It can be difficult to master the Japanese language. To begin, there are three different scripts used to write Japanese: katakana, hiragana, and kanji. There are more than 50,000 kanji characters, yet only roughly 2,000 are actually necessary for fluency.

You only need a vocabulary of roughly 5,000 words in Japanese to pass as a native speaker. However, these figures may still appear excessive to some. This only adds to the difficulty of learning Japanese.

But have no fear. Let’s not rush things here. Let’s take our attention away from the figures. Let’s divert our attention to expanding our Japanese vocabulary. 

The building blocks of any language are its vocabulary and grammar. Vocabulary, however, can be more challenging to memorise. Many people devote considerable time to simply reading over their vocabulary lists.

There are probably people who have written the same words in a notebook hundreds of times. But nobody seems to be any further forwards as a result of this. When you finally put down the textbook and pencil for a break, you may find that you have forgotten much of what you studied. 

Don’t worry. You’re just approaching your studies in the incorrect way. It might be difficult for novice language students to figure out how to best approach their studies. It happens all the time, actually. So, to help you get off on the right foot with your Japanese studies, here are a number of pointers.

SRS (Spaced Repetition System)

Take the time to educate yourself. Do it again after waiting. Learning is best accomplished through a spaced repetition approach. A lot of math and a lot of science can be learned in this way. This is why a spaced repetition method emphasises the importance of storing information in long-term memory rather than in the working memory. The process goes roughly as follows:

“Alex’s goal for the next 30 days is to study 40 new terms. So, she made a list of 40 words to add to her vocabulary and has been studying them diligently for the past week. Alex realises after a week that she doesn’t need to devote as much time to learning those eight words as she does the other ones.

She took these terms off the list for the time being, but plans to review them at regular intervals to make sure she retains them. Half of the words on the list are ones she can remember by the end of the next week, so she decides to remove them from the list temporarily.

Alex avoids looking at the words she knows well and instead focuses on the ones she has difficulties remembering, even after two weeks. Alex uses this strategy and by the end of the week he has successfully memorised all forty vocabulary words. In the following month, she plans to increase her vocabulary by another 40 terms. She plans to keep using the same approach, and will sprinkle in the older vocabulary phrases every so often to ensure she doesn’t forget them.”

Using SRS, you might be able to quickly expand your Japanese vocabulary by hundreds of terms. You could pick up 480 new words in a year if you want to follow the example given. This strategy could also be used to learn kanji.

Despite its benefits, this approach may seem dull and uninteresting to some people. It’s also too intricate to be useful. However, apps like Anki incorporate this type of study into the Japanese language experience. That way, you won’t have to worry about how to work previously learned terms into your current vocabulary list. There are alternative study methods out there if you don’t like this one.

Mnemonics

There is no doubt that this is an effective method of memorisation. Mnemonics, like SRS, are an aid to long-term recall. To learn kanji, this method works exceptionally well. However, it can also be used to learn new words in Japanese. Mnemonics is just a fancy word for remembering things by making connections in your mind. 

Their mnemonics for learning Japanese vocabulary terms focus on auditory cues. The English and Japanese languages share certain phonological similarities. 自然 (しぜん/ shizen) is a word that fits this description. Nature is a word that sounds a lot like the word season. The term 象 (ぞう/ zou) is another option in this vein. The word zoo is a close phonetic match.  象 refers to the exotic creatures, like elephants, that can be found in zoos. The sound of a Japanese word can be used to help you remember what it means. A good illustration of this is the character 時計 (とけい/ tokei). The sound of the term 時計  evokes a ticking clock in my head. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

However, it’s not always possible to link a word’s pronunciation in Japanese with its meaning. A good example of this is the word 建物 (たてもの/ tatemono). Nothing in the sound of the word suggests a structure or its English translation. You’re going to have to come up with a new way to keep this one in mind.

Memorisation through Repetition

“Rote memorisation” is the process of reviewing previously learned material many times. In other words, this is how the vast majority of language students approach their studies. You’ve probably spent countless hours slumped over your desk, staring at seemingly infinite vocabulary lists, from which you’ve retained exactly zero. How rote memorisation is put to use determines the answer.

The practise of repetition is essential to rote memorisation. The only method to ensure long-term retention of information is to be constantly reminded of it. This does not, however, imply that you should spend your days staring at Japanese vocabulary lists. You’ll most likely doze off or check Instagram on your phone. Here’s what you should do instead:

Sarah’s goal for the next week is to increase her vocabulary by twenty words. Every three hours, she plans to devote 15 minutes to studying her vocabulary list. She spends at least an hour a day cramming her vocabulary list. Sarah is able to recollect some of the vocabulary terms after only a few days, and at the end of the week, she realises that she has succeeded in her endeavour.

Sarah uses a short list and learns in short, frequent increments every day to retain more information from her rote memorisation sessions, allowing her to retain more of her Japanese vocabulary than she would otherwise. Cramming for a test is a common example of when people try to use this technique to study too much, too quickly. This strategy works best for recalling manageable chunks of knowledge rather than large amounts all at once. Because it requires you to review previously learned content, it is best used in conjunction with another strategy.

