No matter what field you’re in no matter what you’re trying to learn from Physics to law to anatomy. What matters most when studying is sticking to a routine. A daily routine at best. I’ve already written at length about the books and tools to get you started to learn Japanese. But if you mastered the basics there was no really comfortable way to learn new vocabulary. And you really need to learn a lot of vocabulary when you want to be able to read Japanese.
I used Anki for quite a while and just wrote down all the unknown words I encountered when reading some manga or stuff in general. Not a bad way to get introduced to new words but a stressful one. After all, writing everything down in Anki takes time and if you want to do it the right way you should actually write down the whole sentence the unknown word appears in.
And that’s where iknow.jp comes into play. Formerly known for its once free Japanese core sentences you learn all Japanese by (you guessed it) sentences. Always coupled with a fitting picture to give you an image to think about as well. Everything is fully voiced, did I mention that? And after using Japanesepod101 for quite a while I really noticed how important it is to train your listening comprehension as early as possible.
When I wrote about Kanji Box being a neat app to practice your grammar skills a reader recommended iknow.jp to me. I had a quick look at their site and just did their placing test to see how things are going and where I would be able to start. Nice feature, that you don’t have to start again with the very beginnings. Sometimes it’s not a bad way to start again, to repeat the basics but on the other hand, nobody wants to go through all the more common words again and again if you already know them by heart.
Not having the feeling of making any real progress for yourself can be frustrating and that’s exactly what we don’t want to happen. To feel frustrated or annoyed by learning Japanese. After all, we’re in it for the long run.
The power of learning words in the context of a sentence.
Each language is a little different in the way you express certain things or react to different situations. This has a lot to do with different cultural backgrounds, different politeness levels and overall how various events are treated differently by different cultures. Apart from that, there are just some languages who don’t have several words to express nuances in an action.
German (my mother tongue) for example has a highly complex grammar but only a pretty small amount of vocabulary in comparison to English or, in our case here, Japanese. So when learning a new word it’s difficult to put it into place in your mind and really understand the meaning of it when not seen in context. That’s where iknow really shines. Helping you to give a newly learned word some real meaning inside your brain.
Nothing better than to couple learning new vocab with a corresponding sentence. The sentence is spoken out loud by a native, plus a picture to look at which sums up the action. Neuroanatomy and the ways the brain really works are still pretty much unknown to humankind.
There are a lot of theories. Some are even proven up to a certain point but we’re still miles away from really comprehending the abstract ways our brain is working in. There are probably some of you how could explain this a lot better than me but I’ll still try to give you a very basic idea of how our brain is working. I think this helps immensely to understand why certain approaches are just so much more effective.
There are different areas in our brain-cortex which control different aspects of our behavior and actions.
The main idea behind trying to stimulate our learning process by triggering as many different “senses” as possible is to activate as many different cortex areas (outside areas of our brain) as possible. For example one is processing visual stimuli one is responsible for auditory stimuli and so on. Around 1940 a guy named Papez discovered that certain parts of our brain or better certain small structures who are connected and build a circle (where information is processing through again and again) are responsible for the control of emotional expression. I wrote this like it’s a fact but these are all just theories.
Another guy came along and defined the Papez neuron circle and called it the limbic system and said that the frontal part of your brain is responsible for processing all these kind of information which got an emotional connection. But now comes the fun part: Today’s science is thinking that the so-called “limbic system” is not only responsible for controlling and processing emotions but also an integral part of our memory. Or better how memory develops.
To cut things short. Even if these are more or fewer theories (of which some points have been proven to a certain degree) we know that the part of our brain that is responsible for creating memories is also responsible for controlling emotions. And that’s why it is much easier to learn something when you can get an emotional connection to it. Or rather to a memory. And that’s why iknow is so effective because they do exactly that.
Each sentence tells a little story.
There are 6000 sentences in total graded after common usage. So the first 1000 are for the beginners and while progressing the material gets more advanced. Sound reasonable, right. The vocabulary used in each pack (which consists of 100 new words) is used to construct the sentences. Which means that a learned word will appear in a sentence where you’ll learn another one. Pretty clever.
The great part is that every sentence tells a small story and with the way the speakers recorded it and the corresponding picture you can feel a certain emotional tone which each one. At least I do. And because of this, we’re much more likely to remember the taught vocab.
They really encourage you to stick to it.
I’m a sucker for statistics and that’s why iknow is so motivating for. You set yourself a study goal for the time you want to study each week. I put down a reasonable 90 minutes because nothing is more frustrating than setting your goals too high. Each day you study will be marked in a virtual calendar and of course, you want every single day to have that mark. Along with that, you can see exactly how much time you spent with each course and a total as well. Isn’t this great to know that you learned 300 new words in maybe 10 hours.
