Taking the world less travelled

Divide And Conquer! – A Vocab Post

Posted by on May 12, 2008 in Language | 3 comments

Lately I want to learn a lot of vocab in a short space in time, using a “divide and conquer” type of method like Heisig uses. In Heisig’s remembering the kanji, one does not learn how to use the kanji, just how to recognise and write them.

Same with learning vocab in isolation. You don’t learn how to use the words, only to recognise them. For instance, 仕事 - しごと and 働く - はたらく both mean work. By learning only the word I wont learn in what situations these two words are used. However, when I encounter them in other situations it will:

bullet Firstly, it will cement my knowledge. It will reinforce my memory of the word. When you encounter things you are learning in different situations, it will be more likely that you will remember them.

bullet I will have more of a chance of understanding the sentence. Even though I haven’t seen the word used in context, I will “know” the word and a basic meaning, even if the meaning doesn’t exactly correspond. It means that as I use the word, and encounter it in many situations, I will gain a deeper understanding of it and will eventually be able to do away with the English “keyword”.

bullet Building on the last bullet point, as I encounter the word in other situations, it is then that I will understand the word itself. Does that mean that memorising vocab by itself is a waste of time, and I’m creating more work for myself? I would say no. Now, when I read a text, I can’t understand anything because I don’t know enough words. By memorising vocab in isolation, I can learn a lot of words in a smaller amount of time than it would take me to go through many sentences. And so when I do encounter these words in the “real world” I will be able to build on knowledge that I already have. Opposed to now when I have no knowledge!

Occasionally I’d like to post some of the vocab I am attempting to learn. To give you ideas for your own studies as well as to record where I’m at. The following vocab words are taken from the first paragraph in The Assassin’s Apprentice – one of my favourite books.

Vocab – The Assassin’s Apprentice – 1st Paragraph


And here is a bonus word: にじみでる - to ooze out. I like that word!

I have to admit, in the first paragraph I had 35 words I didn’t know. However, knowing the meanings of the words, I could understand, for the most part, the grammar. I would have to say though, at this stage, without the original text, I probably would not understand it completely. It is easier to reverse engineer than invent. It also took me two hours to read and somewhat understand the whole paragraph. Strangely, it was fun, and the time flew by. But here’s hoping it gets easier – and quicker – as I go along!

Tip: Is the Kanji too small on my page for you to really see it properly? Hit “ctrl+” on your keypad a couple of times to enlarge the text, then “ctrl-” when you want it to get back down again – these keys are for firefox, which is what you should be using! ;)


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  1. Atreya

    Thanks for the reply in your other blog post. I understand what you mean. But I am quite confused about the method by which I should structure my Anki Deck. By method I mean, how does one create the cards in Anki? For example –

    Card (production)

    Q – Kana, English Translation, Audio
    A – Kanji Sentence
    Extras – Vocabulary Defenition (Japanese or English)

    Card (recognition)

    Q – Kanji Sentence
    A – Kana Reading, English Translation, Audio
    Extras – Vocabulary Defenition (Japanese or English)

    Sorry for asking too many questions. ^_^;;

    And ofcourse, where do you mine your sentences from ?

  2. GoddessCarlie

    Hey Atreya! Fantastic question. I have answered it in a seperate post called How Should You Structure Your Flash Card Deck?

  3. C

    Hey there,

    I’ve loved The Farseer Trilogy for some time, and since I began studying Japanese I’ve been looking to get copies of the Japanese translations . . . however I can’t find them anywhere! I hope it’s not presumptuous of me to ask where you got yours from.

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