What does "studying" look like for you?

Inspired by the JLPT grammar discussion, I am interested to know what “studying” looks like to my fellow Natively readers. (studying in quotations marks since for many of us there is a thin line between “study” and leisure.)

How did you learn grammar? Did you use a textbook, a video course, or no dedicated grammar study at all?

How do you read your books? Digital, Physical? What e-readers do you use? What dictionaries are your favorite?

Do you use flashcards or an SRS? Neither? If you use Anki, what are your settings?

How do you manage your time? Do you dedicate more time to listening or to reading? Do you set listening and reading goals for yourself?

and so on… Please feel free to use this thread for general discussion of language learning methods and habits.

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Currently:

  • No SRS. Used to, burnt out and dropped it.
  • Lots of reading, with and without audiobook accompaniments. Normal adult-audience novels and classic lit are my faves. Not much into light novels or manga but I’ll read anything if it’s interesting. I have a goal of 5000 pages read this year, minimum, currently at ~3300. I don’t count manga, magazines, or web articles in that number.
  • Lots of listening. Goal of 400 hours this year, I’m slacking and only at 160 :sweat: I watch dramas, movies, listen to audiobooks, some podcasts, some youtube.
  • Lots of conversation. Goal of 104 hours for the year, currently at 53. I don’t count unstructured language exchange in these hours.
  • Writing. Lol. I try.

I read physical books on the couch if they’re easy-for-me authors like 赤川次郎 and digital for the rest. If there’s a format a digital book comes in I probably own it.

I started reading books after completing N3 grammar (back in 2020) so I don’t study grammar beyond some googling when trying to tease apart a confusing sentence. I go by feel and that makes me happy.

I use a primarily JP<>JP dictionary but have no qualms about going to English when something confuses me.

I said on a different forum that my primary reason for learning Japanese is “shits and giggles” so I very much try to balance doing-it-for-fun and having some kind of structure to appease my slightly type-A personality. :smiley:

Now you @Drinos :wink:

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The not-so-distant past:

  • I learnt basic grammar and vocab by studying Genki 1 and 2 together with a friend - we did exercises together twice a week.
  • I did conversation lessons with a tutor almost every week.
  • Anki Vocab SRS
  • Bunpro Grammar SRS
  • Weekly VRChat meetups

Currently:

  • I read 夜カフェ 1 | L22 with a WK book club, and plan to transition to similar-leveled material on my own after
  • I play Yo-Kai Watch 1 on the Nintendo Switch.
  • Once per week, I play an online co-op game with the friend I went through Genki with - the game is in English, but we only talk Japanese.
  • Bunpro Grammar SRS
  • Once in a while, I listen to either Let’s talk in Japanese or Nihongo con Teppei
  • Once in a while I watch Vtubers (Hololive) in Japanese if I stumble upon a stream that is on a level that I can actually understand.

…I kinda wish I would do Anki again, since my vocab is still very much まだまだ and it was extremely effective, but I can’t get myself to do it at the moment. And I should really start again with the tutors and the VR chat meetups - both were super useful to improve my speaking!

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Well, if we only talk about currently, I’m not studying, I guess?
Before that, I mentioned it elsewhere on this forum, but basically, I had regular university classes up to N3.
Technically the N3 class was part of a research program at the Japanese university I attended, about teaching Japanese in novel ways. However, it turns out that I ended up in the control group, which was taught the “traditional” way. It was still much better quality than any other class I had, with custom made study material. (I tried to apply again, but sadly, for obvious reasons, you can only participate once). Those classes were the only time I actively learned grammar.

Beyond that point, it was only kanji/vocabulary flash cards. I also started reading manga around N4 and stuck with just reading + (when I felt like it) flash cards until nearly N1. At that point, I switched to reading novels, got the N1, and stopped flash cards entirely. After a couple of years, I noticed that my kanji reading was deteriorating (I knew what the word meant, but I couldn’t voice them out), so I used an app called Wanikani to review those. Through that community, I found two other flash card services: koohi.cafe, which is really nice in that it generates word lists from books based on the words you already know (as in, it only picks the words you don’t know, you can also select for words that appear at least N times in the book) and kitsun.io, which is a better Anki (but not free) with nice preset decks.

