Everyone’s Working On Their Core…2000 – In Review

Everyone's Working On Their Core...2000 - In Review 2A lot of people talk about the Core 2000. If you go to the Anki shared decks, you can find a variety of decks for the Core 2000, Core 6000, and even the Core 10,000. Many people on Japanese forums who are studying for the JLPT will talk about the Core 2000. Although it may sound like some fancy ab workout, the Core 2000 has quite a history within the Japanese community, and is still a prominent method of study for many.

The Core 2000 began on a website called Smart.fm. After its controversial shift to iKnow, the Core 2000 community largely moved to Anki. To this day, the Core 2000 is still a debated topic amongst Japanese language learners.

But before we talk about that, let’s take a peek at what’s inside.

apple core

The Core 2000 is based on learning vocabulary words. The idea is to learn 2000 essential vocabulary words. There are several different types of cards within the Core 2000. For one vocabulary word, you will have three vocab cards (which only have the vocabulary word on them) and two sentence cards. For the vocab cards, there is one listening card, one production card, and one reading card per word.

The first card you will encounter is a listening card. The front says “Listen,” and the word will be spoken. The back has the vocabulary word in Japanese and English as well as a picture to go along with it. Here is an example:

listen example

The production cards are based on the E-J method discussed recently here on JALUP. They have the picture and English translation on the front, and you are expected to “produce” the Japanese word that matches it. The final vocab card is the reading card, which has the Japanese word on the front and the English translation and picture on the back.

In addition to these three cards, there will be two sentence cards meant to solidify your command of the word. The two sentence cards are similar to the listening and the reading cards, but this time you will see the vocabulary word used in a sentence. Here is an example of the reading sentence card:

Front: reading example Back: reading example back

So is the Core 2000 worth using?

While having Japanese sentences, English translations, audio, and picture all prepared for you would save you a lot of time in preparing Anki cards, I personally would not recommend using the Core 2000.

Now I don’t mean to hate on anybody’s study method; many people have used the Core 2000 and have had success. It is your Japanese quest, and you have every right to use whatever method is working for you. However, I believe that there are two major weaknesses with using the Core 2000:

1. Its reliance on vocabulary flashcards;

2. Its failure to change to J-J.

We have talked before about why sentences are more effective than vocabulary. Now, as mentioned before, certain versions of the Core 2000 will have you learn sentences as well as vocabulary. However, the time you use learning individual words would be better spent learning complete sentences. Even for a vocabulary based learning system, having five Anki cards for a single word seems a bit overkill. It’s not that the method is ineffective in teaching you vocabulary, but there are more effective uses of your time.

Additionally, many sentences sentences in the Core 2000 use words you have not learned yet. The above sentence is the first card in the Core 2000, so although you now know “それ”, nothing in the “はとてもいい話だ” would make sense to you at that point. It is ineffective to practice sentence cards if you only understand one word in the sentence.

The other major weakness with the Core 2000 is that it never shifts to J-J. Shifting to J-J is important; you are missing out on incredible learning opportunities without it. You are certainly making the switch to J-J too late if you complete the Core 6000 or 10,000, but even changing after the Core 2000 can be a bit late to shift to J-J; you should be able to change after about 1000 J-E sentences.

But what do you think?

Did you use the Core 2000? How has it prepared you for your Japanese Quest? Would you recommend it? Leave your experience in the comments below!



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Bailey

Bailey

Spends most days playing Pokemon in Japanese. Oh, and he sometimes goes to school, too.

Comments

Everyone’s Working On Their Core…2000 – In Review — 28 Comments

  1. I have a core2k shared deck that looks nothing like what you were talking about. Maybe you’re reviewing the original smartfm one? I think it’s important for people to know that core2k just refers to a vocabulary list of the 2,000 most commons words in Japanese, and there have been several deck adaptions for many programs, including anki. I have a brilliant one with example sentences, audio, +1 optimization and it’s been proof-read by a native Japanese user. It allows me to get a strong foundation in the vocab I’ll need the most with confidence that I’m not meandering down roads with vocab I’ll hardly use (if I was making my own deck at this point via sentence-mining) or learning mistakes (if my deck wasn’t native-proofed). I rearranged my card format recently to resemble JALUP’s recommendation, with the J sentence on the front, and furigana and a little tiny E definition of the new word in case I need it on the back. And I love it.
    There’s nothing in core2k that contradicts J-J learning. There’s no premade J-J deck right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build on top of your own core2k deck a little.

    • Yeah, that’s what makes it hard to “review” the Core 2000; there are so many different decks/methods it is difficult to cover everything. But, to my knowledge, this is the deck that is most often used/recommended, which is why it is what I covered here. Would you mind linking to the deck that you use? I think it would help anyone looking to use the Core 2k.

      And I have no doubt that the Core 2k can teach you a number of words effectively, but as you mentioned it takes a lot of tinkering. A majority of people that would benefit from the Core 2k are beginners, many of whom may not know how to tinker their deck accordingly. Especially if you plan to shift to J-J at 1000, you are going to need to make a lot of changes.

