How I used FloFlo to read my first book in Japanese

So, I absolutely LOVE FloFlo.moe. I just finished reading 時をかける少女 (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) with the Beginners’ Book Club using FloFlo, and I wanted to make a post explaining how I approached it in case that’s helpful to others.

I didn’t do anything crazy, but I know some people wonder about how to use the site. If it’s not helpful to anybody, well, who doesn’t like talking about themselves ¯\_(ツ)_/¯



What is FloFlo?


FloFlo is a website created by Raionus designed to help you read Japanese books.

It provides vocabulary lists for a variety of books which are ordered by appearance in the text. You can add words which you want to learn to an SRS queue, thereby allowing you to pre-learn vocabulary before reading, or learn vocabulary as you go. What makes its so much more though, is that:

  • it remembers what you’ve learnt across lists

  • you can tell it words you already know by uploading lists and setting your WK level

  • you can see the frequency at which each word appears in the text, and can filter the list by frequency

This last point makes your learning so much more efficient, because you can confidently choose to ignore words which will only appear once or twice.


Is FloFlo right for you?


This section is just background thoughts on what WK level you want to be, what you should read first, etc.

My background

So that people have an idea of where I’m coming from compared to them: I’ve been learning Japanese as a very casual hobby for a couple of years. Before using FloFlo I’d stumbled my way through two manga on my own and one with the Beginners’ Book Club.

時をかける少女 is the first ‘proper’ book I’ve ever finished in Japanese (i.e. not a manga, not a Graded Reader, not written for five-year-olds…). I felt like my approach this time worked really well for me, hence sharing.

If you’re a super-duper level 60, you might be able to handle pre-learning a lot more vocabulary without context than somebody like me who encounters a lot of new kanji still. Or if you already know a lot of vocabulary, there might be so few new words in a book that you already have a smooth reading experience and just need to add new words as you encounter them (looking at @Naphthalene here :joy:).


What WK level do you need to be?

I started using FloFlo when I was in the mid-20s on WaniKani. Throughout reading 時をかける少女 I’ve been roughly at level 40.

FloFlo is really not for beginners. There’s no point beating your head against a rock learning loads of new kanji via FloFlo when you’ll have a much easier time learning them through WaniKani first. Based on kanji I’ve looked up while reading, I’d say that level 40 is probably pretty perfect, but I don’t regret using it throughout the thirties.

There’s a handy feature now where you can add and drill the kanji separately too, but just consider carefully whether you’re using your time and energy efficiently, basically.


What should you start with?

I started off reading the free folk / fairy tales available on FloFlo, like Obaa-san to Kuro Neko and Snow White, and tried to learn pretty much every word because they’re not long enough to have many. This was all well and good, but fairy tales have pretty niche vocabulary and language, so it was a big investment for little return and you don’t get much consolidation.

I had a lot of fun trashing words I already knew and got used to FloFlo though: I tried out different approaches to pre-learning and so on. I would only recommend them as a low-difficulty way of trying out the site and figuring out your preferences, or if you can’t afford to buy books at the moment.



What Did I Do?


時をかける少女 has 2700 unique words. I don’t quite remember now, but I’d guess over 2000 of them were ‘unknown’ to me before starting.

One thing to realise straight away is that this is a huge overestimate of what you’ll need to learn: I ended up learning around 600 in total. Embrace the joy of trashing all the words you already know! You’re also probably going to ignore or trash a large proportion of the low-frequency words.


1. Pre-learn High-Frequency Words

I had a couple of weeks available before the Book Club started reading, so I used that time to pre-learn high-frequency vocabulary.

I filtered the vocabulary list to show only words which showed up 6 or more times, then learnt 15 words per day. When I’d done them all, I filtered to show words which showed up 5 or more times, and so on. I did this all the way down to frequency 3 words and ended up learning only around two hundred - several hundred more were trashed along the way.

I took the drill-down approach because I wasn’t sure how much I’d be able to get through before we started, but it was really motivational to tick off each frequency as I went, and less overwhelming, so I will definitely follow this approach from now on.

High-frequency words are good to pre-learn because they’re worthwhile time-wise, and because they’ll be consolidated well once you start reading and see them multiple times in context. In addition, they’re more likely to have been correctly parsed by FloFlo, so you won’t accidentally learn things which are irrelevant*.

If your target novel is really wordy, you might only want to pre-learn words which appear, say, 4 or more times; use your discretion, of course.


2. Use FloFlo like a Dictionary

Once we started, I had FloFlo open as I read, showing all words (frequency 1 up). It basically acted like a magical dictionary that already knew what I wanted to look up. I very selectively added words that I thought would be useful to my lesson pile as I went: probably between 10 and 30 words per chapter and some of those were extra words (see 3 below).

Otherwise, I ignored them.