How to Begin Learning Japanese Vocabulary

Look Up Some Frequently Used Words

It may seem clear that you should focus on learning frequently used words, yet there are hundreds of Japanese vocabulary lists available online, and native speakers need to know about 5,000 words. But don’t worry too much. You’re already ahead of the game if you own a Japanese language textbook. You can find word lists to study in Japanese textbooks. Don’t worry if you can’t find a Japanese textbook to use. Numerous online dictionaries provide listings of frequently used words. 

Clothing, food, verbs, and adjectives are just some examples of how these lists might be broken down. Thus, they ought to be less difficult to learn. You are not limited to focusing on just one area of study. You should begin practising grammar patterns by studying verbs and adjectives together. Choose the classes of nouns that most interest you. Noun classes can be studied independently or combined. You shouldn’t let how you learn nouns in Japanese dictate how well you do in the language.

Use Apps

We live in a technological age, so my recommendation that you begin your studies with apps shouldn’t come as a huge shock. Books are wonderful study aids, but occasionally we need something more. This is especially helpful if you need to study while on the road but don’t feel like lugging around a heavy textbook. Apps are useful resources for such purposes. Apps designed to help you learn Japanese are helpful in many ways, but they really shine when it comes to helping you memorise existing vocabulary and acquire new words. 

Anki and Memerise are two excellent apps that you should consider using. Anki is a no-cost tool that allows you to create and utilise flashcard decks to study. You may utilise one of the premade decks they provide, or you can construct your own. Because it employs spaced repetition software (SRS), Anki eliminates the need to manually schedule review sessions for previously learned languages. It finishes the job for you. Another no-cost SRS app is Memrise.

Use a Dictionary

An English-Japanese dictionary is an absolute must-have. A dictionary is essential to the study of any language. You can quickly find the meaning of unfamiliar words by purchasing a dictionary. The ability to translate from English to Japanese is a bonus. You should exercise caution while utilising a dictionary to translate from English to Japanese. Although their meanings are similar, some terms cannot be used interchangeably. It’s also possible that the word is more widely employed in a context besides the one you have in mind. 

In Japanese, for instance, the word for “late” can be translated in different ways.

私はクラスをおそくなりました。(I was late for class.)

私はおそくをねました。(I went to sleep late.)

おそいよるはすずしです。(It is cool late at night.)

Compare the usage of the bolded word late in the first sentence with that in the second and third. The first paragraph explains the feeling of being late. In the second clause, a late activity is described. The night is described as late in the third sentence. Different variants of the term and different places in the sentence are utilised in each example. Be wary of using a word in a statement that is not explicitly defined in a dictionary.

Study Kanji

Kanji is essential to a complete understanding of the Japanese language. You can learn to speak Japanese even if you don’t know kanji. However, kanji play an essential role in Japanese. Kanji is an integral part of Japanese culture and may be found just about anywhere. You would be unable to read any written material in Japan. You also couldn’t get a job in Japan. Therefore, learning kanji is essential. 

If you study kanji, you’ll be able to expand your vocabulary with new terms that have the same characters. Take a look at the character 音楽 (おんがく/ ongaku). Neither kanji in the term can be read without first consulting a dictionary. If you already know the meaning of one kanji, you might be able to figure out the other kanji and the word’s meaning on your own. The prefix 音 (おん/ on) indicates “sound,” hence the word must refer to auditory phenomena. Happiness is referred to as 楽 (がく/ gaku). Combining the two definitions yields “pleasant sound.” Music is commonly used to describe sounds that elicit an emotional response. To conclude,音楽 refers to music.

By learning the kanji’s on-yomi and kun-yomi readings, you’ll be able to pronounce them correctly. Although first daunting, continued study will yield diminishing returns. Your ability to memorise and write kanji will improve as you begin to recognise patterns in the characters. 

Make a Studying Strategy

It’s one of the least complicated items here, yet it can be tricky to put into practise. It is never easy to carve out time to study. If you don’t offer yourself enough motivation, achieving your goals can be more difficult still.

This is the reason many people who set out with the intention of teaching themselves a language often fail to do so. Sometimes we even justify our lack of study time by stating things like, “Oh, I have no time to study. Or, “This is too much, so I’ll do it tomorrow.” I don’t have time to read everything now. Perhaps someday” And later is always later.

Don’t waste time making excuses for why you can’t do something; instead, focus on what you can offer. 

Put together a strategy that you can follow. rather than cramming for an hour straight. Space out your study sessions.

An hour of focused study is boring even without interruptions. Try to learn the Japanese language in shorter bursts more frequently throughout the day rather than devoting an entire hour to it every day.

The weekly vocabulary study on the same topic may not be appealing. Learn something new each week, but don’t forget to review older terms every once in a while. Make it fun for the reader. 

Make sure your plan is feasible with your time constraints. Spending an hour a day on Japanese throughout the week can be too much if you are also a full-time worker or a full-time student. If you can only commit to learning Japanese twice a week, try alternating which days you spend on vocabulary and grammar.

