Your Methods of Study

Hey, everyone. After browsing through Learning Logs here on the site and other places on the internet, I’m interested how exactly you study. More specifically when it comes to learning Kanji and Grammar. For example, until now I haven’t really used Anki, but mainly studied using Excel and being “my own SRS”.:sweat_smile:

One big question I have is whether you think it is more useful to first learn a lot of Kanji and then go into grammar while immersing yourself into the language? And learning vocab through this immersion?
Also when it comes to Anki or any SRS for that matter, what decks (type of decks) do you use. A separate one just for Kanji, for Vocab, and grammar? Or just one big deck with everything?

At the moment I’m trying to overhaul and improve my own study method which is probably way more convoluted and unnecessarily strenuous than it would have to be. So I am happy about any insight into your own study methods and tips.:grin:

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I’m a fan of sentence cards as described in this AJATT post—kana sentence on the front, standard kanji/kana sentence plus L1 translation on the back. I’m using a pre-made n+1 vocab deck with audio, and I set the cards to auto-play the sentence audio on both the front and the back.

I’m trying to level up my ability à la Stephen Krashen’s comprehensible input hypothesis. Focusing on listening while secondarily reading seems quite powerful. (Does anyone else agree on this point?) When I can’t hear the distinct words in a sentence, I replay the audio repeatedly.

Also, I’m using Anki, but I’m using it more as a content browser than for its spaced repetition scheduler. I do way more new cards than reviews each day. My intention is to speed forward with more content, and not get stuck in review purgatory.


Focusing on listening while secondarily reading seems quite powerful. (Does anyone else agree on this point?)

Absolutely, to a point that I feel like people who learns primarily from reading is missing out. The problem with learning words from reading is that you really don’t know how it really sounds when a native says it. Also, it’s ridiculously difficult to learn a complex, multi-syllable word without hearing it. You’ll learn words by your own pronunciation and tone accent which will eventually bite you. When you learn from listening, the sound is what you recognize not some random order of hiragana or katakana. You’ll build a direct association between the sound and the meaning. For reading, you can just read the hiragana/katakana out loud and you know what it means. Or if it’s kanji, you’ll have to learn to associate the kanji to the sound. The nicest part is that you’ll always know whether you remembered it correctly because you intuitively know how the word should sound like.


So you’re only using sentence cards? Did you do it this way from the start? At which level are you in regards to Kanji? Because I’m also thinking about going more into a sentence card direction but when when looking for sentence I often have the problem of not finding sentences that only contain words I already understand (besides the one I want to learn). I looked at the Sentence Cards of the Core10k Deck, and there the sentences often have words and kanji, early on, I don’t understand yet. Which deck do you use?
Also do you intend to switch to j-j cards at some point?

Listening, or rather active listening is definitely something I want to do more. My music listening is already 80% Japanese anyway and I also watch a lot of anime (still subbed), but I definitely want to make more of an effort to actually listen and maybe try writing down what I hear.

I’m using KKLC for Kanji, so I’m studying it alongside Grammar. I have 2 anki decks for it:

  • Keyword(s) to Kanji, Kanji to Keyword(s), practice by drawing the kanji with phone stylus
  • Recommended Vocab (indicated by a circle in the book)

For Vocab, I downloaded the Core10K anki deck, suspended everything, and am unsuspending words as I come across them. Everything that’s not in there, I make a new card for. I don’t worry so much about understanding the sentence as a whole, only the word I’m being tested on. I treat the sentence as more for disambiguation.

I’m going the traditional textbook route for grammar. I set up my grammar SRS cards as Cloze-delete sentences, with a hint about the intended meaning of the grammar point, and find it’s working pretty well for me.

Lastly, using level-appropriate materials for immersion (Graded readers, simple Manga, graded reader and textbook audio, etc), because I feel it helps to reinforce what I’ve learned, and acts like an i+1 environment.

I definitely want to make more of an effort to actually listen and maybe try writing down what I hear.

I’ve done this in classes for other languages and found it helpful.


As you can see there are a ton of ways to go. Hiragana/katakana first obviously. I do think if you have the will power you will be well served by doing rtk and learning the kanji keywords next. It will make learning real Japanese much easier especially if you want to go j-j.

After rtk I recommend a sentence deck like fkb9g. I use and can vouch for jalup. It is a premade n+1 deck that takes you from 0 to wherever you want to go and makes going j-j much easier.

Oh and all along the way immersion immersion immersion


In my case I have separate decks for kanji, grammar and vocabulary (vocab organized into a couple of decks in fact), but I don’t use the kanji one for studying, just for storing info on what kanji I already studied (I like knowing numbers :smiley: ).

