You sure know it. Every time you open the textbook, there is at least one A4 page full of vocabulary. There are usually assorted words that don’t make sense. For example: today 今日, thief 泥棒, sing 歌う, fish 魚. It can be really hard and time consuming to memorize them. So, how are you supposed to learn new vocab? Come and find out, we have also a freebie waiting for you.
So, you want to learn Japanese much faster? Or you just wonder how to study Japanese? Well, follow these five steps to achieve your goal in no time.
Step 1: Set realistic goals
Put that dictionary away and select 10-20 words that you will learn in one study session i.e. in one hour. Small manageable chunks are always better, because you will see the results much faster and that will keep you motivated.
If you are a busy bee and don’t have much time, lower the amount of words according to how much time you have for self-study. For example, if you have only 15 minutes a day, grab a group of about 3-5 words. That isn’t that much, right?
Step 2: Select relevant words
The key is to select words you can use in everyday conversations. Don’t even try to learn some complicated smart-ass words if you don’t need them for work or other reason. Learn and practice regular expressions. This way, you will save time and learn only relevant Japanese vocabulary.
Download our free essential handbook with 4-week challenge to learn more than 100 words in less than a month.
Start with a meaningful group of words. If you choose the right one, it is much smoother to make associations between the terms. To start, find relations between them. What do they have in common? Let’s say, you have this group of words: Shokubutsu (a plant), Shashin (a photograph), and Toru (to take). Just imagine that you are a photographer who is taking a picture of a plant. Now, add some particles and create a sentence. Not that difficult, huh?
Step 3: Use words in context
It is essential to use words in context. This way, you will learn speaking immediately and practice more terms at once. So, don’t learn a word by word. Learn phrases or practice saying the word in a sentence. For example, don’t memorize a single word bōshi (a hat). Learn bōshi o kaburu (to wear a hat) instead.
Step 4: Use effective methods
We talked about some good study practices in an earlier blog post, so let’s focus on improving learning vocab. The next two approaches are my favorites, because they help you rapid-master the vocabulary.
Don’t learn similar words together
Avoid learning similar or opposite words together. The key to success is making associations. So, if you learn similar words together, you can end up mixing them up. Trust me, been there done that.
Yūki 勇気 – courage
Yuki 雪 – snow
Mnemonics make learning kanji much more easier. Just look at the kanji and think about what it resembles and what is its meaning. Then, make a mental picture or mental connection in your head. Involve your ears as well by saying the association aloud.
Step 5: Review often
It is important to maintain what you have already learned. That means, review often. It is up to you how often you review, but it is recommended to go through the vocabulary at least once a week. So, in other words, learn new terms every day and review them after one week. If it is more convenient, you can review the terms every third day. Involve as many senses as possible. Write the words down, especially kanji, and say them aloud.
Example with “15-minute a day” study session
Our goal will be learning 20 words in a week without any rush. So, set a topic for the week, for example hobbies. If you like to be prepared, create a complete list for the whole week or use our handbook mentioned in step 2. Get a piece of paper, pencil, and heat up your brain. When studying new words, write them down many times, say the meaning, focus on what you are learning, use the words in sentences, and most of all … have fun.
Day 1: Learn first 5 words
Day 2: Learn next 5 words.
Day 3: Review the 10 words from previous days
Day 4: Learn next 5 words.
Day 5: Learn next 5 words.
Day 6: Review the words from day 4 and 5
Day 7: Review vocabulary from the whole week, i.e. 20 words.
5-minute warm up exercise
Write down as many words as you can on a certain topic. For example, are you learning in the morning? Write down every word associated with “breakfast” (asagohan). It can be food-related vocabulary (pan, tamago, tomato, mizu, ocha and so on) or morning activities (shawā o abiru, okiru, taberu etc.). It is up to you.
1-minute word challenge
Another warm up exercise. The goal is to name 20 objects in your room in no more than one minute. Can you do it? It is harder than it sounds.
If you feel like it, make it a bit more harder. Try to name 20 objects on your table or in your fridge. There are usually not so many objects as in your room, so it will be more challenging.
I hope this post helps you learn new vocab, or at least motivate you to start. If you have ideas on other exercises, let me know in the comment section below or on facebook. Ganbatte ne!