Should I Study Vocabulary in Addition to Jalup Beginner?

Interesting fact about the Jalup deck series here on this site: you learn more about pens, Suzuki-san, and apples than any other Japanese learner course in existence. Why? Because Jalup Beginner doesn’t focus on vocabulary. It works with the bare minimum, carefully building your grammar. But who needs grammar? You want vocabulary, right? You may start thinking that you’ll need to add in a little supplementary magic.

First, remember that the lack of vocabulary is intentional. You learn the  numbers 1 and 3. You learn 1 day of the week. You learn 1 month. You learn 1 food. The reasoning is simple. Vocabulary is easy to learn in a Japanese-only environment, but early grammar absolutely requires English. So I shifted out the vocabulary to focus on creating 1,000 cards that are going to allow you to go Japanese-only upon their completion. 1,000 cards goes by quicker than you think, and early vocabulary expansion was a necessary sacrifice.

Without vocabulary, how are you going to talk? How are you going to thrive?

Jalup Beginner is all about grammar. But every deck after that moves increasingly towards growing your vocabulary, until you reach Expert, where it becomes the major focus. You will eventually get the vocabulary you crave, but need to give it a little more time than a typical textbook.

However, as with anything on this site, you can add and mix in whatever you want. There are those that combine Jalup Beginner with  Core 2000 or Tae Kim’s guide or some other resource.

But do you need to?

If you feel you need to use that vocabulary immediately, then yes.

The thing to remember is that the Jalup decks were never intended to teach you basic conversational Japanese or to improve your trip to Japan. They were created to make you fluent. They are long term, and for serious learners who truly desire fluency in a reasonable amount of time. But “reasonable” is not today, or tomorrow, next week, or even next month.

Problems and solutions to supplements

Quick vocabulary lists can sometimes interfere with the process I’ve laid out. If you are trying to rapidly expand your vocabulary early on, you must likely will be doing so using English. When you get to Jalup Intermediate and later, you are going to miss out on a lot of the Japanese dictionary training (and internalizing your Japanese world) with new vocabulary, as you’ll already know them in English.

The best way to build your vocabulary in addition to the Jalup decks is through immersion (TV, movies, anime,  etc.) and native reading (books, manga, websites, magazines, etc.) Regardless of what path you take, you will end up at immersion. It is and will always be the most natural and powerful supplement to your Japanese studying that you will ever encounter.

Let’s sum up:

1. Do you need to learn separate vocabulary while studying the Jalup Decks?
No. The focus changes to vocabulary, and your immersion experience will have you covered.

2. Can you learn vocabulary in addition to the Jalup Decks?
Of course. You can do whatever you want. It’s your game.

3. Should you learn vocabulary in addition to the Jalup Decks?
That depends on your goals and what/when/how you want to create your Japanese ability.

Related posts:

The following two tabs change content below.


Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


Should I Study Vocabulary in Addition to Jalup Beginner? — 7 Comments

  1. I can testify to the fact that supplemental vocabulary words not learned through J-J while studying Jalup-Beginner can undermine the process later. However, now that I have dedicated most of my studies to Jalup, I no longer review the supplemental vocabulary through SRS. I am taking a couple Japanese classes this semester and I have to study about 350 words in English because the professor has quizzes on the vocabulary and such. What I do however is only study for the quizzes and tests, but never review. So the night before and the day of the test/quiz. This way I give myself a chance to forget the english meanings and the opportunity to relearn the forgotten words in Japanese later. Now, only the supplemental vocabulary words that get reinforced during immersion are remembered, instead of memorized through SRS.

  2. I particularly love Jalup Beginner precisely for this reason. It makes it much easier to lay the solid foundations for the language showing many many permutations of a simple core vocabulary.

    The Jalup approach is great for getting you to a very high standard over a fairly long time-frame. The problem is that in the short term you look like you are lagging behind other approaches. It’s the ultimate ‘delayed gratification’ programme.

  3. I’ve tried a couple times to supplement the Jalup decks with other pre-mades, and even my own custom decks. One of the problems I ran into was that it was hard to find any pre-mades that were close to the quality of the Jalup decks. That difference in quality started to make me wonder why I was even bothering with other pre-mades. For my own custom decks the problem was that it was taking up my limited study time. Why should I spend time creating cards when I have thousands of high quality cards just waiting for me to learn?

    I work full time and the only time I can study is before work (I already wake up at 5 am) and after work (unless my brain is fried). Jalup decks let me focus on learning rather than splitting my time between creating and learning. Not to say that the process of creation can’t be extremely valuable, but with my time constraints I’m not sure it’s worth it for me.

    Now, after I run out of Jalup cards that’s when I’ll start creating my own J-J cards. But, that will be several thousand Jalup cards later.

    Like a previous poster said, it’s delayed gratification. You start out slow, but if you are aiming for full fluency you have to learn all the grammar and Kanji anyway. Might as well get that over with as soon as possible.

  4. Thank you! I feel like this post was written for me! I’m getting to understand the structure of sentences so much, and I’m finally trusting in the process. I’ve been having fun with Jalup beginner from day one, and seeing those trusty old pens, apples, and movie watching with my friends Suzuki and Hiroshi have really boosted my confidence in my learning. (Although, I was shocked at Hiroshi’s tender age.)

  5. Beginner is a terrific deck, that actually teaches useful expressions. I stuck with core2k waaaay too long. It was around 1600 cards, and I finally couldn’t stand the fact that I knew some big words and lots of dry factual statements. But my grammar was still limited to is/was and I had no way of expressing simple feelings, needs or desires.

    I scanned through the remaining sentences, and there wasn’t a single one I cared to learn. After I finished beginner I was so amazed at my improvement, I just deleted the core decks. I haven’t missed them once.

    Maybe I benefited from doing vocab first… but I think I picked up more useful words from immersion. Supposedly they have the 2000 most common words, but there’s very little useful conversation there… words from an encyclopaedia perhaps?

  6. I just picked up vocab as I was reading… though to be fair I did have some vocab from Genki prior to coming to JALUP.

    It was around 700 or 800 cards in when I read 俺物語, which was perfectly readable with JALUP Beginner grammar and some supplemental vocabulary, looked up as I read along. I never added cards though at that level because I knew I wanted to get to the J-J stage (and I was looking up definitions in English), so it’s a bit different from now, where I am making my own J-J cards.

    Just make sure you’re focusing on enjoying Japanese and I think everything probaby works out. And pulling vocab out of things you enjoy means you’ll probably see the word sometime soon, vs going through a premade list. Which also sufferes from the problem of not having any example sentances (looking at you, Genki vocab list).

    But yes, agree with everyone else that grammar heavy JALUP beginner sets you up for success later. If anything, it helps you figure out what’s grammar and what’s a “word” when reading. I remember trying to pick out vocab from manga VERY early in my learning process and it was pretty much impossible when I didn’t know that の has more uses than clarifying/showing ownership of nouns (for example).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *