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Jul 22, 2012

5 Reasons to Make Your Own Sentence Deck

The internet is full of sentence decks available for download, so it's easy to just grab a few instead of making your own. While these decks are certainly valuable and can be used to supplement your own efforts to great effect, the benefits of creating your own deck are nothing to sneeze at. Here are five reasons why you should make your own sentence deck.

1. You learn the material faster.

I have been a huge fan of using Anki decks to study and learn material ever since I first began to learn Japanese. I now use Anki and decks that I have made to learn many subjects in addition to Japanese, and one of the things I have found to be universally true is that making the deck is a large part of the learning.

When you make your own deck, you have to process the information that goes into each card. You pick and choose each piece, thinking about it all as you go. By the time you do your first review, you've already been working with the material, so it sticks faster.

2. Your sentences focus on what is important to you.

With picking immersion materials, you should always aim for things that interest you. The same is true of sentences - they should cover material that is important in your life. If you are downloading decks online, then odds are that you're getting general language or business Japanese, but not the specific parts of the language that would help you to read a recipe/novel or understand that Japanese detective show that you really like.

By making your own sentence deck, you can learn not only the general terms that make up daily language in Japanese, but you can also learn the specific terms and phrases that will help you to enjoy your immersion environment and achieve your goals.

3. You become independent.

One unfortunate side-effect of using materials made by other people is that you get dependent on them. If you only ever use pre-made decks, then you'll never develop the skills to add new sentences based on what you've encountered during your immersion. What you learn and when you learn it will be entirely dependent on how someone else set up their deck. So make your own sentence deck and take your learning into your own hands.

4. It keeps you in contact with real Japanese.

A very real possibility with downloading a bunch of decks and using them to study is that it dominates your time spent with Japanese. Instead of immersing in Japanese media and finding new words to learn and sentences to add to your deck, you just keep downloading decks and grinding through reviews. You might learn vocabulary this way, but you won't be experiencing real Japanese and you certainly won't be immersing. Plus, that just sounds boring.

Making your own sentence deck gives you an excuse to call reading comics and playing video games “study time,” so take advantage of it!

5. You won't get overwhelmed.

When you don't make the sentence cards yourself, it's all too easy to get overwhelmed with reviews. Because you aren't adding the sentences yourself, all new cards in the deck are completely new material that you've never seen before. Odds are, you'll end up failing a lot of cards over and over again. Eventually you'll pass them, but that's just the start. The problem arises when the next day those cards come back and you still don't really know them, plus you have new cards as well. Better get ready to hit that fail button.

When you make your own deck, you add sentences more slowly. You experience the sentence in the media where you found it, then you think about it as you add the sentence to the deck. When you finally see it that first time during your reviews, it is truly a review. You also have fewer new sentences adding each day, so your reviews each day remain steady and don't drown you.

So there you have it - five reasons to make your own sentence deck. There are certainly more reasons than that, so share your reasons for making your own deck in the comments below!

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  1. I'm gonna miss your old banner.

    On topic though, I just got done with RTK and know Hiragana and Katakana, when should I start making my own sentence deck?

    1. Yeah, me too, I rather liked it. It felt like time for change, though.

      First, congratulations on finishing RTK! And second, you should start pretty much right away. I'd recommend keeping Tae Kim's grammar guide handy while you're starting out, since you'll probably be unfamiliar with particles. It'll be slow going at first, but you'll get the hang of it.

      An important note: Don't make your own sentences for your deck, use the example sentences listed in dictionaries and in media (since they're correct).

      And here's a link to the guide I mentioned:

    2. Thank you very much!

      Sorry for the late answer. Would you recommend using the Tae Kim Anki Deck to get better at grammar or should reading be enough? Also, do you recommend using example sentence from dictionaries or could I take sentence the way I see them in Manga for example (you recently recommended よつばと! which I can even understand with my weak Japanese knowledge)?

    3. I personally only used what was on the website itself, but it can't hurt to use the deck as well if you're still feeling unsure. And you can certainly take sentences from media as well, but keep in mind that you won't have an English translation of that sentence to include in your card. You shouldn't need those translations for long anyways, so that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

  2. I would recommend going through Tae Kim's grammar guide and doing Kanji Odyssey with sounds deck.. after this start your own deck. KO deck is a really great sentences deck, and a perfect match as an after-RTK learning tool. It uses kanji frequency sorting, and has 3 sentences per 1 kanji. It goes 2 ways: 1.You have a sentences without furigana, and as an answer furigana and english translation with native speaker reading the sentences 2. You listen to the speaker and try to understand the sentence. Sentences are fun in it, and there were made specially for someone who cant read japanese at all, but knows at least basic grammar and can distinguish kanji. Doing your own sentences deck after learning grammar is fine too, but doing KO will give you enough knowledge to be able to actually read and create sentences with words you dont know, instead of copying everything, because you cant read at all yet.

    1. I used Kanji Odyssey for a bit, and I rather liked it. There's no one right way to learn Japanese, so thanks for the input!

      Something important to remember is that you don't have to use downloaded decks OR use a personal deck, you can do both at the same time.