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May 1, 2011

Why Going Monolingual Will Make Your Life Better

When you first start out with building vocabulary, you really have no choice but to use a Japanese-English dictionary to begin learning. After you begin to grasp some basic vocabulary though, it's time to make the transition to a monolingual dictionary. Why? Because it's yet another form of immersion. Instead of taking new words in Japanese and bolting them down to your native language, you instead develop Japanese as an entirely separate entity. Your knowledge of Japanese teaches you more Japanese – it's a wonderful cycle of knowledge.

I've talked before about how important immersion is to learning Japanese, so finding another way to immerse yourself in the language is always a good thing. As such, using a monolingual dictionary will teach you how to define words in Japanese and how to explain concepts. In other words, every time you look up a word in the dictionary you are not only learning that word – you are learning a bit more about all of the words used to describe it. Using a monolingual dictionary will essentially create a web of interconnecting words and definitions that will give you a more natural knowledge of the language.

The fact that going monolingual will mean separating your languages from each other is another important factor that really makes it worth the effort. By separating Japanese from your native language, you allow yourself to learn more natural grammar patterns and structures – you'll be less likely to try and use the grammar of your native language and replace the words with Japanese equivalents. Learning in a more natural, monolingual way will also help you to better understand how Japanese people use a word, instead of just knowing the best fitting English word – and there is often a major difference between the two.

So the moral of this story is to switch to a monolingual dictionary as fast as you possibly can! Don't worry, if you're scared and don't know what to do, it's completely understandable. Which is why I'll be adding a post about how to switch to a monolingual dictionary. Once you make the switch, there is nothing in Japanese that you cannot learn.

Not sure where to find a good dictionary? Check out the tool pack posts! Tool Pack One and Tool Pack Two.

Want to know more about how to make the switch? The next part of the series is here!

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  1. I've been thinking about making the switch, but I don't think I can yet. After I finish my kanji I might have finished enough sentences to do that. I'm excited for when I reach that point.

  2. I'm nowhere near ready to make such a switch.

    By the way, I first thought you meant why only being able to communicate in one language was better. Which it isn't, obviously, hehe.

    And I already speak several languages fluently. T_T

  3. I'm thinking about making the switch over, especially reading and listening to natural texts without a translation, but I think that sometimes it is helpful to have another language to guide you, just as long as you don't use it as a crutch and you understand that there are no direct translations. However if you can make the switch, your learning will get a lot faster.