How do you remember non-Kanji vocabulary?

Heyho,

blablabla

I started to learn Japanese two years ago, but had a break for about one year now. I am starting again, really motivated to learn constantly to have some easy conversation next time that I am travelling to Japan. Also I would like to read and to write of course. I am really impressed by WaniKani and it is really cool that I am learning every day and that my Review rate is above 80-90% most of the time. How impressive is that?
Buuuuuuut I really need to learn and repeat my vocabulary as it is my aim to build sentences on my own - most of the time it is not possible as I do not remember many words (and I don’t learn them). So I chose Anki to help me with that.
I really had some trouble to setup my Anki deck, but after watching maaaaaaaany many tutorial videos and starting and deleting many decks, it works now, I guess.

Soooo I just sat down for one hour in front of my Anki deck and typed in around 75 words which I should know: Many everyday words that I learned a while ago and that I “should” know, something like 今週 こんしゅう (this week) , きのう (yesterday) or 年 とし (year). I didn’t learn these words in WaniKani so far and some of them even don’t have any Kanjis and it is SO frustrating that I am UNABLE to learn them as I just mix up the words all the time! rai, sen, what is next and what is last? toshi, shuu, one is week, one is year - if I don’t see the Kanji, I just don’t remember the meaning!

Please share your ideas with me: Do you also use mnemonics with these words to remember better? Should I limit new words to - let’s say, 10 per day? What is your secret when learning vocabulary? I am more than keen to learn from you!

Thank you!! Cheers
enanu :chipmunk:

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You can try making flash cards using the words only written out in hiragana? The only issue here is homophones, but maybe use full sentences instead of just the word in isolation so you encounter the word in a context that makes sense? That or just reading and encountering the words will help them stick in your mind.

I run into this occasionally when in class and our current textbook only uses kana and sometimes it will take me a few seconds or more to recognize a word written in hiragana when I can quickly remember it if only it had been written in kanji. The problem is the word will sound familiar but it doesn’t pop in my head as instantly as when written in kanji. I also make sure for stuff that I add to Kitsun desks that I add cards asking for meaning based both on giving the kanji and the word written out in kana. This has started helping a lot with making sure I can recognize words when written both ways.

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I certainly relate to it being harder to remember kana-only vocab, without kanji helping to narrow down what the word might be.

A lot of my kana vocab currently comes from using FloFlo. I find that it really helps to see the word in context. The words that don’t stick well suddenly stick a whole lot better when I encounter them in the book. It helps me to create those extra memory pathways of linking the word to my experience of happily recognising the word, or being annoyed that I didn’t recognise the word when I was reading my book. Then I suddenly notice it in a Let’s Play or anime that I’m watching, and it is cemented even further.

If I just learn it from WK / Torii / FloFlo, it’s like there is one possible way for me to remember it. I have to remember that one WK word, or that one Torii word. But with lots of exposure, if I don’t really remember the WK lesson that I learned it in, I may instead remember that time I was happy when I was listening to something and recognised that word for the first time. Or that time I swore because I had to double-check the meaning while reading, knowing I had learned it before. More pathways means more options for your mind to draw from. ^^

So I guess all I can “advise” is that exposure helps me a lot! Support the creation of the memory by not just learning it in a vacuum, but by hopefully encountering the usage is varying scenarios.

Disclaimer: I am very tired today. I feel like I’m rambling nonsense, but I hope my point is getting across. :+1:

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Thank you, @athomasm, good idea.

You can try making flash cards using the words only written out in hiragana?

That is what I did with the Anki setup: It mixes everything within my deck, sometimes the Front Card shows a Kanji and the Back Card shows the Kana, meaning, notes, sentence etc… Sometimes the Front Card shows a Kana and the Back Card shows the Kanji, meaning, notes, sentence and so on. If I learn with Kanji that I did not learn through WaniKani, it is nearly impossible for me to remember them, but I know this will be fine as long as I stick with WK. But when I learn with the Kana Front Deck (and to remember: I typed in ALL of these cards by myself - just minutes before I started to learn with the Anki deck!), I just have no idea on how to remember them.
I also created some sentences to get a feeling for the words when I read them in context - of course I remember then, but only if I read the sentence (which is not the case with the Kana Front Card).

I certainly relate to it being harder to remember kana-only vocab, without kanji helping to narrow down what the word might be.

Thank you, @Omun, I can also feel it! :sob:
And also thank you for your experience, your point is definitely getting across! Do you use FloFlo when you are reading books? Reading or listening to words in a “different environment” might really help - but still it is really hard to remember them and I would love to just “learn” them just as I do it with the WaniKani Kanji.

To the both of you: How many new vocabulary words do you learn per day?

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Yes. ^^ I paid to have a word list generated of the light novel that I wanted to read. I had to find my groove with it, but I found @Naphthalene’s advise works best for me: I first learn important / common words that appear 6+ times in the book. Then frequency 5. Etc.

While I read, I keep the glossary list open and scroll along. This is mostly for the words that appear just once in the book. As I read, I can just glance up from the page, and know the definition of a word, without having to cram every single word that appears in a novel.

