Visual Learners: Notes

This is my… 4th? Time going through WaniKani from the start and the furthest I’ve ever gotten has been level 27 I believe, but I’m determined to get to the end! From the start, I realized I do much better remembering everything from radicals to vocabulary if I write it down; does anyone else have that?

It’s less about writing to study later for me as much as it is getting the image of each character ingrained in my head—I’m a visual learner and also think I have photographic memory (as in, when I remember things, I can often times see them like memories), so writing everything is really effective because I’ll remember the moment I was writing something and associate it with the meaning, reading, etc. At this point there are times that while doing reviews I just see something and my fingers automatically type before I catch up to what’s happening—it’s kind of cool when that happens (I also take it as a good sign that I’m starting to really internalize the language).

This time around I’ve been writing everything on Goodnotes—I love the iPad and Pencil combination for this, and Goodnotes is pretty great (especially since version 6 came out and they updated some of the design elements)… I’ve been liking this so much that I’ve obsessed about how I take notes and what they look like over time :sweat_smile:

What do everyone’s notes look like? :face_with_peeking_eye:

Also curious what techniques work for others that also consider themselves visual learners! I’m planning a 1-month trip to Japan next year and want to make the best out of the rest of the time I have before to feel super equipped.


I just write kanji over and over again myself:

The objective is to eventually be also able to handwrite Japanese even though it’s dubiously useful in practice.

Beyond that I was never a big note taker, I lack the organizational skills to make it worth it…


I saw a relevant article on NPR this morning!


Oh nice, this makes a ton of sense—part of the reason I study languages is to keep my brain active and continuously improving, I guess I’m doing something right. Thanks for sharing!



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Ha! Thank you. I’d like to learn a more cursive style but I don’t know where to start…

I’m a big visual learner too. I use pictures with flashcards on Anki, and usually I’m able to recall the picture before the meaning if the word.

Similar thing with handwriting, sometimes my hand remembers before my brain does. I’ll be thinking “wait how do you write 週? Which stroke is first? Was it this radical or this one?” And by the time I’ve figured it out my hand is already done writing it.


I’m also in the writing it all down camp. Mainly using two notebooks. One for lessons, where I’ll write it all down once. And one for reviews, where I repeat write the words I struggled with while doing reviews. It takes more time to do it this way, but it does speed up memorization over a longer stretch of time.

I’d noticed ages ago that taking any sort of notes helps commit to memory, even if you don’t look back at what you wrote later. Even things like stuff you intend to do, or ideas you’ve had. Same time it is fun going back to look at old notes much later.

It feels like doing this has also really helped distinguish characters in heavily stylized fonts or people’s handwriting. I don’t have the issues reading those to the extent a lot of non-native readers often seem to do.

A little while ago I felt stuck, like my motivation was slipping. So I looked at my notes from when I first started Wanikani and realized how much I’d come in the 10 or so months I’d been doing it. Both in complexity of the characters, but also how well I can write them in a weird way? I could tell from my old strokes that I was trying to be really careful, but had absolutely no familiarity yet. Now it’s rushed, but you can at least tell some practice has gone into it. It looks a bit more natural to me now.

Some new characters I still struggle with spacing because lack of familiarity though, but I’m sure attention and practice will help those too.


I love an opportunity to share stationery :angel:

When I first started learning, I tried super hard to make my notes visually pleasing or, like, generally organized. I was very active on langblr and it was common to see some absolutely beautiful notebooks on my feed, so I tried what I could with the shaky handwriting that I had lol. These are notes I took from Genki 1 back in 2020:

It was fun that way! But I really struggled to find a learning routine that worked for me while I self-studied, so I eventually gave up on taking notes of any kind until returning to university two years later. I lost this tiny A6 Midori in the meantime, so when I started taking notes again I’d switched to the larger A5 Stalogy 365 notebook.

In 2022, back in school, I was studying Genki 2 and my notes became a bit more frantic as I was writing them during class. I tried to take relevant notes on grammar points and their exceptions, which ended up looking like this for most of the chapters:

After finishing my Genki 2 class in 2023, I moved up to Tobira and started self-studying more often. My notes briefly became to-do lists rather than chapter notes:

I haven’t made many to-do lists since taking the N3 last December, unless I’m sitting down for a proper multi-hour study session, so there aren’t too many of those in my notebook but it is a notable segment of pages. Also, writing Japanese in pen is not a move I suggest unless you are very confident lol

Anyway, since the start of 2024 I’ve been fully self-studying with no classes, and my notes basically always look like these nowadays:

Randomized lists of vocab and grammar notes I jot down as I read workbooks/textbooks, no particular rhyme or reason otherwise. After all of my many attempts to switch up my note-taking style, seems organized chaos won in the end :sweat_smile:


This is super inspiring! I’m a huge note taker - definitely learn better that way. Can I ask, did you all spend time practising stroke order? I’m a real beginner and I am hesitant to make notes in Japanese as a) I often don’t know the stroke order and b) my Japanese writing looks terrrible, it’s hardly legible even to me!

A lot of your writing is so neat and accurate! Is that just practice?

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Honestly, whatever works ha I definitely relate to wanting notes to look good and then spending more time doing that than actually studying… that’s part of why I like the iPad and Goodnotes; once I have a template I like I don’t worry about it (although I will say sometimes I will erase and redo ugly kanji :sweat:)

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Yes! Practice, practice, practice… if you care about what your script looks like just pay attention to what you think makes nice handwriting “nice” and try to replicate… at least that’s what I did. It really helps though, for me, to have a grid. And kudos on focusing on stroke order, I think I just did whatever I wanted for a long time and realized it was bad and had to spend time retraining myself how to write kanji I had learned by then.

Now stroke order is almost second nature… it just “feels” correct once you get the hang of it.


I figured that because my 15 year old, for some random reason, writes the number nine from the bottom and it always looks weird :joy: so I guessed that might be why my initial attempts at writing Japanese looked so weird.

Yes I guess the grid does really help, especially when you start writing kanji. I’m still learning how to write hiragana tbh! Some characters seem easier. My な and た for some reason always look super odd. More practice eh :woman_shrugging:t2:


I would humbly recommend the kanken books for you.
That’s the method usused by kids at schools in japan.
If writing the kanji is your thing, they will noy only provide you with the opportunity to do so, they also include lots of vocabulary, example phrases and simple exercises or “Quizzes” to better reinforce your learning.

I expect to go through them myself :grin: But in my case, that will be after finishing WK.


thank you so much - this is perfect!

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