The last time I was actively learning, my routine was to read until I add ~20 new words on koohi from my study book and do all my reviews. Then, I would read whatever else for fun.
At some point, the words I was adding were all stuff like 樵 or 礫 and I thought that, maybe, I was fine looking those up if I had to. At that point, I just stopped flash cards entirely.

Both digital and physical. Since I live in Japan, I take advantage of my local library, so those are physical, obviously. Book Off also offers very cheap second hand books, which is nice to be able to read on a budget. That being said, digital books are just really convenient as I can just read anywhere (and they don’t take space).
I use kotobank, which is an aggregator of dictionaries. Having definitions from multiple sources at once is a nice way to get a better sense of nuances.

Free time = reading. That is all.
That being said, I should spend more time practicing listening. I’m getting really rusty on that front, considering I’ve basically avoided in-person social interactions as much as possible for the past two years :sweat_smile:

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I am really only “studying” kanji. I am going through Kanji Kentei books and forcing myself to write all the sentences out, to relearn how to write in Japanese. Also using kanji drawing apps for more practice

I review grammar example sentences in Anki. I am still adding interesting “real” sentences with grammar points that I come across. I don’t feel like it is studying because it is so easy and takes very little time.

I need to do shadowing to improve pronunciation.

At this point studying vocab in isolated sentences is useless to me. I also feel like manga doesn’t really help me anymore either. I just need to read, read, read, so that is what I am doing. This site has really helped me with this. I am trying to finish about 20 more books before the end of the year.

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My actual studying right now consists only of occasionally using Kitsun to learn words I found when reading. Everything else is just via exposure and curiosity.

For exposure, I read a lot (novels, light novels, and manga specifically) and occasionally watch anime with Japanese subtitles (but since Netflix blocked my VPN I don’t do this as much since now I have to “acquire” the video and subtitles through other means, which is a hassle). No listening practice beyond anime because I’m not really into podcasts or audiobooks or talk shows or non-animated shows/movies. No speaking practice whatsoever because I don’t know any Japanese people and talking to some random person I don’t know via the internet for practice is very intimidating. I’ve only done self study, so no speaking practice from classes either. No writing practice because I don’t have time for that! :joy: (I mean, learning to write some kanji and trying to pass through Kanken 5 or something sounds like a fun long term goal, but not very high on the priority list right now.)

By “curiosity” above, I just mean that if I see something interesting when I’m reading or that otherwise catches my interest I may look it up (e.g. last year I spent hours and hours reading Japanese Wikipedia math pages and learning arithmetic and geometry terms because I got bored and it seemed like fun :joy:). For grammar stuff, I have a few grammar dictionaries (which I barely ever use if I’m being honest), but particularly I like learning (or relearning as is sometimes the case) grammar from the native Japanese perspective via kokugobunpou.com. I understand why English-targeted grammar textbooks don’t teach grammar that way, as it would be very hard to grasp for someone with no prior experience in the language, but it’s so much more intuitive. I’m not into classical grammar much, but sometimes that catches my interest too, in which case I go to kotenbunpou.com. A few months ago I spent over an hour trying to understand a few panels in うらら迷路帖 that used classical Japanese, and as weird as it sounds, I had a ton of fun.

Also, while I don’t do any speaking practice with others to actually practice producing the language, I do pay some attention to pronunciation and pitch accent. Related to my “curiosity” comment above, I find pitch accent fascinating, so I have spent quite a lot of time reading about it. Generally speaking, I’m very good with patterns, so things like pitch accent and kanji phonetic components are really interesting to me. But learning (or confirming my intuition for) basic pitch accent patterns is the extent of what I’ve spent time on. While I’m good with patterns, I’m bad at memorization, so learning pitch accent for individual words is very unappealing.

That’s basically it. Since most of that is just “when curiosity strikes”, I pretty much do all my “studying” by reading. I do intend on reviewing some N3 and N2 grammar at some point (maybe later this year) in the hopes that it’ll make reading a bit smoother. But formally studying grammar kind of sucks, so we’ll see. :sweat_smile:

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15 or so years ago, I did a BA in Japanese Studies which included (2 years of) Japanese classes. The focus was mainly on grammar and kanji (with a big joyo kanji test at the end) - as the goal was to be able to use Japanese to read primary sources, etc. I haven’t studied grammar or kanji since and definitely have lost a lot (I knew the majority of 1945 kanji at some point :sob:), but I also understand a lot that I don’t even realize is supposed to be difficult grammar, so some things made it into the long-term memory, for sure.

I didn’t really do much with the language for the next 15 years (which I regret immensely but well…).

Nowadays, I get a lot of listening practice and some reading. (Probably at a ratio 3:1)

I do anki occasionally for a bit but I don’t think the time vs. gain ratio is good and I always end up dropping it again. Unless, I ever aim at doing the JLPT, I don’t think I will ever do any proper grammar studying again. I just look things up when I have to. Kanji, on the other hand, I really should start anki’ing again. I have thought about sentence mining only sentences where I can’t read the kanji… vocabulary can be picked up without studying (hello, listening!)… kanji not so much…

Immersion is how I learned English (I didn’t have a name for it back then, but it just came naturally) and I think I got quite good at that. :wink: So, while it might take longer for Japanese, I will get there eventually… right? RIGHT? :smiling_face_with_tear:

Edit: I forgot: I have started “outputting” by being active in chats on youtube. It’s hard. But also fun. Even when you get things wrong. It usually amuses the natives. (Just remember to be polite and not hog all the attention. We are moving in spaces that aren’t meant for us.)

Edit 2: Listening is definitely the major part of my “studying”. :sweat_drops:

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I have gone in depth over here (bunpro forums) but a TL;DR (Still kinda long) summary is:

Daily minimum:

  • Kanji Kentei exercises (3DS Software)
  • Bunpro Grammar
  • Anki Vocab (It mainly comes from Kanji Kentei books)

Periodically depending on time/status of tasks:

  • Kanji Kentei lessons (Textbooks/Workbooks)
  • Reading (Novels/Manga)
  • Watching series without subtitles

Why Kanji Kentei and not XXXXXX/YYYYYY Kanji learning?:

Even though I was a Wanikani sub for years, I’ve never went past level 20ish. The problem with Wanikani and other systems/books is that I feel the order of the Kanji is weird. You can spend a lot of time in these methods and then pick up a book and still not feel like there’s been progress.

Kanji Kentei goes over grade level. This means I can immediately know how doable a book is, if I know the grade. It also gives me reading possibilities since a very early stage.

Also Kanji Kentei doesn’t just teach you the Kanji. It teaches you other nuances like the radicals, antonyms and ALL the readings of each Kanji with examples.

The 3DS software allows me to do SRS/Repetition of the current level I am, while the books allow me to do new lessons in one go.

Tracking

I have my own system for tracking that I don’t miss tasks and that then I can grab global statistics and decide if it’s a good idea to refocus in other areas.

The current system consists of a Kanban Board and something I made myself in PHP (Is kinda crappy/barebones but it does the job).

At the end of the day, it generates a report that is shared in discord servers where we share the progress among themselves.

If anyone is interested in what kind of data/statistics can be taken from this, I’ve also gone over it here

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At the moment I’m not really studying, I guess.

Last year I went trough Genki 1 and Genki 2 for grammar. In the end of the year I tried studying grammar further using Quartet, but I quickly gave up. Grammar is just too boring for me. As for now I look up grammar points if they reappear often, but otherwise I just let it be. At some point I want to go trough Quartet, just reading trough it, without doing any exercises though.

I don’t use any SRS beside Wanikani if that counts. It’s probably just me, but whenever I do SRS I’m fine recognising the words in that environment, but whenever I read them in the wild, I have trouble with this, so I stopped using SRS.

As for Kanji, I go with Wanikani. I have some physical flash cards as well and at one point (end of this year maybe) I will start with them again, because I’d like to be able to actually write all the kanji that I learned. But that’s something for winter, when I have more time.

