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Ideas for Vocabulary Learning

text: Matsumoto Minami

If you are learning Japanese, what ideas do you have for studying Japanese vocabulary? It isn’t easy to learn and use large quantities of vocabulary in Japanese. From my own experience of living abroad and studying the language of my host country, I understand how difficult vocabulary study can be.

Here I’d like to introduce my ideas for foreign language vocabulary learning, divided into three points.

Point 1: Choose the vocabulary you need

First, how are you going to study? I studied using a vocabulary book from a bookstore. I didn’t think I could memorize all the words in the book, so I started by choosing the ones I needed. Then I used the sample sentences to confirm each word’s meaning and usage, and finally I created my own sample sentences based on the ones in the book. The words were easier to memorize when I made sample sentences with situations where I might actually use them in mind. If you don’t have a vocabulary book, I recommend making your own vocabulary notebook.

Point 2: Use your spare time to study vocabulary on a daily basis

Second, when are you going to study? I have trouble studying at home, so I used the ten minutes or so while on a train or a bus for intensive study. When memorizing vocabulary, rather than try to memorize each word perfectly one by one, I looked at many words at once and repeated them every day. I think it’s important to keep up studying vocabulary, without pushing yourself too hard.

Point 3: Using television and the Internet

Third, what ideas do you have to enhance your motivation to study? In my case, I used TV news programs and online news articles. First, I would focus on the news headlines on TV, looking up words I didn’t know in the dictionary and taking notes in my vocabulary notebook. When I understood the words in the news headlines, it was a little easier to understand what was being said, and I had a sense of achievement.

In online news, I tried to read articles about topics I was already familiar with. For example, I’d choose news articles about things I’d seen in Japanese or global news. If I already knew what the topic was, I could get a general sense of the meaning even when I didn’t know all the words, and it was easier to learn new words in the context of the article.

The Internet makes various videos and texts easily available along with news articles. I think that looking for ones that interest you and using them to study can make studying more fun.

That covers the basics of my experience of vocabulary study. It’s not much, but I hope it can be of help. Please enjoy yourself and don’t push yourself too hard as you study vocabulary.

Matsumoto Minami

Born in Hyogo Prefecture. Osaka University Graduate School of Language and Culture, Japanese Language and Culture Master’s Course 2nd Year. I enjoy sampling delicious foods and encountering music from around the world.