Solving J-E and J-J Puzzles with the Jalup Decks

As more people have been using the Jalup Beginner/Intermediate these days, I’ve had a lot of insightful conversations both by comments and e-mail. Some of these reveal methodology, thought process, and others the technical use side. All of this is useful information for anyone using these decks, or just going through J-E/J-J in general. So I thought it might be helpful to put these together into one post instead of people having to wade through too much information in too many places.

Solving Puzzles With Jalup Beginner - Intermediate 1 -- Yes It Is A Game

Jalup user Jen made a comment that the Jalup decks are allowing her to “play” with her study time.

“Some of the sentences are just ambiguous or casual enough (omitting some words, particles, etc.) that I have to puzzle a little to figure them out, but I still have everything I need to work it out, especially since you tend to come at the same concept from a few angles. Compared to tediously copying and pasting sentences that I’ve already looked over from a (boring) textbook, it’s actually a lot of fun. I keep finding myself increasing the new card limit in Anki because I want to find out what comes next, since each card has a new little nugget of Japanese waiting for me.”

And this is the mindset I went into when creating these decks.

It all comes down to playing a puzzle game.

You have all the clues (words). Now you just need to put them together to solve the puzzle (the sentence).

You have easy and difficult puzzles. Some puzzles are for now better left with just a general understanding (without completely solving them). And when you see similar information in later puzzles, you may be able to use that information to fully solve the earlier puzzles.

You aren’t just fed the information. You have to take that information, digest it, sit on it, use your imagination and deductive skills, and bring it all together to win each round. While this makes it much more challenging, this back and forth with each sentence will make you stronger and is what really solidifies that information within you.

Understanding J-E and J-J are two different beasts, and can’t be approached the same way.

Solving Puzzles With Jalup Beginner - Intermediate - Understanding The Game 2

Jalup reader スタースプルング commented:

“I find a a lot of the time I don’t really understand the definitions even if I understand all the words in it. Then that tends to mean I don’t understand a bunch of words in branch that depend on that word. Also I feel like I have often have a vague intuition of the meaning of a word and I can recall that vague idea when I see the card, but does that mean I should mark it as correct? Like “oh, that has something to do with being lacking or dissatisfied or something”. I feel if I mark it wrong then half the cards are going to be marked as leeches before I have a chance to fully understand them.”

First, when coming across a new J-J card that is confusing, make sure you use the Anki search function to see if looking up the old words clears up any lacking information.

Assuming you are doing this and still having the trouble, you may need to change your approach of what you consider to yourself as understanding. A few points to consider:

1. Some people have said before that they are trying to come to what the English word would mean for each card, even though they are in J-J. You don’t want to do this. Yes, a cat is 猫 and having that 1 to 1 may be easy, but many words don’t work like that. Chasing after the exact meaning can leave you in frustration. In J-E, you go through a sentence, understand the new word, are satisfied, and move on. In J-J, the name of the game has changed, and the way you go through it will not be exactly the same as in J-E.

2. Once you accept point 1, you have to start accepting that you are going to need to rely on intuition a bit. You have an idea about the card, but are not really sure if that is what the word means. This is your first time not using English. Without English, you have no defined goal of that specific word. You can’t just expect to come to the meaning “cat” and feel you got it. You are developing the meaning of the Japanese which is completely foreign to you right now. So this feeling of uncertainty is completely normal in the beginning.

3. Your example of having the intuition of “oh, that has something to do with being lacking or dissatisfied,” is perfect. You can’t match it to an exact word you know. That’s fine. But you know what the feeling of that word is. When you start to see this word in other sentences, in other outside examples, you slowly start to solidify that feeling. Not into an English counterpart, but into the full feeling of the Japanese word.

4. Some of the sentences you will click with immediately. Others you will have a bit of that vague sense of understanding. This is the way it is meant to work. As mentioned in point 3, as you move forward you will see those words in different settings, and every different setting fills in a piece of that original understanding.

5. I don’t like the leech function for this type of deck where every card relies on the previous one. Some cards will be easy. Others hard. Others even harder. They are still all necessary. I would either mark the leech threshold incredibly high or disable it.