At the moment I really only read. Read, read, read. I’m still at the N3 levels here (between 20 and 26) but I’m getting comfortable. Currently I’m at the point were it (most of the time) feels like reading and not like deciphering anymore. It helped me tremendously. I remember how I could only do 1 page of a kids book in 2 hours back in January. Now I can read about 20 pages in the same amount of time.
I learned English trough reading (although I’m loosing it a little at the moment) and so I tried the same approach with Japanese and it works.

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My current rhythm alternates reading focused months and study/listening focused months:

In the reading months:

  • 2 hours (minimum) reading a day - mostly VNs and novels/LNs
  • Keep up with SRS reviews, but not adding too many new cards (I use jpdb)
  • Grammar study is limited to just things I look up in a grammar dictionary while reading (I use the monolingual 日本語文型辞典)

In the study/listening months:

  • I try to burst through many more new SRS cards, taken from what I read the previous month
  • I try to get more of a 50/50 split between dedicated listening and reading
  • I work through dedicated JLPT prep resources daily (mostly 新完全マスター but I do like the 日本語の森 grammar videos too)

I used to use Bunpro as well to SRS grammar. I got frustrated with the English headwords since I didn’t learn using Bunpro, and the things I did learn from were monolingual. “Can you say this another way” was the bane of my existence :weary:

JPDB fits well into my rhythm here because it has vocab decks for all the things I read, which saves me from needing to mine “in real time” which is something I dislike doing since I use so many different devices to read (phone, tablet, PC depending on where I am) and I mostly just use the Kindle app.

I try not to micromanage exactly what tasks I’m doing, because I know that would lead to me burning out. So at the beginning of the year I set out a goal of “1000 hours” by December (the JLPT) and just track time against that and do whichever task I feel like emphasizing at the time. The on/off month pattern emerged naturally here due to the Tadoku reading competition ( Tadoku - About). It wasn’t really something I planned out.

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Oh, that looks interesting. Is a shame that the longest contests are during my most busy times, but I’ll give it a shot anyway!

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I’m actually kind of curious how this Kanban board works. What kind of things do you put into it? And do you apply other agile techniques to your learning flow or just the board specifically?

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For now I just use the board, Haven’t looked into the agile techniques to be honest. Doing a quick look at it, I might be doing some of the techniques involuntary, I might look more into it when I have some idle time.

There’s a blog post in Trello about this

Mine is slightly different, it looks like this:

  • Daily: To be started
  • In Progress: Something has been done already but I don’t consider it finished yet.
  • Done: It has been finished for the day.
  • Reported: It has been recorded on my tracking systems.

At the end of the day, I close all tasks in the Reported column and they regenerate on the Daily column.

You can do more advanced stuff like tracking actual time and other things that I just do on my other system.

My system is self-hosted https://kanboard.org/ , but any kanban board system will work, even a physical one.

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Right now:

  • I’m currently focusing on reading without any (or very little) photos to reference.
  • I’ve never used an SRS system before because, according to my old psych professors, I don’t “study” I normally memorize something after writing/reading it for the first time , but I did sign up for Renshuu yesterday because I want to test it out.
  • I run a Japanese discord server, so I do get to dabble in multiple ways of practicing and exercising Japanese, as well as checking out whatever recommendations other people give.
  • Like @Legato, I listen to Let’s talk in Japanese when I’m out on walks with my dog.
  • I make grammar, kanji, and vocab graphics for my discord server and Japanese tumblr blog. And since I do make printables for my small shop, I do a lot of outside research to compile things.
  • I follow a lot of Japanese social media accounts, since that will normally expose me to a lot of slang.
  • I chat a ton with my Japanese friends.
  • I like to translate what I’m reading on a google document and then send parts of it to my Japanese friends for corrections or a discussion on if I understood a sentiment that may not have been explicitly stated in what I’m reading.
  • I am also currently working through re-writing all the notes from my formal years of Japanese education plus finishing writing notes from a custom textbook that my Japanese university had. And then I’ll be going back to the N3 and N2 Nihongo So-Matome series I have in my textbook library on my Natively page.
  • When I was formally in class, I tended to write my vocab list out once, and then make small flashcards for the needed kanji once.
  • I have been recently using Language Reactor chrome extension or a website that puts subtitles in Japanese and English for anime.

