Updates for August 25, 2014:

+The site has MOVED. If you still see this page, please clear your web browser cache and go to

May 19, 2011

Be Lazy

When it comes to learning another language, many people become fearful that they are doing things wrong and think that they have to put in their best effort for every little task. Unfortunately, this belief in itself really only serves to make the process even slower and to make you want to give up and go do something else. So what should you do? As the article title says: be lazy. Don't do anything that you don't have to do. Since this probably won't make sense until I explain via example, let's get started on exampling!

For the first example, let's say that you're reading manga or playing a video game. As you go, you come across a bunch of words you don't know and think that you're going to have to look them up and add them to your SRS. A lot of people will get fearful that if they don't look the words up immediately, they'll never see them again and will never have another chance to learn them – so they go and look up every word they come across. While this will certainly build vocabulary much faster, it will also make any leisure time with Japanese media into more study time. So what is the “Tigoris Approved Lazy Way”? It's simple – only look up words you can't survive without knowing.

In the situation above, this means that you mostly shrug off words you don't know or figure out their meaning by recognizing kanji or by using context clues. The only words that you look up and add to your SRS are the ones that really matter – the words that you simply cannot get by without knowing. If the “big bad guy” is making a dramatic proclamation during the climactic battle scene of a manga/game and you don't know what a word is that he uses – drop everything and look that word up, because your enjoyment of the media is in danger! Save your effort for the words that you cannot live (or enjoy media) without knowing and you'll find that adding new vocabulary isn't such a tiring or lengthy experience.

A very closely related element where many language learners will get overzealous is the creation and review of their sentence cards. Not only will many people add sentences for any and every word they don't know, but they then also define every word in every sentence and then write the entire sentence when they review it. While I applaud that determination, it's simply too much. Just as with the previous example, only define words in a sentence card that you absolutely have to define. Personally, I make it a rule to only define the word that is the focus of the sentence – I'll toss in a kana pronunciation for at most one or two other words (and only if I need one). The same goes for writing during reviews – write a few characters at most, but make them the most important characters of the sentence.

It's hard to actually learn another language and be truly lazy, but in shrugging off the more insignificant words or details that you come across you can focus on the things that are really important. Remember, when it comes to learning Japanese on your own that you are everything. You decide what is worth learning and what isn't worth the effort. One day you might skip over a word because it's not important and then be looking it up the next day because it is important – and that's perfect. Everything will be learned in its own time, so there's no need to rush.

Related Articles:


  1. >Everything will be learned in its own time, so there's no need to rush.
    I will apply this advice to many things

  2. >be lazy

    I'm really good at that. I guess that's a step in the right direction.