I discovered Japanese Level Up early in my studies and was impatient to start the J-J process. But once I finally had the requisite 1000 J-E cards, I found that my trees weren’t ending anywhere near within the 40 card large-but-manageable example and I scrapped some that seemed like they’d just never end. After switching to an elementary school dictionary and some perseverance and experimentation and faith it got somewhat better, but then when I decided I really liked including all the definitions of each word the trees got unmanageable again, even though that wasn’t as in a full dictionary. And then I figured out that that was okay.
The term “dictionary diving” implies that you go down into the inhospitable dictionary-realm and try to get it all done before you need to come back up for air. It turns out that you don’t have to come up for air. There are plenty of bubbles down there in the definitions. It’s possible to progress with J-J anki cards even if your tree never ends. The trick is (1) study the cards you do understand and (2) keep going and don’t worry about it.
More specifically, create a separate deck (in anki2) or a tag (in anki1) that you configure to not study and repeat this ad-infinitum:
- Look at the most recent card in this dive-collection. If you understand it, move it over to get studied and repeat step 1 with the now most recent remaining card; otherwise go to step 2.
- Pick a word from it.
- Add the card (or cards if there are multiple definitions you want to add) for that word. This is now the most recent card in the dive; go to step 1.
If you reposition cards to the end of the new card queue when you move them over, this can increase the chance that you’ll understand the card when it shows up for learning. But this isn’t essential, and sometimes you won’t anyway. When a card comes up for study and you don’t understand it anymore, bury it and maybe it will make more sense the next time it comes up. If after burying it a number of times it seems like you’ve moved past all of the related words and you still don’t understand it, move it back to the in-progress dive.
When I add multiple definitions of a word, I add the last one first so that I’ll start the branching with the first/most likely most common one.
If it really does fail to ever end, read through this collection (in newest-to-oldest order) periodically and move over any cards that you now understand.
At first you’ll be adding a bunch of cards you don’t get to study yet, but there will also be plenty of sub-branches that you do get to use. And you have the satisfaction of knowing that someday you will get to make use of all these cards once you’ve leveled up your dictionary reading some more and the tree starts shrinking faster than it’s growing, if not sooner in one of the periodic read-throughs.
In order to not feel like the dive is a chore that I have to finish before I can add fun cards, I still add others even if I have an in-progress dive; for example I add anything that I figure out from context.
Have fun finding the treasure down there! You can go so much deeper when you stop worrying about your air tank.
Written by: Cayenne