Then, devote your weekend to learning kanji. If you can’t devote time to studying during the week, then use the weekend to catch up. Make a study schedule on your phone’s calendar and set alerts to help you keep to it.

So that you may organise your study time effectively and put your study plans into action.

Waterfall and mountain landscape in chinese style background. In traditional oriental, minimalistic Japanese style. AI

Conclusion

The tactics for enhancing Japanese vocabulary are the most crucial information presented here. There are over 50,000 kanji characters, but only about 2,000 are actually needed for fluency; the other two scripts used for Japanese writing are katakana and hiragana.

Students of Japanese who are just starting out would do well to educate themselves, wait a while, and then apply the SRS (Spaced Repetition System) method to bolster their vocabularies. With this strategy, you’ll learn to prioritise archiving data in your permanent memory over keeping it fresh in your working memory. 

This method is most effective when trying to remember a small quantity of information at a time, rather than a huge amount all at once. Start building your Japanese vocabulary by looking up some everyday words in a Japanese dictionary or textbook.

Pick the types of nouns that pique your attention and utilise a memory aid or a new word learning software to help you learn them. If you want to learn Japanese, two great applications to utilise are Anki and Memrise.

Memrise is a free SRS programme that lets you schedule review sessions for previously taught languages, while Anki is a free application that lets you design and use flashcard decks to study.

If you want to learn Japanese, you need an English-Japanese dictionary so you can look up the definitions of words you don’t know and translate them from English to Japanese as soon as possible. Kanji is fundamental to a thorough comprehension of the Japanese language, as it is ubiquitous in Japanese society.

Kanji study can lead to a more extensive vocabulary, including words like (/ ongaku) and (/ gaku).

Your memorisation and handwriting of kanji will benefit from studying their on-yomi and kun-yomi readings. Create a Study Plan to help you set out time to study and keep you motivated.

Focus on what you have to offer, break up your study sessions, try to learn something new every week, keep things interesting for the reader, and create reminders on your phone to help you stick to your study schedule. You may make better use of your study time and study plans using this.

Content Summary

  • It can be difficult to master the Japanese language.
  • This only adds to the difficulty of learning Japanese.
  • Let’s divert our attention to expanding our Japanese vocabulary.
  • The building blocks of any language are its vocabulary and grammar.
  • Learning is best accomplished through a spaced repetition approach.
  • This is why a spaced repetition method emphasises the importance of storing information in long-term memory rather than in the working memory.
  • Using SRS, you might be able to quickly expand your Japanese vocabulary by hundreds of terms.
  • This strategy could also be used to learn kanji.
  • Mnemonics, like SRS, are an aid to long-term recall.
  • Their mnemonics for learning Japanese vocabulary terms focus on auditory cues.
  • The sound of a Japanese word can be used to help you remember what it means.
  • However, it’s not always possible to link a word’s pronunciation in Japanese with its meaning.
  • Nothing in the sound of the word suggests a structure or its English translation.
  • How rote memorisation is put to use determines the answer.
  • The practise of repetition is essential to rote memorisation.
  • It may seem clear that you should focus on learning frequently used words, yet there are hundreds of Japanese vocabulary lists available online, and native speakers need to know about 5,000 words.
  • You’re already ahead of the game if you own a Japanese language textbook.
  • You can find word lists to study in Japanese textbooks.
  • Numerous online dictionaries provide listings of frequently used words.
  • You should begin practising grammar patterns by studying verbs and adjectives together.
  • We live in a technological age, so my recommendation that you begin your studies with apps shouldn’t come as a huge shock.
  • An English-Japanese dictionary is an absolute must-have.
  • You can quickly find the meaning of unfamiliar words by purchasing a dictionary.
  • The ability to translate from English to Japanese is a bonus.
  • You should exercise caution while utilising a dictionary to translate from English to Japanese.
  • Be wary of using a word in a statement that is not explicitly defined in a dictionary.
  • Kanji is essential to a complete understanding of the Japanese language.
  • If you study kanji, you’ll be able to expand your vocabulary with new terms that have the same characters.
  • Take a look at the character 音楽 (おんがく/ ongaku).
  • Neither kanji in the term can be read without first consulting a dictionary.
  • If you already know the meaning of one kanji, you might be able to figure out the other kanji and the word’s meaning on your own.
  • By learning the kanji’s on-yomi and kun-yomi readings, you’ll be able to pronounce them correctly.
  • Your ability to memorise and write kanji will improve as you begin to recognise patterns in the characters.
  • Don’t waste time making excuses for why you can’t do something; instead, focus on what you can offer.
  • Make sure your plan is feasible with your time constraints.
  • Spending an hour a day on Japanese throughout the week can be too much if you are also a full-time worker or a full-time student.
  • If you can’t devote time to studying during the week, then use the weekend to catch up.
  • Make a study schedule on your phone’s calendar and set alerts to help you keep to it.
  • So that you may organise your study time effectively and put your study plans into action.

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