How effective is reading practice without SRSing newly encountered vocab/grammar?

I’d like to add daily reading into my routine, but just can’t be bothered with another SRS.
So if I were to just look-up things I don’t understand and then move on, without creating any flashcards or anything on those points, would that be still be a good use of my time or would it defeat the purpose?


I believe the real deal isn’t exactly SRS, but remembering well. Using the vocabulary, or thinking of related ones may help. Probably knowing Kanji a little better should help as well; otherwise, etymology. Mnemonics may also help, although not really related to the reality of that vocabulary.

I don’t know about grammar, but remembering it, then making sense of it, should be required.


I go through periods where I hate SRS and so just read without making flashcards. I still learn plenty of words. SRS is just a fancy way of saying you’ll see the word later and your brain will be challenged to remember it. If you read a LOT it will function quite well as a replacement. If you only read a little, not so much. Automated SRS like Anki will teach you vocab faster but if speed isn’t your goal but enjoyment then I’d just ditch the SRS and read. Two paths to the same end.


I doubt anyone would argue that you won’t acquire vocabulary more efficiently when you are using SRS to reinforce the words you are coming across while reading. Especially as an intermediate student the amount of times you see most words is simply too low. Of course you’ll still learn new words, but I think that argument is besides the point.
More so than learning new things, I think the strength of reading is reinforcing the things you’ve studied before. Seeing grammatical structures used hundreds of times so you can develop a feeling for what sounds right and what doesn’t. Acquiring that nuance for a word you learned in SRS. Seeing what word pairs often go together and which don’t. What kind of particles are used with this word? What verbs? And so on…

TL;DR: Even if you learned no new words, there is value in reading.


It can depend on what things you’re reading. I’ve often encountered words between different things I’m reading at the same time and it’s great for helping me remember.

Actual books also seem to do better for my retention than manga. I’m going through some Magic Treehouse books in Japanese now and I’ve definitely picket up new vocab and grammar that’s sticking with me. I think it’s just because the volume of text is higher.


If you read a lot, you’re bound to encounter a lot of the same words again and again. That’s natural SRS right there. I save my lookups in case I ever want to load them onto Anki, but I’ve been reading non-stop for a year and half now? and never ever SRSed any words yet. I’m still definitely learning. To be perfectly honest, I’m actually relearning the Wanikani vocabulary words as I read as well, because it’s one thing to learn a word in isolation and quite another to encounter it in context (or even better, lots of different contexts).

I don’t see how reading would ever not be a good use of one’s time. Unless you don’t enjoy it and you only do it for the sake of learning? In that case, you might be better off finding alternative methods, I suppose.


I do :slight_smile: . Because SRS takes time that you could spend reading more and seeing more words in the wild.


This is what I was hoping to hear! Thanks all for the replies :smile:


I suggest trying actively to learn unknown words that you encounter. I remember that, when I was trying to learn kanji only by reading, I was so focused on the meaning of the text that I was unable to learn kanji and vocabulary I had encountered multiple times, because I just looked the meaning up in a dictionary and then forgot about it.

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Plenty of people learn languages this way (including their native language).

I think the main downside is that you’ll have to look up the same word multiple times, which can be tedious (and I find it a bit discouraging, personally). Reading digitally and using some sort of pop-up dictionary helps with that though.


I actually find that there is a high correlation between time I spend looking up for a word and retention and personally think that pop up dictionarry can be counter productive.

Bu then you need to be willing to spend a minute on each unknown word !


That sounds nice, but it’s certainly not the experience I’ve had. SRS shouldn’t take overhand, the ratio is important, but saying non at all is the most efficient approach seems to extreme. Things are rarely black and white like that.
So I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that. :man_shrugging:


I am happy to disagree. I was just pointing at the fact you started your comment with :

I doubt anyone would argue

A lot of people don’t user SRS and it’s probably because they find it to be mostly a waste of time.

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Echoing a previous comment, I think the time required to use SRS makes it a lot more impractical to acquire more vocabulary. If you have loads of time and discipline, then it will be helpful, but if it ends up making you read less it might have a detrimental impact on your language acquisition overall.

I’m a big proponent for the theory that the most important thing for language acquisition is input. It’s not looking things up in a dictionary. After all, kids learn by being immersed in a language, and having to make sense of it all, with some help. I think stuff like wanikani makes you better able to make use of input, but in the end, it is still very important to read and hear the language you want to learn.

I think people vastly overestimate how much you learn from looking up every word you don’t fully understand in a dictionary compared to not looking stuff up at all. You can usually understand quite a lot from context, especially if you’re reading manga or watching a TV show.

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The only downside of learning through reading is that you might get trapped in a specific field of expertise and have a too narrow vocabulary pool. For instance, if you read only 1 series or play only 1 genre of games.

Not an issue if you learn from a variety of sources.


Fair enough, I suppose there will always be people that disagree, so the wording wasn’t very well chosen :wink:

I don’t know about most people, but from the ones I’ve seen it seemed like it’s not that they doubted SRS would be more efficient, but that the act of SRSing is too bothersome for the results it brings :thinking:


I’m guessing this reading would be enjoyable and not just something you’re slogging through. If so, you should definitely do it, because being able to do fun things in the language is good in itself, even if it’s not perhaps the most efficient way to get to a theoretical endpoint.

I also agree with others that simply reading without SRS is still really worthwhile. Your known vocab may not grow as fast but it will be massively useful for turning “I sorta know that” words into words you’re fully familiar with.

I go back and forth on SRS of vocab – I did a lot of reading without bothering to SRS anything, then worked through a Core10K deck in the runup to taking JLPT N1, then did more reading without SRS, and am now doing some vocab building. It’s totally not necessary, but on the other hand it’s quite an efficient way to get words into that initial “sorta know that” state if you have the spare 10-15 minutes a day and can stand the “daily chore” nature of it.


It’s funny, you’re one of the first person I read who uses SRS like I do. I usually read a lot and once in a while use a premade deck that’s slighlty below my level and contains lots of words that I kind of know to make sure I retain them once and for all.


When I keep having to look up the same word and I realize that I’m doing it, I’ll put it in a kitsun deck to maybe review later. It could kind of make a happy medium between SRS and reading.


Very effective, actually.

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