Suggestions for Building Vocabulary

I’ve realized that in order to progress in Japanese I really need to work on my vocabulary. Originally, I was taking Japanese classes online so at the beginning of every unit I would be given a large vocabulary list to memorize. A year away from classes and I don’t feel as though my Japanese has improved at all other than my kanji (thanks to WK). Sadly, all of my vocabulary lists from school were lost when I was transferring my files to a new computer so the only vocabulary I’ve retained is some random words and WK vocab.

I had been trying to input random words into HouHou, however, not being able to learn them in “lessons” like WK or Memrise prior to them being put into the SRS was becoming difficult, especially as I have times where I don’t get to drilling for a couple days.

What do you all do to get more vocabulary and/or what lists would you recommend? As previously mentioned, I do use Memrise from time to time so if there are any courses outside of the basic ones that have proved useful I might get back into it again.

Study vocab by N5, N4, N3 and by textbook chapters’ sequences, as you will soon realize that Kanji aren’t enough. I use JLPT Vocabulary vs WaniKani Google spreadsheet. But for less of a techie, probably various apps in smartphones (Play Store), or

To supplement WaniKani, that would be Core 10k breakdown, if you are OK with Anki.
For Memrise alternative, that would be WaniKani Expansion Pack.

Also, don’t forget to do KaniWani (or Reverse vocab, on Memrise)


Read? I don’t know that’s what I do and it works.

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I will likely go through the N4 Memrise course and ignore the words I already know, as that’s what I did when I “studied” (crammed) for the N5.

I’m doing alright in WK, but do you recommend doing the supplement course anyways? I’m mostly looking for more common vocabulary at the moment; I know that WK sometimes teaches less-common words or words in less common ways to get enough vocab for all the kanji.

I’ve been doing KaniWani for a while, but since I had to take a break for a couple months and forgot to put it on vacation mode and I was lazy afterward, I’m at above 2,000 reviews (also somehow most of my progress got reset on it).

I actually just got the first Harry Potter book in Japanese to try and practice reading. Hopefully knowing the story and that I liked it in the past will help me actually stick to reading.

I’ve also read NHK articles from time to time, but news really isn’t my thing.

How do you keep track of new vocabulary in what you read? I’ve tried spreadsheets/putting them into a Memrise or Quizlet or some other flashcard app, but I’ve never been able to do so in a way that actually makes it appealing to review.

What do you read at your level? I’d like some suggestions. Thanks.

You could try doing the core 10k anki deck in the Ultimate Additional Resources thread. I just started yesterday for similar reasons, and I’m aiming to do 30 cards a day. We could be suffer-buddies!

I think doing BreadstickNinja’s WK Expansion on Anki/Memrise is the best route to go for WK users who want to expand their vocab because it further cements the kanji that we are already leaning on here with new vocab.

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I don’t recommend Expansion Pack, but I do recommend Core 10k breakdown. Only that, Core 10k isn’t in Memrise, and many people have problem with Anki.

I think Core 10k goes up to about N3-N2, and doesn’t cover some useful vocab, or even some vocab in WaniKani.

Core 10k comes from

For Expansion Pack, I think there are about 30,000 entries, and there include ‘Commonly Written in Kana’ - but shown in Kanji anyways, uncommon words, uncommon Kanji. That’s why I don’t recommend it. I think it is script-generated from EDICT (

In that case, I’ll definitely add the Core 10k once I figure out Anki.

For those who don’t like Anki (like me) and don’t mind paying, there’s always

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I live under two mentalities: 1.) Always read authentic content in Japanese and 2.) Don’t peg yourself at a “level”

Therefore I read anything and everything I can that native speakers have written. I mostly read online content with the help of Rikaichan so that I don’t spend much time looking stuff up in a dictionary.

I read newspaper articles on Yahoo Japan, Amazon Japan product reviews, and Japanese friends Facebook and Twitter posts. When I want a “lower” level so that I can relax a bit more but still learn new vocab, I have been reading Japanese children’s picture books… those don’t require Rikai chan because they are written in kana so I just use a dictionary at hand if I don’t know something.


Yeah, if you never evaluate yourself you never have to acknowledge your shortcomings. It’s always such a drag.


You should try to go next ‘level’, though. Using little dictionary, or no dictionary. There, you will see your true “level” in reading.

Another way to see “level” in reading, is to get a comprehension exam. You need tests.

Still, knowing the “level” and increasing the “level” are two different things.

I suggest reading 2 kinds of materials.

  1. Read anything, for vocab
  2. Read level-appropriate material, limit using dictionary, and read in large amount, for grammar.

Satori Reader could be a great start-up for the second kind.

One thing I do is study vocabulary lists people put together for manga titles on Memrise (then I also read the manga, or in some cases attempt to read it). It’s kind of a hodgepodge but there are lots of useful words, common verbs and whatnot. YMMV depending on your interest in manga. :wink:

It helps reinforce the vocabulary for me when it pops up in SRS and I can remember where I first saw the word in context in the story. Which is probably why people who are less lazy than me make their own courses/decks from things they’ve read.

I don’t lol I spent years thinking I was going to… always saving every word I looked up in my main dictionary to a word list… the Japanese dictionary app on iOS does that nicely. I thought one day I was going to review all of these 2000 plus words…who knows it was prob more like 5,000 words, but the truth is I never wanted to stop reading long enough to import them into Memrise or HouHou… not even bulk upload as that still wasted time.Then one day I just realized… I never did SRS them, but bc I read so much I remembered a lot of them anyhow. So I realized, why bother wasting time with SRS?

I just read what I like and review grammar and one day I will be at N1 or higher. I know this rather I have confidence in this because every so often I do JLPT practice tests and I’ve also done the J-CAT and I plan to repeat those in 6 months to a year.

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