Tips for efficient learning, reading resources and Anki

I have about two months to prepare for a Japanese exam. It’s all reading comprehention, and I would say it’s about the same as an N4-N3. So I need all the input I could possibly get, as long as it’s useful. WaniKani is being a good introduction to Kanji, but maybe there are other things I could use. How about Anki? I’m still pretty new to that too, so I’m a bit overwhelmed by it’s possibilities, which decks to use, should I install a web-browser plugin, read stuff in Japanese and then create my own decks? Recently I tried reading a japanese novel in my e-reader, but even with the japanese dictionary I installed in it, I can’t really read anything, it’s a Haruki Murakami book, so I guess I won’t be reading that anytime soon. I’m still using Duolingo even though everyone says it’s worthless, I have Genki and a couple of other books like Remembering the Kanji, but honestly I feel more comfortable studying in the PC. Where can I find mangas in Japanese to read? Preferably “easy” ones, but to be honest, I’ve been told that since you pretty much can’t find much “begginer” easy stuff to read I should just read a manga that I like or find interesting, so anything will do at this point.
I’ve been using a webpage called Read the Kanji too, which has the N5 level free, I’m picking up some kanji there too. Anyways that would be it, if you could point me in a direction with Anki and some reading material I promise to pray for you to the all mighty Cabrigator. Thanks!

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Two months is a very aggressive deadline to comprehend N4 to N3 material.

A bit more information can help guide you to finding the right resources for your situation:

  • How long have you been learning Japanese?
  • Do you feel you have a strong ability to recognize and read ひらがな and カタカナ?
  • Roughly how many vocabulary words do you know?
  • How familiar are you with conjugating verbs and adjectives?
  • How much grammar do you know? Do you know N5 grammar? How about N4 grammar? Or if you don’t know by Nx level, what resources (text books, web sites) have you used for learning grammar, and how far have you gotten? How well do you feel you know the material?

If you had more time, I would suggest downloading the Japanese Core 2000 deck for Anki to learn vocabulary. However, learning via spaced repetition takes time. On top of that, the more words you try to learn at once, the less well you’ll be able to retain them. The amount one can learn varies from person to person, but there will be a point where you take on so many in a day that you’re not able to retain them very well.

If you find following Genki, which is designed for a classroom setting, doesn’t get you the amount of grammar you need (or simply that working with a paper book doesn’t work well for you), you can check out web sites like Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese or the (from what I hear) more in-depth and complex IMABI for grammar. However, in order to understand the grammar you learn, you’ll need to become familiar with it, through repeated exposure. The sample sentences these resources provide will only take you so far. It’s a good start for someone leisurely taking their time, but if you’re starting from scratch with a narrow deadline, you’ll have your work cut out for you!

I recommend continuing to use WaniKani for kanji if you find it works for you, but it’s a fairly slow system because each level’s material needs to be remembered to a certain degree before you can learn new material, and the spaced-repetition system imposes a limit on how quickly one can do this.

For reading material, you can find a list of book clubs here at WaniKani. Typically, participants read a portion of a book (such as a manga or light novel) each week and discuss it. All prior discussions are available, so if you pick one of the manga to read through on your own, you’ll have accompanying vocabulary lists and discussions to help you through reading it. You may even be able to ask a question on an older discussion thread (if it hasn’t closed due to age) and get an answer by someone who read the book and is still subscribed to the thread. The book clubs include the Beginner Book Club recommended for people with N4 level vocabulary, kanji, and grammar, and the Absolute Beginner Book Club suggested for people at N5 level.

Good luck on your journey these next two months. I know I wouldn’t make it through all of N5 and N4 and into N3 in that time. (I started N4 grammar a month or two ago, and hope beyond all hope to complete starting to learn all N4 grammar by the end of the year…) Once the exam has come and gone, take everything you discovered about how you learn, and be sure to apply it for your continued education!

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本当にありがとうございます。私の日本語はまだとても悪いですけど、毎日頑張ります。I’m taking some sample N5 questions right now, and sadly I don’t think I completely mastered N5 yet, there is still vocab that I don’t know, there are still N5 kanji that I can’t read correctly yet. I can read furigana with no major problems, that doesn’t worry me much, vocab does, and Kanji too, for the sake of convienence I often consider skipping onyomi completely, and to just learn kunyomi, but nah I wont. Yes, it is quite an ambitious project since two months is very little time to study a language. But I’ll try anyways, I study everyday, however I can, as much as I can, with a little luck I might get to at least a solid N5 soon.
Thank you very much for taking the time to list these study resources! たくさん勉強しますよ! どうもうありがとうございます!

I’d like to recommend two articles on the use of spaced-repetition software: Gwern’s Spaced Repetition, and Michael Nielsen’s Augmenting Long-term Memory. Edit: Also Anki Essentials by Alex Vermeer.

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Just a tip since it seems you need to make progress really quickly: 悪い in the context you used it does not sound natural. To describe your abilities, you can use the words 上手 and 下手. In your case, the correct word would be 下手. E.g. 私の日本語はまだ下手です。

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そうですか。ありがとうございます、今から(下手)を使います。Is 悪い too strong of a word to use? Or maybe an adjective that you apply to describe things as bad more in the sense of evil? To describe which things would 悪い sound more natural?
By the way, I find really amusing the fact that 上 (up) is skilled and 下 (down) unskilled. That is actually really easy to remember, I guess Kanji sometimes is actually fun lol.
Thank you very much! Not only you corrected a bad habit of mine, thanks to you I learned to read two new words! どうもありがとうございますKuroiTsukiさん。

Thank you so much for these articles! You are amazing, this is exactly the type of stuff I need tp look into.

You’re welcome! And I can’t remember exactly why, so take this with a grain of salt: Things/people are bad (悪い). E.g. 悪いことをした。悪い子だ。 You can’t be bad (悪い) at things. E.g. 私の日本語は悪い。

So while that sentence is technically grammatical, it does not carry the connotations you wish to convey.

If you find yourself having trouble with Anki, I advise you to give Kitsun a try. It’s more user-friendly than Anki and it’s more towards the Wanikani vibe. The “Community Centre” has all the major decks that you’ll need for this journey (N5 & N4 vocab, a 4500 katakana vocab deck, Genki vocabulary, Core 10.000 words in newspapers, etc).

All these decks are also improved in terms of content/looks, compared to similar decks that you’ll find on Anki. The reason is that there’s a feature where users can send recommendations of synonyms to the decks’ creators in order to improve the deck’s quality. If accepted, everyone gets their deck updated with the new improvements. I’ve sent over 3000+ suggestions alone.

A screenshot of the Genki’s vocab deck made by @hinekidori :

The creator is a Wanikani user as well. You can find Kitsun’s thread here:

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https://bilingualmanga.com/manga/yotsubato

People always recommend yotsuba as a begginer level manga (I believe it’s at about N3) and this site makes it very easy to do that. You can read in japanese and check your understanding quickly by changing to the translated version. Maybe this will be useful to you. 頑張って!

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I’ve been enjoying this website for reading material: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/easy/

It’s simplified news articles, aimed at school-kids. You can turn furigana (the small hiragana over kanji) off/on, and if you hover over certain kanji it provides a definition (still in Japanese).

For even more beginner-oriented materials, Kanshudo has a few things:
https://www.kanshudo.com/read
It’s not a ton of options, but is a nice set-up - you click on a sentence to see the translation/word definitions/grammar points/etc.

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Thank you very much! This will come very useful when I get to level 4 in WaniKani, although I really love this site, so maybe I will find a way to work it out.

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