I have never studied kanji outside of the vocabulary, I always treated them as one. I.e if I learn a new word I learn how to write it at the same time, the way I encountered it. For example, word かいじん can be written in kanji as 灰燼, but I encountered it in a book written 灰じん so that’s the form I learned. But if it had been written 灰燼 there, I would have included this kanji and learn it. And also I don’t review kanji separately, I review them along with the words that contain them.

Currently my reviews looks like this: question is in my native language and I give myself 1-2 seconds to recall the Japanese word (just its phonetic form, not caring about kanji at this stage), if I can’t do it immediately for whatever reason, I consider it failed. If i can recall it then I check if I can write it in kanji, if I can’t then it’s failed. I don’t always actually write it though, if I’m 100% sure that I could do it.
My cards also include Japanese definitions, accent information and sometimes example sentences (not all the cards include everything though - I’m adding this info as I go, especially for the failed cards), which I read through if I fail the card or I feel that my understanding of the word isn’t solid enough.

The reason I’m doing it like this is that I want to improve my active vocabulary, if I can’t recall a word in a short time then I’m not very likely to use it in a conversation effortlessly, so it’s not good enough. I don’t care to review for recognition at all. Actually I’m not sure if I even used Anki if I cared only for recognition. Probably not.

As for grammar, I started SRSing it very recently. My cards consist of the bunkei (question), notes and explanations in Japanese (not always) and example sentences. I don’t really answer any question, I just read through everything and judge how well I understand it. So basically I’m doing the same thing I used to do, but using the SRS for scheduling. I’m not sure at this point if that’s how I’m going to continue it though, still testing how it works for me.


Very interesting to see how different people approach this. A more general question does anyone of you actually learn the Kanji together with the (or one of the) On’yomi?

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Most people will say to learn the pronunciations of the kanji while you learn vocabulary. It will come naturally. Doing the kanji to English keyword is hard enough, don’t try to learn the pronunciations at the same time. Technically your can and a few people do it but it’s way more fun to learn them while your learning vocabulary.

Otherwise you will spend a year just learning kanji and pronunciations and still not really know any Japanese. Boring and hard.


Yeah, unfortunately, that’s somewhat the way I have been doing it until now.:sweat_smile: Learning a new Kanji (with the on’yomi), learning some kun’yomi vocab and some Jukugo. But I have realized how slow that is. And how long it takes for acquiring enough Kanji to actually be able to understand a text (or at least get a somewhat good idea in general) without having to constantly look up words. I think I’m going to start (at least as a sort of test run to see if I can handle it) for the next weeks to solely focusing on learning Kanji. (I have decided on the nihongoshark Anki Deck, but my own mnemonics)

After I have decided whether that method will work with me, I’m gonna share my experiences.

That makes sense. Good luck!

Answering questions from your first post:

I did recognition only kanji study first, because I had a heck of a time trying to distinguish them for the purposes of studying vocabulary. Or doing anything else.

Early immersion has limited, but important application in early study. It’s useful for getting an ear for the language. But I don’t see it as a viable study method by itself at that time unless you’re a certain type of person. I don’t see it as being efficient on its own even if you are.
Comprehensible input, and all that. To the extent that you can manage that, immersion is useful for the other parts of language acquisition.

My Anki decks are separate. I have two vocab decks (one canned, one mined), three separate grammar decks (one cloze-delete, two with just sentences with the focus on the back: one was shared, one was hand entered from a study book), and a kanji production deck.
I’d say this is for some grand master plan, but it’s really just a matter of organization (or in the grammar decks’ case, lack thereof) to me. Sub-decks of one ‘Japanese’ deck might be the way to go if you’re (re)structuring your Anki study environment.
It’s harder to get into a groove when different question types jump out at you, but I don’t think it’s actually intended to go through cards as fast as they load on the screen (which I do sometimes with vocab)…

[Typed in a rush while drinking my morning coffee. Sorry for the bad writing.]

Learning a new Kanji (with the on’yomi), learning some kun’yomi vocab and some Jukugo.

The one problem as you realized is that it’s a super slow process. The second problem is that any card that requires learning more than one thing is too much. This is not unique to learning kanji. The most efficient method of learning is always to focus on learning one thing and one thing only. While learning a new vocab, a lot of people make the mistake of trying to learn too much at a time. This includes learning to recognize new kanji AND learn to listen to word AND learn the meaning AND something else… If the deck isn’t not i+1, you’ll end up needing to learn even more words and grammar in one card! This is super slow and frustrating. You’ll always end up neglecting something anyways!

