What to Do or Not to Do

Here is a list that I copied from Jon Ken Po.  I haven’t had time to explore his site much yet, but I did come across this list of studying tips that I wanted to comment on and pass along.  (His site looks like it might have a lot of good info on it, by the way).


  • Study every day. Woohoo!
  • Study as much as possible Always remember to judge what is possible by your own life not by how much or how little someone else is studying
  • Utilize SRS Anki, Memrise, etc
  • When drilling sentences, only add one unknown word at a time.(n+1)
  • Use comprehensible input
  • Use Japanese mnemonics rather than English mnemonics whenever possible. This a great idea, and it could be expanded to include “use Japanese explanations of grammar whenever possible
  • Ditch as much English as possible i.e. see previous point
  • Plan in advance to avoid running out of study material And, if you are using books, make sure you have the next one before you finish the current one
  • Study during/after exercise (an excited heart rate increases retention). No idea about this one
  • Immerse yourself in Japanese language (music, tv, movies, podcasts, travel to Japan). I like how “travel to Japan” is just tacked on to the list like it’s just that easy…and, by the way, these Japanese sounds could be going on in the background while you do other stuff
  • Focus on vocab as much as possible (especially when first starting out) Based on a later point, he means “to the exclusion of grammar”.  I don’t know.  Vocabulary is obviously massively important, but grammar is necessary too…
  • Study reading, writing, speaking and listening concurrently (they reinforce each other)  I made the conscious decision to put off learning to write (until, well…now, actually.  I just started writing practice!) because I wanted to focus in speaking and listening, but I wouldn’t argue with someone who wanted to include it from the beginning.  I’m sure they do reinforce each other.
  • Use Native Japanese study materials as soon and as often as possible. Yes!
  • “Shadow” native Japanese speakers. (repeat what they say on TV, radio…) I hadn’t thought of this as a study strategy, but I do it without really thinking about it.
  • Make use of every possible minute of study time. (study while waiting in lines, at the doctor…)  Absolutely.  Between tablets, phones and good old fashioned flash cards, you can turned that into good study time.
  • Make use of passive study methods (hang japanese texts around the house, use katakana names on your computer folders…) Makes sense


  • Don’t even think about studying using romaji.  Two thumbs up on this one.  Learn kana and kanji ASAP.
  • Don’t force learning difficult words or kanji (suspend them and come back to them later)  I’m torn about this one.  Sometimes this is what is best for me, sometimes not.  I might add, though, don’t force pointless vocabulary.  My last chapter included things like UNESCO cultural heritage site.  I didn’t waste time or brain space on that one!
  • Don’t study too long in a row (6 30min sessions are better than a 3 hour session)  The brain needs time to rest, so breaks are important
  • Don’t study when you are tired(not as effective as being well rested)  True
  • Don’t Focus on studying grammar (at least at the beginning) You know, I’m going to disagree on this one.  Maybe it’s just a matter of temperament or something.
  • Don’t use study materials that use too much English Right!
  • Don’t use study methods that use only one skill(reading, writing, speaking, listening) to the exclusion of others At least, not all the time, though, again, I have been working on speaking and listening and not on writing.  I still feel like that was a more effective use of my time.
  • Don’t focus on studying on-yomi & kun-yomi (you will learn this by reading and listening) I agree with that one 100%
  • Don’t spend too much time finding the perfect study method Because all that time you spend looking for the perfect study method is time you could have spent studying!
  • Don’t spend too much time reading blogs and forums. Ha!

I have published various lists of study tips, but I keep coming across someone else’s take on them, and, while we generally agree, they may have some points I don’t agree with (but you might!) or they include some things that I never thought of, so I like to pass them on.



2 thoughts on “What to Do or Not to Do

  1. “Use Japanese mnemonics rather than English mnemonics whenever possible.”

    This probably isn’t what you meant, but I found out that in Japan the way people memorise the days of the month that don’t have 31 days is with this mnemonic phrase: “西向く士” (にしむくさむらい)

    Each mora corresponds to a month:
    に = 二月 = February
    し = 四月 = April
    む = 六月 = June
    く = 九月 = September
    And then the character for さむらい, but written “士”, which is supposed to look kinda like 十一, meaning 11, meaning November!

    Since I’ve learned this, it’s actually how I remember the months now.


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