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Dec 1, 2010

Building Vocabulary

Now that you have conquered the kanji and the kana, it's time to begin building vocabulary. The primary method for learning and retaining vocabulary is to immerse in Japanese media and look up words you don't know in a dictionary.Then for each word grab a few example sentences from the dictionary and add them to your SRS. For each word 2-3 sentences is ideal. More examples means you can see the word in different contexts and see it more often. If you haven't done so already, go check out the First Tool Pack and get Anki and some good dictionary links.

So how exactly does this build your vocabulary? Well, when you do your SRS reviews you'll be aiming to be able to read all of the words in the sentence and understand their meaning. Do not aim to have perfect dictionary-like definitions for each word memorized – simply having a feel for the meaning and knowing what it all means is good enough. Then, based on how well you were able to read the sentence you will score yourself. If you did well, give it a “good” score. If you knew most of it but fumbled slightly on one of the words, score it as “hard.” If you completely did not know a word, score it as “again.” I personally never use the “easy” button.

I have included an example picture of one of my vocabulary/sentence cards. The top part is the sentence or question and the bottom part includes definitions and pronunciations for the words that I am trying to learn.

As you can see from my card, my definitions are in Japanese. In the beginning, you'll want to use an English-Japanese dictionary to get your definitions, but switch to a monolingual dictionary as soon as you possibly can. Being able to build your Japanese by using Japanese will increase your language learning exponentially. Also, there are quite a few words in Japanese that simply can't be translated into English easily, so by using a Japanese-only dictionary you'll be able to begin understanding words as they are understood by native Japanese people.

And that's it. That's all you need to do to begin building your vocabulary. Find words that you want to know by enjoying Japanese media, then look them up and add a few sentences. The most important thing of all is to keep up with your reviews! It does you no good to add sentences if you don't review them. Always prioritize reviewing your old sentences over adding new ones.

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  1. Thanks for the tips, I'll see if I can use this stuff if I start learning

  2. Thanks for the tips! It is useful for our learners!