Finished your first 1000 J-E sentences? Congratulations! You are now probably close to level 15-20. Pat yourself on the back, and get ready to take it up a notch. If you haven’t yet, please make sure to go through part 1 and part 2 to have a clue what I’m talking about here. Many of the tips/elements which I provided in these parts will be used with J-J sentences. I will assume you already understand them and I won’t repeat them here.
J-J sentences are where the fun starts. Going through textbook sentences can be less than thrilling . . . Now you may have the urge to continue doing more J-E sentences. Just a few more, and then you’ll finally switch? Stop fooling yourself. You have to switch now. You will feel very uncomfortable and uneasy at first. Especially since you have probably gotten used to doing J-E sentences for the past month. Regardless of how low your confidence may still be, if you want to take your Japanese to the next level, you must make the switch now.
Q: Okay, I’m ready to start. Where do I find J-J sentences?
This is where the fun comes in. You choose the sentences. They can be from books, manga, movies, tv shows, newspaper articles, blogs, cereal boxes, instruction manuals, candy wrappers, what your Japanese friend just said, etc. This is your chance to be creative and learn the sentences you want. There are no limits.
Try to choose sources based on your goals of learning Japanese. If your goal of learning Japanese was to read manga in its original form, then start there. If you wanted to read Japanese idol magazines with very attractive young women on the cover, then start there.
Q: Is it better to take sentences from written or spoken material?
In the beginning, I recommend written material. Taking a sentence from something spoken is more difficult, and prone to error. Sentences from books will allow you to enter the sentence 100% correct into Anki. Even better than books are online sources. Online sources make it so you don’t have to retype it out, you can use your old friend “cut and paste”.
Remember, you want to avoid errors at all costs. If you are inputting sentences with errors, you are learning Japanese with errors.
Q: If I’m not using an online source where I can just cut and paste, how do I enter a sentence that I can’t read?
A few methods:
1. Use sources with furigana, or the little Japanese hiragana above a sentence that tells you the pronunciation. Many people start with manga for this reason. Also novels aimed at elementary and junior high school students usually have an abundant amount of furigana.
2. Get an electronic dictionary like this one. This is the one I use, and while it is expensive (since it is an import), it freaking rocks. There is a stylus that allows you to write in a word with kanji on the dictionary screen, and it’ll pull up the definition and pronunciation. Any dictionary that has a kanji writing stylus will work though, so definitely shop around. I also think even if you just have a PC writing stylus you can do that as well with certain programs.
3. There are some websites that allow you to search for Japanese Kanji by stroke count, kanji radicals, etc. I find these to be headaches, but if you get the hang of them, they probably have some use.
4. Take a picture, upload it to a Japanese study website forum and ask for help. While this is a slow method, usually people are willing to help you.
(Update): My new number one method to input unknown characters is using the IME pad. Find out more info here.)
Q: It’s hard to find simple sentences that I know most of the words to. Any advice?
This brings me to a big personal preference. While I do occasionally find sentences I really want, I 90% of the time find words that I want to know, and couldn’t care less about the sentence. I then take the word and put it into Yahoo Japan dictionary, the dictionary I always use now. Not only do I get the Japanese definition, which I will use for inputting into Anki, but I get a great, natural, sample sentence in Japanese. Usually Yahoo’s dictionary sample sentences are simple and useful. So I use their sentence with the word I want to learn.
Q: So do I just read/watch through things, and then stop and add sentences every time I find one?
No, this will make whatever Japanese material you are going through incredibly boring. Either mark it up somehow, highlight it, write down the sentence in a notebook, or something of the sort. Then come back to it when you are ready to input a bunch of sentences into Anki. You don’t want to destroy the fun you are having by having to constantly interrupt it with Anki. This will turn Anki into your enemy.
Q: I just found this method now, but had already been studying for a few years. Should I immediately start with J-J sentences?
I myself was in a similar position to you, as I also didn’t start using Anki for Sentences and kanji until about 2.5 years into my studying. I went through the kanji method in Anki, but then started directly with J-J sentences. I know about the benefits of the first 1000 J-E sentences with my attempt at studying Chinese.
If you have a good amount of previous study experience and are just starting with the Anki method, it is definitely worth trying to go directly with J-J, and see how it goes. The only problem is that it is hard to gauge if you are on the right track, because regardless if you do the J-E first or not, the J-J beginning is still very challenging. So if it is difficult in the beginning, that may have nothing to do with you skipping the 1000 J-E.