How to consume content as a beginner? (and Kitsun vs Anki)

Hi all. I’m wanting to start reading (somewhat simple) Japanese content to start cementing the vocab and kanji I’m learning through WK, and to immerse myself more thoroughly with native text. I know at this stage (I’ve only just hit level 4) I’m going to understand almost nothing of what I read, but is this where programs like Anki / Kitsun come in? And is this a worthwhile endeavour at this stage?

The path to language, at my super beginner stage, seems nebulous and scary, so I’d really appreciate clarification or guidance at this point. I’m planning to read through the Yotsuba manga - am I right in thinking the way to use these tools is to read a sentence, look up what that sentence means, then make a flashcard out of it in either Kitsun or Anki? And then use their SRS systems to quiz myself on these sentences and Kanji until I’m familiar? I’ve never used either program and I have no idea if this is how you use them or if I’m even discussing them “the right way” - apologies if I’m making a fool of myself. Just hoping someone can coach me a little on the best practise whilst I’m wading into such intimidating content (even Yotsuba is intimidating to me!!)

Finally, I suppose… Kitsun or Anki? What would you recommend? Am I right in thinking they do the same thing and I should only subscribe to one?

For reference, I’ve also just grabbed a physical copy of Tae Kim’s guide so I can scribble notes or underline it as I read, so I’m really only just starting out on my Japanese journey.


Sounds like a great plan! When I read Yotsuba, all I did was make notes on the pages themselves. Now I do a lot more of what you’re doing, and it is working very well for me.

I’ve never used Anki but I do use Kitsun. I was using the N5 deck and 10K vocab deck only, but have recently discovered that making your own decks is not so hard and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

Good luck and don’t forget to read through the Yotsuba threads here! Pretty much any questions you have will have been answered, but if you find any more, please ask!


First of all, you should check out this thread. It has some beginner reading resources that can be useful if you don’t like Yotsuba or find it too difficult. The Yotsuba book club thread will also probably be helpful.

Making your own flashcards is a big topic, and lots of people have different opinions :slight_smile:. You can do entire sentences, or just individual vocab, or put vocab on one side and a context sentence on the back, etc etc. A common rule of thumb is to only have one piece of new information on each card (e.g. a sentence that only has one new word in it). But in general, yeah, you make flashcards and review them whenever the SRS tells you to, much like WaniKani. Keep in mind that you don’t need to do this right away - you can stick with WaniKani for now if you like.

Personally, I use Kitsun, but you should just try them both out and see which you like better. Kitsun has a nicer UI and some convenient features, but costs money (whereas I think Anki only costs money on iOS).


When I just started, Tadoku helped quite a lot as there are a lot of free content for beginner level. I also read the passages in the back of the Genki book (don’t sleep on this as it helps you build your reading level bit by bit). Now I just started more graded readers specifically Japanese Short Stories for beginners by Lingo Mastery. I was impatient from the start and tried going straight manga as I love reading but found that this was a terrible idea. I think that starting from a textbook and building your way up is a good way to go, not forgetting the basic grammar and building your vocabulary and kanji on the way.


While I don’t recommend just blindly consuming content and hoping you learn, which you’re not doing. I think the best thing is to just watch and do a premade deck (the core 2k deck is a great place to start) and get into the habit of just seeing what you can hear or read. If I could do it over again, that’s what I would tell myself. Once you finish you could continue with the other core decks, but maybe after that you could make your own cards as you listen/read etc.

My main advice would be to make sure you don’t overdo it. It’s very easy to accidentally burn yourself out with SRS at the early beginner phase because you don’t know much, so everything is chock full of unknowns that you want to learn!

I think starting with a core deck or some sort of roughly frequency-based set of vocab that could get you to learning a few thousand common words is a good idea before you start mining words from your reading. I started with the vocab from my textbook, Minna no Nihongo, and only started mining words from my immersion about a year into my studies. I tried to start earlier than that, but it was just too overwhelming, and I didn’t know enough kanji, so every single sentence was just full of unknowns, and I couldn’t get very far in my reading at all. When I tried again later, I just had a much stronger base to work from, and it went much better.

Basically, keep a pulse on your own feelings, and if you start to dread opening up Anki, that might be a sign to cut back on adding new cards for now! You will still learn plenty from your reading even if you read without SRS, so don’t feel obligated to push yourself to SRS everything.

I would definitely choose either Kitsun or Anki and not use both, yes. Personally I recommend trying Anki first, mainly because 1) it’s free!, and 2) it integrates with the (also free!) popup dictionary Yomichan. If you can make Anki work for you, you’ll save a lot of money, and you can customize it to an incredible degree, and with Yomichan, the card creation process is pretty much effortless. The Anki + Yomichan combo is truly the bread and butter of my self-study process. I can’t overstate how useful it is.

Maybe start out with a core deck on Anki (I’d recommend one on the smaller end, more in the 1-2k words range rather than a 10k deck, but it’s up to you) and see how it goes for you? It’s free, so there’s no harm if it doesn’t work out. Since you’re also doing WK, you might want to reduce the amount of new cards you’re getting on Anki, at least at the start. If you realize you’re handling the workload fine, you can try increasing them, but it’s easier to start out small and work up, I think, than it is to scale back.


Given that Kitsun’s UX is miles ahead of Anki’s and that there is currently a steep discount on Kitsun+Marumori (the latter being a new resource with N5 content released and N4 content being released regularly), I wouldn’t hesitate in getting Kitsun.


Are you doing any grammar study? Trying to read anything with very little vocab and grammar can be very frustrating. Thing is, it can be just as frustrating trying to look up stuff you don’t know if you can’t separate the grammar from the actual vocab.

If you aren’t already doing it, I’d get some grammar fundamentals down before trying to read anything.

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Used like this, would it be identical to how I’m learning vocab in WK right now? Just more / different vocab? I assumed this might simply be piling extra, similar work on top of WK rather than “encountering language in its natural environment”, which is always what I hear championed. Thank you for your detailed response, I grabbed Yomichan (never heard of it before) and am blown away!!! I’m still trying to figure out which libraries to have turned on to make it a bit more comprehendible. I grabbed this libraries based on a guide but there is a lot of information on the pop up and I’m not sure I understand a lot of it:

Screenshot 2023-01-31 135536

Also, earlier I hovered over 切 and was confused that “CUT” wasn’t listed as any of its (many) meanings.

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I just ordered the book version of Tae Kim (so I can make notes and highlight as I go) but no, I’m still a total grammar newbie right now. I can read lots of what I come across in Yotsuba!!..but comprehend about 3% of it :smile: Fundamentals are definitely next on my to-do list!

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Yes, if you start with a premade deck, it would be like how you’re learning vocab in WK right now. However, if you are learning the top most common 1-2k words, you will see them all over the place in your immersion, and they’ll quickly be reinforced with actual context, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the unnatural environment of the flash cards! When you have more of a base of known vocab, it’s easier to add more specific cards from the media you’re directly engaging with.

When you do get a bit further along and start creating your own cards, one thing I’d recommend doing is setting up Yomichan so that it pulls the context sentence you found the word in as well as the definitions into Anki. That way, you’ll have a handy example sentence right there to help you remember the usage, and linking the word to a familiar context will probably help you remember it better!

Oh, and regarding your dictionaries, I think most of them are straightforward enough (or unobtrusive until you’ve learned enough to make use of them, haha), but I will explain Innocent Corpus. The Innocent Corpus number represents how many times a word occurred in a specific pool of thousands of novels. So generally, the higher the number is, the more common the word is.

However, some words are very common in certain contexts, but not very common in novels, so this can be misleading! Like, there are a lot of words that I see and hear all the time in pro wrestling which are not very common at all in novels, so they have a low Innocent Corpus number despite showing up extremely frequently in my own reading.

Here are some additional Yomichan dictionaries you might be interested in at some point, including other frequency dictionaries and some monolingual dictionaries. Don’t feel like you have to download these right away, haha, but if you get the hang of the program and want to try souping it up a little, you have some options for customization.

Try clicking on the actual kanji for it in the Yomichan pop-up! :wink:


I’ll second this.

Once you have your Tae Kim book, read through it a bit to get the basics, then once you feel comfortable you can either keep reading it or skim through a bit to see what’s coming up ahead. (You’ll want to thoroughly learn the material, but skimming helps you get an idea of what all is out there to learn in advance of learning it.)

I don’t know what all Tae Kim’s book covers, so I can’t really say how far you should be before you attempt reading Yotsuba.

But I will say that Yotsuba will be difficult no matter how much grammar you learn in advance. When you do start reading it, consider it an opportunity to learn more grammar as you go because you’ll encounter a lot of grammar you haven’t learned yet or did learn and don’t understand well yet.

When it comes to vocabulary specifically, I think Yomichan provides frequency information (can anyone confirm?) This is important because if a word is very common it’s worth adding to SRS as a first-time reader. If a word is very uncommon, it’s not worth adding to SRS.

If you want to pick out the most common vocabulary in Yotsuba specifically to pre-learn a bit before you really dive into reading, I have frequency lists you can use Yomichan on to create cards from the highest-frequency words. You might be interested in the volume one list, or else the whole series list. (The lists are auto-generated, so there are some minor issues I need to clean up, but they should still be helpful if you’re interested in learning the highest-frequency words in the volume/series.)

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I don’t have Kitsun, but the same developer of Kitsun created MaruMori which has lots of grammar blogs that I found really helpful so that may be a website worth looking into. Tadoku also someone else mentioned has a lot of free graded readers so you can just look at the level 0 and 1 stories. Crystal Hunters is a manga that teaches Japanese so that will probably be the easiest manga you could ever read as each volume has a guide which list of the vocabulary being used and grammar explanations.

I can’t get on the Anki (or any flashcard) train. It doesn’t work for me at all. I do everything WK offers plus Bunpro. In my opinion, the Genki book is difficult without a partner or a formal teacher (I think there are a lot of Genki purists in the Japanese community, so be wary). Japanese From Zero was a more fun experience, but it’s really slow. I listen to podcasts on Spotify when doing chores, and whether or not I can understand it fully, I can pick out context clues and have an idea of what’s being discussed.

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