Is this a good approach to Japanese (overall) or no?

(First of all, I’m sorry if I’m already doing this completely wrong! This is the first time I ever posted anything on here and I’m not used to how these kind of things work lmao.)

Anyway, I just wanted to see if I could get some feedback regarding my method for learning Japanese. So right now I am focusing on just trying to accumulate a decent amount of vocabulary. I don’t know if this is really the best idea as I’m very aware of how learning vocab from context (i.e while consuming native content) is the most efficient way to actual learn and/or remember the words. Yet, as during the last month or two while I’ve been doing just that, I’ve noticed that the vocab just doesn’t seem to stick? Even when I record a new word from something I’m watching, I typically put it in a quick flashcard site like Quizlet or Memrise for easy review (Don’t judge me I just completely don’t understand how to use Anki…). But no matter how much I review my vocabulary hasn’t been improving at all. I’ve gotten so sick and tired of trying to watch native content and having to pause every second so that I can record the new words. It just doesn’t feel like its working, so I’m changing my method. --> I am now going to learn at least 3,000 vocab words. The purpose of this is so that when I do start emerging myself with native Japanese content again, I won’t have to worry about picking up vocabulary as much as understanding how Japanese is actually spoken. Basically, I just want to be able to focus entirely on things such as sentence structure, grammar, vocab usage, tone, etc.

Is this still a good idea though? I just have seen many people really passionate about how important context is to acquiring vocab. It’s important to note that I don’t think I’m going to be learning completely out of context though (I’m going to be using numerous example sentences w/ native audio for each and every word! I’m aiming for not just 1 or 2 examples, but as many as possible!!) I’m just really tired of my small vocabulary getting in the way of other things that I really want to focus on…

So what do you guys think?


It depends on where you are in Japanese otherwise. IMO grammar is the most important thing to get down. If you know how sentences are put together, it makes vocab much easier to acquire

Focusing on acquiring lots of vocab is better fit for when you are more comfortable with grammar and kanji


I think the most important thing is to enjoy the process! If you feel like learning vocab because you don’t understand anything, then go ahead but don’t be too hard on yourself. Learning vocab won’t hurt your Japanese and if you decide to change your plan after the first 500 or 1000 words, that’s totally fine too, it will have been worth it anyways. Btw as important as context is, I don’t think you need to stress about it too much. It’s something that comes with time and it’s also totally fine if you have some misconceptions about some words / phrases when you start out - it’s probably not even avoidable!

And as @snow-pine said, grammar is also an often neglected crutch. So it definitely won’t hurt to study that a bit. 頑張って!


If you feel vocab is currently holding you back, then by all means study vocab! As @kerehat mentioned, your Japanese roadmap can be re-evaluated whenever you feel like it. At some point you may feel that a lack of grammar is holding you back, then you can simply put more grammar in your routine.
Your plan sounds perfectly fine to me. Good luck! 頑張って!


I spent maybe two or three years learning the first 3,000 vocabulary of the “core” decks out there, and I’ve been doing a lot of native material reading this past year. I think at least 1,500 of the vocabulary I spent all that time learning…I haven’t encountered in any reading yet. In that sense, a lot of vocabulary learning was a big waste of time. And when I get them to the point where the word only comes up for review about once a year, I’ve completely forgotten it because I never knew the kanji. (I only started using WaniKani last year.)

Everyone will have their own take on how to go about this, but my recommendation would be to limit yourself to only so many words per episode (maybe 5 words, maybe 15 words, whatever works for your). You don’t want to overwhelm yourself to the point that it’s not fun to watch anything.

I’ll also echo the replies on grammar. Once you know the basic grammar (N5, some N4), you can start reading. It won’t be easy at first, and you’ll have to look up a lot of vocabulary, and you’ll keep encountering grammar you don’t know yet. But the more you see the basic grammar, the better you’ll know it. (The brain is a pattern recognition machine, so the more you see a pattern, the less you’ll have to think about it to understand it.)


Lol true, language learning is a personal hobby for me! I just been stressing about how to go about it for the last week or so, since one of my friends - who is also learning Japanese - is basically doing the exact opposite of what I’ve been doing (she is really focused on the whole “context is essential” thing) & has been not so subtlety criticizing me for it lmao.

