ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Secret To Remembering Japanese Words

Updated on June 13, 2011

Learning The Japanese Language

The Japanese Language is generally viewed as a difficult language to learn. And with three alphabets, a completely different syllable system, and a different grammar structure, those claims aren't unsubstantiated. However, using the right methods, learning to speak Japanese doesn't have to be painful. One of the most important aspects of learning Japanese will be to memorize Japanese words. You can't communicate if you don't understand the vocabulary. This page contains a few tips to help you learn and recall Japanese words a little quicker.

Thinking in Japanese

"A picture is worth a thousand words". This idea also holds true for learning Japanese (or any language for that matter). Most Japanese textbooks and language books give word lists in English and then the corresponding word in Japanese. The common way to study of course is to memorize that the Japanese word is the equivalent to the English word (car=kuruma). While this is logical, it's not really efficient. Instead, it is much better to link the Japanese word to an image of the actual object or activity.

Connecting the Japanese word to the actual thing will help you in a Few of ways. First you will tend to learn the meaning of the Japanese words quicker. The stronger and more vivid the image is in your head, the longer and quicker you will remember. I recommend that you create a little story for each image and relate it to the Japanese word. Even finding ways to work in the pronunciation. You will remember these stories much easier and much longer than you will with just repetitive review of words.

This method will help you recall the words much quicker. Since you have tied the Japanese words to the obect or activity, you have effectively cut out one step for your brain to process. Your brain processes kuruma=an object you drive in, rather than kuruma=car, car=an object you drive in. This may not seem like a big deal, but conversations move very fast. The quicker you can recognize words the easier it is to understand what's being said.

By removing English words from the process you start to think in Japanese. When you see objects you have learned the Japanese word for they will start popping into your head. Since Japanese is a very different language from English, the further you can remove yourself fro thinking in English, the easier learning Japanese will become.

Study Often

The more frequent you study, the easier it will get to remember words. Obviously the more time you put in the quicker you will learn. However, how often you put in the time is also important. It is better to study for an hour a day than to have two three-hour sessions per week.

Studying a language takes a lot of focus, and creating images and stories to remember words takes even more. It is extremely difficult to focus for a period of three hours. The time you spend studying during these long sessions won't be as efficient. Since these study sessions are infrequent, you will also forget much of what you learned. Thus requiring more time on review and leaving less time to learn new material.

Studying for shorter periods of time, but more frequently gives a couple of advantages. Shorter sessions are easier to fit into your schedule. Let's face it, learning a language takes time. The one thing we all seem to have less and less of. It's much better to study for small amounts of time than to not study at all because you were too busy. You are also much less likely to avoid the study sessions since they don't seem as difficult. Sitting down for a three hour study session can seem a bit overwhelming. An hour is much more doable.

Having said that it is important that you realize learning the Japanese language will take time. The more time you are able to put into it the quicker you will learn. If you are in a position to study two or three hours everyday, then by all means go for it. The quicker you get to the point you can communicate, the funner and easier learning Japanese is.

Japanese Study Tools

Studies in memory have shown that the best time to review something is right before you forget it. This can be hard to do if you are using a deck of flash cards or a notebook. Luckily there are a few programs to help. One of them is even designed specifically with learning Japanese in mind. I have listed two great programs below. You can also find other Japanese study tools here.

  • Anki- A free flash card program for your computer that uses spaced timing to help you learn quicker. After viewing each card you will be asked to rate how easy it was. t Depending on your answer the program will show it sooner or later. There are set decks of cards you can download or you can create your own. You can also add audio. Anki was built with Japanese in mind and has a few features that make creating cards in Japanese easier.
  • Mnemozyne- similar to Anki, but with a very different interface. There are available decks of cards to download and you can also create your own. Mnemosyne has less overall features, but does allow you to break decks of cards into categories which can be very helpful. 

I recommend that you try both programs and see which one works the best for you.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I really like this article. I've just started to learn Japanese last week. I use Anki as often as possible. I also watch raw Japanese tv series and movies to help me with my study. Heck, I even joined a Japanese online community online for better learning. So far, I'm doing good.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I am sure your are aware of existence of concrete and abstract meanings.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I am sure your are aware of existence of concrete and abstract meanings.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I wonder what would be an image for "incompetence", or "deadline", or "betray" or "extraordinary"?

    • japanese words profile imageAUTHOR

      japanese words 

      9 years ago from Japan

      Steve, thanks for the comment. You are certainly on the right path. watching Japanese videos is a great way to get Japanese listening practice. To get the most learning out of your movie watching you might find this article helpful:

      As far as video games, they tend not to work so well for me. I become to interested in completing the game and end up skipping a lot of the story parts that contain audio or text.

    • Steve R McDowell profile image

      Steve R McDowell 

      9 years ago from Atlanta

      I have been studying Japanese for a few years, but all while taking other very time consuming classes and trying to have SOME time for myself. I completely agree with your entire hub. Practicing frequently is VERY important, and I have forgotten plenty just from not practicing often enough.

      One way that I practice is by enjoying some Japanese entertainment (videos or video games) that are entirely in Japanese and doing my best to understand them, and looking up words that I don't understand yet. Have you done this, and do you recommend it? So far, I'd say it's helping me to understand things better, but isn't helping me to learn to speak better very much at all.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)