Studying with sentences and SRS

Hey guys.

A few weeks ago, I gave in to Anki and created my own deck. After the first few levels, concrete words like water, river and cat gave way to more abstract and nuanced vocabulary, and I felt that the example sentences often didn’t offer a very clear picture of how the word in question is used - and I also worried that, at my level, I wouldn’t get to see those words in the wild anytime soon.

Instead of using a pre-made deck, I started looking up sentences using the vocab from my WK lessons, and I’m seeing that everyday I discover new ways of saying things and expressing ideas in Japanese.

Then a couple of days ago this article by @koichi came up in the Tofugu website:

It’s mostly what I’ve been doing, though I’m doing JAP>ENG only and not the other way around (my focus is on reading at the moment). It also recommends adding from one sentence per day up to five sentences per day, which seems a very low number to me (though I have time now to do plenty of Anki reviews and I focus on words WK has already taught me).

So I’m wondering who else is doing this, what are your goals and strategies, and where do you get your sentences from?


I’m about to start doing this. I’ve really hated my experince with Anki thus far. (pre-made deck= boring; pre-made flashcard models=persnickety / too complicated). I’m considering giving Anki another whirl making 3 sentence cards a day. My flashcard model would be a blanked-out sentence with picture-prompt as a model. This is based on Gabriel Wyner’s advice found on his blog and book “Fluent Forever” (i really enjoyed the book). I’m going to harvest sentences from Genki to shore up my weaker grammar points. When I’ve done this in the past, I’ve found my favorite sentences through tweaking exercises from the workbook.

Front of card would be blanked out grammar point plus a trigger picture:


Back of card will be the grammar point:

When I tried doing these types of sentences before on paper flashcards, it was incredibly helpful for my retention. Sometimes, I would pick sentences that had 2+ grammar points and make separate cards for each point. So one sentence/scenario would trigger 2 grammar points and maybe some tricky vocab. My issue was I couldn’t keep up with a high rate of card production or a paper-box schedule. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to make a ton of cards though (between 10 and 30 a day), so maybe if I scaled back to 3 a day I could get back on the paper train. The retention increase for some tough grammar points was truly remarkable when I worked with paper.

Good luck with whatever approach you decide to take!


Just remember that Anki in and of itself is just a tool, and what you get out of it is really just what you put in.

I still think studying sentences for grammar really isn’t that great unless you’re constantly adding new sentences. The thing about books and talking with people is you’re seeing the same grammar point in new ways, and it’s unique to you. When you SRS sentences, you just memorize them, so that attempt to process the grammar doesn’t really happen.

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That may be so, but I’m not a tech-minded person and I have wasted many, many hours trying to tweak Anki so it works “for me” and it is probably the worst return on investment for all the Japanese-language tools I’ve used.

I have wanted to start studying by sentence–maybe lifting them from readings? I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but I can’t say I agree with @Syphus… from my experience studying french, even memorizing sentences helped me learn new grammar points. After a while, I found I could easily make up my own sentences with the same grammar type but new words. In any case, all exposure to the language has to be good exposure… right?

It’s probably true that you need many sentences though.


I agree. Pattern practice is a central tenant of language learning. It is a building block for future sentences. But you need that first block.


Sorry for the multiple replies. If you are at a level where it is possible, Gabriel Wyner recommends JP->JP flashcards with trigger pictures to remind you of sentence meaning. It gets you out of the habit of thinking in English and immerses you in the target language. Your assessment of accuracy is less about whether or not you translated it “just so” to English as a means of gauging your comprehension, you are assessing yourself in a Japanese / pictoral context which is better for building memory in a new language.

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I am pretty much unsuccessful with Jtest4you deck, and the variant I made. Not sure how to study this one.

Recently, I tried Onomato Project, to study onomatopoeia vocab; and customize a little using {{type:Hiragana}}, Mnemonic, synonym Fields and WaniKani-like settings.

I feel that doing this one works. Maybe it is like @kikagakumoyo’s. However, it is for study vocab, not grammar.

Not really sure how you do JAP>ENG, but in my experience, for vocab, at least, the pairing that works best is (all EN meanings)->Kana, especially if there is no Kanji in the vocab. Actually, I tend not to care about Kanji. So, maybe, having Furigana is the best.

And then look up all meanings and examples in You are not going to remember only some of the meanings, are you?

But if you talk about Input Box, I used to be unsuccessful with that. How many sentences (by JLPT) can you read in 1 minute? Let's read Japanese sentences with self-checkable translations. [Anki/Spreadsheet/Desktop app]

Maybe, the best way to study grammar is to compose sentences, follow by cloze test and multiple choices.

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Nothing beats that, studying sentences is a bit like training wheels so I can get to that point.

Right now, I’m working on reading comprehension, so my goal is to just understand the Japanese sentence. I don’t really use the English translation, it’s just there in case I forget what a sentence means. I mark myself as correct if I can understand all grammar points in it (so not just memorising a meaning) and how that sentence would be used. Further on, I hope to make my own JP>JP flashcards, but I’m not at that level yet.

I do have a question. Other than the effort of making and maintaining thousands of paper flashcards, how do you make the SRS process happen? Do you have boxes for each interval and move the cards between them?
I’m not a big fan of the Anki interface, and really resisted using it, but in the long run figuring out Anki has saved me a lot of effort. Plus, AnkiDroid and AnkiWeb are a bit of a pain to set up, but once I got that going, I can could cards on my phone wherever I am. Well, I could do that with paper too, I suppose, but, you know.

This seems very interesting, I’ll have a look. Thank you!

In order to manage a paper box system, look up Leitner Box and you’ll get a ton of links explaining how to set one up and schedule it. If I had a successful method that I’d implemented I’d share it iwth you. (I just put dividers in a bigger index card box, but fell off the wagon super fast).

On a seprate note, even at an early-ish level, I think the JP->JP sentence cards I described would be worth experimenting with to see if you get better retention than JP -> ENG. The sentences mined from Genki should be familiar enough to you that you know you’ll have the gist of the reading comprehension, but it will nudge you to produce the grammar and keep you immersed in Japanese. Doodling a little picture if you do flashcards, or pulling one from Google Images for Anki will aid in creating new neurological connections that make the memory stick. This is all stuff I gleaned from Wyner’s book.

Good luck to both of us on sentence cards!

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