Studying through reading

Hey y’all, I’m starting to try immersing myself more and while reading various media I can’t figure out what method is better. So far I’ve been looking up every unknown word and writing it down to add to a personal srs deck later. This takes a lot of time and effort though and I’ve been wondering if maybe skipping the srs step and getting to read more at a time would be more beneficial. Has anyone here done this before? What are your thoughts?


I’d recommend a middle ground. Studying every word you see will make reading a drag, not to mention isn’t efficient since you’ll study many uncommon words. But at the same time, some words may not stick without SRS. Personally, I study a subset of words I encounter based on various factors, such as if I feel like I’ve seen the word a bunch before or if the word just seems fun to know.


When I’m reading I look up words if they are keeping me from understanding a sentence, if they seem like they might be useful to me in the future, or if I’ve seen them a few times and still don’t know precisely what they mean. Any others kind of get a mental checkmark that could potentially put them in line for that 3rd category eventually. This is the most efficient for me.


I started out with the “look up everything and putting all words into SRS” when I didn’t know much grammar. If I had to do it over again, I would have skilled the SRS step at that point, so I could invest more time into writing notes about the grammar.

Once I had basic grammar down, I start going the tadoku (reading lots) route, where I don’t look up every word I don’t know. I mostly only look up words when I can’t figure what’s going on. The weak point to this method is because I haven’t been using SRS, I haven’t been learning new words. I forget seconds after I look them up, understand the scene, and move on.

This year, I’m going the +1 route. When I find a word I don’t know, if I know everything else in the sentence, I put that sentence onto an SRS card. I also put the word by itself on the front of the card above the sentence. That way I can glance at the word immediately when reviewing, and if I’m uncertain, I can read the whole sentence for context.

So far, this has been very effective. But I’ve also only done this for words where I know all the kanji. Examples would be an unknown comprised of two kanji I do know, or an unknown expression made from words I know.

The plus to the +1 sentence method is that I spend more time reading, and less time reviewing words that I won’t remember. The negative is having to keep an eye out for +1 sentences. But it hasn’t been bad so far, so long as I understand that some days I’ll read a 45-page chapter without coming across a single +1 sentence.

I’m also planning do the same as @seanblue and @Leebo said, on looking up words that seem familiar to me (because I’ve seen them before).


I don’t study every single one, but I’m still at the point where even common words I encounter so often and I feel like it’d take me at least several full books worth where I’ll have most memorized and new words would be mostly uncommon ones. I feel like these common words are definitely worth remembering but as of now it’s a huge drag to get through just about any material. I’m still trying to force myself through them for now, I’ve just been wondering if there was a better way.

1 Like

Are you reading paper books? Do you write everything down by hand? Perhaps instead of cutting out the SRS step completely, you could work on making it faster by automating it (or parts of it).

I do have paper books which I plan to read at some point, but those I’m reading now are virtual. Basically I write down the word and page number in a google spreadsheet to go back to so it’s not too much of a load on me while actually reading. I already do have part automated with Kitsun which has a card generation tool, but it can’t be fully automated since I like to add extra stuff to the card that can’t be automated like context sentences and the material I found it in, and if some form of book I’ll put in a chapter/page number too. With adding all the extra stuff and the sheer amount of new words I encounter I’ve spent 1 hour+ long sessions just adding words to srs. It’s a real pain.

1 Like

I’ve never used kitsun, so I don’t know if there is a way to streamline your process. For me, cards that need a lot of processing that can’t be automated, I don’t finish them until I’ve seen them at least twice (in a book, movie, whatever). However, it seems like with your system that might just add another step to something that is already too much and/or too time-consuming… Regardless, I hope you figure something out that works for you! If you stopped the adding to SRS part for a while and found it detrimental, you could always add it back in.

I understand that this might not be interesting for you to try but I thought I would share my current practice with you.