      I tried to make this clear from the article, but I would like to restate that I’m not against the Core 2k; there are many who have learned a lot from it. I just believe that there are more effective ways for a beginner to start off. I can think of at least three starter decks off the top of my head that have the qualities you mention and will help you shift to J-J more quickly and naturally.

      • I use this deck-
        https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/1102215805
        At first I used it just as it came, but as I’ve learned anki I’ve entirely re-formatted it to my ideal. I dunno, I chose that deck as a beginner out of the box. How do you find out about core2k in the first place? I found out about it on some forums, and I read on for a bit and saw them contrast the different decks. If someone finds out about core2k through this article, hopefully they’ll read on to the comments and see this part. Beginners are capable of educating themselves to the best choice. If nothing else, they choose the lesser core2k deck you reviewed here and then, after the first 500 or 1,000 cards give them a foundation, switch to their own J-J cards. You aren’t married to your core2k.
        But I guess I’m just a fan of the core2k! It’s an amazing resource that has allowed me to systemically learn what I need to learn most very quickly, and there’s a whole community of people online who can help you with it and are happy to share the very best decks for free. It’s easily accessible, adaptable, and efficient.

    • To be fair to Bailey, this review covers the core deck that comes up at the top of the Anki Shared Server (with the most stars as well). I don’t know much about Core having never used it, but I would’ve done what any beginner would’ve done when trying to find/start it:

      1) Either look towards the top of the shared deck list, or
      2) Enter “core” in the search and see what comes up first.

      If it is confusing because there are multiple decks and multiple ways to use them, just remember that a beginner will also be just as confused.

  2. I used the Core 2000 deck and I liked it. I did however remove all cards except the J-E sentence cards. Then it functions like any E-J deck, but with good sentences, pictures plus native readings. I don’t think it’s hard to understand the sentences even though they might have a couple of words you don’t know because you have an English translation available and you can look up words in a E-J dictionary if you want. I don’t think that the transition to J-J is especially hard if you’re using a pre-made deck like Jalup Intermediate. If you already studied a word that’s introduced in a J-J sentence then just suspend the card and move on to the next.

    • What recommendations would you make for someone who wants to use the Core 2000 but switch to J-J? Would you suggest they stop after 1000, keep using the Core series but change out the J-E for J-J, etc.

      • I finished Core 2000 and then switched over to Jalup Intermediate (I deleted the Core 2000 deck) and it was a pretty smooth transition. Now if there’s a new card with a keyword that I learned in Core 2000 I either suspend it if I know it well or I keep it if I feel like I need the repetition.

        If you switch at 1000 cards it might be a little rough but I think it’s doable if you’re motivated and take some liberties with looking up words in a J-E dictionary when you start doing J-J. Obviously it’s going to be smoother if you do Jalup Beginner followed by Intermediate. :)

  3. I went through Core2k and is halfway through Core6k now (aside from all my other decks), and I’m using two card types:

    1. The one with a japanese sentence on the front and the word in english in the back (usually I just skip reading the translation of the entire sentence).

    2. The one with audio of the whole sentence on the front, and the entire japanese sentence in the back, so I can practice listening comprehension as much as reading comprehension. I like this method and find the deck enjoyable this way. When im done with it I’ll probably gradually switch to JJ definitions on the cards.

    • I agree that the listening cards can be beneficial; I try to add a couple of listening cards similar to these when I add my own sentences.

      If you’re already at 3000+ vocab, do you mind if I ask why you aren’t making the J-J plunge at this point? You should be well prepared by this point, and I think you could benefit greatly from it.

      • I started with JJ before Core, but got bored by it then (used dictionary definition sentences which were boring, and they took too long to read through for me to keep my interest up then), so I decided to accelerate my vocab acquisition instead by doing Core and a separate pure vocab deck from native material. It suits me fine and I enjoy it. Not gonna change anything until I’m at least done with Core6k. Don’t have time for more reviews than I already have anyway.

  4. (@ Termy)

    “they took too long to read through for me to keep my interest up then”
    Depending on when you switch (and whether you are doing the cards yourself/using a full JJ dictionary) this may easily be too much to expect (it certainly was for me when switching at ~1500 J-E sentences). Rather, in the initial stages of the JJ transition definitions work much more as a way of confirming or denying whatever guesses you already have concerning the meanings of words (usually due to a mix of context and composing kanji).

    As for using Core to accelerate vocab acquisition, I do have doubts about that as well. Sure, when transitioning to JJ some speed is temporarily lost, but amongst other things JJ trains you have a much better sense of the meaning and function of each kanji within a word and hence makes it a lot easier to guess new words (I’d say that nowadays when reading novels I can correctly guess the meaning of most new words I find). Further, JE has one fundamental problem: when tethering a Japanese word with an English one you are most of the time only getting an “approximate meaning” (however much it can feel otherwise) and with it a bunch of wrong nuances that the Japanese word does not have at all.

    • That’s a great comment about reviewing J-J. Half the difficulty of J-J seems to be how you approach it, and having the confirm/deny mindset is a great help.