Putting it all together with an example

Solving Puzzles With Jalup Beginner - Intermediate - Understanding The Game 3

Jalup reader Nayr, who had just started Jalup Intermediate, asked a question on how to approach one of the first sentences. I broke down the entire sentence, all the pieces taken directly from the Jalup beginner, and showed how to pull it all together. Every puzzle piece to the intermediate decks is in the beginner decks.

Here’s how it looked.



J-J definition for unknown word 変える


Using only the Jalup Beginner deck definitions

1. 物事 (things – physical and nonphysical)

2. を: grammar particle used to show that a noun is the target (direct) object of a verb.

– The noun 物事 (things) is the target of the verb in this sentence

3. 前: before

4. と: with

5. 違った: past tense of “different”

6. 事: thing

7. noun + に +する make (something) a noun

Putting the sentence together:

8. Start with the middle of the sentence which is a noun phrase (前と違った事)

Using Jalup Beginner card 584 as a relevant example:

“昨日店で会った友達はもう日本に帰っている, which contains the noun phrase  昨日店で会った友達: the friend that I met at the store yesterday

Note: A phrase that describes a noun can be a full sentence backed with information (but must usually end in the casual form)
Sentence 1 (ending in casual form) + (noun) + Sentence 2 = (Noun) that (sentence 1) is/was/verb (sentence 2).”

You get “thing that was different with before.”

9. Add にする, make something a noun.

Now you have, “make a thing that was different with before”

10. Take the beginning 物事 “thing (physical and nonphysical)” and add it.

“Make a thing a thing that was different with before”

*Remember: your internal understanding of this sentence may be slightly different. This is not grammatically proper English and is just directly putting all the pieces together in an order that makes sense. As long as you get the idea behind it, you are doing fine.

Come back to the original sentence:

11. 仕事: job

12. を: grammar particle used to show that a noun is the target (direct) object of a verb.

13. すぐ: soon

14. Multiple examples with different verbs to show that たい added to a verb changes it to the “want” form of that verb (ex. 食べたい: want to eat)

Put the unknown word’s definition in place of the unknown word.

“I want to soon (make a thing a thing that was different with before) job”

Solving Puzzles With Jalup Beginner - Intermediate - Understanding The Game 4

With a little thought and intuition and feel you should come up with a feeling of “change,” the meaning of 変える. Which I suppose in natural English would be “making something different than it was before”

And even if you fully didn’t grasp it at this exact moment, as you see later sentences in the Jalup Intermediate using 変える, your understanding will become clearer.

If it helps, you can write down (copy and paste) the parts and pull them together like above. With a little practice this will all be easily internalized. But just like this, you jump one hurdle at a time.

Now while it may look complicated, remember that many of these steps are skipped, as you already know them, so usually you’ll only need to look up in Anki a few elements at most (and sometimes none at all). And the further you go, the quicker this process becomes.

Go on and play

Really. Just enjoy it.

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


Solving J-E and J-J Puzzles with the Jalup Decks — 20 Comments

  1. Thanks for the insight Adam! I am 900 sentences into the J-E deck (1000 total including my own added cards) and actually planning on doing the last 100 tonight (“going out with a bang” kinda thing). I’m super eager to get on to the J-J deck because I’m sick of having to match Japanese words with English words, because they almost feel tainted.

    Anyway, I get the full grasp of what you’re saying and it can be actually a fun game to figure out these puzzles. Sometimes a bit frustrating, but I just move on and in a week or so I’ll come across that sentence again and it will just click. I really can see the progress even within the amount of sentences I’ve done because when I first started the first 200 cards were hard to understand and now I can read it (with a lot more speed) and get it immediately. It’s a great feeling.

  2. I guess I have just never been all that great at puzzles ha-ha. Having said that, I am defiantly enjoying this J-J deck.

    It is taking me on average an hour to do 5 cards at the moment which is way too slow, so I am going to bump with up to 10 as of today.

    Realistically It probably only takes me 10mins, but I find I spent a lot of time going back over the cards, sometimes copy pasting the definitions into notepad comparing them with similar words to remember it all.

    Hardest part for me at the moment is not physically reading the definitions so much as it is keeping the “general feeling” contained within my head. It’s like a cloud that keeps trying to float away. I constantly have to go catch it again but going back over the definitions I have pasted into notepad.

    • I mentioned this on another article’s comments, but a good way to reinforce that fragile/wispy sense of a “general feeling” is to tie emotion to it. A “specific feeling”, if you will.

