Learning Japanese through Flash Cards vs. Textbooks — 14 Comments

  1. I prefer anki flash cards as my primary method, with textbook style explanations (like tae-kim) available to fill in the gaps if I don’t understand something or if I want to know a little more detail. I’ve tried studying primarily with normal textbooks before, but I always get bored and quit.

  2. I prefer linked flash cards, and Jalup Next is king. For me, textbooks feel overwrought and inert when compared with well-designed flash cards.

    A great deck of flash cards comes to life: once we complete the first review/card addition, we have set the deck in motion, and the next card pops up–game on, we’re interacting with Japanese now, getting caught up in the motion, racing toward the finish line, one in a graduated sequence of many finish lines.

  3. I liked textbooks well enough – I’m one of those learners that benefits from information overload in a way – one concept at a time to *learn*, but reading all the background (without the specific intent to learn it) seems to really help me. Actually, for this reason beginner textbooks don’t work for me – I really hate the oversimplifications. I prefer to use intermediate/advanced textbooks to really dig into the concept or word I’m trying to understand in a technical way. But then, I’m super interested in languages and linguistics in general, and I know what they mean by all the terms (participle, present progressive, relative pronoun, all that jazz).

    Flashcards, though, make learning much faster and more efficient. The examples and background can be gained through immersion plus selective reading of more advanced textbooks (I like the Dictionary of Japanese Grammar, though I’d love to hear about a better one). they also allow me to pace myself and set goals more easily, so I’m using them. It’s not an either or for me; if I was using a textbook, I’d still make sentence flashcards, because it gets sentence examples into your head and saves your ass on the “what should I study today” and “what should I review today” front.

  4. I use a textbook in class, and use Anki/Memrise for extra vocab and grammar practice. I always think you should use at least 2 different methods to get the best of both worlds.

    • And even if you don’t use 2+ methods, at the very least try a few methods first, so you can see what works for you.

  5. Anki with the Jalup decks works great. So much more efficient than a book for me. Daily goals are clear. No trying to figure out what to study next. I know it works because is I’m actually confidently reading and engaging in simple Japanese conversations after only a year.

    SRS is truly the way to go. Wish it was around back when I was in Med school. It would have made it much easier!

  6. I didn’t even know how to properly use a textbook until I came across anki. It wasn’t until I found the Jalup decks that I was able to get past the beginner stage. The quality of the deck makes a huge difference, make sure you are happy with yours.

    I recently started studying Spanish. I told myself I wasn’t going to use anki. I gave it an honest try, I did the best I could and now I’m building my own deck from the textbook using anki. I can’t seem to get away from it.

  7. I’m a hybrid learner. I like going over the textbook and exercises to make sure I’ve really learned the concepts and know how to apply them, then I review the example sentences in Anki to make sure they stay learned.

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