Why I Started Using SRS Again

(I initially wanted to post this in the thread below, but since it had been locked, I’m making a new one.)

This was one of my firsts posts here 2.5+ years ago – and maybe the most controversial one.

It lead to some interesting discussions and I still occasionally get notifications that users liked my post – I think quite a few people who shared my feelings randomly found it via Google (it’s #3 if you search “srs japanese useful”, for example).

HOWEVER, 2,5 years later I’m now using SRS/Anki quite actively. Did I change my mind? Did my circumstances change? Well, it’s a bit of both.

My biggest misgiving about SRS was that it takes time and energy you could otherwise spend on actually reading Japanese material. That it is very important in the beginning, but may in fact be detrimental in intermediate stages of learning if it defines you learning routine too much. That there’s a certain temptation to focus on the “mindless” part of learning Japanese and put everything else on the back burner. And that repetition of “facts” don’t really help to get a feeling for these words.

I still stand by what I said and think the path I took was good for myself at that stage of learning, e.g. transitioning from upper intermediate to advanced – a stage where constant exposure is a great way to internalize knowledge without feeling pressured to retain it at all costs (which may dampen your enthusiasm).

However, when I started reading a lot in May this year, I did this with the intention to fill the gaps in my vocabulary and fill them fast. And most of all, I wanted to be able to quanity my progress.

In the past, I wasn’t really able to reconcile the “being fast” part with SRS because the repetition still took way more time for me – my overall vocabulary just wasn’t that developed. Progressing fast would mean getting overwhelmed by repetitions far too quickly. That was rather frustrating.

However, now I’m in at a stage where I can retain words more easily because I’ve encountered them before or know similar words – or am at least familiar with the reading of the kanji. This allows me to go through 30+ new words a day everyday without having reviews pile up. In fact, only a small percentage of the words I add are words I’ve never seen before. Retention rate is between 80 and 90 %. Since I’m using Yomichan for the adding process, there’s zero overhead involved (physical books excluded) and I do my ~120 reviews + 30 new words in 10-15 minutes of my downtime everyday. It works quite well.

In the past 5-6 months, I’ve added and “learned” about 5500 words in total (maybe 30/day on average), a couple of hundred per book. It’s a wild, unstructured mixture of things I encounter, but all words (phrases, idioms, facts, names) that I think will be useful in the future.

While I by no means consider SRS a necessity now, it’s quite satisfying to see my progress in numbers, and it helps me consolidate the knowledge I already have in a painless manner.

So in a way, the time I spent engaging in Japanese material without using SRS for years paved the road for my using SRS now. That probably doesn’t sound intuitive because you’d usually think it’s the other way round. But for me this approach makes a lot of sense right now. I’m not saying that this symbiotic relationship wouldn’t have been possible in earlier stages – it just didn’t align with my personal goals and expectations (fast and painless progress).

I’m quite happy to finally have reached this stage of painless, rapid progress that allows me to do this, and I think I will keep going that route for the foreseeable future.


(You may wish to check your title:
SRT = Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor a.k.a. antidepressant)


Oops, fixed!

(SRT for me is the subtitle format, though :stuck_out_tongue:)


Gotta admit, I came here to see why you went back to the SRT subtitle format.


Nope, sorry, .ass for life. :stuck_out_tongue:


I’m an .ass man, as well.

(will reply with something more constructive tomorrow)


Same for me.


As a heavy Anki user I look at it as a necessity - instead of having to encounter those common words in books by reading a lot I add them to an SRS and then rep until I remember them at 3 in the morning. It’s super painful everyday, but it will get easier once I know more words in general :slight_smile: .

Using Anki and WaniKani together is a bit of a pain, though :smiley:


How much time a day do you spend reading ? Finding 30 new (interesting) words a day looks like a lot

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Seems to me like it could go either way really on the reading/SRS problem. Both are going to have more time and heartache at the beginning. Starting reading with zero kanji/word recognition seems like putting a stick in your bicycle spokes. You’re going to fall hard and spend time on every new character, plus have to figure out everything else in the sentence.

I feel like putting the SRS first makes sense because you can build up the baseline character/vocab. Then when you start reading you can focus more on the grammar points and nuance of the words in that specific context.

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I think SRS and other memorization techniques are useful for the transitions that are necessary.

