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Why can't I memorize vocab?

coremu12

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I've been using Memrise for learning vocab, and it's just going awful. I review the words a few times a day. Each time and everyday I miss the same words. After a few weeks I may finally get a few of the words right, but after not having the words for a few days I just start missing them again. I've been using the Core 2000 decks in Anki too. It goes better than Memrise, not missing nearly as many, but still seems I'm pretty slow at learning. Am I just not cut out for learning Japanese or what?
 
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Isolated memorization doesn't work well for me either, it's not just you.

What helps me is to write sentences using the words and submit them on Lang-8 for correction.

Words I read, write and speak tend to stick better. Hearing them helps, but it's tough to stop a person every time I need a definition. It's no fun for a communication partner, and so I usually just guess and hope based on context.
 
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It might just mean flashcards don't suit you.

Suggestions (learning styles vary so try different things to see what works for you):
Work new words into example sentences (which is why grammar and vocab practice go together). Silly example sentences can help.

I find that saying a word while writing it or reading aloud cements memory better than reading/writing with no verbal component.
 
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Not much more I can add, other than to try and use vocabulary in your everyday life. For example, when saying 'Good evening' to a friend, try and say it in Japanese. It annoys some people - but if they are true friends they will forgive you. :D
 

Mike Cash

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Does your learning consist solely of trying to memorize vocabulary items? What else are you using or doing? It is very hard to remember new vocabulary minus some context and/or the opportunity to use it or see/hear it being used around you.
 
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A good way to make vocab stick into your brain is to see/hear it used in everyday life, not just your study environment.

墜 and 落 on-readings may be hard to memorize, but after you've heard "tsuiraku" a couple of times in some news broadcast - both on-readings should become no-brainer.

You may have hard time recalling how to say "enforce/carry out" in japanese, but once you've seen a banner. notifying you that 防犯パトロール実施中, you'll use 実施 without hesitation when the need arises (the banner may also encourage you to add 中「ちゅう」 to kango words to imply the "ongoing" meaning)

藤 character may look insanely difficult to write with it's 18 strokes and rare radicals, but after you've seen a name plank with 佐藤 (Satō) written on it for a third time (quite possibly all three on the same street ;)) 藤 will become as easy to write for you as 月 .

It may be confusing to tell the difference between all the onomatopoeic words, but after some Yuki-chan from your favourite anime rubs her cheek against her muffler exclaiming 「フワフワ」 you should distinguish "fuwa-fuwa" as "soft, fluffy"

The point i'm trying to make is that your brain may not take your learning environment seriously. And feasibly so. But if your brain realizes that some piece of vocab is actually being used in reality (in contrast to your learning environment) - it should regard that vocab as important, and not as something to forget easily.
 
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Coremu12 san,

Here are a few practical tips to remembering vocabulary:

1. Review at night in bed before you go to sleep. Ten or 15 minutes before your eyes close. This is just one study...there are quite a few more you can find online:
Study Before Bed for Significantly Better Retention

2. Engage as many senses as possible when you learn new words
As Nekojita san said, write it (physically), see it, say it. When I say "see it," I mean see it as you write it AND imagine it as well. See the representation of the word vividly in your mind. Sure, there are some words that are hard to visualize, but you should be able to come up with something for most words. This is also a good chance for you to practice your writing in hiragana, katakana, or kanji.

3. Play with the words
As you're writing, try and make a sentence or two with the word.
Ex. denwa (phone)
1. Write the word. Write, write, write. Say it, see it.
2. Write a short sentence and say it out loud. Denwa wo kakeru (to call someone). Denwa de tsutaeru (to tell someone [something] by phone)

4. While you're at it, learn the particle that comes frequently with that word
Is it a "ni" or a "de?" "Wo?" Ex. Au (to meet). Au takes the particle "de" before it when you're talking about a location/place (eki de aimashita = I met [her] at the station; resutoran de aimashou = let's meet at the restaurant). It takes a "ni" when you're talking about a "who" (Ex. Obama daitouryou ni aimashita = I met President Obama). You can even string a longer sentence together here. Eki DE Obama daitouryou NI aimashita = I met President Obama at the train station. (If you REALLY want this to stick in your memory, make it a dramatic scene out of a movie...and make the person you meet your...ahem...significant other. Or your dream significant other.)

5. Review, review, review

Hope this helps. Don't get frustrated. Like Steve Martin said, "(Foreigners) have a different word for everything."
That's truly the case for a language like Japanese. Stay consistent, work hard, and one day it'll "click" for you.
 

