Translating J-J cards in my head

I have a J-J anki mining deck that I study from which is word on front and dictionary definition on back. I just realized that the answers I come up with in my head are often in English. I then read the back and determine whether I got it right.

Would it be better to come up with synonyms or some other definition in Japanese as the “correct answer”? To me, the meaning in English is synonymous with the concept itself, so I’m not sure if I’m cheating myself here.

It’s your second language, so that is going to be present unless you train yourself to only understand a concept in that language, which is difficult to do. I wouldn’t worry about it.

I would be OK with some approximations, as long as I understand how to use the vocabulary / compounds. Knowing comparisons to other words / phrases would be a bonus.

I wouldn’t count JP definitions as complete either, but they are usually better than EN counterparts (as long as I can read them well).

So, to answer, both synonyms and usages / comparisons, I guess.

What really helped me move away from translated cards were example sentences. If I could recall the usage of a word and understand the meaning of the sentence / feel how the word is used in context, I would mark the card as right. I stopped bothering about recalling an exact match in English. J-J definitions would only serve as a doublecheck if I wasn’t able to recall a usage example.
Even the short sentences that come with the dictionary definition would probably be a good start, although I prefer example sentences from books I’ve read (sometimes I even manage to recall the context and situation this word was used in)


I would stick with Japanese as much as possible and only fall back to English when you really don’t understand. The fact that you still have the English concept in your head isn’t ideal right now.

For example, one thing I got from the Jalup deck was that an easy way to stay in Japanese is to have a definition like:

Front: 高い
Back: 「高い」の反対語は「安い」です

Some fun ones are:

Front: 反対語
Back: 反対語: 高い・安い、好き・嫌い、早い・遅い

Front: 同義語
Back: 「反対語」の反対語


The definitions I pull from 大辞林 will typically have a precise explanation first, and then follow it up with a few synonyms, and then the example sentences. I will recall the definition or one of the synonyms sometimes as well, but I hadn’t been grading myself on that. Perhaps I should be more strict in my grading.

I do also have the context sentences that I mined the word from. However, these are sometimes a bit long and complicated to remember.

I had considered making myself use the word in a sentence to prove that I know how it is used, not sure if this is a good idea or not.



Just like in Goo, you can add a synonym in bold to the back of your card. That’s what I do currently. Sometimes skimming through the entire definition is too slow.

Above being said, I don’t use strict J definitions for everything. Sometimes I use 和製英語, sometimes English. A long description of an “aircraft carrier mother/capital ship” in Japanese wouldn’t be very useful.

航空母艦 - aircraft carrier
主力艦 - capital ship


Thanks for the tips all. I’m going to be more conscious about using Japanese in my answers. If I can’t come up with a synonym, usage example, or explanation in Japanese that matches the dictionary definition, I’ll mark the card wrong because I didn’t grasp it well enough.


This is why I never found J-J cards that useful. I personally mark the card right as long as I get the concept or keyword in the right ballpark. J-J cards are slow to do as well, and input is not going to reinforce those dictionary definitions. I don’t find myself translating when encountering the words in the wild afterwards.

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I wouldn’t try to memorize the sentences, but they’re good to have on the back of the card. And since it’s Anki, you don’t need an actual answer. You can try to think of the concept and then read the sentences on the back to see if you remembered the concept accurately or if you need to shuffle the card back for further review.

You may want to summarize those definitions for yourself, or at least pull out the nuance that you want to review for that word.

For example:


意味 : 途中で学校をやめる

One of the things that will help is if you don’t think of it as getting the card wrong, but instead thinking of it as shuffling the card back for further review.

That’s one of the things that helped me with WK.

Running the deck is part of the learning process and not just a test of knowledge.


That’s fair, “getting it wrong” is a bit heavy handed here. Probably healthier to think about it as “more opportunities to learn”, rather than “I’m bad at this”.


Aye for sure. If you think about it, you may not have had much time with the word other then when you ran across it and created the card.

Update on this, I’m finding that making myself give a Japanese definition, use a synonym, or give an example sentence is helpful for recall. I think this because it is forcing me to engage more with each card. So if anyone else is having this issue, I would recommend trying that.


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