I covered how to use Anki to master Japanese Kanji in Part 1. This part covers how to use Anki for Japanese-English (J-E) sentences. Keep working hard, because once you finish the Anki Master series, you are set with having one of the most amazing programs imaginable to make your Japanese shoot up to awesome levels in a much shorter period of time than traditional methods. Since this post and the following parts are a bit complex, I will try to organize it into question form to make it more readable.
Q: Why are you using Anki for sentences and not just vocabulary?
Because you don’t speak in words, you speak in sentences. Just because you know the words, “I”, “at”, “awesome”, “am”, and “Japanese” doesn’t mean you know how to make the sentence. Don’t tell me you’ve never met a tourist who asked you “Where train station?” Learning sentences teaches you grammar with words at the same time, without having to study grammar.
Q: Can I just use a pre-made deck of sentences I downloaded and study that way?
It comes down to a personal choice and how you like to study. If you decide to go the pre-made route, check out the Jalup Beginner 1000, Japanese Level Up’s original J-E Anki beginner deck designed to take you to ass kicking glory in no time.
Q: How do I start creating my own deck if my Japanese is level 1-15 (beginner, elementary, low intermediate)?
Your first 1000 sentences should be in Japanese and English. You will want to make them count and give a good wide range of material before you switch to Japanese-Japanese (J-J). Remember how I said that sentences will build off one another. The best place I find for this type of building occurs in beginner textbooks. I recommend using Genki 1, Genki 2, and An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese in order.
You will not use the textbook like a textbook. You will merely take out sentences from the textbooks in the order of the lessons provided. Ignore all of the silly exercises, drills, and vocabulary lists. Doing these will provide you with very little return.
Since the 3 textbooks go in order, it is very easy to go add sentences that build upon one another. Your aim should be to have one new word (grammar, name, new vocabulary, city, particle, etc) in every new sentence you add. Obviously at the very beginning, it will be very difficult to have only one new word since you don’t know any words. So you will have to start with sentences where you don’t know 1-2 words. Try to avoid going above that.
Here is what a card you add should look like:
Your beginning sentences may progress in something like the following order:
Ex. Sentence 1: “こんにちは” : Hello
Ex. Sentence 2: “こんにちは、先生”: Hello teacher <– adding 1 new word
Ex. Sentence 3: “先生は綺麗”: The teacher is beautiful <– adding 2 new words
Ex. Sentence 4: “日本は綺麗”: Japan is beautiful <– adding 1 new word
Ex. Sentence 5: “日本が好き”: I like japan <– adding 2 new words
Ex. Sentence 6: “バナナが好き”: I like bananas. <– adding 1 new word
Ex. Sentence 7: “
バナナは綺麗“: Bananas are beautiful <– Bad sentence because adds no new words (exception is if you really don’t understand a word and want a few examples)
(Update: You should add audio to all your J-E cards using the easy GoogleTTS plugin or Awesome TTS plugin. Details of use with Anki 1 are found here. Installation with Anki 2 is far easier, so use this post as reference.)
Q: I understand the idea, how do I physically do the reviews?
1. You see the sentence: 私は馬鹿です
2. Say the sentence out loud and try to understand what the sentence means. Do not translate the sentence to English in your head. Your goal is to understand the sentence, not translate it. At first English may pop into your head, but eventually it will disappear and you will just understand the sentence.
3. Writing out the sentence is optional (I usually do not)
4. Hit the answer key.
5. Check the answer against what you said.
6. Choose 1 if you messed up on the pronunciation or didn’t understand a word or the full sentence. Choose 3 if you knew the sentence.
7. When the sentence gets repeated again soon after, choose 2 regardless of whether you get it right or wrong.
Q: How much kanji go in the question part of the sentence?
As many as possible. If there is a kanji for the word, you put the word in with the kanji. The point of using Anki to learn sentences is to learn how to read natural sentences, which of course have kanji in them.
Q: In the English area, am I putting in the translation of the sentence?
No. You are putting in the translation of the new word(s). You don’t want to be translating the sentence. The beginner textbooks usually give the full translation of the sentence. You use only the new words. The only exceptions are very short sentences or set phrases (ex. good morning, welcome home), and in the very beginning of using Anki for sentences, which is where you may need the full English translation as a hint. But try to avoid full sentence translations at all costs as this will only hinder your pace.
Q: How long should it should it take me to finish the 1000 sentences?
Around 1-4 months depending on your pace. If you add 30 sentences a day, it will take you around 1 month. If you add 10 sentences a day, it will take you around 3 months.
If you are doing RTK and J-E at the same time, expect around 4-8 months total.