Advice for learning Japanese and building vocabulary?

Hi. I've been studying Japanese for a while and have got a pretty decent handle on a good bit of it. Particles, pronunciation, sentence structure, hiragana and basic grammar are not much of a problem. However, I've been having trouble with learning vocabulary. I seem to move very very slowly through it and would like to know if anyone has any tips or learning programs (written, audio, whatever) that would help.

Also, if anyone knows where I can find a list of more important/useful words (other than extreme basics such as "hai," "watashi," "konichiwa," etc) then that would be of great help.

I'm currently using Japanese for Busy People, Living Language's Ultimate Japanese, Subliminal Japanese (not helping.) and making about 20 new flash cards a week.


Thanks for the advice guys. Keep it coming. I actually watch a lot of japanese films, listen to a lot of music, etc. Also used to have a teacher, but sadly, I don't have access to him anymore. Maybe I SHOULD see if I can find some friends though.

Also, no, I'm not in Japan. Southern US, actually. o.<

7 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Use them in sentences.

    Write the sentence in English, with the English meaning of the word.

    The next day translate it int Japanese. Check if it correct, and if not, make another sentence with the mistaken word, which to translate the next day.

    For example, if the word is shacho (president of a company)

    you can write

    1st day: Mr Yamada is the president of this company

    2nd day (translation) Yamada -san wa kono

    kaisha no shachou desu.

    It worked for me...It's worth trying,then you'll comprehend , not memorize the meaning and usage of the words.

  • 4 years ago

    Good job about hiragana (ひらがな) and katakana (かたかな). It is key to be able to read these alphabets first. However, you've reached the hard part. Kanji (the characters, 漢字) is extremely hard to learn, but you really have to start on the first 100. In Japan, first graders learn the 100 kanji; I'm sure you can too. The problem is grammar and vocabulary. The only good way to do this is through interaction with a Japanese speaker. It seems like you can't do this, and there is no free website or anything that I know of that tutors you for free. You should probably start by looking up vocabulary lists and memorizing them, and also mastering the participles (は、が、で、etc.). These participles are KEY to understanding Japanese; these letters can change the full meaning of the sentence. Another good way is to watch Japanese videos with subtitles. This can be anime, drama, or just anything; they just need to be subtitled. However, because English grammar and Japanese grammar are very different, the subtitles don't match the order of Japanese words correctly. So be cautious with this way. The only good way really is tutoring. Maybe a local community college offers a course? Look into it. Good luck! あなたならできる!(You can do it!)

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I hate a lot of the vocabulary books out there because they're all romanji, which is a complete waste of time for anybody who needs a book to expand their vocabulary! I have "Japanese Vocabulary for Speakers & Readers" (ISBN 4590007061) which I purchased at Kinokuniya San Francisco. It's cool because it's got the kana, and it's divided into useful categories, so you can choose vocabulary that actually interests you and that you are likely to learn.

    I think you also reach a point where you just have to read to get the vocab up. You will notice that you keep coming across the same words over and over again. Keep some paper handy, and create your vocab lists as you go. That way you are hopefully learning the most commonly used, useful terms first.

    I also love to get those flashcards with the ring through them and toss them in my purse/ car, etc. When you have 2 minutes at a red light or 10 minutes at the post office, instead of staring off into space, I am learning the word "shamoji," which is that flat wooden rice spatula thingy.

    Who knew?

  • Smiley
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Sounds like you are putting a lot of effort into it! What has been helping me is having a teacher teach me privately (you could probably find someone online or through a chat room). We have been doing the text "Minna no Nihongo" its all in hiragana and Kanji (with furigana) but I have the translation version as well so I can pretty much do self study if I have the time. It also helps to do a lot of repitition and sentence practice, to try using the words in different contexts to practice their usefulness. Sometimes I do this on my own, then ask her if it is correct later on.

    I also ask her questions about how to say certain things and she tells me. I write them all down. A lot of words I have completely forgotton over the years, but I have looked in my notes and remembered them. Also, living in Japan helps a lot, because once you learn a word, you hear it over and over and over and over again!


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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    You are doing the right thing..but you focus a lot on textbooks..the best is to have lots of Japanese friends or attend any meetings or parties that you would encounter native speakers.. Get out and explore..go to park, watch Japanese movies, karaoke.take a short trip..etc .then you'll see the difference.. and improvement..then review your textbooks.

    listening is the Beth learn as you hear the words over and over again...

    .then go to the next level...

    keep up the good work...

    btw..are you in Japan?

    OK..thanks for the reply..

    If there is any community event or schools with International students from Japan..then attend is open for everyone. or try students exchange program or homestays....internet is one of the cheapest and fastest source of learning languages.

    Have fun..

  • Himiko
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    Watch Japanese News and other Shows.

    I learned English that way.

  • shazam
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    best to find a Japanese girlfriend, quickly

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