Japanese to English in Reviews is not helping me think in Japanese often

This got a little long…

Study methods
I think what you find more useful will depend on what you are interested in doing with the language.

If your immediate goal is production (i.e. being able to speak or write in Japanese), then EN->JP may be more useful for you right now.

However, if your immediate goal is consumption (i.e. being able to read Japanese books or articles, or understand Japanese audio or video), then JP->EN is probably more useful.

There are other options, too. For example, for words which can be represented visually (e.x. 猫 = cat), JP->picture or picture->JP can be a useful way to learn. There are some learning methods like Rosetta Stone that use this almost exclusively to start out. However, there are also many words that cannot be represented visually.

Also, at some point in your studies you will get to a level where JP->JP becomes possible. That is, you can use a native Japanese dictionary or describe new Japanese words you learn in terms of simpler Japanese. This is very useful for words that don’t really exist in English or aren’t commonly used. (e.x. 親不孝=親を大切しないで、心配や苦労をかけること。JP->EN dictionary shows this as “lack or filial piety”)

My Workflow
Wanikani does, I think, a very good job at creating JP->EN associations for kanji and drilling in kanji pronunciations and meaning associations via vocabulary (and this second feature is what really sets it apart, in my opinion, and what makes it work better for me). I sometimes use the “Lesson Filter” script to learn vocabulary sooner. Usually, I try to do 5 kanji + 10 vocabulary, for example, instead of 10 kanji at the start of a level.

As @Saida mentioned, there are tools that work well with Wanikani but in the opposite direction, so you might want to look into those for EN->JP.

I personally came to Wanikani after studying Japanese for many years because my kanji knowledge and thus my reading ability was far behind my speaking and listening abilities, and I find the Wanikani vocabulary is mostly review for me with only the kanji being unknown.

However, I do supplement Wanikani with other studies, like:

  • an Anki flashcard deck with sentences and audio
  • Reading Japanese books and manga
  • Using an Elementary school level JP->JP dictionary (I bought a physical copy of 小学国語辞典)
  • Watching Anime with no subtitles or Japanese subtitles
  • Karaoke with Japanese subtitles (or memorizing Japanese songs)
  • studying Japanese grammar from a textbook (I also use “Handbook of Japanese Grammar Patterns” to look up grammar I find while reading)

The key for me is to keep learning fun and not overwhelm myself with too much that feels like “work” because otherwise I get demotivated, but everyone learns differently so you should definitely try different things and see what works for you. :smiley: