単語 – Vocabulary

When we are learning with a textbook, at the beginning of a chapter we usually get a huge vocab list, which we have to memorize. There are certain categories like 名詞 (Nouns) or Adjectives and Adverbs, under which the words are grouped, but the words themselves are a random mix. There are no sub-groups like Sports when we learn words like 野球 (やきゅう) baseball, スキー ski, or ゴルフ golf. All we get is a random list, with several dozen words, and it is our task to feed our brains with those new pieces of information.

Following you can see a random list taken from げんき 2 with which i currently learn.

  • じしん                                   地震                          earthquake
  • しめきり                               締め切り                   deadline
  • ジャケット                                                               jacket
  • しゅうかん                           習慣                           custom
  • ぜいきん                              税金                          tax
  • そつごうしき                        卒業式                       graduation ceremony
  • ちず                                     地図                           map
  • でんち                                  電池                           battery
  • にわ                                     庭                               garden
  • はっぴょう                            発表                           presentation
  • ばんぐみ                              番組                           broadcast program

All in all there are 46 words to memorize in this lesson. But it does not end with just memorizing random words in a lesson. There are also grammar points that we have to learn, how to conjugate verbs, how to build a sentence, among other things. So what are we to do when we have to learn a list of words? Of course! We learn them, and later on we create flashcards, or input all the information into our SRS, to review the words many times until we are able to retain them. What about Grammar points? SRS!

And how do we do it? Are we organizing the information? No! We are adding words, one after the other, until we have a huge list of words, we have to review. The information contained in a flash card consists of 平仮名 (ひらがな), 漢字 (かんじ) and the English translation. Some people also tend to add an example sentences to their flashcards, for the sake of having some context, and not just a random word. It can be anything, a piece of a dialogue in which the word is contained, or a random sentence, with a random grammar point you don’t even know.

Logic tells us that there has to be a better way to organize things. And when we start to organize vocabulary, we are manipulating the new knowledge, and we are actively using some of the things we learned. In this case words. So, if, instead of having a list of thousand nouns, adjectives, and verbs we are going to start to make a new list, we will be able to memorize things faster. Here is an example list which only contains vocab having to do with school or school life.

学校

  • せんせい           先生          teacher
  • せんもん                             専門                       major
  • しけん              試験                            exam
  • しゅくだい          宿題                            homework
  • そつごうしき                       卒業式                        graduation ceremony
  • はっぴょう                           発表                            presentation
  • ….

This is much better, because you have something, you can attach the information to. When you would have a list concerning weather, it would contain words like 風 (かぜ) wind, 晴れ (はれ) sunny weather, 雪 (ゆき) snow and 雨 (あめ) rain.

Once you have done this, add the words to your SRS, and give the words that fit into a certain group a tag, like 学校. After that you should add an example sentence to your flashcard. But not just a random sentence from a dialogue, that contains the word, or some sentence you found on the internet. No! Create your own sentences. In that sentence you can apply what you have been learning in a lesson. For instance, if you have learned how to form a verb+みたいです sentence, you could write something like:

あの人は森先生みたいです。
That person over there looks like Prof. Mori.

If it’s a verb you have to learn, you could conjugate it to a different tense in your example sentence:

先週の週末は映画を見に行きました。
Last weekend i went to see a movie.

You can also toy around with your vocab outside your SRS. If you learn a simple word like 本 (ほん) book, grab a post-it, write 本 and stick it to a book you read often. When you learn how to use counters, you can add that information later on as well. In the end it all comes down to making the most of what you have learned. And to make the memorization process as fun and easy as possible. The key is to use your vocab, as often as possible, and in any way you can think of.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s