(I planned to post this yesterday but it was already pretty late and couldn’t articulate my thoughts properly so went to bed instead. Haven’t read today yet, will make another post later.)
Finished Shadow Tactics, pretty nice game, I liked it. I’ll definitely replay it at some point. Overall it wasn’t too much of a language learning experience but I could still grab some words.
Long ramble, feel free to ignore, though I would appreciate some feedback and/or discussion <3
So, about this. I’ve been thinking lately about the effectiveness of SRS, or better put, the effectiveness of my SRS habits in particular. I’m just still not completely sure of how I feel about it as a whole. I’d like to think that it’s doing its thing and being beneficial, but sometimes I have my doubts about its efficiency. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing things only so I can add new words, and so I treat every moment I read/play as a constant search for unknown words to add and it gets honestly tiring fairly often, even if it can also be fun at the same time. This creates a situation where, since I associate doing most things in Japanese with meticulous study, I tend to avoid doing any more once I’ve already done anything. So if I have done something for this challenge for the day, small or big, then I’m usually done with Japanese for that day. And so I wonder if I’m not sabotaging myself a little bit in this whole process.
When I think of how I learnt English, I remember I never used SRS (I didn’t know what SRS was until much later) and still don’t to this day. I learnt a decent foundation at school, and after that I kept using it and basically never stopped, consuming whatever media I wanted to and whatnot. For Japanese it was similar starting out: I did 3 years of language school without SRS whatsoever totally fine with very good grades, even if it was basic Japanese back then; still completely new to me nonetheless. If I had to take a guess, I suppose it is because I was very engaged with the content/context in both languages. I feel like the focus was different, it wasn’t exactly “learn more vocabulary”, it felt more like a drive to simply understand more of what I was interested in. It’s a very small difference in nuance but I think for me at least it is significant. I wasn’t trying to artificially expand my vocabulary, but absorbing what was most relevant in that moment, whether that was the vocabulary from the conversations we had in class a particular week, or the vocabulary from a particular thing I was interested in in that moment, and so on. There was a very strong… emotional? connection with what I was doing, so learning vocabulary was natural, smooth and easy.
So this is what I’ve had on my mind lately. I get the impression that I’ve lost a portion of “magic”, or genuine curiosity when it comes to language learning. That I’ve reduced it to a repetition of tedious tasks for the sake of learning, hoping that the words I hammer daily into my brain with an SRS app stick. Don’t get me wrong, I still have fun most of the time and I enjoy what I do, but I’m just wondering if I could be doing much better than I currently am if I drop completely or change my strategy of mining words. It’s not always the case but sometimes, when reviewing words, I don’t remember where I got them from or their context, so the meaning becomes blurry or I forget it after a while. I’m starting to use Anki for this so I can add the sentences I got them from, but then again that’s only one sentence per word, and I feel like one sentence alone is definitely not enough for me to assimilate a word. This is the issue I have now with a lot of WaniKani vocabulary after a year since I reached Lv60, that I’ve forgotten a lot of words because there was no emotional connection to the content (though I’m grateful that at least the readings have stuck for the most part). I remember having trouble with differentiating 栄光 and 光栄, which I ended up burning I don’t know how… and now I can perfectly tell them apart because I remember a line (no spoilers, couldn’t find a short video with Japanese subs) in Nier:Automata that says “人類に栄光あれ！” that gave me chills back then and it’s repeated throughout different parts of the game because it’s the slogan of YoRHa, an important organisation. Funny enough, I also remember 人類 from Attack on Titan’s “その日、人類は思い出した。”. I didn’t need SRS at all for that, only a very exciting moment, and it makes me think if the time and effort I put into SRS is overall worth it. I add all my words from content I consume when I come across them, but not all sentences are conducive to me remembering a word simply because I might not be engaged in a particular dialogue, and so on. Then the same word appears in something I’m very engaged in and it’s easy to not only learn and remember, but also recall.
In conclusion, I’m wondering if the effort I’m putting into dissecting thoroughly whatever I do could be instead directed into gaining a lot more exposure without worrying too much, if let’s say an hour of reading/playing + SRS could instead become two or three hours of pure enjoyment, and if those two or three hours could take me much farther than my current strategy. I guess the doubt that remains is that I’m worried this backfires, my study starts becoming way too comfortable and I go nowhere. The plan would still be the same, to look up the words and grammar I don’t know, but then move on. I think this would relieve a lot of pressure and need of performance; just going through something without the urge to add anything anywhere. It’s actually something that Game Gengo (a channel dedicated to learning Japanese through video games) talks about in one video, linking it just in case anyone is curious, though it’s very long.
So I’m really asking for feedback here, if anyone has had similar thoughts, success stories and also failure stories of Japanese without SRS, or really anything that you think relevant to mention. I use SRS because I think it will do me good, not because I love it, and I would probably drop it if I had the certainty that my time won’t be wasted if I don’t use it. I like the aspect of seeing a number of words grow because it gives me the impression of tangible improvement, and I worry that not using it will make everything very ambiguous. I struggle with seeing improvement in language learning because it’s so, so easy for it to go unnoticed until you see it and it feels discouraging. I think I’ve fallen in an “efficiency trap” that isn’t turning out to be very efficient after all. It’s difficult not to doubt oneself when the obsession for SRS in the Japanese learning community in general is so pervasive, it seems like the only worthwhile method. And no wonder, it’s a magnificent tool if used properly, but I think it’s also easy to misuse and turn it into something that doesn’t work in your favour, like I might have for myself. I need to reassess my study method with it, or discard it altogether.