“Japan, not only a mega-busy city that thrives on electronics and efficiency, actually has an almost sacred appreciation of nature. One must travel outside of Tokyo to truly experience the ‘old Japan’ and more importantly feel these aspects of Japanese culture.” -Apolo Ohno

The effortless beauty of Japan cannot be lauded enough. From the delightful cuisine to the breathtaking landscape, Japan is a land of surprises that keeps foreign visitors coming back year after year; well, except when there's a global pandemic!

Some individuals are so taken by the mix between traditional and futuristic culture in the land of the rising sun that they decide to learn Japanese as a second or third language. 

Honestly, when we at Superprof hear that persons are interested in acquiring more knowledge of a foreign tongue such as Japanese, we are so thrilled and couldn't be more proud of the decision to do so; we salute you!

But, what about Japanese vocabulary? How can I make new Japanese words stick to use in future conversations? Have no fear, Superprof is here to save the day and answer all questions about vocab retention in today's article. Remember, no matter how hard you think the Japanese language is, especially for English speakers, there is nothing impossible; you got this!

Take Advantage of Creating a Vocab List

While discouraged by many modern education experts as archaic and useless, vocab lists are precious for language learners who are striving to add new words to their repertoire.

I have used vocabulary lists to improve my vocabulary in the languages I have learnt, and it has brought much success. So, distrust the opinions of online trolls and get yourself a vocab list in Japanese to assimilate new words that are essential in conversation and significantly contribute to overall comprehension.

Taking advantage of a vocab list has more benefits than pitfalls, from our point of view, and the following includes some of the advantages:

  • Organised: are you someone who needs a little help to become more organised, especially in language learning? Look no further than a vocab list to organise new Japanese words in order of importance. An organised vocabulary list makes the process of acquiring new words as smooth as possible.
  • Digital: while many students prefer a printed copy so that they can scribble down notes beside the words to help them remember, the grand majority of language learners now claim that a digitalised vocab list is even better. Why? Comments can be quickly added, organised, and deleted. Also, a digital vocab list means you can take it along with you on-the-go and study Japanese words while riding the tube.
  • Customisable: one of the best things about vocab lists is that they are customisable and can be subject or genre-based to help you learn specific Japanese vocabulary more quickly. So, you can easily combine two, three, or four Japanese language lists to make one that best suits your learning needs.

Honestly, trust us, utilising vocabulary lists in your weekly Japanese language study seshs will significantly improve your ability to assimilate new words that are essential for fluency.

Keep a Journal to Record Your Thoughts

writing a diary
Daily journal entries are extremely helpful to practice new vocabulary words. (Source: Unsplash)

Dear Diary, I really want to learn Japanese and have an impressive vocabulary...

Keeping a daily journal or diary might seem a little infantile for most language learners, yet the most accomplished experts have suggested it and, as I have experienced with my students, it works!

By keeping a diary with your thoughts written in the language you are acquiring, you can practice the new words you have learnt in writing to craft more technical sentences in Japanese. 

Because if you learn new words but do not use them orally or in written form, you will lose them; it's unfortunate, but it's true. Also, by considering the experiences of my students, I have seen that keeping a diary helps with writing skills, sentence structure, and overall vocabulary.

Nevertheless, it is essential to state that the example I have is from my English students and not Japanese learners, and let's be honest, writing in kana and kanji are no piece of cake. So, take your time and write straightforward phrases and words; they don't have to be perfect and coherent when beginning.

Label, Label, and Label A Bit More

How is dedication defined? Well, according to most dictionaries, dedication can be defined as the ability to be committed to a task or purpose. How can that be implemented when trying to master Japanese vocabulary? Well, there are many ways to be committed to the language learning process; however, there is one method that has always called my attention. Which is? Labelling.

