Moving away from SRS: For advanced learners/basic fluency and beyond.
Let me preface this to say that I think using an SRS is one of the most efficient tools around for acquiring a language. If you’re new to Japanese or whatever foreign language you’re learning and you’re enjoying your progress with SRS, keep using it. It’s helped get me to the point I’m at now. I’ve used it almost every day for over 2 years and I’m finally ready to let it go. Below is basically what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks and I’ve noticed good vocabulary acquisition and stress-free learning since I don’t have that looming SRS number over my shoulder.
I’m also not claiming this to be a novel way of learning a language. It’s just input and some note taking but it’s how I’ve been doing it lately and I want to have a record of it.
This is obvious to people in the community but some still don’t use it. Do something, anything, in Japanese. Lately, in addition to just reading random stuff I find online, I’ve been watching a ton of niconico douga videos.
One type of video that I’ve had a lot of success with is 実況プレイ vids. These are videos of people playing video games and with them narrating and joking around while playing. Just search for 実況 and the video game you want to see or check out this link for a niconico community which has a lot of play lists to various games they’ve done or are currently doing videos for. You need a nico account to watch videos there so just google how to make one if you can’t read Japanese well enough to figure it out yet.
Obviously, use whatever type of video, music, books, etc that you are interested in.
Combine listening, reading, writing, and a little bit of speaking
- You’re listening to the narrators
- You’re reading the game text and comments
- You’re writing in your notebook
- You can shadow what the narrators are saying
The memory notebook
An oldschool, but still effective method of learning, is making a notebook in order to reflect on what you’ve learned. One of the main reasons I’m enjoying using this method of memorization is that related material tends to be clumped in meaningful ways.
There are so many jokes that you see in comments, things that the people talking say that you want to remember,inside jokes, etc that are so much fun to have a record of. Although I don’t really want to add them to my SRS anymore, I still want too keep a record of my favorite parts of my journey of learning the Japanese language. That’s why I’ve started compiling this notebook of stuff even though all the stuff I’ve written since 2009 would probably fill up 10 notebooks… I haven’t really kept good records of all that.
A lot of the stuff I’d written before was repetition of kanji when I was in the Heisig phase of learning. Those notebooks also had doodles and notes from other subjects in them and I’ve thrown some of them away as I thought it was pointless to keep such scattered notes. However, now I’m starting to save my notes because I’m in the phase of going through basic fluency and beyond and I want to have a record of this.
How to create meaningful notes for learning Japanese
Use your notebook to group things in meaningful ways. The picture to the right is a sample page I wrote up from memory to demonstrate different styles of note taking. The colored boxes are around the different styles.
Red = Words containing other words. Here I used as an example, 水溜り and 溜まる Puddle and the verb for collect or accumulate. So puddle is literally “water accumulation.” Having these two right next to each other helps reenforce that connection in my mind so I learn both words much quicker.
Blue = Similar looking kanji. I like to compare similar looking kanji right next to each other as well. This helps me recognize how obvious the differences really are that you might not notice when just quickly reading over a paragraph.
Green = Synonyms or words with an almost identical meaning. This is a quick way to get monolingual meanings down in your notes. We want to make it as easy as possible.
Orange = Short monolingual definitions. Here we have the word オウム which means parrot. For the definition I simply wrote 鳥の一種 which means “A type of bird.” Since I created the notes, that’s all I need to recall the meaning.
Yellow = Interesting quotes or sentences you find. This one is from a recent Gaki no Tsukai special. It basically says “If your life has 10 hearts (like video game hearts or health) how many hearts would be left?”
The unboxed ones are just random words or really short snippets in the case of 傷んだ碁盤
Furigana modification: The notebook picture shows the furigana written directly below the kanji. The other day I decided to write the kana version of the words at the bottom of the page sort of like a word bank. This way you can test yourself reading the kanji without having the kana directly in your vision. If you forget, the answer is still conveniently found on the bottom of the page.