      What I like to do is, once I have a feel for the meaning, try reading the sentence out loud as if I were acting it in a play, with appropriate emotion that matches the word’s meaning. The more imaginative, the better. Do that a couple times, and it may help the idea stick for you.

      If that doesn’t work, then I wouldn’t stress it too much. You’ll get better as you see the card more, anyway. And then you’ll see it in native media and that’s when it really starts to hit home. (For example, if you want to NEVER forget the word 「とにかく」, you need only watch the first episode of 「イタズラなKiss〜Love in TOKYO」)

    • Instead of spending ages on 1 card. Read the sentence, check up any unknown definitions for words you learnt in the past but can’t remember (like adshap listed above). I never notedpadded it at the start, you should know most of the J-E definitions anyway at this point. I find it’s better not to think about it in english as much as possible. Then with the feeling you get from the definition, even if you’re unsure, click ‘good’ and wait 10 minutes, read it, click good again. You’re probably thinking “but my understanding of the word wasn’t clear and I don’t feel confident it with it”. But trust me, when you see it the next day, or the day after, or again a week from now in your reviews, immersion and new sentences it’ll eventually just make sense. Accept you’re not going to understand these words first go (and when you do it’s a bonus) and just get what you can from the definition and move to the next word. Time, immersion and reviews are going to sort that out for you. I used to spend ages on learning my new words and it was horrible!

      Unnderstand all the words in the definition. It probably won’t be clear enough for your J-E mind, but it will eventually. So just keep immersing, reviewing sentences and learning new cards (in a timely fashion) and don’t think about it too much. I spend about a minute or so max on my cards now, given I’m 800 cards in now, your times are still way too long. There are so many times when I read a new card with words from the last 7 cards i learn (and am unsure of). But not dwelling on it, moving along to the next card and getting back to immersion. Even if I fail that card once, twice or more, I now know that it’ll work. I figured this stuff out through trial and error (used to exactly what you did) and it was not ideal, but definitely rewarding. You don’t need to make that sacrifice, you know how to approach these cards from the start now! But words can only do so much, the rest you’ll figure out through your own trial and error, and you’ll figure your own way and speed up your efficiency. Don’t sweat it!

      Long story short, never spend more too much time on an individual card. Whether it’s old, new, or new new!

      • I really could’ve shortened that all by just saying: look at the definition, look up unknowns, don’t think about it, move to next new card. Rinse and repeat, if the meaning doesn’t come to you close to instantly it most likely won’t come or it isn’t worth the effort. See the card another time under different circumstances (more immmersion, more new cards, more reviews of old cards).
        Eventually when you see that card, you’re understanding will be close to instant and you’re going to get that ‘ahh!’ moment. I promise!

        oooo! One last tip. When learning new cards (let’s say 5 at a time for example’s sake), let’s say the 4th and 5th card are reliant on words from the first and second. But you just learnt those two words and you don’t really have a strong feeling at all about what they mean. In fact you can’t even think about it until you go back and look at the definitions. Look up those words again ONCE and read the definitions for the 1st and 2nd cards again. After you’ve done this, read the definition again for the 4th and 5th and assuming there are no other unknowns, move to the next card. Eventually (during reviews) when 1 and 2 cards stop being vague, 4 and 5 will be a lot easier, not to mention the vague understanding and familiarity with the reading you’ll already have!

        Hope this helps, and sorry for being so damn longwinded!

  3. I am still a lit bit confused. If I look up the new word with a J-J dictionary and I don’t understand some of the words in the description what do I do? Do I look up the words I don’t know using J-E dictionary or not? Also, if I wanted to use anki with this what part goes into anki the sentence or the description of the word. Sorry I am asking a lot of questions I feel I have been haunted by J-J for to long and I want to final understand what it is. Thank you for the help in Advance.

    • I don’t believe you are using the Jalup decks, which is what a lot of the bottom half of this post refers to (especially the example).

      With the Jalup decks, you look up the words you can’t remember in the Jalup Beginner. You should know every word in the definitions (as they have already been provided for you), and when you can’t recall them, you do an Anki search to refresh your memory. All of this is set up for speed and efficiency. Then comes in all the deductive reasoning and intuition to pull it together.

