By Daven Lu
Want to step up your Japanese?
This is a routine that I’ve been doing over the past year. I think it’s fairly effective and it has worked wonders for my peers as well. The philosophy of this program is to increase efficiency via software and plugins so you can spend more time actually learning. This method has saved me countless hours of manually throwing words into Anki (if you don’t know what Anki is, see here).
Before I dive in, you’ll have to excuse the references I’ve made.
This program consists of two full brain workouts:
Workout A (reading focused): Anki, NHK News, Light Novel (or manga or visual novel)
Workout B (grammar focused): Anki, Kanzen Master, Light Novel (or manga or visual novel)
You train 5 times a week, alternating between workout A and B. You never train with the same workout two days in a row because your mind needs rest to get stronger (just kidding, it’s to add variety and prevent burnout), the exception being Anki. Anki is NOT for learning new stuff, it’s for reviewing and should be used as such. On your rest days, you continue to do Anki reviews.
The average session takes anywhere between 60 to 90 minutes.
Now to get started. You’ll need:
Anki plugin 2512410601 (Real-time Import)
Firefox with Rikaisama
Kanzen Master Grammar
A book/novel of your choice
- Set up Anki’s Real-time Import
This is how you’ll be able to mine endless amounts of new words.
- Review Abbreviations
It’ll be helpful to know what part of speech you’re learning. Words will be laid out like this: 北海道 (ほっかいどう), (n) Hokkaido. The (n) means noun. The list of abbreviations can be seen here.
- Set a time limit to your study
90 minutes a day feels good to me, but if you feel like you’re burning out, reduce it to 60 minutes a day. If you can’t put in an hour a day, then it shouldn’t be surprising if you don’t feel like you’re progressing after a few months.
Workouts in detail
First, before even getting into your workout, you absolutely must finish your Anki reviews. The time spent reviewing Anki is NOT part of your study routine. It is akin to waking up, taking a shower, brushing your teeth, etc. It is essential that you do everything in your power to finish your Anki reviews every single day. Do it on the train to work, do it while waiting for coffee in the morning, do it while brushing your teeth, do it during your morning meeting at work, do it while walking from campus to home, and do 5-10 cards at a time during small breaks in your day.
“Congratulations! You have finished this deck for now.” Once you see this message or something similar, you can move on to the next part.
Workout A (reading focused): NHK News, Light Novel (or manga or visual novel), Anki
- Go to NHK News
*If you’re around JLPT N3 level, then go to NHK News Web EASY instead.
- Pick an article. Read through it, and upon encountering words that you cannot read or understand, use Rikaisama. Do you think you should know the word? If no, move on. If yes, then with your Anki deck open in the background, highlight the word and press R. You’ve just generated a card and imported it. Do this until you’ve finished the article.
- Was the article easy to understand apart from the new words? If not, go through the article again and google difficult grammar points, ask a native speaker, search Reddit’s r/learnjapanese on Shitsumonday threads, or refer to any other resource of your choice.
- Review the new words. Ideally, you’ve imported a handful of new words. While they are fresh in your memory, use Anki and review them until you see… “Congratulations! You have finished this deck for now.” Congrats, you’ve finished set 1. Exhausted? Stay at 1 set and move on. Did that only take you 5 minutes? Repeat steps 1-4 and do 3 sets total.
- Move on to reading a book of your choice until your study time is up (for me, study time is 90 minutes, and I reach this stage with about 30 minutes left). This should be a fun cool-down from your article. The idea is to keep staying in Japanese for an extended period. As always, add unknown words into Anki. As always, review the new words immediately after adding them.
Workout B (grammar focused): Kanzen Master, Light Novel (or manga or visual novel), Anki
- Crack open the Kanzen Master grammar textbook. Add new words into Anki, and do 2-3 grammar points. Don’t add grammar into Anki (controversial), as grammar can occasionally throw off your Anki rhythm after hundreds of vocabulary words. For grammar, learn by doing the practice problems in the textbook. Review your Anki immediately after adding new words, but as this is a grammar day, make sure you spend plenty of time familiarizing yourself with the new grammar, using the Internet (Google, Japanese stack exchange, Reddit, lang-8, native speakers) to really grasp them.
- If you’re exhausted, move on. If you feel that you can do more, continue step 1 as set 2. Three sets is ideal, but sometimes it’s unrealistic to drill nine grammar points in a single hour at lower levels. If you’re intermediate-advanced, this may only take a few minutes.
- Move on to reading a book of your choice until your study time is up. Add new words, finish your Anki.
This routine is an effective way to drill through native materials while progressing at a fairly reasonable speed. After a month, you’ll have improved enough that most articles will no longer challenge you. After 6 months, this program will naturally shift its focus to just reading native materials as opposed to picking apart articles by nature of the time allocation. By 1 year, you’ll be able to read faster, grasp the main topics quicker, and you’ll have completed at least one whole book. Pretty hype, huh?