Are you having a hard time remembering Japanese words and phrases? Do you find that you can learn them easily, it’s just recalling them that gives you a tough time? If you said yes, then let me tell you about the best Spaced Repetition software for memorizing Japanese so that you never forget again.
I will first explain what a Spaced Repetition System (SRS) is and how it works.
After that I will talk about where you can get some free software to let you harness the mighty power of SRS.
What Is Spaced Repetition?
Basically, it’s flashcards on steroids.
Spaced Repetition is a System that organizes when you review certain information throughout time. The frequency of when a word or phrase reoccurs is based on how well you remembered it the last time you were tested.
What studies have shown is that once you learn something new, your memory of it begins to fade. When you review that previously learned information, the lifespan of your memory for it gets extended.
Once you’ve reviewed it enough times, you remember it forever.
But not all information is remembered equally.
Some things are really easy for you to remember. Some things are really hard. Should you review them all with the same frequency? Probably not.
As an example, if you are tested on the meaning of the kanji 日 and you get it right away, SRS will push out the next review of it a few days. Then when you are tested on it again, if you still remembered it easily, then it will push the next review out a few weeks.
The pattern continues until you’re only reviewing things once a year, if ever again.
On the other hand, if you come across 自己紹介 and you blank on it, then SRS is going to show it to you again tomorrow.
This pattern of pushing the easy stuff out further and further continues so that you spend the most time reviewing the stuff that is hardest for you personally.
Can you see why some people don’t like SRS at all? It’s because you spend most of your time on the difficult stuff since the easy things are sent far off into the future.
Even though it’s not the easiest way to lock in information, it really is invaluable once you start to get into hundreds and thousands of words, phrases, and kanji.
Reviewing 20 kanji a day is no problem. Reviewing 2,000 kanji a day is unpractical. So it’s best to just review the 20 kanji that need reviewing the most, right?
That’s basically what SRS is and how it works.
What Kind Of Information Should You Use It With?
The information that you want to remember is stored on flashcards within the SRS. This allows you to put any part of the Japanese language you want into the system for you to review and memorize.
You can memorize Hiragana and Katakana with it.
You can memorize all 2,000+ daily use kanji with it. And in fact, the author of Remembering the Kanji recommends you do exactly that so your review sessions don’t take all day.
You can memorize vocabulary or grammar rules with it.
And my personal favorite, you can memorize complete Japanese sentences with it.
Since you can create multiple decks of flashcards, you could have one devoted to helping you remember the meanings of kanji, and then you could have another that’s focused on conversational Japanese phrases.
SRS works with all information (even non-language stuff), since the system is really about when you are presented with information, rather than what that information is.
Where Can You Get It?
Since SRS is so popular within the language learning community, almost everybody uses it in their own programs. Memrise might be the most well-known for it, although they certainly aren’t the only ones to do so.
But as it turns out, you can get just the software for SRS so that you can put your own information into it to fit your specific needs.
Kind of like creating your own course, designed specifically for you.
Back in the day, the best known people were SuperMemo when it came to the SRS game. They were pretty much the standard for a long time.
But more recently a competitor known as Anki has superseded them.
One of the biggest advantages of Anki is that it in insanely customizable. If you can think something, then you can probably put it into one of the flashcards in Anki:
- Regular words
- Audio recordings
- Answers that require you to type in the answer
- and much more
What this means is that Anki can be adjusted to fit your individual goals and needs perfectly, whereas others can’t
Anki is the one that I personally use, and is (in my experience) the best SRS software for memorizing Japanese.
You can get it for free by going to their main website and downloading it. The only version of the software that costs money is the iPhone app. I believe the reason is because the creator uses the proceeds from it to support everything.
What Should You Do With It Once You Have It Installed?
You might have noticed that I kept saying that it was perfect for memorizing/reviewing Japanese words? I actually don’t like to use it to learn completely new things. Instead, I use it to lock in what I’ve already learned from other sources like books and courses.
You can use it however you like, I just know what works best for me personally.
I’ll be coming out with a video in the near future where I go over exactly how I use it. You can watch it if you’d like to pick up a few tips and ideas for your own personal studies.
What’s really great about Anki is that you can sync your decks across multiple devices. That way you can review the information whether your at home on your computer, or on the bus heading to work.
Have you ever heard that saying “learn a language in 10 minutes a day”? I don’t really think 10 minutes a day is enough to learn a new language, but it’s certainly fine to review stuff that you’ve previously studied.
SRS is perfect when you don’t have a lot of time each day to devote to Japanese.
Is SRS The Magic Pill Of Language Learning?
I think that using a great SRS software can dramatically increase your progress with Japanese, but by itself it’s not really enough.
After all, you have to actually get the information from somewhere else, and then put it into the system for review.
This post was really just used to introduce you to the idea of using an SRS tool (Anki) within your resources for learning and remembering Japanese.
Like I mentioned, I’ll be coming out with a “How To” video for it soon. Check back often to see when it’s up!
UPDATE: Here is the video! Enjoy!
Have you used any sort of Spaced Repetition System to remember Japanese before?
What works well for you?
Let me know with a comment below!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: