Today I want to talk about how to memorize Japanese vocabulary since I get the question a lot.
1. Use Flashcards with a Binder Ring
Many years ago, I was a learner of English. Like any other language learners, I struggled with memorizing new vocabulary. Back then when I was in high school, there was no such thing as apps on a smartphone. So I had to buy blank “tango cho” (word cards) like below, create my own flash cards, and flipped them as I waited for a bus or while on the bus.
You can still find them in stationary shops in Japan or on Amazon, if interested.
- I could use my spare time efficiently.
- Everything was written in my familiar handwriting, which helped to remember words visually.
- Once I take off the ring, I could spread all the cards and play a little “Pelmanism” (memory) game.
2. Make YOUR Vocabulary List
In this internet era where useful learning tools are mostly online, I still believe in the effectiveness of using your own hand to write down new words. The motion of your hand enhances the retention of the word in your brain.
- Everything is written in your own familiar handwriting, which helps to remember words visually.
- You can categorize vocabulary into groups as you like.
- Your hand activities have a direct impact on your brain, which enhances memorization.
- You can view the history of your learning at a glance.
In no time, you will have a long list of Japanese vocabulary that you have built on your own.
3. Use Online Apps
Nowadays, there are tons of useful tools like vocabulary apps you can download on your mobile devices. These are apps that many of my friends found useful.
Memrise is a free learning platform that covers 25 languages. Japanese is one of them. You can use Memrise as a website on your computer or iOS and Android apps.
There is a Pro version that provides extra features that are not available for a free subscription. The program is based on the science of memory and forgetting. It helps language learners with memory retention of new letters/words.
Anki (あんき or 暗記) is a Japanese word meaning “memorization.” It’s an online flashcard software that helps you with memorization.
The website version and Android app are free but the iOS app is not free as of July 2017.
- AnkiWeb – Website version, Free
- AnkiDroid – For Android, Free
- AnkiMobile – For iOS (iPhone, iPod, and iPad) $24.99
Memorize Japanese Vocabulary
Vocabulary building is a big part of language learning and it is crucial to find a way that works for you. It’s also important to use the vocabulary you have memorized in actual sentences.
I hope this post was helpful to find a useful method for you to memorize Japanese vocabulary. If you have your own way to build vocabulary, I would love to hear! Share them down below in the comment area.
Jocelyn Kuroda says
Hi, I just want to share my experience in learning new vocabulary.
Using flashcard written in binded ring was my first method but because I was still a beginner that time, I had too much words that it became too overwhelming to remember and I had to stop adding a new word.
I tried the tactic of using the new vocabulary I encounter like 3 times at least in any possible way during a conversation and miraculously it retained better.
Another way was, at home in Japan, when doing housework, the TV was just on and I just left it like I’m just listening.
There are words I hear many times but I seem to be not very familiar with it. (or maybe unconsciously I am beginning to be interested in that word)
For that, I will be looking for the meaning of that word and then be making me familiar with it, continue with the same process and next words that make me curious is a different word from before.
And that I think is the Listening power.
By the way, I used to live in Kagoshima like you Sensei but I live in Austria now that made me think to study Japanese again because I don’t have that much practice.
I just got my JLPT N2 and would still want to study until I stumbled on this great website.
Aigatou moshiyagemoshita! (Kagonma ben)
Thank you for sharing how you managed to memorize new Japanese vocabulary. I must say that using the new word in actual conversations is a great way! Real interactions always have a great impact on our brains and help us remember things. Having Japanese sounds in the background as you do something else must be a good tactic as well. They say our brains still process sounds that we hear even though we’re not paying attention to it. I think that’s how babies learn a language in the first place.
OMG, you lived in Kagoshima?? What brought you there and how long did you live there? How nice to connect with someone who knows my hometown! I tremendously miss Kagoshima.
Congratulations on passing JLPT N2! If you are already at that level, you may find things on this website a bit too beginning level, but I hope you find some things enjoyable and helpful for your Japanese learning. Thank you for the comment. 🙂