sentence srs – the middle of the beginning

It seems since the time I posted that I’d come back to the topic of sentence SRS in a week or so, about five weeks have passed.  Things kept changing as I settled in, and found things that worked and things that didn’t work; more of the former.

I have two decks at present.  One is the core2k deck, and the other is my main, long-term deck.  The core2k deck is disposable and I think I will, in fact, dispose of it shortly.  I’m very tired of the sentences.  They are of course not sentences I picked, so they have no intrinsic interest to me as chunks of meaning (as opposed to exam questions); that’s one problem.  Another (that, in fairness, I could solve with a ready finger on the delete key) is that even in this list of 2000 most common words, there are quite a few that will be mainly found in material that I have no interest in.  The political terms take me a long time to remember and a short time to forget.  Then, there’s also the extremely elementary grammar used.  I can’t learn anything but vocabulary from these sentences, yet they take just as long to review as any other.  Lastly, there’s the matter of the card format.  I started by reading the kana sentence for each card, and writing the entire sentence with the kanji.  Now, while this was effective in that I was learning kanji readings quickly, and my kana writing also benefited greatly (it needed it), it was pretty frustrating because it took a very long time.  There’s something about that number of cards per unit time that makes a significant difference to one’s state of mind about SRS reviewing.  Faster (within reason) is decidedly better.  So then I switched to this:

The cloze deletion was the easiest way I could get close to what I wanted; namely, the vocabulary word in question in highlighted kana, with the kanji in the answer; my task being to know the word and write the kanji.  The problem with this is as follows, where the orange line is approximately the path of my eye as I attempt to read the sentence:

It might not seem like a big deal but after a couple thousand reps it’s starting to make me severely annoyed with the deck.  Enough to make me not want to start reviewing it.  That isn’t right.  I should be looking forward to it.  For the time being I stopped adding new cards (I’m a bit over 600 cards in at the moment) to make the number of reviews per day a little more manageable, and those are down to around 40 now.  This has enabled me to make better progress on my main deck and restart mining.

I don’t think deleting the deck is anything to worry about.  Any words I need will come back to me in the course of normal sentence mining, and since I’ve studied them on if I do happen not to have remembered them they’ll be relearned in a snap.

So my main deck is up to just under 500 sentences.  Most of these are from the sentence patterns book I’ve linked to before; the rest are from Naoko Chino’s All About Particles, which is equally good.  I also want to thoroughly go through Shoji’s Basic Connections and Chino’s Japanese Verbs At A Glance, as well as take quite a few from the japanesepod101 upper intermediate lessons that I’m listening to and enjoying all day at work now.  The rest of the 10000 sentences will be taken from the wild.

Also, some of my later cards are monolingual.  Getting to monolingual cards in less than 500 sentences caused me to be inordinately pleased with myself (feel free to mock me in the comments for this!).  I have very few of these so far, but it’s quite clear that they cause you to think in Japanese far more than those with a translation at hand.  Grammar point explanations, though, I have no hesitation in putting in English.  It isn’t like I’ll be thinking of them whilst speaking anyway; they’re just for initial understanding.

Here’s one of the better samples from this deck:

While the ideal is to have only one knowledge item per card, I don’t see anything wrong with having a grammar point and a vocabulary word sharing a card.  After all, every sentence has grammar.  Here, the vocabulary word is highlighted in blue in the question, and the task is to write the kanji (as well as understand the whole sentence, naturally).  As well, since this sentence has a specific grammar point that it’s meant to illustrate – it’s taken from the epic 13 pages of various uses of が – that part of the sentence is highlighted in red.  The answer contains the sentence with the readings, and a Japanese definition of the vocabulary word.  Incidentally, if I don’t remember the reading of a name, I don’t fail the card.  I’ll worry about name readings later.

Briefly now, a couple of ideas for further sentence mining: firstly, I’d like to stop reviewing my RTK decks eventually, so in order to do this I’d like to go through the kanji in RTK order and find a couple of sentences for each one.  Secondly, I would like to try getting an anime with transcripts, SRSing every part of the transcripts that gives me any trouble (or you could say, that I can learn from), and then watching the show.  Also, of course, anything random that I happen to like from Twitter, blogs, and January’s tadoku.

So, it took a little while, but by now it feels as though I’m finding my groove with this game, and I look forward to much more.

7 responses to “sentence srs – the middle of the beginning

  1. I actually like how you use blue and red to denote different goals for the sentence. I must admit, rather dejectedly, that it is not something that would have occurred to me! I think that really helps to focus your attention on the rep–whereas my entries now are just full sentences, my eyes tend to gloss over and just get the basic idea for moving on.

    I’ve decided to start from scratch lately, but I haven’t quite decided where to start from (like material), but your entry has given me a good idea on the formatting for this new deck. Thanks!

    By the way, I feel that at a certain point, doing RTK becomes less and less important. I’ve just been doing it when I feel my writing is getting a little wonky so help tighten it up a bit.

    • Well, I’m happy my status report could be helpful 🙂 as far as focusing attention, I thought at the beginning that writing out the word in question would be a good way to do this, and so far that has proved correct. I wanted to format the core2k cards the same way, with the highlighting instead of the cloze deletion, but all that manual editing scared me off …

      • Well, I definitely don’t think we should be spending so much time trying to edit the cards.. that takes up way more time than we have. I think that’s my problem with finding input right now–I have great resources, say from movies or comic books, but then getting them into the computer is just, as you said, a lot of “manual editing”.

        Though finding subtitle files is like a goldmine!

  2. I see what you mean now by the hiragana being in the question and having to write the kanji. Having to write just the vocab instead of an entire sentence is a lot faster and does seem more motivating. It’s a great way to learn to write! I guess where my weakness lies, though, is remembering the pronunciation of the word itself. RTK has helped enough that I can use kanji to deviate the meaning of a word, but not its sound. (I guess that means I need to read the second book! XP) Have you found that this system is enough for remembering the pronunciation and not just the kanji?

    Thanks for always sharing your tips and methods!

    • I’m still very much in the middle of the same thing. (Closer to the beginning really!) But yes, this seems to be pretty effective in remembering kanji readings. They kind of memorize themselves. Of course, the same kanji occur in other cards where they’re not the focus, and still need to be read, so I get the reading review that way.

      I do want to go through RTK2 somehow, I think. Probably by just adding sentences with words using those kanji, making sure I have an example of each reading.

  3. I know this is a late comment to your post, but I found that I’d simply take the vocab word from the core2/6k and find sentences that I liked with it in, since the sentences with the core stuff is rather dull and boring.

    I also skipped words that I didn’t feel a strong pull to either. I mean, I’m not going to read any books on politics, so beyond a few basic key words around politics, it seems like a waste of time to learn stuff I wont even being using at this early stage.

    • That’s almost certainly the best approach, I think. Even the word list itself is maybe not essential … well, core2k is targeted to absolute beginners, so for that it’s good, but the core6k I have my doubts about. Just read what you like and mine vocabulary sentences until you have 6000 words, there you go, your own personalized core6k.