But again, I love statistics. Completely forgot that the consecutive days of studying are counted. I set myself the goal to study every single day even if it’s just a burst of 10 words until I visit Japan again in August. All these features make it ridiculously easy to stick to a daily routine.
The pricing, the incredible App, and the coupon.
I’m a huge fan of my iPad and am doing the big part of my Japanese studying with Apps. And this is where iknow really shines, their iOS Apps. They are intuitive well working and looking plain gorgeous. A friend of mine Sebastian even met the guys at a developer conference in Tokyo and had to say a lot of positive things about them. But when you’re using the App don’t purchase your subscription (if you’re interested) with it. It’s more expensive (through Apple’s fees) than just registering online. I even got in touch with the iknow team and got you a 1-month free coupon. Just register for a free account and redeem it afterward.
Our special coupon code:
Update: The coupon expired and the folks over at iKnow didn’t want to extend its validity.
If you should think about making a 12-month subscription use this link and we both get 3 additional months for free!
I highly recommend using Japanesepod101 in conjunction with iKnow. Together they make the perfect team for learning Japanese. This way you get in some essential vocabulary and sentences with iKnow and some proper listening comprehension and grammatical explanations with Japanesepod101. Coupled with a solid textbook (like Genki) it’s probably the most efficient way to start learning Japanese.
Let me know what you think about the iknow App. I’m sure some of you are using it already. I think the pricing is pretty fair and it’s currently the main tool I use for my Japanese studies. Actually, I even quit WaniKani because I just couldn’t manage to do both iknow and WK at the same time. Looking forward to your feedback.
I have been using this app for a long time (for both Japanese & Chinese) and I love it.
One of the best app to learn Japanese!
Too bad I can’t use the coupon :p
Sorry, I asked the team if they could offer anything but unfortunately it’s for new subscribers only. Right, you can learn Japanese with iknow as well. Haven’t had any interest in it so far and my Japanese is so bad that all the free language-learning time will be better spent doing Japanese.
May I ask if there is a specific reason why you’re studying Chinese as well? I mean maybe there is a whole different world of Chinese manga and books and stuff I never heard anything about. Just wondering :)
Chinese manga? :D I wonder what you would call it…..?
They are called “Manhua” (Simplified Chinese: 漫画; Traditional Chinese: 漫畫) ^^
I have been learning Chinese and Korean for about 9 years now. I first started to learn Japanese and then I started listening to Chinese music and I took classes about Chinese History. I naturally started to be interested in learning Chinese in the process. I took classes for a while and now I am self-studying. I started learning through Korean TV, I naturally picked up the basics of the language, then I started self-studying Korean. I love learning languages. Juggling three languages can be hard at times but it is really rewarding.
Wow, that’s amazing. Thanks for telling me :) There are few betters way to spend your time than studying a new langauge. I recently brushed up my French skills. It’s just great if you can read another langauge and really delve into the culture when you’re visitng the country. You’ll never really be able to experience another culture if you don’t speak there language. Always has been the biggest motivator for me.
Just recommended iknow to a friend of mine who is learning Chinese because of your comment :)
If you need any help with your French, let me know ~~
Thanks a lot. Will keep that in mind.
iKnow is great. Started using it just recently (thanks for the coupon!) for Japanese. Really like that your ears get trained with this one, too. And the interface is really nice.
Yeah, right. Love that feature too. It’s so effective. Sometimes I’m not quite sure what the meaning of a word is and just remember the sentence with the intonation of the speaker. And bam, there is the word again and you even know a Japanese sentence by heart which might come in handy. One major point why I think iknow is so great is that the words you learn are really relevant. So happy with their service.
I’m addicted to apps! I’m addicted to Japanese! Combining the two is equivalent to instant and longterm interest and applied effort on my part! I appreciate how you use nice big high quality pictures that fill the whole screen on your blog! It really draws the reader into the experience and helps convey the message of your text in a clear, efficient, and highly simplistic attractive way! You’ve really made the entire style of your blog an experience painless for the reader. It’s like going over to a stranger’s house to find that the place is clean, your host well-groomed and attentive; the atmosphere is lively though disciplined and there is zero tension in the air! The host also has a lot of interesting things to share and wants to share them with you! Oh yeah, you are definitely going to stop by tomorrow!
Hi Jakob, I’m glad to see that you love iKnow as it is my main tool for learning Japanese since a year. My stats are 171h studied for 2533 started items and 2285 mastered. Also my best streak was 132 days ! Which ended during a week-end which represented an achievement for my career, that’s why I could forget about this ^^
As my objective is to get JLPT N2 in December, I’m decided to go through the core 6000 until there.
