Hi, everyone. I am working on a deck of 5,000 Japanese flash cards based on the most commonly used words in everyday communication, complete with example sentences and audio/video clips. So far the deck with the first 1,000 words is ready for viewing. You can download it for free here.
Below is the Readme file for the flashcards.
AnkiDroid Flash Cards Readme
Last revised 2015/07/27
About these Decks
Dropbox Folder Contents
Flash Card Requirements/Explanation
Feedback and Recommendations
All decks created by John Everett
©2015 Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Word list procured from A Frequency Dictionary of Japanese: Core Vocabulary for Learners by Tono Yukio, Yamazaki Makoto, and Maekawa Kikuo. Word list has been slightly modified for use in these decks.
These decks contain example sentences written or produced by The Tatoeba Project.
These decks contain short clips from various media including but not limited to film, television, radio, and audiobooks. Such limited usage is protected by the “fair usage” clause of US copyright law. All media are © their respective users, except those media in the public domain.
These decks were created for use with the AnkiDroid application, which is a part of the AnkiWeb project. AnkiWeb and the desktop and iPhone clients were written by Damien Elmes. The Anki logo is by Alex Fraser. Other icons were sourced from http://led24.de/iconset and http://p.yusukekamiyamane.com/. The templating code is based on Pystache.
By downloading and using any of the flash card decks in the folder “Japanese flash cards,” the user agrees to comply with the terms of service set forth by AnkiWeb. Any other usage must likewise fall within the terms of service of the respective service providers. I will not be held responsible for any damage resulting from the use of these files.
Version 1.0 of decks “1-1000” uploaded. Excel spreadsheet uploaded.
Version 1.0 of decks “1-1000 TEXT ONLY” uploaded.
Version 1.01 of decks “1-1000” and “1-1000 TEXT ONLY.” Changes include modifications to sentences to make them easier and adding a few media files.
Version 1.02 of decks “1-1000” and “1-1000 TEXT ONLY.” Changes include inserting several placeholders for future sentence additions, and making the hiragana blue for kanji vocabulary words.
Uploaded Read Me file.
Uploaded version 1.04 of decks “1-1000” and “1-1000 TEXT ONLY.” Changes mostly extended from previous update.
Uploaded version 1.05 of decks “1-1000” and “1-1000 TEXT ONLY.” This version contains an overhaul concerning typos, consistency, etc. Uploaded 5,000 word excel spreadsheet—previous version contained approximately 2,000 words.
Uploaded version 1.06. All cards up to 100 corrected, some media files added.
About these Decks
I have created these Anki decks for the purpose of learning Japanese vocabulary in the most logical and straightforward way possible. I have been studying Japanese seriously since spring of 2012 and have been regularly frustrated at my seeming lack of progress, especially when it comes to knowing the meanings of words.
In my experiences I found that languages are taught incorrectly. Their arbitrary and oftentimes nonsensical selection of vocabulary words is just one source of frustration for me. Many times I have found myself tongue-tied while attempting to have a conversation with a Japanese person for no reason other than my lack of applicable vocabulary. While my head was filled to overflowing with words that are almost never used such as “villa” (別荘) and “ID” (身分証明書) I failed to think of simple words such as “each” (それぞれ) or “number” (数) that would have actually been useful in my conversation.
One source of this drawback is the tendency of textbooks to present list-based vocabulary. Textbooks are separated into chapters that often have themes, such as animals. You may see a list of vocabulary words for all different kinds of animals, but you could go for a whole week without saying the names of any animals other than cat, dog, fish, and horse. This applies, of course, not just to a foreign language but also to your own. Tell me, when was the last time you said “giraffe” in ANY language? How then will you be benefitted by learning the word for giraffe in a foreign language when you don’t know a very useful word such as “job” yet?
I sought to work against this problem by learning Japanese words based on their frequency of usage. I found that I was really onto something. In any language, 100 words or fewer account for up to 50% of all communication. I believe that that number is actually 65 words in English. Now, to be fair, this is really more exciting that it seems. If you take the 10-word sentence “In my experiences I found that languages are taught incorrectly” and reduce it to 50% based on frequency of usage, you’ll end up with “In my _________ I _____ that ________ are _____ _________.” Such a sentence is meaningless. If you go up to 1,000 words, however, you’ll be able to understand 70% of all communication. This can even go up slightly if you understand the grammar points within words. “In my experiences I ____d that ________s are taught ________ly.” This still doesn’t enable us to understand the sentence but if you know enough to ask your conversational partner to rephrase the sentence, use synonyms, explain the meanings of unknown words, etc., you can get away with a small core of useful vocabulary. I once mentioned cicadas to a Japanese friend (here we go with the animals again!) but she didn’t know the English word and I didn’t know the Japanese word. To circumvent this, I described cicadas as “loud summer insects” (夏のうるさい虫) and she understood, responding, “Oh, semi!” (あー、蝉). You can get away with stuff like this all the time as long as you have a strong foundation and you make an effort to remember the words you synonymize. I’ll tell you, learning a new word from a friend sticks with you a lot more effectively than learning it from a textbook.