Doing RTK helps with easing the kanji recognition so we aren’t learning to recognize kanji while learning new words(combination of kanjis) and likely readings/meanings. I think focusing on listening -> meaning first as a chunk makes a lot of sense, it gives the biggest bang per buck for a learning new vocabulary. Afterwards, as an extra step (if necessary), add in recognition of words -> sound/meaning. By the way, you can easily learn recognition by just reading a lot, you don’t even need to SRS if you don’t want. Generally, what I described is how we learned our first language.

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I don’t have any specific advice on Kanji. I went with Wanikani, stood with it almost to the very end (some 2000 kanji), and now I’m happy that it ended :sweat_smile: … not shure If I would do it again.

What I would do very similar is create a routine to add new vocab on a daily basis coming at first from your study material, and then progressively from your immersion. Make that vocab into SRS (and be constant with reviewing), Anki, Houhou, anyone actually… I would say Anki, because it offers much more room to improvement and adding interesting things as you progress, but honestly, key thing probably is just showing up.

When you hit a critical mass (500 words maybe for graded readers and then some 2000 words for super basic native content) pick a book and progressively it will start to feel like you finally have wheels and it things get smoother.

For shows, it really depends on how much you are ok with not understanding :ok_man: … there’s benefit, for parsing language first, recongnizing patters and words after, undertanding full dialogues later, and progressievely more and more. It’s not like watching in your own language, the objective it’s not the same.
You can try with dubbed material of content you’re familiar, if your fine with it, you know you have in your hands a terrific tool. If you’re not, then wait, and work on something else, comming back from time to time. There’s lots of material, eventually you’ll find something that it’s appealing and can serve as immersion.

Grammar, you can go through a textbook, read the explanations on Genki I, Tae Kim, or similar, get vocab from there at first too. Don’t be too obsessed with getting grammar by just reading about it, that will come when you start reading and immersing. And if you’re not assisting classes and are a self-learner drilling grammar don’t make much sense actually. Have a grammar reference book perhaps and consult it like you would do the dictionary when new grammar comes up after you have gone through a basic textbook.

Anyway, main thing I could recommend is aim at immersing ASAP. Read, shows, whatever floats your boat actually. A hobby, shure thing put it in … in japanese.

Anyway, it’s just the way I have thought about it since I started. I’m not taking JLPT exams, so It might as well be terrible advice if your aiming at that :sweat_smile:


I have another question for you all regarding Anki Flashcards. When it comes to vocab do you mainly learn using sentence cards, or do you also use just regular word/meaning cards? Especially when it comes to words with very definite and concrete meanings, like names of fruit, animals, certain places, etc. is there a benefit of using sentence card for those words, considering they are all just basic nouns, and for the most part don’t have any particular way they are used or any cultural connotations you would necessarily watch out for?

I have a sentence for every card. I pick them up from shows and books now, so the whole workflow gives me the sentence automatically now. I think it’s more close to how I encounter anyway, usually in a context, not out of the blue. Besides I find the reviewing process more entertaining if the word showed up in something I watched or read.

My sentences have a monolingual definition too and probably there is where nouns are different. Usually a good picture is much faster to identify the concept than a definition (which could be really complicated too), so I tend to overlook them with nouns.

So yeah, sentences sure, the more context the better. If you pick them up from your own immersion even better, more connections with your own experience and reviews are more enjoyable, since you you aren’t left with the uncertainty if it will appear or not … you’ll just be glad that it’s a word that it showed up in a shows or material that you are/were working on. :+1:

I would even make use of pre made cards coming from Core10K or similar if you are starting and sentence mining from reading or shows is still not an option. They are nicely made, and even if you don’t understand the sample sentence initially, along the way you’ll see how you start getting them while reviewing old cards (which was my case). Besides that, those sentences will be probably your first reading practice before you get into reading :sweat_smile:


I have also thought about using pictures for some word’s, because that seems pretty strong way to form this connection between thing and word.

Since most people I have asked talked about using sentence cards I will probably do the same. I thought about starting with the first 1000 words from the Core10k as soon as I’ve reached about 1000 cards in my RTK deck. Afterwards I thought about spending a bit of money to get the Jalup bundle and go through those decks, while also getting more actively immersed and starting to compile my own deck.

I’m also probably gonna start a real study log in the coming weeks to get a clearer overview of my plan, and to be able to track my progress.

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Personally I put single word on the front and sentence on the back of the card. Sentence on the front felt to me like it was providing too much of a hint to the correct answer.

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Besides the sentence, do you have an English (or your first language) translation on the back or a Japanese definition?

Short English translation. This is mostly because it’s a core10k deck so that’s what you get. I was aiming for vocab-cramming for jlpt when I set the deck up, so I wanted to aim for recognition of the word standalone, and minimal effort in deck creation.

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