But yeah, I think my knowledge of grammar so far is pretty decent. This is only like my 3rd or 4th month learning Japanese, but I spent the first 2 months doing (almost) exclusively grammar. I’m certainly not advanced but it hasn’t been giving me much issues at all so far.

But thanks for your response so far I feel a lot less guilty lmao


As @snow-pine says, get the basic grammar down and then things are much easier. Once you have that, join one of the beginner/absolute beginner book clubs. I found them to be immensely motivating, and it’s much easier when a bunch of nice people have helpfully made a vocab sheet and are willing to answer all your questions.

Have you tried watching without pausing? If you’re pausing all the time, IMO you’re missing most of the value of watching native content (which is practicing listening). Some people really dislike it, but if you can, watch stuff without pausing and without subtitles, even if you don’t understand anything. It takes a lot of practice just to pick out words you already know, so I wouldn’t put it off.

As with all things, it’s complicated…using first language glosses with SRS is the fastest way to acquire new vocab (breadth), but you get a very shallow understanding of it, almost to the point of it being unusable. Context adds “depth” to your understanding. People will argue about what’s best (but no one actually knows), so try various things and go with whatever works for you personally.

The other thing, which @ChristopherFritz alluded to, is word frequency lists are hit and miss depending on whether they match your goals, so it may be more efficient to add words as you come across them (I wouldn’t do this whilst watching something though - maybe before or after if I had access to subs).


ありがとう!全力を尽くしますよ ! !


I’m very aware of how learning vocab from context (i.e while consuming native content) is the most efficient way to actual learn and/or remember the words.

This isn’t necessarily true. Its just kind of a thing people say online a lot and people just kind of expect it to be true. As part of a literature review in this paper:

Studies on incidental vocabulary acquisition in the foreign language typically involve subjects in
extensive reading. One goal of extensive reading is to read for pleasure, which will hopefully
translate into general language improvement and a boost in reading motivation (Krashen, 1994).
The general language-learning process from extensive reading is incidental, with few specific
learning demands from the teacher (Widdowson, 1979). Some researchers suggest that extensive
reading is mainly for the purpose of reinforcing partially known words so that they may move up
to known words, rather than focus on building new vocabulary (Nation & Wang, 1999; Waring
& Takaki, 2003). Nevertheless, this does not exclude the learning and the acquisition of new
vocabulary entirely.

And for clarity, before I get “this is just a single papered.” This is in the literature overview (going over previous studies). As far as I can tell, this is the general consensus of the field. The papers in the area I’ve looked at all say about the same thing.

This should make sense. Think about how often you see words in your native language that you don’t recognize versus being able to remember them when you see them in the future or use them in a sentence. Then think about how many you could learn if you SRSed them. There is a substantial difference.

That isn’t to say that reading doesn’t play a purpose, but as the quote I posted said, you should probably primarily view it as an exercise in reinforcing the vocabulary you already know, improving you reading skill, giving motivation by showing that you really are learning, and maybe as a way to pick up certain language patterns.

So if you are at a stage in your learning right now where it is very unenjoyable, just take a step back and do it when it is more comfortable. You aren’t crippling yourself or anything by waiting until you are intermediate or advanced to start reading.




To be honest I think the main issue for why I get so impatient when listening/reading is that I just not used to knowing so little about the language!! Japanese is the 2nd foreign language I’m started studying with German as my first. I started learning German as a hobby when I was around 11 to 12 and probably only began really emerging myself in German content years later when I was 15/16 (I am 17 currently btw). So I had at least 3 to 4 years of experience with the language before I really started listening which is the completely opposite of my situation with Japanese.

I think it’s can be rather frustrating and/or stressful when you’re suddenly confronted with how much you don’t know. You start to overthink & stress over everything lol. I’m just really hoping that this new method can avoid this for a while so engaging with Japanese becomes a much more pleasant & fun experience


Woah that’s a useful tip, thank you! I don’t want to completely avoid consuming native content so I’ll try this next time…


I get where you’re coming from, but if you can convince yourself that you’re not trying to understand anything it’s pretty fun in it’s own right just listening to the sounds. And I’ve personally found it really beneficial.

