JP<->JP vs JP<->ENG

I’ve been making one of my first Anki decks, and I have to say it is quite fun and rewarding to make one just for yourself. I love how intuitive and no-frills the app is.

The deck I’ve been making is a JP->JP deck (with normal and reversed cards) for new words I’ve found while reading, but I wonder if this is the best choice. The format of a card is:

Front: [new word]
Back: [definitions according to JP->JP dictionary, with whatever example usages are provided after each definition, and with the usage of the word itself being blanked out]

On one hand, this would reduce or even eliminate first language (L1) interference and is more likely to lead to a more nuanced understanding of words. On the other, though, this makes the pace of each study session slower, and I worry that I might be misunderstanding some definitions. Using English definitions would eliminate possible misunderstanding in some ways by explaining JP words in terms of my L1, but could introduce different kinds of misunderstandings due to mistranslations/insufficient nuance (i.e. it has potential for negative transfer).

I’m leaning towards going forward with JP->JP, but what do you all think about this sort of thing? How do you approach studying new words? What do you think is the better tradeoff?


Do it. It’ll be slow at first but it’ll get better. Personally I wouldn’t include English unless you have immense willpower. The “Ugh, let me just double check to be sure” reflex is a tough one to break.


I’m not at a level where I can do many JP <-> JP cards, yet, but starting to do some—as many as I can. I prefer to force myself to slow down and really think about the concept. :slight_smile:

For concrete objects: I like doing an image search for the word and seeing what pops up. It can help with subtle differences for concrete words that might give the same translation. Search カップ and コップ, which are both often translated as “cup”, to see what I mean. I use one of these pictures, whichever triggers the essence of the word for me, based on the results of the search, in order to avoid English. (The same concept might work for some more abstract words, too, by the way. :wink: )

So, I’m arguing to go for it! Use JP<->JP!
[Of course, use what you really feel will work for you.]


Japanese to Japanese sounds like the way to go, although what you could do is have a corresponding Japanese to English that you can go through occasionally thumb through for words that you’ve forgotten their meanings.

I consider flashcards a supplementary activity, and don’t rely on them teaching me an accurate definition of words; more of a stepping stone where I can build the usage with real language afterwards. It expands my vocab and gives me hints what those words mean when I encounter them in the real world (also kanji practice). That’s why I use JP->EN, but often I don’t even look at the English definitions if I’m sure of it and going fast. If I’m pretty much correct, I mark it as “good”.

A lot of words have like 5 definitions, so learning them through Anki just does not make sense to me. You’re only gonna learn the word through exposure and usage anyway, not by reading the definition. I can probably cover ten times the words compared to JP->JP, as well.


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