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 21, 2011

Never Stop Reviewing

I've already talked about how important retention is to learning Japanese, but it's such a crucial element that it deserves another post. One of the greatest roadblocks to language learners is burn-out. You'll be chugging along merrily and learning all kinds of new kanji and vocabulary, then suddenly you get tired and want a break. I've seen far too many people stop everything and decide to take a break for a day or two, then not touch their Japanese studies for months at a time. By the time they realize they still want to learn, they've forgotten half of what they knew and are forced to start over. Most of them get burned out again while they rush to catch back up. It pains me to see so many people fail this way.

So what do you do? As the title says, NEVER STOP REVIEWING. If you're tired and want a break from studying, then stop adding new material. If you reach kanji number 1500 in Heisig's book and you just don't want to go on, then stop adding new kanji. It's alright, allow yourself to take a break. But no matter what you do, do not stop reviewing the kanji you already know.

When I was learning the kanji via Heisig, I took a good two weeks off of adding new kanji and just did my reviews. By the end of those two weeks, my review numbers per day were drastically decreased and I was really wanting to learn some more kanji and reach the end of the book. By allowing myself those two weeks to focus on reviewing and rest up, I was able to come back to the book and finish it. If I had stopped reviewing during those two weeks, I don't think I would have ever made it to the end. I'd probably have given up learning entirely. If you stop reviewing, then you lose the game.

The same goes for sentences in an SRS. If you get tired and need a break, then stop adding new cards. Take a day or a week off and focus on getting your daily reviews down, and then when you've got more time and energy get back into adding again. Take the lazy route and just enjoy media and do reviews, then when you begin itching to add new vocabulary get back to it. As long as you keep reviewing, you'll find yourself inevitably drawn to learning new material.

I'm a firm believer in never stopping, whether it be reviews or additions, but when it comes down to stopping additions or stopping completely – drop additions immediately. Learning new material every day is certainly important, but never put yourself in a position to have to relearn.

Related Articles:


  1. I've actually been doing this. Whenever I feel like some of the stuff isn't sticking, I stop learning new things and go over everything. It really does help in the long run.

  2. Indeed, if there's a time you feel you should take a break, it's important to at least review while on the break. Every day you need to keep the momentum. Stopping for a day drags you down, even if you think yourself someone that won't lose focus from 1 missed day. Don't do it to yourself it's how you end up in cycles of giving up and picking it back up over and over, wasting your time.

  3. I go for very long periods without review, and then when I come back to the language I'm surprised how much I remember. It might be because I do things like watch anime / browse Japanese websites / talk with Japanese friends and don't count that as "real review" =/