What is the best way for Vocabulary acquisition

I read through the Internet yesterday and found a lot of opinions.

The best way seems to be reading native material.
But only if you you know enough vocab so that you don’t have too look up to many words. Because its painful slow to do so.

SRS - vocab

  • [+] Its fast- you can quickly go over a lot of informations
  • [-] Vocab learning is rote learning with srs (Bad)
  • [-] Its bad to learn without context

SRS - Sentences

  • [+] You learn with context
  • [-] Its a slow process
  • [-] You memorize the sentence but you can’t recall the meaning of a word in another sentences

My current point of view is. Just start reading even if you have to lookup every single word. it might be painful slow but you make progress.

I like to get more Opinions. How did you increasing your Vocab knowledge before reading native material?



I agree with the “just jump in there and read”, it’s the best feeling when you can understand something!

Personally I prefer the “just push through without looking up” method, even when you are fairly low you will find areas you understand better and the joy you feel when you understand something is just so incredible! And if you find it is too hard, find something easier. I started with Graded Readers before moving on to Manga, and now doing books (though with lots of help)


I think using both is the most efficient. SRS is a good tool to help get you started with basic vocabulary, and if you use a tool like houhou it’s also helpful for retaining rare words you want to remember but don’t come across often.


It seems to me that the no-context disadvantage (for learning single words) applies mainly to learning vocabulary for production. For comprehension, a lack of context is probably fine. Context is provided when you encounter the words in the world.

For myself, single-word learning is efficient and effective—but I am cautious about using those words until I’ve seen how they’re used in context.

I agree with the disadvantage of having full sentences in SRS. Maybe other people’s brains work differently, but my own brain is fully capable of learning that “when the word ‘fortunate’ appears underneath the word ‘day,’ the answer is…” without even needing to think about the meaning of the word in question.

When I make Anki decks for my Spanish students, I do a mixture of single-word and sentence (cloze) question types. For the cloze types, I use very simple vocabulary words in the sentences, so that there are fewer misleading cues for the brain to hang on to. For example, if I want them to learn “I intend to…” I won’t say “I intend to vote tomorrow because I hate that candidate.” I’ll say “I intend to eat.” And another cloze sentence says “I just ate.” And another one says “I like to eat.” In other words, “eat” can’t trigger any particular response, because it appears so often.

One approach that would avoid the trouble of unintended cues is to do single-word study, but to include an example sentence on the answer side of the card. And, additionally, you could have a cloze question for producing the vocabulary word.

On rote learning: I don’t actually think rote learning is bad per se. It’s only bad when it’s all that you do, or when you don’t apply it, or when you don’t know how to apply it. Rote learning can be highly effective and lead to efficient learning. In my classroom we tend to be doing either rote learning or fairly unstructured speaking, with very little in between. I like the results of this.

And I agree with reading whatever you can manage! It doesn’t much matter whether you look things up or not, or what you read; what matters most whether you enjoy it enough to keep studying.


I started reading manga around 2 weeks ago (maybe more? Tbh I’m not sure). I add the kanji and vocab that I don’t know to houhou and learn it through that. I think that it has been going well.

The problem is that since I don’t know a lot of what’s in the manga I end up adding a lot of stuff to houhou and keep on having to make breaks otherwise it’s a bit overwellming.

I also read some manga without checking anything, just for reading practice and so I don’t stay that long without reading (even if there are moments where I have no Idea what’s going on)

But, I’m considering on just sticking with only one volume at a time and adding everything to houhou but “suspend” most of it and slowly learn them. Then after a week or two go back to it just to practice and see if I’m missing something.

I’m still trying to figure out what works best for me. But it has been quite fun so far.


I study words in isolation and in sentences.

I have example sentences (at least three) for every isolated word that is shown after giving your answer. The example sentences only include grammar that I understand so it’s actually nice to read through.

If there is a word that I am struggling with after multiple attempts I make a separate sentence card that contains that word just to expose myself to it more. This is also my current method of retaining grammar and it’s working fine so far.

Edit: (if you’re interested in my grammar cards) I add around 4-5 cards of single sentences of each grammar point that I learn. Instead of adding all 5 on the same day I spread them out so that I encounter the grammar point more often.


Theres another method that involves reading native material, so long as you can copy all of the text. As such, it’ll only work with VNs and other digital stuff. You can put it into a text analysis tool that I will find the link for when im not too lazy. This will tell you all of the most common words in that book/vn/whatever in order from most to least common and you can study vocab from that. Then, you go on to read whatever material it was from, and that acts as a way to reinforce the words you just learned as well as putting it in context.

I did around 1000 words out of the core 10k that werent in WK. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have done that, so I advise against it. I wish I had just started with reading native material and powering through it.

EDIT: I would like to point something out. Just because something is painful and slow, doesn’t mean its inefficient. Sure the reading will be slow, but what matters more is vocabulary acquisition, no? Its only important that that isn’t slow. Enjoyment from reading native material is going to be harder to come by at first. And sure, sometimes I shut off the text hooker and just play my VNs for pure fun, but I definitely learn less than actively trying to make sure I understand everything.


Depending on how much you like Anki (actually, only if you like it)… you could try this .