I am currently going through the 新完全マスター(読解) series just to fill in the holes in my vocab knowledge and I only use anki for words that appear in these textbooks. It allows for me to read comprehensible content for 1h every day and I can study words that I’m not super confident in. This way, I can separate “study/SRS” time and “let’s enjoy content” time while still having a concrete sense of improvement.

(If you go a bit below your current level with the SRS study material you will probably only encounter +1 sentences which I personally enjoy)

1 Like

I use Satori Reader to practice reading, as it makes looking up the word as easy as clicking on it, and I found it way more accurate than automatically generated readings. The content is also annotated with grammatical details, and other teacher notes. I find those particularly useful. In addition, the audio is carefully produced and very well read. (I tried LingQ before and got fed up with incorrect readings and automatic voice). You have the option to save the unknown word to a study list with SRS reviews. Those pile up pretty quickly in my case, so every now and then I purge it all and start from fresh. I think you can export these study lists, but I haven’t done it.

It’s not free, you could say it is pricey, and the content is limited, I don’t find all of it interesting, but overall I think it is a great study tool. They also have a forum, which I haven’t used much, but from what I can see, questions are answered pretty quickly and with great care.


I ended up throwing away SRS in April last year and have gone full tilt into reading books on Kindle with and without Audible to help me out with listening. I ended up reading 19 books since then and while each book has a special subset of words depending on the focus of the book I felt that it helped a lot when it came to learning vocabulary and common grammatical patterns. I use Hellotalk frequently now to talk to Japanese people and I’ve definitely noticed a big difference how smoothly I can speak from before the reading immersion to now. The books I read consisted of a mix of novels, history textbooks, self-help books and music, basically the things I was interested in and were on sale at the time. I found that trying to make studying fun by reading things that I have an interest in really made me want to invest more time into it then when I was doing my own Anki flashcard study. I highly recommend giving it a try for a month or two, it’s nice to have a break from SRS!

I do both. I think I saw them called exposure reading and focused reading somewhere but I can’t remember where.

For me it was born out of necessity. On Kindle and BookWalker, I can highlight and look up words easily. So I tend to do it much more often on there.

On my Nintendo Switch, not so much, so I will frequently just gloss over words as long as I get the gist and only look up something if:

  1. It’s necessary to the understanding of the sentence.
  2. The same word has come up twice, the second time I’ll look it up.

I’ve seen a marked improvement in my reading since I started doing this. I’ll sometimes even understand a sentence without being able to articulate the meaning of each word.

But in both cases, I’ve never used an external SRS. I rely on my mind being lazy enough to remember something in order to avoid looking it up again for the fifth time. :wink:

1 Like

Thanks for all of your comments everyone. After reading through them and thinking about it I think I’ll try 2 different things. Keep as I am now with certain materials adding content to srs, but also implement a sort of lax studying into my routine where while reading some other content I only briefly look up words I don’t know and quickly move on.


IIRC you have heard of koohi/floflo and know what they do, so with that in mind this next part should make more sense:

When I was reading post level 60 usually I wouldn’t learn every word and would focus on words that appeared twice in a book or appeared once but would also show up in a later book. When I came across a word I didn’t know in like a youtube comment or something though, I would often just add it. For those words, remembering them was a lot easier because they came in a distinct context sentence that was usually pretty easy to remember.

Fast forward to current day and I’m currently learning every word in a book that I come across. At this point, there are so few words that I don’t know in a book where I can learn everything I come across while still reading quite a bit. It takes a bit to get to this point though and I wouldn’t recommend adding every word unless you know it won’t impede your ability to get a good amount of reading done.

This is a solid compromise imo. Idk if you’re into visual novels, but they offer a very easy way to quickly look up words thanks to text hookers. Its also worth noting you don’t need to look up every word. You will naturally want to look up words during more interesting parts and you can kinda guess at what words mean during boring parts you just want to get through. Usually thats my approach for when I read less intensively.

1 Like