Once your diction increases to 5,000 words you will be able to understand 95% of all communication. At this point you can be considered fluent. These decks, not so coincidentally, contain 5,000 vocab words. As a side note, bear in mind that understanding a percentage of communication is an average. You may hear a 10-word sentence that you can understand completely, or you may hear a three-word sentence that you can’t understand at all. But studying words based on frequency will certainly help your chances—you won’t have to sit in the corner waiting for someone to say “giraffe” before you can contribute to the conversation.
With my goal having been set, I went online to try to find a frequency list. I found a list compiled by a computer program from a wide array of Japanese literature. There were two major problems with this approach: One, literature does not accurately reflect the way we communicate in our daily lives. Two, the list was compiled by a computer. Trying to make flash cards out of the core 1,000 words was a nightmare. At one point I came across the word 竜. When I looked up the word I found that it could mean the boy’s name “Ryuu,” or it could mean “dragon,” OR it could be a part of other words, such as dinosaur (恐竜) . I was at a loss. I had no clue what to do. But then I was fortunate enough to discover a frequency dictionary that was compiled by humans with the help of a computer. A Frequency Dictionary of Japanese compiled its words from a wide range of sources, including public speeches and internet fora. This means that the words contained therein were sure to be closer to actual Japanese. This was a tremendous encouragement for me. Of course, it was less encouraging to start over from scratch.
I began work on the “1-1000” decks sometime in late 2014 and very slowly progressed through it. I copied words over from the frequency dictionary and found sentences online. I tried to progress by one Kindle page per day (about eight words or so) but quickly became discouraged because it takes A LOT of time to find good sentences with limited vocabulary and then type them in with furigana. In the first half of 2015 I managed to create about 500 flash cards. At the end of June I was approached by a friend and old Japanese classmate who encouraged me to finish the book by December 31st. I calculated my remaining cards vs. remaining days in the year and found that if I did 25 cards per day, I would make exactly 4,500 between July 1st and December 31st, 2015, putting me at exactly 5,000. I guess it was meant to be. I completed the first 1,000 flash cards on July 23rd and posted them to Dropbox. As of this writing I have gone to 1,100.
So what’s next? Well, after I complete all 5,000 index cards I intend to study my butt off and become as close to fluent as I can before moving to Japan after I graduate. Once I am confident in my mastery of Japanese several years from now, I intend to create my own language course based on these words. There are many, many problems with standard foreign language textbooks that make learning difficult and inefficient. I will one day endeavor to write a comprehensive Japanese curriculum that incorporates these vocabulary words as well as a logical approach to grammar points. In the meantime, however, you will have to satisfy yourself with current methods of learning Japanese. You could do worse than use Genki textbooks for grammar. Just don’t feel in any way obligated to memorize those vocab lists, with their inclusion of infrequently used words. Please memorize the vocab in my Anki decks instead. You’ll be doing yourself a favor by devoting your study time to learning words that you will actually use in daily conversation.
Dropbox Folder Contents
If you are reading this document, you should already be in the folder named “Japanese flash cards” on dropbox.com. If you are not, please click that link. This will ensure that you receive the most up-to-date versions of the flash card decks. The folder contains the following:
- FOLDER: Flashcards
- 1-1000 Front side English 1.01.apkg
- 1-1000 Front side English 1.02.apkg
- 1-1000 Front side Japanese 1.01.apkg
- 1-1000 Front side Japanese 1.02.apkg
- FOLDER: Flashcards TEXT ONLY (smaller file size)
- 1-1000 Front side English TEXT ONLY 1.01.apkg
- 1-1000 Front side English TEXT ONLY 1.02.apkg
- 1-1000 Front side Japanese TEXT ONLY 1.01.apkg
- 1-1000 Front side Japanese TEXT ONLY 1.02.apkg
- FILE: Frequency Words.xlsx
- FILE: Read Me.pdf
These files are subject to change at any time. There is no set schedule for updates. It’ll just happen when it happens. Files may be modified, added, deleted, etc. at any time.
There is an excel spreadsheet which will eventually list 5,000 words (although only 2,000 as of this writing) by frequency of usage in Japanese. The spreadsheet contains a word, its furigana if applicable, and its English definition. The spreadsheet has a tab that shows all 5,000 words, and other tabs separating the words into five groups of 1,000 each.
The flashcards are split into two main groups: regular and TEXT ONLY. These cards are identical in every respect except one. The TEXT ONLY decks do not contain any media so their file sizes are much smaller—around 300 KB instead of several MB. I highly recommend using the decks that contain media if your devices have enough room for them. Being able to hear example sentences being spoken aloud is an invaluable addition to your study sessions.