Mike Cash

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A good way to behave on forums is to participate in threads that one has started and to at least acknowledge having read the replies of strangers who have taken time out of their day to be helpful.
 
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My way of studying vocabulary is using the Anki program and making flashcards with an image related to the word or expression, and the answer in kanji+hiragana. If finding an image is too hard, I just write a sentence with the expression in it (a blank space). I personally prefer it to memorizing the word in my native language.
 

coremu12

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I'd tried writing some before, writing a word as I missed it. Got rather discouraging, and boring, though, after writing the same word so much.

My problem with writing sentences or using Lang-8 is my known vocab is quite small and depressing. I have trouble writing most simple sentences. I can introduce myself and ask where a few things are, other than that I get rather lost.

I always say the words and sentences aloud, a few times when studying.

I try using what I do know in daily life. Helps for somethings, but other words don't seem to come up too often.

As started in the first post; "I've been using the Core 2000 decks in Anki too." It's going good, I can memorize the translations of the sentences. The problem though, is I'm just memorizing translations of sentences. It's rough to use the words there in my own ways.

Most all of my music is Japanese, so I am hearing it used quite often outside of my studies. Rather rare for my to actually know what's being said though. I have seen and been able to recognize some words and kanji in manga before, so I understand the point being made. Where I live is not diverse at all, so not a lot of real use Japanese outside what I can find on the net.

I do review at night before going to sleep. I guess I try physically writing more.
How is English in Japan? I've had friends say they made it fine there having really poor Japanese.

Images do seem to help, they're nice in Anki. Haven't tried too much of making my own lists though.

Some words with similar meanings really confuse me. 親友 and 仲良し for example.

Thanks for all the replies, tips and help.
 
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It's easy to get by in Japan with only English, but one limits oneself to people who speak English and the topics they care to discuss.

As much as I appreciate the lengths to which people have gone in order to accommodate my poor Japanese, it is ultimately a truism that it leads to the most superficial experience of a culture when one cannot read and understand the language. I've given up a pretty cushy job and life to take on opening a business in Japan in large part because it throws me into the deep end of the pool... That's where one needs to be if one wishes to become a swimmer. So when your friends say they made it fine, it may be true, but it may not be true that you would be happy with that experience.

Coremu12, I also feel, on a daily basis, that my Japanese is insufficient and lacking. I empathize with you. I'm the type of person who is never satisfied with anything less than mastery and there are no shortcuts in language learning. What I can say with surety is that by practicing writing and being corrected, practicing reading at a level I can understand, practicing speaking with an attentive teacher who corrects me, and practicing listening with a teacher who checks my comprehension all helps me improve.

I'm starting to realize that the difference between success and failure in learning Japanese is really as simple as ignoring feeling like a failure until I finally feel like a success. So when I post on Lang-8 75% of my sentences need corrections... That's fine. When I speak to my teachers almost every utterance needs some correcting... That's fine too. When I read I need to consult the dictionary on a constant basis... No worries. When I listen I need to ask about something every few sentences... It's just part of the process. Part of learning Japanese, for me, is learning humility and patience. These are good lessons anyway.

Good luck to both of us!
 

Mike Cash

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I strongly suggest getting a good textbook to learn from. This isn't just a matter of vocabulary. Learning more grammatical structures will broaden the repertoire of things you are able to express and give you greater opportunities to reinforce your vocabulary acquisition through practical application.
 

nice gaijin

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if you want to remember words, look for opportunities to use them. Also, make mistakes; you learn from those too
 
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do you have an idea of how many hours have you invested in japanese at all ? How many words are you trying to learn per day? How much of japanese grammar can you comprehend? What is your JLPT level (in case you have done the test before)?

These are all important questions, you could be expecting to learn more than your actual efforts/knowledge allow you too.

Vocabulary will make its way easier through you by use, but do not expect to absorb 20 new words per day and master their 使い方/使い分け right away. You can only comprehend things to a certain degree and its always going to be higher than your ability to express yourself, thats normal.

I've invested at least 2 hours per day(with a few days off), since February-2013, when I started my studies. Used a few textbooks since then, daichi, minna no nihongo, kanzen master and nihongo sou matome.

Text books will provide you enough knowledge about grammar. The "cement-for-words" that will help you create and understand complex ideas and structures, adding meaning to the words, what certainly helps in memorization.
 
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