Basically mixing Subs2SRS with a plugin like Morphman for Anki you can get thousands of sentences from your shows (you might download some decks too if you don’t find the idea to make them yourself appealing). That way you come with a word in the wild, and use these sentences with audio and images to get a bunch of examples of the actual meanings and uses of that word. I use a vocab deck and a sentence deck, but you can just save a list of your known vocab, if you are not going for the separate vocab deck.

It’s fairly easy to end up with thousands of sentences (I’m around 50,000 now) just to be used as sentence mining cards.

Again maybe jumping into reading native material could be a good move as well. Myself I’ve been studying for only 7-8 months now and I’m doing graded readings, and improving over that. But my vocab it’s growing constantly thanks to Anki and that particular setup.
I’m keeping a study log explaining the process a bit more here, but I’m aware it might not suit many people.

Just my 2 cents.

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So your advice is to just read?

Do you put unknown Vocab/sentecnes into an srs system?

I like it. I like functions > appeareance :wink:

Nothing compares to reading when it comes to expanding vocabulary since the spoken language uses less vocabulary than the written one.

I’m gonna be the “we used to have to get up out of the shoebox at twelve o’clock at night ” and there’s a chance the great Crabigator will attach my brain to a cookie but… painfully slow has ceased to exist the moment search engines were created (here it comes…) I had to learn languages using books not just for reading material but physical dictionaries and encyclopedias to look up every word. and most of it meant going to a library…

Language is all about context SRS is just a method, a tool that helps you review words. It’s an aide and it’s important to remember this. I’m an extremely practical person, and as such using flash card has always been quite boring for me, gamification is a life saver that helps mii endure the bore of seeing words out of context, and reading simple sentences also loses it charms quite quickly… so I guess that at the end of the day it’s all about endurance and good learning habits.

This↑ A thousands times and v e r y s l o w l y

(Now if y’all don’t mind, I’ve gotta finish packing and give some real context to all the Japanese words I’ve learned so far… さようなら また会いましょう)


More or less. What I want to get across is that there are two ways to learn more japanese. You can either learn words from a list, or you can learn words from native material.

Learning words from a list is fine, but you already do that plenty here on WK. The problem is that it leaves a bunch of little holes. No matter how much you learn from a set list of words or whatever, you will be missing something. This is the flaw of a heavily structured exposure to vocabulary, and it should be complemented by something more dynamic and fluid that can cover those holes.

So yes, read more. Find new words and put them in anki or houhou or whatever you like to use. Maybe even add the sentence they were used in if it helps you. Im not opposed to SRS, just the method that people use to find the words that go into that SRS. Youll learn plenty of grammar along the way as well. Furthermore, not every word only has one definition. You have no idea how many times I have come across words that I “knew” but they used a different meaning than what I memorized. Reading will show you which meanings you are missing.

Heres my point. You’re learning japanese to be able to read it (among other things), not pass a test were they just flash a bunch of words at you and you have to say one meaning and how its read. Its pointless to entirely focus on the latter. It’ll suck to practice the former, but sometimes the easier route isn’t the best.

EDIT: To answer your edit, I use HouHou and Anki for this stuff, yes.


So basically:
You read to learn new stuff.
You put it into an srs to not forget it

single words or full sentecnes, both are fine

Eh, this depends what you’re talking about. We’ve talking seemingly about Manga and 寒いですね level of conversation here. I still come across words I don’t know when speaking all the time. Listening to something like ルー大柴 is going to much more “vocabulary expanding” than some Shonen thing.

What do you mean by that? Is there something that I should be careful of?

Yep. Thats my advice, at least. There’s a lot of discussion on how to read (intensive vs extensive), but thats sorta another discussion.

Some people focus way too much on learning vocab from lists. For some, its easier. For others, they just don’t know how else to learn because at the early levels, learning from lists is completely fine.

My warning is a pretty common one when it comes to language learning, I just applied it specifically to reading. Basically, actually apply your knowledge and attempt to learn from your mistakes/shortcomings. This is what reading native material will do for you: allow you to realize your shortcomings.

Its the same logic as when people say to actually talk to japanese people on hello talk rather than just practicing conversation in a workbook. The workbook is fine, but it shouldn’t be 100% of your studies for that area of japanese.


Of course it depends on what I’m referring to… you don’t need to know how to read and write in order to speak a language and acquire vocabulary. However if you’re learning to read seeing the words in a written sentence is quite helpful, especially with kanji - don’t you think? Narrows the possibilities a tid bit.

(Shouldn’t be here by now… but whatever)

Caught mii red handed here - Touché!
Definitely wasn’t thinking about that level while writing…
as for manga, as a comic artist myself - I chose it in order to communicate with as little text as possible- we’re talking speech bubbles here… the drawings do most of the work.

Yes I don’t disagree. But I think this whole thread is set up on a false premise. There is no time in your Japanese-learning-life when you’ll go, “That’s it, I’ve learned enough words”. So the answer is “Every single way of acquiring vocab that can be used is good.”


Was it? Was it really? Or are you trying to make mii miss my flight?

Love to talk to you more… hopefully you’ll still be quite contrary when I’m back…

Thats not it. I only read that you should learn enough vocab from a list first before acquire vocab from native material.

The problem with all these Opinions is in most cases that they never state why you should or shouldn’t do something

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I was referring to the original post in this thread. Anyway, more response is in the next post