Learning Vocabulary

Japanese, general discussion on the language
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Instant Radical
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Learning Vocabulary

Post by Instant Radical » Tue 05.05.2009 8:10 am

In my 2.5 years-ish of Japanese study, the biggest obstacle for me has undoubtedly been vocabulary. I have an aptitude for kanji, so learning them hasn't been tough for me. Grammar is generally not that bad, though it's easy to forget what doesn't get used a lot. My main problem is vocabulary - it takes me forever to learn new words! Is there any particular advice towards developing a bigger vocabulary? Anytime I look at a Japanese Wikipedia article, for example, I feel like I could probably understand the whole thing if I just knew more words. Unfortunately I'm not sure how to learn new words beyond the context of my current textbook (JT Intermediate Japanese). Are there any useful online resources/advice that could help me strengthen my vocabulary?

I should mention that when I learn a new word, I learn the kanji, too. So if I see 影響, for example, I'm not going to just memorize えいきょう and call it a day, I also practice out writing those kanji and understanding the readings えい and きょう (however, I don't learn かげ and ひびき at the same time, only the readings found in the kanji; typically I don't even look up the actual meaning of new kanji, though I'm not sure if this is a good or bad idea.) This is worth pointing out because people who learn lots of vocab might not spend so much time on the kanji as well.

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Re: Learning Vocabulary

Post by Sairana » Tue 05.05.2009 8:31 am

try smart.fm.

Takes a little while to figure out how to use the site, but pretty worth it. When you get signed up (it's free), start with the lists called "Japanese Core 2000". At first it might be too easy for you, but I bet it has quite a bit you don't already know anyway. :P The 2000 means how many words are in the set. It's followed up by Core 6000.

smart.fm is by far probably the best vocabulary study tool on the internet.

Anki is a good program for SRS, but requires you to find your own vocab.... HOWEVER, apparently there is a way (or will be a way?) to export smart.fm vocab lists into anki. I don't really use it so I'm not sure how it works or even if it's implemented yet.

Anyway... there's lots of cool stuff over at smart.fm.

The hiragana times even has partnered with them, and you can study their "Insight into Japan" articles there, with audio and explanations of all sentences, grammatical patterns, and vocab.

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Re: Learning Vocabulary

Post by furrykef » Tue 05.05.2009 12:00 pm

I've been using smart.fm myself together with Anki -- I just finished the first 200 in the Core 2000 yesterday, minus a small handful of sentences that were too easy and just one that was too hard -- and it's still giving me a rough time! I've found that you really gotta take it slowly... more than about 12 sentences (two pages' worth) a day might be too much. Going too fast doesn't really save you time, because you're just gonna end up forgetting more often (and having a rougher time memorizing in the first place) and having to do more flash card reps.

The amount of time it takes me to memorize Japanese sentences right now is insane, really. In the time it takes me to memorize 10 Japanese sentences, I could easily memorize 100 Spanish sentences. I'm hoping it gets easier as I get more familiar with the language.

- Kef
Founder of Learning Languages Through Video Games.
Also see my lang-8 journal, where you can help me practice Japanese (and Spanish, and Italian!)

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Re: Learning Vocabulary

Post by yukamina » Tue 05.05.2009 1:03 pm

Instant Radical wrote: typically I don't even look up the actual meaning of new kanji, though I'm not sure if this is a good or bad idea.
Looking new kanji up will probably help. For remembering 影響, (shadow)+(echo)=(influence) is easier than (bunch of lines)+(bunch of lines)=(influence).

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Re: Learning Vocabulary

Post by nukemarine » Wed 05.06.2009 1:28 am

I also recommend Smart.fm's Core 2k and 6k list. I also recommend using them with Anki as I find it a better SRS, but using iKnow can be just as beneficial. I just finished the last of the 2000 sentences in Core 2k. I was able to add about 30 new vocab/sentences per hour of study, but then I already kn.w the basic meaning and how to write a majority of the kanji used. So it may take you bit longer per sentence given your description.

Yeah, finishing just the 2k will supercharge your reading ability. Don't stop there obviously, but there's a tangible benefit.

There's also a great resource called 2001.Kanji.Odyssey available at http://www.coscom.co.jp which provides vocabulary. However, the big benefit with them is the vocabulary is arranged via kanji and the kanji is arranged in a very intuitive way to aid learning. Most (actually, all who replied about using it) have had nothing but positive things to say about the arrangement of the vocabulary.

On smart.fm a group of us have entered in the vocabulary list from Kanji.Odyssey so you also have that option.

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Re: Learning Vocabulary

Post by epokw » Sat 05.09.2009 4:40 am

You didn't mention in your post whether you use Anki or not, so I'm assuming you don't, then that would be your problem :P

Also, it's pretty pointless to memorize separate readings, I think it's best if you're exposed to 2 words with the same kanji and then it will come naturally, 2 birds with one stone. Putting in the extra effort to memorize the isolated reading is pretty mundane and boring IMO

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Re: Learning Vocabulary

Post by CajunCoder » Fri 05.22.2009 4:36 am

Read read read read read. Anything and everything you can. Even if you're sifting through sentences word by word at first, if you do it consistently, it will become easier and easier as you go.

As for reading resources/other ways to practice, just look for and do things that catch your interest. Browse the web, play games, read books, chat with Japanese speakers in person or over an instant messenger, write letters and emails. Watch a J-drama and try transcribing and looking up parts of the the dialogue that give you trouble. Write a blog. Make reading, writing, hearing, and as much as you can, speaking Japanese a part of your every day life. Use it as you would English.

When you're more actively studying, enter the vocabulary you come across into a good SRS like Anki. Preferably, enter them along with an example sentence, or at least phrase, so that you remember how the words are used. If you can do this and review consistently, you should make good progress, I think.

That is what has worked well for me, at least.

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