Strategies for memorizing non-WK vocab?

Hey guys! First post, so please be nice :sweat: I’m wondering if anyone has an effective way of memorizing vocabulary that’s outside of WK. I’m doing TextFugu right now and I’ve imported the first set of nouns into anki, and have been trying to memorize them with just SRS, but it just isn’t sticking. Obviously having mnemonics would be really nice, but assuming I can’t make them up for every word I encounter, has anyone found a more effective way of making words “click” in your brain? Like, I see the word, but then when it comes back a few words later I have absolutely no idea what it means. There must be a better way than this!

Having words in (comprehensible) context helps with acquisition. If you are able to find ~3-4 sentences with the words that you can put in where that word makes sense and is the only part you don’t know, it might help you.


I have tried this approach from Koichi for a week:

It seems very useful to me, although not perfect for every single word like he mentions. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the diligence to keep it up (tried to learn five new words each day with this method through anki). Right now I prioritize wanikani, grammar and reading. But I might return to this method once I focus on learning words usually written in kana.

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One thing that helped me in learning new vocab was switching from Anki to Memrise, since words simply weren’t sticking for me when using Anki. If you’re only using plain decks, you’re not really getting any sort of interaction with the word, and so you end up staring at it trying to remember it each time (at least that was what happened to me). There are Memrise courses with lessons that help you learn the word via both recognition and recall, which increases familiarization and improves retention.

For words that are just plain awful to remember, I do still use mnemonics. There’s nothing wrong with taking a couple minutes to write one down (Memrise has a built-in mnemonic feature), and once you’re more familiar with the word, chances are you won’t need it anymore. So when starting out, this may be the best option for you, because it’ll help you increase your vocabulary more rapidly, which will help you in reading.

Reading actually helps a great deal when learning vocab, whether it’s an article or just some song lyrics. Having an associated context makes words easier to recall and makes the meaning more discernible, especially when you encounter that word again elsewhere “in the wild.” For example, in NHK articles I repeatedly encountered the word けが (injury), and so now when I see it elsewhere, I remember reading it in those particular NHK articles and can recall the meaning that much faster.

Also, I feel like the more vocab you learn, the easier it is to learn more. I suppose this is because you see patterns in words, and so if you encounter a new word, chances are it utilizes kanji that you recognize from another word with the same reading, thus helping you learn it even faster. This makes it more difficult when you’re learning from scratch, but as you acquire more vocab and begin to see patterns, it becomes easier.

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Thing that help me remember is switching from WaniKani and Memrise to Anki; more specifically,{{Focus}}/m0u/. I looked up every words, looked through all definitions and looked to further collocations and compounds, and sometimes 類語 also.

Linking from the vocab to a good dictionary is the key.

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Just read and listen more. If you’re exposed to a word enough you’ll remember it. Writing and speaking will help cement it even deeper in your brain, but it’s not necessary. I think anki is a huge waste of time past learning the basic vocab. You need a basic set of vocab of basic actions like come, go, become, do, eat, speak, etc. otherwise you’ll get overwhelmed with too much new vocab when you try to read. Past that I think you’re just wasting your time with SRS when you could be learning just through reading. Plus reading helps you actually, you know, learn the language, which is a lot more than just a set of vocab.

The other problem with SRS is I don’t think it really teaches you the vocab anyway. Vocab is more than just a definition and a couple example sentences. A word has nuances, connotations, collocations, politeness level, all sorts of considerations you really only learn from consuming native materials.

SRS is perfect for memorizing things that are arbitrary like kanji, or radicals. I don’t think vocab should really be memorized so much as learned. I’m definitely biased though because anki just never worked for me, but as soon as I started reading all the words that I struggled with I immediately picked up. Do what works for you.


Im not saying nothing but my cat said that most likely Koichi has been eating mushrooms again. Seems like a lot of work and time to remember vocabulary that way but if it works maybe it is worth it.

I think I will try making up some basic sentences with the vocab and see if that helps. I’m starting from pretty much nothing, so I’m not able to read or listen to anything yet, except for sample sentences of what I’m learning.

@rhet I am learning the basic vocab right now that I’ll need to be able to read. That’s what I’m having some trouble with.

I would so love to be able to read something like NHK easy but I’m just not there yet :slight_smile: (you can see I’m only level 3 on WK, and I’m pretty much totally beginner on grammar and vocab too). Maybe I’ll take a look at Koichi’s other method that @ribben2 mentioned… it looks kind of interesting for the really tricky stuff.

Thanks everyone so far!

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Even for basic vocab you should be able to pick it up just reading whatever grammar books you use to learn the actual language. For me it’s just a matter of efficiency… grinding away at anki is a waste of time when you could be learning grammar and vocab at the same time.

@rhet yeah… so I am using TextFugu as a textbook and it is specifically telling me to cram them. Heh.

Not to knock the importance of encouraging learners to consume materials intended for native readers ravenously (which is beautiful!!)

But would you be willing to consider that SRS flash cards could be made to contain a bit more context around the target word/熟語 to achieve a richer understanding and encourage imprinting/acquiring your target, a bit like how this post talks about MCDs?

I assume that the type of SRS flash cards you talk about would look a little like this:

Front : 「

Back: 読み方: とも/ホウ、解説:”この「とも」は「ともだち(友達)のような「とも」と同意するもの。” 、類義関係持ち:「

However, wouldn’t you achieve a similar end just by training your self to memorize a phrase or a sentence with the 単語 in question from the get go, thereby preserving some of the necessary context that you say and SRS method strips out of the learning process?


Front: 一周的

Back: 一週間しかなくて友達または友人として遊びに行ったりすることをしてる人。アニメ動画からの奴。

読み方: とも/ホウ、解説:”この「とも」は「ともだち(友達)のような「とも」と同意するもの。” 、類義関係持ち:「

While I admit a card such as this would still be a bit lacking in context compared to the extensive reading approach, I believe such an approach achieves providing some of that richness of nuance and shades of meaning that you claim are lost with SRS.

I look forward to getting to hear your opinion.

Again, I can’t agree enough with this statement. This is a reality that I feel like a lot of lower-level 日本語教師 try to avoid talking about, to everyone’s detriment. You’re never too green or too experienced to learn something useful for your language study (or life!) from books, 絵本、videos, 音楽, podcasts, classes in Japanese, and more. Japanese Language #aozarabunko #絵本読み聞かせ #classes in Japanese

頑張れね/がんばれね :smile: (^^)v

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