As a beginner you have two main problems: you have no foundation for words and you don’t know that kana. SRS gets you both and helps with the transition to consumption.

For the intermediate phase, once you have enough consumption under your belt, you can now use things like SRS to target specific areas or provide some acceleration for retention. I think the best analogy is what the system originally came from: studying for things in university.


For me, SRS and reading are complementary mainly because they fill completely different timeslots.

SRS is good for when I want to keep busy but can’t devote a giant amount of attention - namely early in the morning while watching something in a side window (or originally, filling necessary downtime at work).
Reading is good for when I’m completely free and relaxed (or on public transportation).

In those separate contexts they both feel useful - and maybe more importantly - fun. So I haven’t felt the need to weigh them against each other directly.


Personally, I’ve yet to find SRS to be a terrible time-suck, but maybe that’s because I’m moving at a slower pace than many other language learners, so I’m not adding many flash cards a day. I think for me, it probably averages out to maybe like 16 new kanji/vocab a day, counting both my textbook vocab Anki cards and my WK cards.

It’s much easier for me to learn new words when I already know the kanji, so I’m hoping to start actively mining vocab from native materials once I complete WK (and once I have a solid base of kana-only words from my textbook in addition to common kanji vocab). I should be at low intermediate level grammar by then, which should also make reading easier than it is now, and I won’t need to worry about furigana anymore, since kanji look-ups will be much more infrequent.

In the meantime, I haven’t been bothering with SRS-ing words from native materials because I would quickly get overwhelmed with reviews due to how low my vocabulary is currently. At this stage, immersion for me means getting bombarded constantly with new grammar and vocab, so for the most part, I just pick up what I can, and let the rest go for now. If I tried to understand absolutely everything I see on my twitter feed, it would take way too much time and energy, and I would quickly get burned out. I’m content to just gradually understand more and more each day.

For me personally, I’ve found that SRS absolutely accelerates the process when it comes to learning vocab (and kanji) specifically, and I’ve made far more substantial progress with Japanese in less than a year than I ever did with Spanish when I studied it for three years in high school without knowing that SRS existed.

But I think the trick to SRS is you can’t just do it in a vacuum, or it’ll get really tedious and won’t help you that much. I see kanji and vocab that I’m learning in WK every single day of my life, and all of the textbook vocab that I’m SRS-ing immediately shows up in the lessons and gets used over and over again throughout the book, so it’s much easier for me to remember it. For me, SRS is the way to have fast and painless progress. It allows me to actually read without having to look things up as I go, so I can just focus on understanding the grammar without having to also figure out the vocab.

I’m not using SRS for everything (I’ve chosen not to go that route for Spanish, because I just don’t have the time for that), and it certainly is possible to progress without it, but just comparing my two experiences with language learning, it’s pretty clear to me that the SRS experience is superior. Then again, it doesn’t matter how efficient a method is if it burns you out entirely, so I think it’s perfectly valid to learn without SRS if you prefer!


However, now I’m in at a stage where I can retain words more easily because I’ve encountered them before or know similar words – or am at least familiar with the reading of the kanji. This allows me to go through 30+ new words a day everyday without having reviews pile up

I’m in the same boat. I used to be anti SRS but doing it this way is what’s made it work for me.


If I read a lot, I may add up 200 words a day. As a general rule, it’s about 1-1,5 words per page, though there are obviously big differences depending on the material.

These are the numbers for the past 30 days:

(And yup, they piled up quickly which I don’t like, so I try to reduce them to 0 fast right now.)


Yeah, I had a similar problem not too long ago. The new lessons from WaniKani + new words from books piled up so much that my brain wouldn’t take them in anymore.

I cut down on WaniKani lessons and thankfully the book I’m reading already fed me most of its new vocab so it’s not as bad anymore, but it’s very easy to get overwhelmed, right? :frowning:

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Oh ok,1 or 2 words a page sound pretty reasonable. You do read a lot

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Do you have any recommendations for beginner manga to read? Like easy enough that I won’t get too frustrated and give up? :stuck_out_tongue: I have been slowing down in my WaniKani progress and I want to pick up some momentum again.

check the absolute beginners book club here ^^ i believe they’re just starting a new book or manga, and having others reading along with you can be helpful when you don’t understand things ^^

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