The decks are then further split into two types: Front side English and Front side Japanese. These decks are different in two ways: The first difference is that the Front side English decks do not contain the frequency ranking of each vocabulary word, and the second, more obvious difference, is that the Front side English decks show the English translation of the Japanese words and sentences first, then asks you to give the Japanese.
Flash Card Requirements/Content Explanation
Assuming that you are using these decks as an English speaker trying to learn Japanese, then you will definitely want to start by using the latest available version of the “1-1000 Japanese side Front” deck. Translating from a foreign language is a lot easier than translating into it.
In order to use these decks you must be able to read the Japanese alphabets Hiragana and Katakana. If you don’t know how to read them, there are many sources available both online and offline. If you study diligently you ought to be able to learn how to read in a weekend of solid study. Being able to read Chinese characters is not necessary yet, as I include their readings in hiragana in blue parentheses. Be aware, however, that I only include these parenthetical readings for 1,000 entries. For example, the word 思(おも)う is \card 34. For every card that 思うappears in up to 1,034 I will include the hiragana reading for your benefit. After 1,034, I will no longer include the hiragana—by that point you will be expected to know the reading of 思う without help. After card 3,000 there will be no 1,000 card grace period. Card number 2895, for example, is 天(てん). If an example sentence in the early 3,000s includes the word 天 no reading will be given even though it hasn’t been 1,000 cards yet. This serves two purposes: One, it ensures that you are truly mastering your vocabulary before moving onto the next deck, and two, it makes it a lot easier to read and write the sentences since there will be less clutter.
In order to effectively use these flash cards you must also have at least a basic grasp of Japanese grammar. Of course, the more you know the better. Although many of the vocabulary words are in and of themselves grammar points (particles such as 「を」 and compounds such as 「～なければなりません」, for example) it definitely helps to know as much as you can before coming into contact with example sentences. There are many grammar resources for you to use. As I mentioned before, there are many problems with language textbooks, but do your best.
I have tried my hardest to keep the vocabulary self-contained. What I mean by this is that in the 1-1000 deck you should only see example sentences containing words from that deck. An example sentence from 1-1000 should not contain a word from 1001-2000 or above. Of course, this is quite a difficult feat to accomplish and several dozen sentences from the deck (as of this writing) do contain more advanced words. I am in the process of editing the decks, however, and fully intend to keep the vocabulary isolated to make learning as simple as possible. I would have like to isolate the vocabulary even further by splitting the 1-1000 deck into 500-word halves, but I chose instead to strike a balance between vocab difficulty and the simplicity of sentences. An example sentence will not be very helpful if it’s so simple that it doesn’t help you to use the word properly. An example sentence ought to contain more content than just “This is an apple,” or “I ate an apple.”
I try to include three example sentences with each vocabulary word. These sentences are ordered by difficulty: easy, medium, and hard. The “hard” example may include a word from a higher deck (e.g. the hard sentence from word 500 may include a word from the 4001-5000 deck) but I try to keep this to a minimum. There are two major exceptions to this: First, the words “Japanese language” (日本語), “Japan” (日本), and “book” (本) appear after the first hundred flashcards without hiragana. Second, Japanese loan words from English which are written in katakana may appear despite being from an upper deck. The word “sports” (スポーツ) is number 1044 but appears quite frequently in the 1-1000 decks because it is easy for an English speaker to remember.
There are many electronic flash card services available but Anki seemed to be the best. You can download it free for PC/Linux here and for Android here or for $25 for iPhone/iPad here. The cost of the apple version is used to fund further development of the software. If you have an apple device I highly recommend that you don’t let the price stop you from getting it. The investment is well worth it.
Anki is highly customizable, allowing for multiple fields (frequency ranking, vocab word, example sentences, etc.) and the inclusion of media files. Anki is also programmed with an algorithm which sets study intervals for each flashcard based on how well you remembered it. This operates on the philosophy of “spaced repetition,” the idea that we remember things better when we have staggered review opportunities. The better you remember something, the further apart the review can be. Each time you get an answer right, the time before you see that question again will increase.
Anki also includes a free cloud-storage service so you can synchronize between devices (say, PC and cell phone). The scheduling information relating to spaced repetition will carry over to your other devices and so will any edits you make to the flash cards.
Feedback and Recommendations
That reminds me. If you have any changes to make to a flash card (such as fixing a typo) please tell me about it. If you make the change yourself without letting me know, then that change won’t go into the next version of the flash cards.
But please do tell me! If you have any feedback including corrections, questions, suggestions, media clips, good example sentences, etc., PLEASE get in touch with me right away. I want to make these decks the best possible decks that they can be. You can contact me by email at Everett.firstname.lastname@example.org.
I also run a blog on tumblr called My House of Random, which includes, among other things, resources pertaining to Japanese. I recommend that you check it out. There you’ll find help with grammar points, vocabulary, learning resources, dictionaries, applications, and more.
I hope that this aids you in your Japanese studies. 頑張ってください！