How to use Free Software to learn Japanese, and more.

This page lists articles in chronological order. You may want to read Table of Contents instead.

Mitigating the Impact of Early Output

June 02, 2024 — Tatsumoto Ren

I'm forced to output early. How can I mitigate the damage?

If you're already living in Japan, or taking Japanese classes, you may find yourself in situations where you need to speak Japanese. If you're not fluent yet, early output will damage your Japanese. In this article, we'll explore strategies to help you mitigate the damage.


Learning Kanji Radicals

May 02, 2024 — Tatsumoto Ren

In my previous article on Learning Kanji, I mentioned that beginners do not need to learn kanji radicals. However, radicals play a significant role in the Japanese language. Understanding the proper Japanese names for common radicals aids in grasping spoken conversations about kanji.

The advice provided in this article is tailored for people who already understand Japanese. If you are still a beginner, I recommend focusing on more essential aspects of Japanese learning.


How to type X with Fcitx?

April 09, 2024 — Tatsumoto Ren

This article addresses common questions about typing with Fcitx.

To enter anything when using Fcitx, type what you want to type and then press the space bar. Fcitx will provide predictions for the characters you intend to insert. If the prediction is incorrect, continue pressing the space bar until you find the correct one.

Main article: How to type in Japanese


Is it best to make the monolingual transition as soon as possible?

April 03, 2024 — Tatsumoto Ren


There's a sweet spot for making the monolingual transition, and doing it either too early or too late can reduce your efficiency. In theory, you could attempt to go monolingual very early in your learning journey. You might learn just the most common 50 words, the bare minimum of grammar, and dive into using only the target language for definitions. It would be very challenging, but it's not impossible. I've seen people who went monolingual much sooner than I advise. It was tough for them. Although they struggled and were often lost, barely understanding anything for a long time, they eventually found their way.

So yes, an early transition is possible. However, going monolingual too soon is not the most effective approach. The difficulty is so high that you might end up spending an excessive amount of time doing recursive lookups and deciphering complex explanations in the monolingual dictionary, which is not the best use of your time.

If the process is too difficult, you'll likely spend more time lost in the dictionary than actually learning. A more balanced approach is to expand your vocabulary with the help of bilingual dictionaries first. Then, transition to monolingual dictionaries when you're more prepared. This strategy allows for a smoother shift and sets you up for success.

Tags: faq

Going monolingual

March 28, 2024 — Tatsumoto Ren

So far, you have been relying on bilingual dictionaries to learn new words. For those studying Japanese, JMdict is a frequently used resource, offering Japanese-to-English translations. Going monolingual means moving from bilingual to monolingual dictionaries. It is an important step forward in your language acquisition journey. This shift is crucial for achieving long-term success and mastering the language.

In this article, we will explore how to transition from bilingual to monolingual dictionaries effectively.


Avoiding bad advice

March 21, 2024 — Tatsumoto Ren

Countless language-learning methods exist, and each of them tells you to do different things. Some methods are effective, but many are not. Unfortunately, the Internet is brimming with advice that might sound good but often leads to little progress. If you want to reach mastery in a foreign language, you don't want to waste precious time on ineffective methods.


Cross Profile Search And Import

March 11, 2024 — Tatsumoto Ren

The Cross Profile Search and Import add-on is a tool that helps you maintain a neat, uncluttered main profile while still having access to an extensive sentence bank. This tool allows you to store your sentence bank in a separate profile which is not synchronized with AnkiWeb, and then easily search and import cards into your main profile when required. In doing so, it keeps your main profile tidy while sparing AnkiWeb servers from hefty media uploads.


Do I have to run GNU?

March 11, 2024 — Tatsumoto Ren

If you've made the decision to start AJATT, you might be curious about why it suggests upgrading to the GNU operating system. The answer is quite simple. The GNU system and Libre/free software, by their nature, are inherently more constructive and extensible.

We prefer GNU/Linux because it just makes everything easier. It's more user-friendly, which is great for beginners. This means you won't have to jump through all the hoops like people do on Windows. With more simple and convenient software, you can carry out your everyday tasks swiftly and efficiently. For instance, in i3wm, you can set up key bindings to perform any task with just a few keypresses. Most of the time, you won't even need a mouse. I have a binding that lets me add an image to an Anki card with just one keypress or extract text from a manga page with another keypress.