I decided whether they were worth learning based on the fact that I didn’t want to over-burden myself:

  • Would it show up a second time or only that once?
  • Did I already know the kanji in the word?
  • Was it just hiragana (which I find harder to remember)?
  • Would it help to reinforce a kanji I struggle with on WaniKani?
  • Was it just super weird?!

I’m also a Patreon supporter of FloFlo, so I have access to the ‘alchemizer’. Basically, this lets me see whether those ‘useless’ frequency 1 words actually appear in other books I want to read in future. If a word only appears once in 時をかける少女 but will appear again three times in Kiki’s Delivery Service, then it’s probably worth learning. You don’t need this to use FloFlo effectively, but it’s certainly a fantastic addition.


3. Add More Words!

I mentioned above that I added extra words as I read. I think this can be incredibly helpful for consolidating the words you do choose to learn, but I only felt comfortable doing this because I was otherwise not learning many words per week. I added extra words in two situations:

  1. The original word included a new kanji
  2. The original word used a new reading for a kanji I already knew

For example, I learnt 疑い深い from the book. That first kanji does appear on WaniKani, but you only ever learn the on’yomi. So I also added 疑う and 疑いが晴れる; the latter because I sometimes muddle up that second kanji too and because I loved how intuitive it was. I just searched jisho and picked a couple which seemed helpful.



*So about those misparses… The word lists in FloFlo are generated automatically. This means there can be errors. In my experience these are usually both obvious and infrequent, but it’s another reason the site is best not used by total beginners, as you need some ability to judge these things (though the worst-case scenario still results in you learning a new word).

There are one or two book lists which have been checked by hand (such as Ookina Kani).

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Congrats on your first book read :crabigator::tada: :grin:

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Bahaha, thank you! :purple_heart: Now I feel like the whole post was secretly the biggest humble brag ever :grin:

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humble brags are healthy. It’s good to be proud of your accomplishments.

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Thanks for linking, I’ll give it a try. Going through my first lessons right now, just to see how things work.

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So many amazing resources! I am personally very fond of Japanese.io and Yomichan (for Anki integration). Haven’t used them extensively yet but I was going to use them for the absolute beginners book club. (purchased the Ebook)

Maybe not so helpful to accidentally learn words like 和子, meaning “son of a person of high social standing”. :joy:

As you said, best to already know what you’re doing to some extent.

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I pre-learnt 小松 (the teacher) as ‘small pine’ accidentally :grin: I did wonder at the likelihood of a small pine tree featuring in the story…

But yeah, that’s why you need a bit of understanding. Small pine isn’t the worst thing to have spent time on, but ‘son of a person of high social standing’ is… pretty niche :sweat_smile:

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You should have seen my face when I realized this was a character’s name all along.
Clearly I din’t know what I was doing but it’s okay.

I did this too :rofl:

But indeed Floflo was a great help for reading the book. It’s great to already know the most prominent voacabulary when you start reading, and then solidify that knowledge when seeing those words in context.

Plus it’s pretty cool to see how learning words from one book makes the percentages of other books I’d like to read in the future slowly go up. :eyes:

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Haha, glad it wasn’t just me! :grin:

Yeah, I love seeing that too - really helps you feel like you’re making progress.

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No, it’s clearly a paid advertisement. :stuck_out_tongue:

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Wait… you mean to tell me… that there’s actually people out there who enjoy talking about themselves…?? Wow. Some people…

Don’t worry Raddy, this is going to be helpful for many people! I send you my thanks on behalf of everyone wearing green today. Thank you. :green_heart:

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The sad thing is Radish has now read more books in Japanese than I have in English in like, 11 years. :confused:

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Haha, I did that too…:sweat_smile: I was so confused as to why I was learning it…:turtle:

Also, @Radish8, congrats!!! Also, I agree with your assessment. Floflo is awesome, the freq method is awesome, everything is…:turtle::upside_down_face:

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I already had the book, so even though I was 99% sure it was the character’s name I double checked.

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This is not how I imagined a paid advertisement would work :thinking: shakes coin tin at Raionus

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This is pretty cool. I’m actually gearing up to start reading 時をかける少女 pretty soon, although I used the vocab sheet from the book club to learn the vocab in Kitsun. However I might consider using FloFlo for my next book as the frequency stuff sounds really really handy.

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Yes! I use Kitsun too, but I really like FloFlo for books. It makes the whole experience much less overwhelming.

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The most recent uploaded books/manga on Kitsun do have frequency marked as tags, so it’s a matter of using the Advanced Search to your advantage. That’s a thing on Kitsun.

To me, the main cool thing about FloFlo is knowing which words u know :slight_smile:

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Small question: just to look how things worked I added それ to my lesson. Probably needless to say, I already know what it means.
Is there a way to trash a word after you’ve added it to lessons? For some reason, just the idea that it’s still there really grinds my gears…