Word Web: My recent learning method for japanese

I would like to describe my current “busy-persons” learning method for Japanese. I call it the Word Web. Please let me know if this is similar to existing methods. It is pretty simple but effective for me.

I think it is quite conducive to LingQ, but could be applied in many learning situations, even just with paper and pencil.

First a few notes about my learning:

I spend about 60 to 90 minutes a day in study, mostly on the train on my smartphone using a well known free flashcard app.

Although I love LingQ, as it made me believe that I could learn something as an adult (it inspired me to refresh my French and Japanese to new heights), I did discover some personal pain points with which my method addresses.

LingQ Pain point 1:
Although I can see the benefits doing it, I quickly get bogged down and bored with flashcarding. Word targets seem too disjointed and disconnected from text as a whole.

LingQ Pain point 2:
I cannot always be patient with listening or reading long texts with only a sketchy grasp of the overall story or argument. Furthermore, it is sometimes difficult to find really interesting content. To be honest, I am not even that avid a reader in English. Reading for me in English or any language is mostly a tool for learning, usually not really a pleasure in itself, unlike music or a movie.

Word Web addresses these pain-points simultaneously by making the flashcarding a more interesting challenge, and by reducing the standard “text” to one sentence to be mastered. I do not have to fight my wandering mind. In addition, it engineers the incidental review of recent target words while looking at new words. Finally, the memories it creates are not only of words, but of how they mesh together in sentences.

The Method:

First I generate about 100 or so vocabulary from just random browsing on the internet, LingQ or anywhere.

Then, using a dictionary, I make a flashcard for each word. On one side, the word, on the other side, I have the hint (definition), maybe some pronunciation notes, and as many example sentences as I can find (at least 3-4)

When i review, I review not only for the hint or meaning of the word, but for the sentences. That is, I must feel confident of the target word meaning AND that I can read each example sentence with a sense of easy understanding, as if they were being voiced by a native speaker in my imagination. If I fail in any respect, it goes into the “review soon” pile, IF I succeed, the “review later” pile. I will only review the latter when there are no more of the former left.

If there are words in the example sentences that I do not know, I create more flashcards for each one, with the same criteria: at least 3-4 example sentences for each word. In this way, the words branch out via sentences, to create a web.

The advantages of this method are that it treats the sentence as almost the equal to the word as the basic memory target. The sentences literally tie the words together. When you read the sentence that is an example for the target word, you may be inadvertently review other words that will be targets not only for meaning but for how they fit in grammatically. Also, for me, I “feel” more successful when I master sentences, rather than waiting for the elusive aha moment when everything just comes together.

Let me know what you think!

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It sounds good to me, especially if you can find a natural way of picking the sentences you’ll use to branch out to new words. One thing I noticed and found useful recently is that Google Translate would put (target language) definitions and example sentences at the bottom of the screen when I’d type a Spanish word. That gave me seemingly unlimited material for making new flashcards.

I have not tried going out of my way to get multiple sentences for the same word. I can see how that would be useful, but I don’t think I would want multiple sentences on the answer side of a single card (and be quizzing myself on whether I understand them). It would make it less clear whether I got a given card “right.”

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Thanks for the feedback!

Thanks for the Google translate tip. In addition, most good dictionaries have multiple example sentences per item. I am lucky because for my target there is an add-on to my flashcard app that automatically generates them from a database. There is also duolinguo as a source (possibly I do not us it)

About knowing if you are right, I would go with, until you know you are right, assume you are wrong approach. You could also add translations for each sentence and cover them with your thumb or scrollbar.

Sadly the GT tip seems to work best with Spanish. I guess by Duolingo you mean looking at material that people have translated. That could work.

I think my instinct on the second point is based on the advice that the material being tested by a flashcard should be as a simple/indivisible as possible. But that’s probably more important if the program doesn’t have shades of gray between correct and incorrect… I switched to using a homebrew flashcard program, partly over that. (But mostly to have control over the balance of review vs. new material.)

Hi Dooo! Sounds like a great method to me! I do also like to create external flashcards outside of lingq (I usually use memrise which is handy since the app is on my tablet). I also like to sometimes write out new words and phrases and test myself on them later. I find this really does strengthen my vocabulary too. clozemaster.com is a really handy app / website that focuses completely on sentences. I like to take sentences from German on there and learn them. There are over 100,000 + Japanese sentences on there and you might enjoy it in addition to your lingqing.
I understand the impatience with only getting a sketchy grasp of the story or argument when listening to long audio. It happens to me often with German. I often feel like I can see the picture, I know what it is about but I can’t tell you the finer details. I would say keep listening / reading though and be pleased with the fact you at least have some idea of what is happening. This part in your language journey sounds like your on that ‘intermediate plateau’ which is a great place to be but can feel a bit frustrating! Expose yourself to as much of the language as you can as well as your rigorous flashcard scheme and it’ll help.

Thanks FattyLumpkin
You are right, the big weakness of this Word Web is that you are not exposed to long stretches of text so you do not absorb paragraph or composition structure. I will try clozemaster today and report back my opinion.

It is really subjective. I instinctively do not like simple binaries. To each their own :slight_smile:

Will be interesting to see what you think of it! I like to go through the 100 most common words list first as it gives a good repetition of similar words used in similar sentences and I like to go for text input as opposed to multiple choice as I have to think more! That might be a lot trickier though with Japanese (keyboard?) I’m not sure. :slight_smile:

These might help you if you’re doing clozemaster on the web.

I had a look at clozemaster. It think it is fine but I do not think I would stick to it because it does not have the word/sentence snowball effect that the Word Web has.

I will have to admit that I have automated most parts of the process: I can select and look words up in a dictionary (Jisho) and then from Jisho send a given entry directly to the flash card app (anki. ). I have add ons to my flashcard app that automatically find example sentences with translations. Without this it would be much more labour intensive.

I also have TTS enabled for Japanese which helps with pitch accent sometimes.

I looked at it too and I think I’m going to try to incorporate it into my routine (though maintaining my streaks there and here will be really hard…). Definitely going to use it for Chinese and Cantonese (which has text-to-speech, even!). I really like the idea of getting a bunch of vocabulary breadth without having to go look for the words.

My biggest concern (aside from the material not being the same experience as going through a real, natural text) is whether the quiz modes will work for me. Multiple choice is great because I can try to deduce answers I don’t actually know, but on the other hand it can be extremely easy to deduce the answer sometimes, and the site can’t know whether I actually knew the answer or just got a lucky draw of options. But if I do the “type in the answer” mode I think it would make progress too slow to tolerate.

I think this might be a really painful way to start learning a new language, but I’m awfully tempted to try.

I’ve done this a lot with clozemaster on my Russian which is virtually non-existent. I do the basic 100 words bit in Russian and I am very slow lots of mistakes but then I start to parrot what the sentence is from the audio and start to get used to the words and sentences (slowly mind). I get too bored with it to do it every day but I do keep meaning to put the effort it. I do think it is potentially very effective!