There's also more software for Japanese available on GNU. Some tools like impd, transformers_ocr, and gd-tools, which are covered in our Japanese guide, only work on GNU. While Windows offers a wide range of software, much of it is either useless or comes with malicious features.

If you're debating whether installing the GNU operating system is worth it, consider that it only takes about 20 minutes to do so. Mastering a foreign language will take years, so this is a good investment. In return, you'll save hours each week on various tasks.

Tags: faq

How should I count my cards if I make more than one card per note?

February 22, 2024 — Tatsumoto Ren

I have reached almost 4,000 cards but it represents only 2,500 different notes because for most of them I create a reading card and an audio card with the same sentence. It actually really helps for learning both listening and reading. What do you think about, it and how should I count the number of cards I've reached?

The number of words you know is roughly equivalent to the number of unique sentences you have mined into Anki. With targeted sentence cards (TSCs), each note should have one target word. So one note helps you acquire one new word. Therefore, to count your "known words," just count the number of unique notes you have. Still, how much media you understand matters more than how many cards you have mined because you can mine a lot but immerse very little, or vice versa.

Personally, I wouldn't make both listening and reading cards for the same sentence. I don't think it would be worth the extra time and effort. With two cards per note, you may end up knowing the target word a bit better than with just one card. But you're also spending twice as much time studying it. Are you really getting twice the benefit? It's probably closer to 1.25x.

Keep in mind, especially early on, the goal of using Anki isn't to learn a word perfectly. It's creating a mental dictionary entry so you notice the word during immersion and absorb content more easily. One text card per note will likely be enough for that purpose — to let your brain know the word exists, what it looks like, sounds like, and means roughly. Then immersion will fill in the gaps.

So personally, I'd just make text cards and let immersion smooth everything out. You could add audio to the back of cards if you want, but not the front. When I learned Japanese, I never used audio cards since I saw them as pretty much useless. I mostly made sentence cards or targeted sentence cards. It worked very well for me.

However, if your current technique works for you, by all means keep doing it. We all have slightly different learning styles. If you found an approach you enjoy and that's effective, trust your experience over any advice.

Tags: faq

How should I make cards for Japanese words that don't have any kanji?

February 09, 2024 — Tatsumoto Ren

How do you deal with flashcards where the 1T word is in katakana or hiragana? When I see a word in kanji and have to recall the reading, I feel like I'm proving to myself I actually know the word as opposed to just reading it and recalling what the card means. Should I kanjify it?

In general, if you encounter a word that can have kanji while reading Japanese, it is advisable to kanjify it when making a card.

When you force yourself to recall the word's reading by looking at the kanji, it makes the reviewing process more challenging and leaves a greater impact on the brain. This approach increases the likelihood that you're going to remember the word for a much longer period of time.

Even if a word is usually written in kana, if it can technically be written in kanji, it is important to be prepared to read it in kanji as well because there may come a time when you encounter it written in kanji. If you can read a word in kanji, you can automatically read it in kana as well. However, if you can only read it in kana, you cannot read it in kanji. Therefore, if you can read it in kanji, you are prepared for everything.

Whenever a word has kanji, it is beneficial to kanjify it when making a flashcard. It improves your understanding of the word in every way. However, certain words, especially katakana words, do not have corresponding kanji characters. In fact, the majority of katakana words are never spelled in kanji. The only exceptions are words imported during the Meiji period, when attempts were made to write loan words in kanji. Nevertheless, most of the time, kanji are not assigned to katakana words. Katakana words tend to be very easy because usually they are derived from English or other European languages. And if you know a European language, it's highly likely you already know them. So learning them shouldn't be a problem, even without using the SRS.

Apart from words with kanji and loanwords there's a third group. If a word lacks kanji characters and does not originate from a European language, such as わんさか or ひもじい, you might not learn that word to the same extent as words with kanji. However, in my experience, it has never proven to be problematic. The purpose of the SRS is not to master these words but to create mental dictionary entries so that you can recognize them more easily during immersion and improve your overall comprehension. It is primarily through immersion that you acquire and master vocabulary.

Therefore, for words without kanji, you can create standard SWCs and TSCs. Kanjify the words if there's kanji but if not then don't worry about it. You will still make progress and succeed in your language journey.

Tags: faq