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It’s funny because I recently wrote a post talking about reviewing less  and ever since I wrote that post I’ve been spending a lot more time blasting through cards in anki.

I’ve got decks going for Japanese, Polish, and Mandarin right now and things are going very well, indeed.  I think it’s due to my new 5 card “limit” per day.

You see, this isn’t really a limit and more of an incredibly low starting point to get you in the flow of doing something(anything) at all in that language. I now often find myself knocking down 5 cards an hour in each deck instead of doing 5 a day. I’ve just really been in the mood lately.

Some SRSing things that work for me:

1. Keep cards extremely short. (I can’t stand massive context clozed deletion cards)

2. Keep your decks to under 1000 cards each. My first sentence deck in Japanese was over 5000 cards and when large parts of it got boring, I felt like it would be too much of a hassle to fix it. If you keep your decks limited to something like 1000 cards, your decks evolve over time with your interests and style to keep you progressing as well.


Just a quick thought about reading Japanese news that may aid in your frustration.

At the beginning of each article there is usually a in-depth description of the location of where an incident occurred. This is written in Kanji and it’s usually very hard to guess the reading unless it’s a very common place that you’ve seen many times.

Forget about it.  Skip all the wards, prefectures, districts, etc… and get the meat of the story. I think many Japanese learners get put off from learning to read the news because the first thing they’re smacked in the face with is ateji names of locations they’ve never heard of before and won’t be able to remember anyway. Skip that crap and let news ease in as a part of your language learning education if you are so inclined.

I’ve really begun to think this lately. A lot of language learners who use an SRS (Spaced Repetition System) for memorizing sentences and vocabulary or what-not spend a very large amount of time reviewing rather than exploring in the language.

Lately, I’ve been focusing a lot on words when I initially encounter them. If i think they’re interesting or they have a kanji in common, I’ll write them down on my whiteboard or a post-it note and stick them on my wall by where I sit. When they’ve been up on my wall for a about a week, I just erase the board or throw the notes away. I then repeat this process as I go push through the language in the wild.

As far as SRS goes. I think the reviews should be snorlax-level lazy.I’m doing 2 main decks now. A Japanese deck and a Polish deck.

I have them set to show 2 new cards a day and the sessions are set at a 5 card max. Obviously 3 old cards and 2 new cards if there are any in queue. If I really feel like it, I’ll go further along in the decks for more reviews but most of the time, I don’t.

After you get to a certain level in a language, the huge review sessions are almost counter-productive in my opinion. If you’re going to use an SRS, be very restrictive on the time you spend on reviewing content and better utilize than time by letting your brain have a chance to be exposed to more and more new words and content.

When I was going heavy into the 10,000 SRS sentences project for learning Japanese, I barely ever reviewed more than 30 sentences a day. I spent most of my time adding cards and trying to read them in a Japanese accent when I entered them. I feel my Japanese is at a respectable level and the core of my knowledge came from that period. I think I got to around 5,500 sentences before I got bored with the method and starting playing with Japanese in other ways.

Hopefully you all will get some use out of these kanji ladder examples.

Similar radical ladders: Heisig devotees gotta love the turkey radical.



Same kanji ladders:






Lately, I’ve been doing a lot more deep thinking to increase my reading speed and recognition of kanji. Most errors in my readings come from the kanji that look very similar to other ones.  I’ve taken to learn these kanji in groups in their jukugo context.

For example, taped to my wall next to me are the words 斜め 塗る 徐々に 除く。 These words have a radical in common and studying them in this context really makes the brain hone in and focus on the differences in each character.

Also, start laddering words with common kanji together to make extremely quick progress: 優しい、優秀、秀逸、免許、許す、許可。 It’s that simple.

I hope you get the point of why it’s done like this. I’ve been using this method by surrounding myself with the laddered words on post-it notes all over my apartment and on my whiteboard so they’re inescapable. Also, this post is entitled “kanji meditation” because it works the best if you really take a second to think about the radicals involved in each kanji and how they flow together. I’ve been combining this method with reading to spot the words in the wild and my results have been very encouraging these past few weeks. Give it a try.

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