[quote=“Naphthalene, post:4, topic:630”]
the N3 class was part of a research program at the Japanese university I attended, about teaching Japanese in novel ways. However, it turns out that I ended up in the control group, which was taught the “traditional” way.
[/quote]

@Naphthalene that sounds so cool omg–are they still researching that?

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That specific project ended (and sadly results were inconclusive). I saw that they were recruiting students for an other project a couple years later, but I don’t know anything about it. Then I graduated and didn’t really check after that, but I assume they still keep doing things like that on a regular basis.

Edit: just gave a cursory glance to the website of the department and it looks like they only have regular classes at this time.

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Like many here, it’s more leisure than study for me at this point. Though, I don’t think I ever really did any “serious” studying. I’m just figuring things out as I go along.

When I started, I used a kanji recognition deck and a core vocabulary deck in Anki while watching videos on grammar from Cure Dolly. After a couple months of that I dropped the recognition deck because I didn’t feel it was too useful to me. Ever since then, I basically just read and mine vocabulary cards while occasionally watching raw anime for listening practice.

The only part of the day that still feels like studying is my daily Anki reviews. I used to start off my day with them but I stopped that because I think it put in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Now, I’m decreasing my new cards per day and starting off with reading first because reading always puts me in a good mood. Plus, I’d simply rather not spend 30-40 minutes a day on flashcards. I have a sort of love-hate relationship with Anki. I love mining words but hate actually reviewing them.

I have been struggling to find a balance between listening and reading but lately I have been leaning towards reading more. I tried to get myself to listen for a certain amount of time a day but I found that it gets a fatiguing if I listen for too long. On the other hand, I can read for hours at a time without any fatigue at all. I love reading more anyway so it never feels like an obligation to do it.

I forgot why I started but it doesn’t really bother me. I don’t think there is anything else I would rather be doing at the moment anyway.

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i haven’t studied almost in a year, since i took the n2 test last july. before the test i did some intense srs for vocab and kanji through renshuu.org to take the n2 in july, as well as watching nihongo no mori on youtube (especially their grammar vids), and also i did attend a japanese class once a week for years - unfortunately, my group got dissolved due to the teacher’s failing health.

after i passed the n2, i stopped studying. i did have daily listening and speaking practice and some reading practice mostly due to my job (my boss is japanese), read a bit, watched some japanese dramas (with jp subtitles), but after a while i felt that i stagnated in my learning, and even with all the japanese input my brain wasn’t actively learning or retaining what new things i encountered.

so now i’m trying to go back to renshuu for drilling vocab if in a more relaxed way than before, because it does help me with retention. i will probably start up on kanji after some time, too. and i decided to practice the vocab one of the books i’m reading (only one because i don’t have enough free time for vocab drilling everything).

i do watch some podcasts on youtube (no audiobooks tho) but that is mostly for fun and as listening practice, i don’t really study the words or grammar structures i find there. and recently i started playing spiritfarer in full japanese, which is the first game i managed to stick with it instead of changing back to english.

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This setup is very familiar :scream_cat:

I also burned out with Anki. This was at a morphman count of around ~8000 after failing the N2 last December by 10 points (28/20/32) mostly by being so slow I didn’t have time to even look at half of the reading questions.

I just decided to ditch Anki with a pledge of “read at least one non-furigana book each month”. I had previously managed ~8 books, mostly children’s books, the previous year.

I started reading on Apple Books, which is okay but the lookups leave a lot to be desired. Then found 10Ten was fixed on TTU and moved to that for a while, before finally biting the bullet and using Android + Yomichan + TTU, which is a great setup.

My current study plan is simply: read 10,000 characters a day. At first that took a upto 3 hours, but I am faster now (depending on the book of course!) No formal grammar study, but yomichan with the correct dictionaries really helps with that.

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How many pages is that, by the way? (On average, I guess, since it must depends on fonts etc)

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It depends but it’s somewhere between 25 and 30 pages.

LN tend to be around 350-400 characters per page on average. Whereas some of the children’s books I used to read were closer to 300.

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