Reaction speed to recognize words

As you all probably also experience, some words or kanji seem very easy and you recognize them immediately. For some others, I have to think a bit or work through the mnemonic in my head. Especially towards the higher stages of SRS or even when I burn an item that feels like something I have to ‘work through’, it’s not very satisfying. I bet I wouldn’t be able to recognize it in adequate time in the wild.

Sometimes I even consider not burning an item because it took me too long to figure it out.

I was wondering how you experience this. Is there a way to train to be faster or drilling vocab specifically to be fast? Of course immersion helps but maybe there is ways to specifically train the ‘fast recognition’ muscle?

Last thought: It feels a bit like conjugation. In the beginning, it took me a while to generate e.g. the polite negation of a past i-adjective but now it’s easy after doing drills. Everybody agrees that you have to be able to conjugate fast, but it’s also something frustrating in the beginning because each form feels like a whole new word rather than just another form of the same word.

I’m a bit rambly but maybe you know what I mean and have something to say :slight_smile:


You wouldn’t be the first to do this. Though I haven’t myself. I figured that if I recognize the item in the end, that’s good enough. ^^’

As for studying to be fast, I’d say traditional study-techniques are geared well toward that, aka repetition learning in quantity.

I don’t think is serves a real purpose though. In the end, you’ll create a deeper understanding of the items learnt on WK, most likely from encountering words in the wild, and by then those items will be easy to recall - even if you didn’t do any additional studying.

it’s also not like you need to have instant recollection of all items equally. The most commonly used words, yes, but certainly not all items on WK.


Bear in mind that the long term goal is not to get really good at recognition of individual words presented in isolation; it is to be able to understand them when you meet them in running text. That’s typically easier because you have the rest of the sentence providing the context to nudge you towards the right meaning.

If I were you, assuming it didn’t take five minutes or something to recall the meaning I wouldn’t worry about it. You’ve still got a basic idea of the word sufficiently to help when you see it in the wild. In the long term it is the repeated exposure to the word in the wild that will cement it in your memory. (Or if you don’t see it again, it wasn’t an important enough word to put in extra time to memorize better in the first place.)

The other thing I think is that vocabulary learning is not a “gotta remember them all” kind of exercise. If you work through 1000 words and remember 80% of them that is a better result than if you studied 500 words twice as hard and remembered 100% of them. There are always some words that for individual chance reasons turn out to be hard to remember. I think rather than super-focusing on those words it’s better to move on; there are always more words out there, and most of them won’t be leeches :slight_smile:


I think the thing that made me stop stressing so much about conjugation of words as well as recognizing the Kanji, is reading. The more you read, the less you’re going to care about when, how, and why you remember a kanji. I knew 驚く ages ago, and it’s finally popping up on WK. I will never think about it when that word comes up in WK because I read it so much it’s impossible for me not to intuitively know it.

Like @pm215 said, you’re not trying to recognize words in isolation, you’re supposed to be seeing them in the real world. I suggest if you are concerned about “seeing a kanji and knowing what it means” that you should start enjoying the process more and start reading manga, graded readers, etc.


tbh, eventually, I find the speed to de-conjugate to dictionary form the most important, but not other kinds of conjugation.

Kanji eventually feel more important than vocabularies, but often, only either the general shape, or some parts (phonetic-semantic components), is more important. No need for perfect recall from scratch (i.e. no need to be able to recall all the parts, or able to write without IME).

Some vocabularies are important, but probably only “core”, and isolated ones; but they are more important Kana-wise, or Reading-wise.

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