On the one hand, I feel like I’m doing too few to make proper progress, but at the same time, I’m doing all that my current situation allows. I learn between 4 and 10 words on weekdays, and on weekends, I just do review maintenance.

I’m not too chuffed at that speed of progress, but it is what it is right now. Though every time I think about how slowly my vocab repetoire is growing, I have a minor mental freak out. I think rushing through WK for 15 months made me not want to put up with 150-200 reviews a day for a while yet. So while I make sure I keep making vocab SRS progress, I’m focussing a lot on grammar studies, and even more on reading and watching native things - which is the part of language learning that I actively enjoy.

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Oh wow, that sounds great. I mean, the most important thing is continuity and it sounds as if you have found a great way to really enjoy your japanese learning journey and go your way consistently!

For me, I would like to learn Kanji, Grammar, Reading and Writing all at the same time as I know that I would not have the strength to learn all of the Kanji to Level 60 within 15 months. :congratulations: So what I take out of this conversation is maybe to use novels, videos and so on to learn new words - and put these words into Anki instead of going through vocabulary lists that do not have any “story” for me?

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I think it’s certainly worth a shot. ^^ Everyone learns differently, of course, so I can’t promise you with certainty that it’ll be a great fit for you. But I think it’s always good to get exposure to native use of the language as soon as possible.

SRS vocab lists have their place, since I started reading with only part of WK vocab under my belt, but engaging with native stuff that you take a legitimate interest in can make the learning process more enjoyable than the somewhat soulless drilling of SRS words selected by someone else. I definitely enjoy the process more when the vocab comes from a source of interest and enjoyment.

Doing it this way also means that you tend to learn words relevant to your interests, so that it is easier in the future to engage with those interests, hopefully creating a snowball effect of being more and more able to keep up with Japanese stuff that you enjoy.

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That is also a great hint, thank you. I think I will focus on the cooking stuff then. Came to Japanese many years ago through “Cooking with dog” I guess. :smile: I am soooo happy that I just learned 玉ねぎ as it brings me one step closer to reading japanese cooking recipes. :relaxed:

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I haven’t put a whole lot of effort toward general vocabulary (I’ve been focusing on mostly kanji/writing and grammar so far) but what has surprised me about WaniKani is that it’s not only helpful to know the kanji components of vocab - but it’s also helped me to remember kanji better through the words they’re used in. I wouldn’t have thought going into this that a more-complex piece of info can help cement a simpler one, but it works. Like I had a hell of a time with 表 until I learned 発表 and おもて, as an example.

So I think I echo the idea above that you might try constructing context sentences to help cement the meaning/usage of the words.

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You can still make mnemonics for non-kanji words, you’ll just be working off the kana.

Also, it’s probably easier to learn those words in sentences that you’ve found and understand overall.

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Honestly I think things will stick more as you use them actively in addition to just passive recognition. Big difference between the two.

Could be a personally little diary, or on HelloTalk, or on the Japanese Only forum here. Even if it’s something as writing out a few basic sentences. Things will start to stick.

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I totally second the “actively using the language” advice.
It’s hard to keep motivation when all there’s to learning is completing levels in SRS apps and adding to stats.
Pick a book, manga… maybe set up a project to go through the subs of some japanese shows in Netflix. Basically something that you like and even though using it as a language resource ain’t the same as enjoying the media as you’re used to, is incredible satisfying and adds up once you start doing it.

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Recommendation: If you’re learning from video, screen capture whenever there’s a word you want to learn. If you’re not using visual media, doing an image search on the term (in Japanese!) can often pull up good images to use. In either case, you can embed the image as additional context in your study decks. I find that images (even not great ones) and/or audio can really help make things stick better than just text. Brains are optimized to work better with less abstract material. And they make cards less boring, too.

One thing I’ve done which seems silly at first is make cards that have whatever vocabulary I want to learn along with an image on the front and a second card with the image on the back (audio, if available can go on either side, depending on card goals). The first card is semi-useless by itself, because I’ll really be learning the image rather than the word, so they’re really easy. But looking at the image and reading the word helps cement connections that are valuable for the alternative cards. Anyway, because these cards never go wrong, they naturally vanish in my deck as their times grow faster than the other cards which don’t provide the extra context. So the training wheels come off over time, more or less automatically.

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So I think I echo the idea above that you might try constructing context sentences to help cement the meaning/usage of the words.

Yeah, this is a good idea. I think I will try to write more in general.

You can still make mnemonics for non-kanji words, you’ll just be working off the kana.

Also something that I might try - although I find it a bit difficult as it is not attached to any “picture”.

Could be a personally little diary, or on HelloTalk, or on the Japanese Only forum here. Even if it’s something as writing out a few basic sentences. Things will start to stick.

What a great idea! Will think about that - and perfect for the recommendation to construct context sentences. :smile:

Pick a book, manga… maybe set up a project to go through the subs of some japanese shows in Netflix.

I watched some of the Ghibli Studio Childrens Movies, but I will try to find some more (including subs). I don’t have Netflix (yet), but I received this recommendation many times until now. :slight_smile:

One thing I’ve done which seems silly at first is make cards that have whatever vocabulary I want to learn along with an image on the front and a second card with the image on the back (audio, if available can go on either side, depending on card goals). The first card is semi-useless by itself, because I’ll really be learning the image rather than the word, so they’re really easy. But looking at the image and reading the word helps cement connections that are valuable for the alternative cards. Anyway, because these cards never go wrong, they naturally vanish in my deck as their times grow faster than the other cards which don’t provide the extra context. So the training wheels come off over time, more or less automatically.

This is interesting - how do you do this @sporadic, you put additional “easy” picture cards in your normal deck for the words that you can’t remember? This could really be worth a try. :slight_smile:

For today, I am going to start with this recipe that I found in another threat (and there are so many more that I would like to try out better earlier than later): https://www.aco-mom.com/family/tamagodon.php :star_struck: Rice is already cooking in that Instant Pot… :smirk:

Thank you for your thoughts みんあさん!
enanu :chipmunk:

Definitely. Not even just for remembering words, but writing is a huge helper in making grammar points make sense, when something is the more natural word/phrase to use, etc. Definitely look into participating in the Beginner Japanese threads that @mamimumason makes where she asks questions and you can respond. The feedback loop from a native is super helpful.

https://community.wanikani.com/c/japanese-language/japanese-only-beginners/

I need to start participating again myself. They were always fun. If you want to try your hand at it, she even has a new thread out:

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Yeah, I do. I strongly believe that most of the time, when you’re trying to comprehend language, you’ll have a huge amount of context available. I also believe that learning isolated facts is much harder than learning relationships. If I’m only learning a word through a different word in another language (translation), that is a pretty tenuous connection, and my brain struggles to remember. If instead I give it lots of non-abstract ideas (images, sounds, etc.) to connect to then it’s more likely to be able to retain the new info and integrate it into the big picture.

Doing it is pretty easy. In my Anki deck, I have a note with a word and associated info (meaning, reading, context sentence, etc). Then I’ll have an image, audio of the word and sentence, if possible, and maybe additional audio. I grab images using an Anki plugin that will image search based up selected text. Anyway, I create a bunch of cards from each note. Some are “easy” in that they put a lot of context on the front. For example:

This card will be really easy, but as long as you still read the text, it’ll help reinforce the idea. So when you get the card that is just the text, the image and the meaning will be recalled.

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https://community.wanikani.com/c/japanese-language/japanese-only-beginners/

Wow, that is cool and comes definitely to my “always worth a visit” bookmarks! :smiley: Will start participating right now, thank you!!

I still can not believe how great this community is… everyday, there is something new to explore! At the same time, it is really hard not to lose yourself while scrolling through all these interesting topics and threads. Switching to a Japanese only thread might be a good idea at this point. :sweat_smile:

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This is 天才!! :star_struck: Of course I had to look up the word あたまがいい, but this makes SO much sense and I will definitely give this method a try, at least for all the words that I just can not remember. :slight_smile: Amazing!!

How do you handle the Kanji - do you usually also put them on the card or do you just learn the meaning? Usually, I have several fields (Kanji, Kana, meaning, …) and always try to fill them up so that I can mix up the directions of question…

Doing English - Japanese will work pretty well :stuck_out_tongue:

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At this point, most of my Kanji study is in WK. When I did RTK (years and years ago), I did similar kinds of things, though, using images as well as English glosses. Starting from a commonly available kanji deck, I added images for each kanji as I learned it. I also found a Kanji stroke order font, where each stroke was numbered at stroke start (so you knew direction). So I could do physical/tactile learning by drawing on paper or the back of the hand. Knowing stroke order also helps in decoding exotic fonts/handwriting/etc.

I created multiple cards. Something like:

Kanji + Image -> meaning (super easy)
Kanji -> Kanji Stroke Order (fairly easy)
Kanji -> Image + meaning (harder, but not really)

Since RTK doesn’t do readings, I didn’t do that, but you could. I was also focused on comprehension, so I didn’t go the other way either.

For Kanji vocab, it’s pretty much as I show above. Kanji have furigana on easy/image cards. If the card has audio on the front, I’ll include furigana as well so I can refer to it after listening. I want to get to the point where I have audio only cards with the text on the back/hidden, but those are so much harder for me that I’ve so far not done it. Eventually, when I feel a bit more confident.

I guess in general the idea with these kinds of cards is to review rather than quiz. I just use the SRS as a pacing mechanism.

And don’t worry about having lots of cards for a single thing. For me, each card ended up being really fast so I could get through many more cards. And since they were easy, their intervals would shoot up quickly, so it was never too much of a burden.

Btw, あたまがいい will make more sense when you hit level 10 and 頭 (あたま), which means head. Literally means “Good head,” which we use in English in phrases like “He’s got a good head on his shoulders.” So yeah, easy. :wink: