How to you learn new vocabulary outside WK

Hi everyone, first post here for me. I’m just starting my Japanese learning journey and just picked up a copy of Genki 1 to start on the grammar in parallel with WK.

Just wondering how do you memorise all the vocab in Genki? I’ve used Anki a little bit but find it hard to recall the meaning. Do you create your own mnemonic? Or do you just read the words over and over until they stick?

Curious to hear from your own experience and what worked for you when you first started.

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Learning vocab is very hard at first but it gets easier the more you do it. The reason is that human languages have all these more or less obvious patterns that your brain will latch onto as you learn vocabulary. Many words are also made up of elements from other words (kanji of course, but even beyond that with things like phonotactics and common roots) so you end up creating link between words that reinforce each other.

So I guess part of my answer is a not-so-helpful “just keep doing it and it’ll work eventually” even if it feels frustrating and hopeless at first. You need to reach a critical mass of knowledge before it all “clicks” into place and starts feeling more natural.

Also at your stage there’s nothing wrong with mainly focusing on WaniKani until you get to level 10 or so, getting all those basic kanji under your belt will help a lot with vocab and grammar.

Lastly personally I enjoyed this anki deck a lot:

It gives you vocab and grammar in context which I found a lot easier and more pleasant than simple word lists.


I took many different approaches at the beginning of my studies, but personally, I found that I most effectively remembered vocab when I incorporated some kind of mnemonic. For example, I vividly remember coming up with a story for はたらく , having to hang my hat on a hat rack when I went into work, and I don’t think I forgot that word even once.

That being said, I also liked making decks on Quizlet. I would make one for each Genki chapter, although I wouldn’t add all the vocab at once. The act of making the decks was helpful for learning, and then I’d throw the deck into “learn mode” and go through it while writing down every word in kana and saying it out loud (hadn’t started studying kanji at that point, but now I use familiar kanji as well). This method still seems to be the most effective for familiarizing with new vocab for me, as Anki is great but takes up too much time on top of my Wanikani at the moment.

Edit- I will say, I didn’t start Wanikani until I had studied for about 4 years, and man do I wish I had started earlier! Learning kanji readings and becoming familiar with patterns helps drastically with remembering new vocabulary.


You can find all the resources mentioned in here and more in This List.

At the beginning I played a lot of match the words games with basic japanese words like colors, days of the week, seasons, body parts and such, where you either pop bubbles or shoot arrow to level up. Listened and watched japanese for beginner (even old stuff from the 80’s) just to hear basic sentences over and over again, and then added Human japanese, Lingodeer to the mix, NHK Easy Japanese, and pimsleur. Also I really don’t like anki…haha
When I got to genki was already familiar with a lot of the vocabulary in the first chapters.

That’s my style of learning, listening is essential for me, and having fun when learning. But as you can see it’s a mess (still is) and not suitable for people with limited time for studying. I usually tell people find something that works for you and stick with it, ‘cause there’s an embarrassment of reaches when it comes to Japanese learning material for english speakers.


Anki. I don’t think there is any magic to it. My cards have 2 sides
front: full word with kanji
back: English meaning + reading in kana

I hammer at them until they stick. The only thing I changed vs my initial approach was the timings and how I score words. If I can’t recall a word almost instantly, it gets a “bad” score. If I have no recollection of it, it gets the lowest score and goes for repeat in a couple of hours.

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I just put the words in Anki, drilling both directions, kana and kanji on the front for JP->EN cards. I learned the word meaning and pronunciation first, and attached kanji later. By the time you do the reading and exercises in Genki, you’ll remember this vocab pretty easily, it’s all very basic and common use. After about 1000 words you’ll know too many synonyms to do cards in both directions, but for the beginning I thought it was helpful to have both directions.

Here’s my anki template if that’s helpful


Reading. But early on I would just add stuff to anki as I found it, do that for a few months then drop it. Anki is a tool I use intermittently when I feel like I am not making progress but need to push myself to learn.

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Thanks everyone for the insights, it’s very valuable and help with the confusion a bit. I’ll keep working on my Anki deck as I go through the lessons, trusting that it’ll get easier over time.

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If while reading something or chatting with a Japanese friend I come across the same word several times, I learn it using Bunpro :slight_smile:

But Anki seems like a great option too

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