-term memory through that process, without SRS, so I guess it’s possible, but not on all words. For one not all my unknown words repeat themselves often enough. There are some that do but even then there are ones that just don’t get through; if they don’t reappear until few pages down they’d be forgotten again by then.
I feel like that is a process that is more achievable at a higher level. For now I still rely heavily on SRS.
As @magsl said, there are words that you’ll have a hard time learning that way. That being said, if you only encounter a word once in a blue moon, do you really need to spend time learning it through SRS? Looking at my search history, I see stuff like いにしえ and 痴話喧嘩, and I don’t really need those (except if they start showing more often) but I can also understand if people want to learn as much as they can as fast as they can. Obviously, at this point, I don’t think I’m learning much through immersion anymore.
So, in the end, I would say it is a matter of preference indeed.
This is how I acquired most of my English vocabulary, so it’s definitely a possible method, and I’d say it´s a pleasant one so long as you’re comfortable with some uncertainty and guessing at meanings through context. However, I started in 2007 (age 14) and from what I can remember of the process SRS would have expanded my vocabulary at a much faster rate. You’d have to spend many hours every day reading and listening to Japanese for several years to learn this way, and even then SRS would speed up the process I think. And if you do not have many hours a day to dedicate to Japanese then I think fewer hours + SRS will be superior to many hours without SRS in terms of vocabulary acquisition (as for grammar, special expressions, and comming across as a natural speaker/writer - immersion is key).
I quit srs along with getting to lvl 60. Since then I was doing immersion primarily. Not because it was my study plan but because I finally could consume Japanese content relatively freely.
I am watching tons of native content and having 3-5 hours of conclversation practice with native tutors. And by now I switched to watching anime without subs. It’s not that I know all the vocab (of course I learned a lot of vocab by hearing it over and over) but I also became much better at guessing the meaning of new words out of context. Plus, remembering vocab has become much easier too.
When reading and watching anime/youtube I often look up unfamiliar vocab. But I don’t write it down or create a flash card out of it. I just don’t think it’s worth it for less common words.
So overall my immersion looks like this:
- listen to Japanese vtuber streams (that could be a few hours everyday day because I put them on as a background when doing chores and other boring stuff)
- listen to Japanese music while at work (easily a few hours a day)
- talk Japanese tutors about everything that interests me (3-5 hours per week). I find that when looking up and using new vocab to talk about my interests I remember it really well.
- watch some anime without subs (not every day but ~5 episodes per week for sure)
My weak point is reading. I’ve become worse at it since finishing WK. I forgot a good deal of kanji. But that’s not strange, I just don’t read much at all.
On the other hand when it comes to conversational fluency and listening comprehension I’ve improved significantly over the last 6 months. Even If I’m missing some vocab I am usually capable of describing the thing I want to talk about. And as I mentioned I understand most of the nuance when watching native content (except when too much specialized vocab or professional jargon is used).
I used SRS for the first 2 years of my Japanese studies, learned around 8-10K words. SRS became a hassle and stopped being fun so I decided to quit and focused on immersing myself in fun native material. I did naturally pick up a lot of new vocab by looking up words I didn’t understand but ofc you have those words that you just keep looking up over and over again and can’t seem to remember.
I started SRS again after a year or 2 and decided to use it in way so that my study time is less than 10 minutes every day and it’s working great. I only add 6 new sentence cards per day and I do my reviews first thing in the morning and then I can go on with my immersion.
It’s ok to quit SRS to see how you do without it. You won’t forget everything you have learned. I even stopped practicing my speaking for 6 months, thought that I would become unable to speak but when I had my first session in a while a few days ago I was basically just as good as before if not better (thanks to a lot of immersion/input)
I haven’t been using SRS religiously for a while now, and I don’t really notice any difference in how much I have to look up while reading or listening/watching. If you have a certain level of passive vocabulary, so that you don’t feel you’re constantly hindered by your lack of vocab, you’d probably do fine with just reading and picking up words as you go.
However I do still review things in Anki from time to time, and I do notice that it helps me recall words in conversation. This might be because there’s little overlap between topics I talk about and topics that come up in books I read (and I’m not planning on starting to read non-fiction, which is why it’ll probably stay that way).
I also simply like learning obscure kanji that I’ve never seen before. That wouldn’t really work by immersion only because they don’t come up much.
For me, SRS is useful to study words I want to be able to recall, that I don’t see in novels much. I feel it’s helping my active memory as well.
It’s definitely possible to only learn words by immersion, but you’d probably need to be above a certain threshold for it to be comfortable.
