Different people learn and remember information in different ways. This is obvious when you talk to different people about how they learn languages, such as Japanese. (I personally like using mnemonics but my spouse is a wizard an can “just remember” words… I’m not jealous…)

Anyway, this is just one of many different methods you can use to remember vocabulary. It’s actually an incredibly quick trick I’ve been using when I read novels. (This is partially so I don’t spend so much time later drilling vocabulary with flashcards.)

finger tracing Japanese in a book 5 Second Trick to Remembering Vocabulary When Reading Japanese

When I first come across a word I don’t know I try to guess the meaning/reading based on context.

Then I quickly look it up in my dictionary app and tag the word for that book. (I tag words to add them to my flashcard deck at a later date, but I don’t always study these.)

If I got the meaning or reading wrong, then I will repeat the word three times, trying to focus on the part I got wrong. Particularly why I got it wrong.

Also, if I want to remember the kanji (or confused the kanji with a similar kanji); I will draw that kanji in the air.

Then I keep reading…

If I come across the word again and have forgotten it, I try to quickly think why I forgot it and repeat the word, again, focusing on why I got it wrong.

It’s that simple!


Spend only a few seconds as you’re reading to focus on the new word or word you got wrong. Don’t brush the word by because you understand the overall scene. The few seconds spent focusing on the word will help solidify the vocabulary in your long-term memory.

This is, I think, the difference between reading for pleasure and reading for study. Of course, reading for study/pleasure can vary depending on the day/book. If you want to read for pleasure then feel free to ignore this tip. But if you want to scatter your reading with a little studying then it’s a low intensive way to cram the vocab.

I suggest giving it a try the next time you’re reading a book or article in Japanese and feel like learning some vocabulary.


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