      If you are going at it completely on your own, the concept is similar, except you have to do all the work to find the Japanese sentence that you can pretty much understand, minus one word, which you can understand its definition based on the basics you know. Yes, this requires a lot of work, as you have to find what matches this, going through much that does not.

      That’s why all the sentences chosen for the Jalup decks are carefully selected from the many thousands of more that just wouldn’t work. Also I have the power to be creative with Japanese definitions. If I get stuck on one word that is jamming up a nice branch I’m working on, with my Japanese knowledge I can alter the definition in a simpler more obvious way.

      It’s all about finding the right sentence, right unknown word, right amount of unknown information, and then repeating the process.

  4. At 20 cards away from switching to J-J, those examples of the information contained in the JALUP Beginner’s deck fills me with despair. My homemade cards seem so lacking in comparison!

    • I wouldn’t worry so much. Everyone’s self made decks look different, covering different material. The key to succeeding with a self made J-E to self made J-J, is constantly searching for that slightly reachable material. If the word 変える has too much unknown info, you skip it.

      Keep inputting new words until you find a definition that is manageable. In the beginning this is a very lengthy process in itself, but the easier words and definitions you work with, the sooner the more difficult definitions become easier.

      Good luck!

  5. This might be a passable, slow-motion “decoding” into English of this post’s key sentence:

    “仕事…” So this person is wanting to tell me something about their job.
    “を” Ah, they’re going to do something about or have something done to it.
    “すぐ” This action is going to take place soon! What is it?!
    “変えたい。” So this person wants to change their job soon. Mystery solved. And now on to the next sentence!

    Not sure if that is exactly correct, but the “feel” of understanding it seems right.

    To me at least, English sentences seem to unfold or unravel; Japanese sentences seem to start wide open and slowly ravel up or fold in–until they’re this neat little thing that fits exactly into its proper place and all is well in the universe once more.

  6. The time where the definiton instantly clicked started with this sentence:
    I was reading and was like “Humans being able to do something without doing anything ok that means something like effortless” I didn’t realize I did this until 2 cards later and realized “Did I really do that card without even thinking about that definition?” That really gave me a boost of motivation and I did 10 more cards that day just for fun. Just my little story. Right article to comment on right?

    • Nice. :)
      I’m still struggling with that first definition.
      I understand it as something like: by way of humanity’s hand having been involved — for example, having a hand in making something — a thing does not/will not exist.
      Is it okay to think of there being a comma in there after あった and before 物事 or am I grouping things incorrectly?
      My understanding of the second definition sentence is fairly close to what you’re saying so I feel pretty good about that one.

      • I ignored the first definition since I didn’t get it, but attempting it now I make out “Not something that existed due to humanity’s hand” the 人間の手であった is an adjective-ish thing that directly modifies 物事 so no you wouldn’t comma it. it translates to I think “the thing that existed by/due to humanity’s hand” which kind of means “thing that existed due to effort” and then じゃない means not so all together “Thing that didn’t existed due to effort by someone” At least that’s my take on it. Now looking at the first definition I am getting a feel of a meaning that means without human involvement. Which would allude to something done by nature (naturally) Looking at an online dictionary I get an example sentence of 「野菜には自然の甘みがある」 Which confirms my suspicion of it meaning nature-ish thing. According to both definitions the sentence could mean “In vegetables, there is natural sweetness.” or “In vegetables, there is effortless sweetness.” So apparently, my original definition doesn’t work. Thanks for replying, I wouldn’t have known I was wrong haha.

        • That’s a really good explanation! I have a feeling this will help me get a better understanding of some other tricky sentences that I have struggled with — thank you very much.
          I’m really glad I found this nice community.

    • This is exactly the mental process that you start to develop, so nice job. Assisting parenthesis definitions are used to simplify or add a hint in case of confusion.

  7. Hi Adam, thanks for this awesome site.

    My goal for Japanese is just to read novels and books at any caliber. With this as my goal for now (might evolve later), how do I go about doing this? I want to go through all the sentence decks you made but at what deck do I start reading books?

    • Hello A.A. Welcome to Jalup.

      Go through the sentence decks, and you should be good to go for simple novels starting somewhere between the Intermediate and Advanced decks.

      Check out Walkthrough World 5 for reference.

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