Like d-hermit said above, I quit SRS along with getting to level 60 here. I was reading a lot already while doing WK and I just kept doing it for a while. I definitely learned a lot of words like this, to the point that I rarely encounter a word I don’t know anymore in most things I read. I can 100% say it does work, but I can’t guarantee it’s gonna work for you specifically.
Then VTubers happened, and now they’re my main source of listening practice (I had watched some unsubbed anime before but not much). I’ve been watching them since about a year ago. There’s been a huge improvement in my listening ability during that time too, and I surely picked up new words here and there.
So, in short, I got to where I am by doing the most straightforward thing possible: come across a new word → look it up → understand the sentence → continue reading. I never make any special effort to memorize the words. I just look them up again if I can’t remember them next time. All you need is the patience to do it, but I think it’s well worth it.
If you want to become fluent in your target language then there is no way around immersion. SRS may teach you a lot of vocabulary but the way people speak in your target language will almost everytime be different from what your grammar book teaches you, especially in japanese. So only relying on vocabulary and grammar lessons will maybe help you a lot with understanding but won’t bring you far when it comes to speaking with real people. So my suggestion is if you are able to understand at least some stuff of what they say in conversations then definitly switch to immersion. You still can do some SRS but your main focus should be learning how to speak fluently by listening to natives speak their language.
This site explains a lot about immersion and getting fluent in a language in general, I strongly recommend checking it out: https://refold.la/
(That site was created by Matt vs Japan if anyone’s interested in that)
I like to split them into active and passive learning.
SRS is efficient and takes less time for the knowledge you get but it takes effort. It’s active learning.
The primary benefit of immersion is that it’s more passive and once you have a comfortable amount of knowledge, you can sit back and enjoy the process. It definitely takes longer but if you’re having fun it feels faster.
I don’t plan to keep using an SRS once I burn all my WK items but I can’t deny that it’s gotten me farther than I would have with just immersion.
Think about it this way - what did you do once you got past the basics in your native language? What do you do now?
Every so often I’ll be reading a novel and I’ll still come up against a word I haven’t seen before or in a long time in English (native). E.g. milieu just the other day. So I’ll look it up. I sure as hell don’t SRS it. If I see it crop up enough I’ll remember it. If not… well it’s so infrequent that I don’t need to bother. I don’t need to have 100% retention of every word I’ve ever seen in my native language.
So I think the same approach applies for Japanese or other foreign language study. SRS is a great way to frontload a bunch of new information and establish a foundation. But once you’ve got that foundation down at some point you can take off those training wheels and just treat the target language like you would your native language.
To offer a slightly different perspective, I do still use SRS. But, I use it fairly lightly. When reading books on my kindle I look up words that I don’t know (at least ones that aren’t completely obvious from context) and I’ll highlight some of them. Later I’ll go through those highlights and add ones that are more common or otherwise seem interesting or useful to Kitsun for SRS review. I do this because lack of vocab has been a pain point for me and slowed down my reading in general. Since I’ve been doing this in a low-effort way, I’ve only learned like 1200 words in over a year through this approach. And of course, I have learned a lot just from repeated exposure to words that I don’t feel the need to study via SRS.
I’ve only just started with Japanese, so full immersion is still difficult to achieve for now. But I’m using the same formula I used for French which I immersed myself in last year: I changed my computer’s language, started listening to french music, read a bunch of books (Jules Verne is awesome) and changed my Netflix default language. Watching Star Trek in English with a friend was a very odd experience to me. And finally, to crown my achievement and apply my skills, I traveled through France for a month, talking to whomever I came across to practice (it went horribly at first, but kept to my ‘Desolee, Je ne parle pas Anglais’). Well, I’m not quite ready for that yet in Japanese. But some parts I’m already applying, e.g. the music. I entered 名曲 (I know no Japanese music besides anime intros) in Spotify and started searching from there (add the hiragana keyboard to your phone if you haven’t yet). Singing along is difficult, but you get better over time. I also try to read every little thing in Japanese I come across – sushi ingredients, frame stills in anime, SFX in manga and sometimes translate a webpage I just read into Japanese just for exposure purposes and seeing what I recognise. But I find that it’s just solidifying what I get out of the SRS rather than teaching me anything I can instantly apply, especially the loads of Kanji I don’t know yet. Words are sort of floating on the tip of my tongue. However, when a floating word comes up in the SRS, I do find that it just ‘clicks’ into place as if I knew it all along.
Personally, if I ever reach level 60 and I’m still doing SRS, I’m probably punishing myself for some reason. SRS to me is just a means to an end (that end being the ability to use native Japanese materials for the purpose they are intended, not “to learn Japanese”) because I kinda really hate flashcards in general. If it wasn’t for kanji, I wouldn’t be using any sort of SRS program for Japanese at all.