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I think I’m pretty comfortable with my grammar so far, I know at least N5 to N4 (and littleee bit of N3). Basically I know enough to understand most basic to intermediate level sentences

I enjoy just listening to Japanese too without the pressure of forcing yourself to understand every word lol. Even if you’re not actively listening, it’s still giving your brain the chance to get used to the sounds & overall rhythm of the language!!

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You've mentioned watching video, but have you waded into reading native material?


Best part is, you don’t have to pause to look up a word =D (But it can be demoralizing having to have to look up every. single. word.)


I’m new to this too, but ive done a bit of research regarding the topic before decided to plunge into wanikani and I think the best advice I can give it to trust the process. Wanikani was a service developed by people working at Tofugo, which has a complete japanese learning guide, still in the works all the way up to the beginning of intermediate. Give it a read here:

This article is what brought me to Wanikani, it was able to teach me how to read Hiraragana and Katagana in 2 days, aswell as how to type the two, and the method given by Tofugo follows a principle. When learning something, always begin knowing 80 percent of it. Wanikani is used to teach you kanji and vocabulary, before you dive into grammar (which you should start learning around level 10. This is so you know the kanji, and the vocab, and you don’t have to research the meanings when learning grammar. This also means you can learn how to implament the vocab you learned into sentences instead of learning the words and uses at the same time. This means grammar will come very quickly to you. The process starts slow, but eventually everything should start to come a dozen times faster as it would learning normally.

On the topic of wanikanis systems most people know that it follows a radical mnemonic spaced repetition system. This incorperates 3 different memorization techniques, including radicals, which may appear in 1, or a dozen different kanji, and mneumonics for the meaning and reading. By using stories your brain can initially remember the story to associate with parts of the kanji, or something related, until your brain cuts the middleman, and the meanings and readings directly associate with the kanji. The same process is used with vocabulary, but instead of using radical mneumonics, you use kanji mneumonics.

The reason you feel like things arent sticking is because the spaced repetition system is built upon making you almost forget, and recall things. You learn the kanji and the time between reviews is purposfully extended, so that you will begin to forget things until your brain has to recall them, which triggers your brain to bond them as important memories. You don’t want to review in between reviews, and you don’t want to cheat on reviews, or else the system becomes meaningless. Eventually when you recall things over larger periods of time, they will begin to stick, until ultimately they are instantaneously recalled. As you go up levels, reviews will eventually overlap, and it will go a lot faster, despite having reviews on the same kanji or vocab less often.

This is definitely the best vocab and kanji system ive seen, besides learning to write (which you dont really need nowadays) and really helps in terms of management and organization. I intend to use this program until I burn everything from levels 1-60 and will follow this program in conjuction with several grammar textbooks and programs. Hopefully in a bit over a year I’ll be able to speak Japanese with confidence, and I hope you can too. So basically, trust the system, eventually you’ll see change. Also when you get to level 10 check out Tofugo for where to go from there, its in the “Beginner of Japanese” section.


That’s what the vocab sheet filling drones nice people in the book clubs are for


So much katakana in that pic :joy:.
Little off topic, but I wanted to @MidnightFuyu for making this thread and your comments! It made me reevaluate my own Japanese learning process too lol.

I’ve been trying to learn the Core words for the past few weeks or so, but I’m starting to think that I should concentrate more on learning the vocab for the media/books that I want to consume/read. I’m pretty sure the Core decks were based on the most common words from a newspaper, and since I’m not super interested in reading newspapers, so… might be time to shift focus! :thinking:


Starting out, I don’t think native content is a good, or even decent, way to learn. Sure you may learn a thing or two, and over a long period of time, you’ll probably become fluent, but it is very inefficient.

As you’ve experienced, you constantly have to pause some audio to look something up and you’re sick of it. That’s just not fun, and you’ll likely find yourself frustrated and give up.

This is a very important point I want to drive home with and is something I’m a big fan of. When starting out, you are no where near this 80% with native content and I suggest you even give up it (only as far as learning goes. Of course feel free to still consume it for enjoyment). In addition to the blog post @RyanS17 mentioned, I also recommend giving this a read.

Context is important, yes. But what’s more important right now is learning grammar and the ~2000 most commonly used words to help you build a strong foundation for more difficult material.