After seeing your articles about KanjiBox and WaniKani I was a bit frustrated as I thought that was not compatible with iKnow (too similar) which I could no more abandon after a so long time. But I see that you use both WaniKani and iKnow. So maybe I should consider using WaniKani ? I liked the demo.
Another problem is that I already have in Anki almost all the N2 Kanjis, even if I could revise all with Wanikani, it makes it maybe less interesting for my actual needs…
Wow, these are some great stats Baptiste. If I only had learned a bit more early about know. But I don’t regret nothing. Not WaniKani, not Heisig or my Anki decks.
Kanji Box is neat and probably great for working on your kanji skills while doing iKnow. But I would find it pretty difficult just starting with iKnow or KanjiBox without any previous knowledge about Kanji and the different recurring parts which builds them. Heisig is great for this and WaniKani as well. In retrospective I’d would just do maybe the first 20 levels of WaniKani and then move on from that. You get a nice feel for the Kanji and then you can just continue faster with iKnow. Because the vocab part of WK isn’t all that great.
Tackling JLPT2 ist dope Baptiste. Congrats. I’d wouldn’t start with WK in your place. Too much hassle, too time consuming. Just stick with the Anki route and iKnow. after all Kanji are highly overrated in my opinion. You need a basic understanding but if you don’t know the vocab in many cases the Kanji reading doesn’t get you anywhere either. At leasts that’s my opinion. Not to mention it’s a real drag.
HI matey I’m 700 words in now and I really like iKnow. I’m subscribed up
until August and I may even buy the lifetime subscription which isn’t
too expensive to be honest. One tiny issue I have with iKnow is that (in
the first 1000 words anyway) the language I’m learning seems quite
polite. I was wondering if it becomes more casual the further up you go?
There’s a new Japanese learning site out called Fluent U and while they
may ultimately get shut down one day (they’re taking people’s videos of
You Tube and making lessons from them i.e. copyright issues one day!) they focus purely
on casual Japanese. Having lived with a Japanese family for 6 months
last year in Tokyo I realised the importance of learning real life casual
Japanese – as that’s all i heard around me. iKnow doesn’t quite cover that where as Fluent U does. iKnow is good for vocab though. For now I’ll stick with iKnow until August and then I have a choice – jump ship to Fluent U or stay! Eeek! Decisions! On a side note I’ve managed to memorise 322 words in two weeks with 90% recall using this method here – it’s free and works for me! https://anthroyogini.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/learning-an-aboriginal-language-a-quick-dirty-guide-to-learning-vocabulary/
Thank you for the coupon! I am going to use this daily, and hopefully take out a sub if I feel like it helps. Living and working in Japan, you’d think that word retention wouldn’t be so hard for me, but I feel very much like an old dog who doesn’t want to learn new tricks. I haven’t seriously studied in years but I am ready to make that jump from advanced to so knowledgeable I may as well be fluent.
Hope it’ll help Miyagi. But I’m pretty confident iKnow will make you study on a daily basis. Even if it’s just for ten minutes. I love their counter. Let me know how things go :)
Loving it so far! I like the sense of accomplishment even if I am only studying about 20 minutes each day.
That’s exactly what I love about it as well. Let’s tackle the 6k :)
Thank you so much for the coupon! I really like this program so far, but the free trial they offer wasn’t QUITE enough to convince me to pay up. A month should be wonderfully sufficient.
Hey I have a question about iknow.jp. I know there is no exact number but roughly how long would it take to get through the core 6000 spending an hour each day? I have lots of little 10-15 minute times throughout my day that I have been filling up with ways to learn Japanese and I have been trying to find a replacement for anki and memrise since I’m not a big fan of either.
As anyone else learning a language can attest to, you’re going to have some slumps here or there. Everyone also learns at different speeds.
That said, in my experience, I generally learn and memorize 100 words in about 4 hours of recorded time. Then spend another 2 hours or so bringing the words up to the “mastered” section. I take a pretty leisurely pace so in real time, that’s about a week per 100 words. At my pace it would take about a year and a few months to get through everything.
If you’re good at learning things quickly, you can definitely clear a lot more in less time (i.e. learning new words in larger batches). And you’re in luck because the 12-month membership is on sale for 25% off until Dec. 1st!
Don’t try to rush things or otherwise you may get burned out quickly after a couple of weeks. Just find a pace that you’re comfortable with and stick to it. iKnow is pretty much made for these short 10-15 minute breaks with their 5/10/20 word groups you can learn. Let me know how things are going for you.
At an hour a day, it would probably take around 2 years, possibly less.
Thank you so much for the code! I’ll give the site a shot!
Let me know how you like it. Still really enjoy iknow. Really need to get back to a daily Japanese study routine.
it says it has expired :(
I love this site. I took one month to test it and if it does de job, I will probably take the lifetime purchase.