As for how I do immersion, what I do is first read/watch whatever in Japanese once just trying to get the gist of what’s going on (if I actually understand, that’s great! No need to study it). Maybe I’ll read/watch it another time to try to understand a bit more. Then I look up any words that I don’t understand or I’m not sure about and write it down in a spreadsheet. And then I move on. If I encounter the word again and remember that it’s in my spreadsheet but don’t remember what it means, then I look it up in my spreadsheet. If I don’t remember what it means and I don’t remember it’s in my spreadsheet, then I just look it up again. If I keep forgetting it and keep looking it up, that’s fine too. Eventually it either sticks or I don’t really need to know that word right now.
In the future, I hope to not need the spreadsheet at all. Just read, look up the unknown word, move on. It’s what I do in all the other languages I know so it’s the goal for Japanese too.
Part of the format of wanikani, the purpose of mnemonics, is to provide contextual information for your brain, because the mind recalls through contextual information.
But while mnemonics and SRS are a good boot-strapping method, nothing beats the context of the real world.
I already knew this, but I recently came back from over a year of doing no srs, and I’ve been newly taught how much I was overestimating SRS in relation to immersion even still. Because since starting again, I am constantly ‘learning’ ‘new’ words and thinking “wait, not only do I already know this word, but I could have sworn I learned it on wanikani… wait, where did I learn it then?”
This is also true for a lot of kanji, but more so for vocab. So I was still kinda overvaluing WK.
(Which isn’t to say it has no value, I love it)
But. So. Yeah. Backing up what I think a lot of other people have said. Minimize SRS.
also I f’n hate flashcards, I’ve already done the hard part of studying I wanna do the fun part now
It might also be worth pointing out, this is how everyone learned every language before SRS. That doesn’t mean it’s better of more efficient, but clearly it is possible.
What I like to caution people about is getting stuck on SRS. Which isn’t to say using it forever, because whatever, you do you boo, but rather using SRS more than anything else. Because it feels like progress, it feels like learning. I leveled up! I did 150 cards today! Clearly I’m progressing!
But I’ve tried to tell people that I’ve introduced to wanikani in person, you could get to level 60 in wanikani and not be able to read a page of Japanese. It’s script, it’s words. It isn’t the language. Bunpro or whatever isn’t either. You’ve gotta get in there. Into the language. Into CONTENT.
I emphasize this because immersion rarely feels like progress. Immersion is the part where you keep swinging a golf club the same way 100 times a day. Did you get better that day? Doesn’t feel like it. It’s going to the gym after the initial gains are over. Did you improve after this set? Doesn’t feel like it.
It’s kinda the sucky part, in that respect.
So it can feel less productive than SRS. And I think people fall into that trap.
Best way as in fastest improvement? Depends.
In my experience, they really tackle two different things. SRS tackles the problem of having a very surface level understanding of a lot of words which makes a lot more input comprehensible. Thus, it really makes your time spent immersing more valuable. Consequently, you could also make the interpretation that srs without immersion is not a good use of time.
Immersion tackles the problem of needing to build a fluent, deep understanding of the words and how they actually function within real japanese. The problem is, you can only do this if you actually have some surface level understanding of the word first. Either you are able to get a feel for its meaning from the context, or you have it associated with an english word from srs. Consequently, you could make (and I 100% would make) the argument that if two people are immersing in the same material and one person has srs’d a lot of words that show up, then that person would get a lot more out of the immersion than the other person would. The only problem with that example is that it doesn’t really highlight the fact that the person who SRSed needed to invest time to do that.
So really, when it comes down to it, SRS is just an investment you make to get more out of your immersion. I don’t think many people would disagree with what I’ve said until now, but the more controversial part is just how deep into your study is that investment worth it.
Potentially unpopular opinion: I think the investment is worth it until there are realistically less than like 50 words you don’t know per ~300 pages. At that point the words you would benefit from having srs’d are so small that idk if its even worth the hassle of checking in on srs. You could use it and check it every few days but, mah. I think that a lot of people opposed to srs are more just the people who don’t like flashcards rather than people who are enlightened to the power of immersion. If you really hate flashcards and they’re a chore, I can’t say I would be surprised if they are less effective at teaching you and thus less efficient. If thats the case then the “investment” wouldn’t be worth it a lot sooner. But keep in mind that that’s disadvantage that people who don’t like flashcards have. If you don’t mind doing flashcards or even like them, then see that as an advantage and use that to supplement your immersion.
I was indeed with you until that ratio