Ways to Learn Vocab

Back when I started studying Japanese, I used to make paper flashcards for Japanese vocabulary words.

There are about 600 reasons why my study method sucked back then.

Part of the problem was that I was learning...

 💀 Words in isolation (i.e. not in complete sentences).

 💀 Words written in hiragana (i.e. without kanji).

 💀 Words without hearing them pronounced by a native speaker.

 💀 Words that in many cases weren't useful/common (although I didn't know this).


In an ideal world, we would learn new vocabulary like this:
  1. We encounter new vocabulary out in the real world.
  2. We try to use that new vocabulary out in the real world.
  3. We continue to use/encounter it frequently throughout our lives.

That's basically how children learn new words, right? They have the benefit of encountering new vocabulary in a real-life context. Because of this, the meanings of words are linked to relationships and feelings, and grounded in spatial memory (e.g. you remember the place/situation in which you encountered the word).

Trying to use a new word, children get feedback on whether their usage is appropriate, giving them even more real-life context.

This process continues repeatedly for each word learned over the course of several years.

↑ That won't work for most of us.

As non-native Japanese speakers, too much of our "real-world experience" takes place in languages other than Japanese. Many of us do not live in Japan, which makes it borderline impossible to encounter new words out in the wild. And those of us who do live in Japan tend to be bombarded with English, English, English!

Accordingly, we need to take a different approach to learning new words.

We need a method that incorporates as much of the good stuff mentioned above as possible, while still being feasible to achieve with limited time to study and limited opportunities to encounter or use Japanese in our daily lives.

I'll show you what I mean in the next lecture...
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