As a fellow language learner, I am always on the search to find new strategies to absorb vocabulary in a passive way that doesn't require much effort. One of the best techniques I have used, as a language beginner, is labelling items around my house in the language I am learning.

sticky notes
By putting sticky notes on household items, beginners greatly improve their Japanese vocabulary. (Source: Unsplash)

And, I'm not crazy, I've seen my sister do it also when she was learning the equally complex Thai language. 

By putting sticky or post-it notes on items used every day such as the coffeemaker, the refrigerator, the door, the chairs, etc., you look at the word and remember it anew.

It is essential to state that a negative aspect of labelling is the fact that it is only for beginners and household items. However, that shouldn't stop you. You heard us, so now buy yourself some post-it notes and start labelling!

Make it Fun By Playing Games

Who doesn't love games? I know I do, and I also recognise the fact that the language learning experience is heightened when fun activities and interactive games are included.

Consequently, when striving to learn more vocabulary in the Japanese language, games can be included that enhance memory and can be categorised in specific sections to make learning more organised. Students can find game ideas online, create their interactive games from the suggestions of others, or depending on their level play board games in Japanese to acquire some new vocab words.

Also, if you are learning Japanese for specific reasons such as work, choose a memory game that will aid you to acquire the necessary vocab for your new employment position. However, if you are a general learner who wants to learn everything, considering selecting topics such as jobs, food items, countries, plants, verbs, and animals that will contribute to the overall learning process.

Just remember to have fun playing vocabulary games and not always view it as an exercise. Take baby steps, and you'll be golden when learning Japanese!

Utilise the Strategy of Vocab Chunking

As a person who loves to study languages and who is actively interested in the field of linguistics, I try to continually stay up to date with all the new terms and expressions. However, there is one strategy that I recently learnt that I had no previous knowledge about yet it is so brilliant I am frustrated at the fact I had never used it. Which one is that you might ask? Vocabulary chunking.

Vocabulary chunking is a groundbreaking method that is extremely useful for those who want to acquire new words in the language they are learning. 

But what is vocabulary chunking? Chunking is used by language experts to help learners acquire more vocabulary in a broader context that is more useful than merely singling out each word.

Vocab chunking can be likened to the beauty of a recipe instead of a single ingredient. Because when various ingredients are put together it makes something that is more enjoyable to eat than simply ingesting ingredient after ingredient. 

So instead of a static list that only teaches students words, vocab chunking introduces learners with a small paragraph, short story, or a few sentences. Also, by repeatedly combining essential vocabulary that is linked together instead of separate, students to know how to use their new words in a sentence or phrase.

Hire a Native Japanese Tutor

with an instructor
Listening to the advice of your Japanese tutor will greatly improve your ability to absorb vocab. (Source: Unsplash)

According to a recent article, Japanese is the world's third most challenging language to learn after Mandarin and Arabic. Therefore, while challenging aspects of the Japanese tongue can be self-taught, it is highly recommended to get a native tutor from the start. Why? The following reasons make hiring a Japanese tutor irrefutable:

  • Specific and personalised assistance,
  • Ability to mimic their accent and pronunciation,
  • Helpful tips and tricks that are unavailable for those who learn on their own,
  • Correction and counsel that is most welcome to avoid developing bad habits that are difficult to kick.

Seriously, a Japanese tutor is a godsend when reviewing vocabulary and other aspects such as speaking and writing in Japanese.

But where does one find a native Japanese tutor when living in a country where Japanese is rarely spoken like the UK? Look no further than Superprof! With over 130 professional Japanese language tutors working in the United Kingdom, you are bound to find an online instructor that meets your learning specifications at an affordable price and at a time most convenient for you!

We are confident that by following the advice in today's article, you will grasp plenty of new vocab words in the Japanese tongue. Get studying!

Do you want to become a better reader in Japanese? Find out more on Superprof! 

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A student by trade, Daniel spends most of his time working on that essay that's due in a couple of days' time. When he's not working, he can be found working on his salsa steps, or in bed.