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Using Anki To Learn Japanese Words and Characters Quicker

Posted by on September 29, 2009 in Japanese Study Methods, Japanese Study Tools, Japanese words | 6 comments

japanese flash cards

When it comes to learning Japanese there is a lot to memorize. You need to memorize words, phrases, and three alphabets (hiragana, katakana, and Kanji). Kanji alone has over 2000 characters. So finding the most efficient method to memorize Japanese should be high on our list. That’s where Anki comes in. But before we go into Anki, lets discuss one of the big problems with regular flash cards.

The Problem with Regular Memorization

When I first started learning Japanese many years ago I spent a lot of time reviewing. I had a stack of flash cards and lists of Japanese words and phrases in my notebook. I would continually go over them to make sure that I knew them well. The problem was that I wasted a lot of time because I was spending time reviewing cards I already knew. It was the only sure way to make sure I really knew them. In turn, that wasted time could have been spent studying cards I didn’t know as well to help me learn faster.

Over the years a lot of research has been done on learning and memorization. What they found is that there is a optimum time to review so you remember longer. That optimum time is right before you will forget.  The difficulty with regular flash cards or remembering words out of a notebook is that is impossible to know when you will forget a card/word and when you should review it.

Learning Japanese Words Faster by Using an SRS

Luckily, we have computers now. We may not be able to keep track of how well we know an item, but a computer can. A number of SRS (spaced repetition learning system) programs have been created using algorithms that track your progress and show you the cards you need to see. This helps you speed up your memorization by making your study time more efficient. You spend more time learning the facts you don’t know as well. You also see the cards at the most optimum time.

So Why Anki?

The main reason I prefer Anki over some of the other SRS programs is because it was designed from the start to be used for learning Japanese. For instance, if you add a new word in kanji, Anki will automatically fill in the answer section with a hiragana reading. This reduces the time you spend making cards and lets you spend more time learning them.

In addition, Anki gives you a lot of other options.  You can:

  • Create an online account which allows you to study anywhere ( I use this on my cell phone) and sync your progress with your main computer
  • Created multiple decks for different subjects
  • Create multiple tags in a deck or add priorities
  • Choose the how long each study session is
  • Choose how many new cards you see each day
  • Add pictures and audio
  • Download premade lists (though I generally recommend you create your own)
  • Download plugins to add additional features
  • Choose to hide cards completely once you have learned them well
  • Easily navigate using Anki’s clean, simple interface

So now that you have an idea of what Anki is and what it can do for you. Go and get it! You can find it at the link below:




  1. avatar

    Why not just use http://www.smart.fm – uses a far more advanced version of the basic memorization algorithm and has built in lists for various japanese goals.

  2. avatar

    Jamie, Thanks for the comment. Smart FM is another great tool and one I am planning on writing about. I actually met the guys who created it when it was first coming out (though it was only available for English learners back then). The thing I prefer about Anki is that I can use it on my computer without internet access and also from online. I prefer the control over my study material.

  3. avatar

    Anki seems like a great tool. I’ve been using all japanese resources I can find from podcasts such as JapanesePod101 to programs like KanjiGold to other resources.

    Will definitely check it out! 🙂

  4. avatar

    Vaasco, Anki is a great tool. It is easy to use, and will help you learn faster and save time. Highly recommended.

  5. avatar

    Anki is now the best tool out there since Smart FM requires a paid subscription

  6. avatar

    you can download Anki file for learning Japanese vocab, Kanji (based on JLPT level) at japanteki.blogspot.com

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