Japanese Study Tools

Now that I’m in student mode again, time to break out the notebooks, pencils and dictionaries.

One unique study method you have probably seen if you’re in Japan is what Japanese people call the 単語帳 (tangocyou), or Word Cards.

You’ve probably seen flashcards in the West, but what makes these different, is that they are smaller than flashcards, they’re completely blank when you buy them, and they’re attached with a key ring.

You could probably make them yourself if you find some small index cards, punch a hole through them, and jam a big key ring around them. You can also order tangocho word cards from j-list, or if you’re in Japan buy them at stationery shops, or for a bit more money at a convenience store. Once you have your cards, you can carry them around with you and review them on the train, or in traffic, or whatever.

The only disadvantage these have over our western pre-made flashcards, in my opinion anyway, would be that they are not laminated, so if they get wet or something or bent… Well… They’re wet and bent.

I have used this tool to learn Kanji vocab and Japanese grammar back when I was studying for JPLT level 1, and even used them while I was in France to try and learn French. I didn’t learn French… But hey, the cards helped. I also use them now, to study Chinese.

Harvey’s Word Card Usage Tips!

Making them is half the Benkyou:
You’ll notice that even if you don’t review the cards as frequently as you would like, just the fact that you made the card will really make the content stick in your mind.

Definition Plus Alpha:
Don’t simply write the Japanese on front [犬] and the reading and English on back [いぬ = DOG]. For simple words this may be okay, but I find that I remember things better if I also include an example sentence or kanji compound or two along with the vocab reading. Sometimes you’ll be able to recall the word, by imagining the situation or sentence you used for your vocab card.

Keitai Cards:
Carry them with you always, so you can add to them in a second. Also, if you can show them to Japanese people, or even other people studying Japanese, you can get new ideas for example sentences and level up your cards on the spot.

And that’s all really! If you’re looking for a novel way to get back into studying, give this a try. It’s fun for a while if anything!

– Harvey