      And I agree about the transition to J-J. If a J-J, sentence based Core 2k were to come out (which is not too crazy considering there are so many other decks based off of the Core 2k) that would change a lot.

  5. Hello, happy 2k user here, although I only plan to do 1.2k before transitioning to the Jalup Intermediate. I’ve pondered switching to Jalup Basic many times, but I do really like the audio in the core2k series. The most common mans voice is incredibly fast however, but I find if you practice speaking the sentence, your brain starts to parse the fast audio.

    Deleting the vocab cards is a must, and I agree that some of the sentences seem to come to early, with too many unknown words, but it is manageable. I’d like to try morphman on the deck to see if there is a better ordering. One gripe I have is that the polite forms dwarf the casual ones. I’m almost half way to my target of 1.2k, so I’m hoping there will be more exposure to casually inflected words in later cards.

    Still, I’d love to hear from people who have made the switch from core to Adam’s Basic deck.

    • Not from Core per se, but I did go from college classes (more vocab focus) into the JALUP Beginner deck (more grammar focus). I found the JALUP Beginner super intuitive to use. Every new sentence is carefully built from elements you know, plus a single unknown. Because of that smooth progression, it actually ends up feeling like a sort of game. It really made the process a lot more enjoyable for me.

    • The consensus here appears to be that it could be a smooth transition. As long as you delete the vocab cards, I think that you will be okay.

      • Can I please get some direction in how to remove only the vocab cards? I’m using the deck written about in the article but can’t for the life of me figure out how to filter out only the vocab cards. Honestly, I’m not even too sure which cards are suppose to be the vocab cards.

  6. I actually enjoy using the core 2000. I’ve actually finished the core 2000 and have now started the core 6000. After the core 6000 I will just dive into native material, and in my opinion it is never too late to jump to j-j sentences.

    I’ve also got the One deck from jalup, just simply don’t feel ready for it yet. The core 2000 together with tae kim actually helped me understand a lot more. I do have weekly conversations with Japanese natives though and the core certainly helped my progress of understanding.

  7. All I can say is, if people took half their reading-how-to-study time to actually just study, no matter how they study, they’d be fluent by now.

  8. I’m a pretty casual student of Japanese. My wife and I decided about one year ago that we would make Japan our next big overseas adventure, and I asked for two years to pick up some of the language.

    Core 2K was one of the first things I looked at, a year ago, and I didn’t get very far with it. You identified the main reason–just too much I didn’t understand. It wasn’t at the right “I+1” level for me to soak it in.

    What I did instead was spend a year going through Volume 1 of Heisig (casual student–I said that, right?) while I did the Pimsleur system in the car and Japanese for Busy People Vols. 1 and 2 and Genki Vol. 1 in the evenings. At the one-year mark, once I finished Heisig, I re-loaded the Core 2K deck. And now I LOVE it. I think it’s the best time I’m spending on Japanese. Because I’m not starting from zero, I can often get the idea of a sentence the first time I read or hear it. I know a lot of words, but by no means all of them. The reading cards build on my investment in Heisig, and the listening cards improve my ear for spoken Japanese. I also get a good review of most of the grammar I’ve studied so far: plain and polite verbs, te-form, no- nominalization, and so on. I did drop two of the five card types–I kept everything for the sentences, but only the reading cards for the individual words.

    I’m having a great time with Core 2K and learning a lot. I’d planned to feed the cards into Anki over a period of months, but I’m considering dropping my textbook time and just powering through the 2K deck directly. So, for anyone in more or less my position–studied Heisig and a couple of basic grammar textbooks–I think it’s a big win.

  9. I think I might start using NihongoShark’s vocab deck in addition to the Jalup sentence decks (almost done beginner stage 3). It’s basically a cleaned up version of the Core 2k decks. It has 2 cards for each word. One is the Japanese word, with the English on the back. And the other is the word in a sentence, with the sentence translation and vocab word again on the back. Do you think it would be best to delete the individual vocab cards and just use the sentence ones, trying my best to ignore the whole sentence translation? Also they have the audio on the front side of the card, which I find eliminates the whole point of trying to remember the reading so I think I might move that field to the back side.

  10. The core 2K was absolutely amazing, in my opinion the best structured, well built deck you can find on the internet for Japanese.
    I finished it in 4 months approximately, 30 cards per day and increased it at times to 60 but it was too much for reviews so I stuck to 30. I did this after finishing the 2200 Kanji in 97 days in 88 days.

    Currently on the 6k deck for the past 2.5 months and my vocabulary has increased ridiculously. 15 words x 206 days of Anki vocabulary decks gives me 3090 words directly learnt as of today + I have probably another 300-400 words learnt outside of Anki reading newspapers, books, articles, magazines, messaging J-friends etc. My reading speed is amazing and it’s all thanks to these decks.

    People say I’m smart, when all it is is 318 days straight of Anki 1.5-2 hours everyday and more study outside that amount of time and yes I work full time.

    • A kindred full-time working soul!

      Yeah, got to love the “smart” comments. It’s just because we have the time to dedicate and the perseverence to keep studying, no smarts about it.

      You are doing awesome, keep it up. Those first 2000 vocab words are basically gold!

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