Popping Bubblewrap: Tips for Better SRS Sentence Items

This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series Secrets to Smoother SRSing

First of all, an admission of guilt.

I have misled you.

In some of my SRS item examples, I have shown some reeeeeeeearry long sentences.

Wait, hold on, Kung Fu Hustle is on, and its the final fight against the Axe Gang and the frog guy. BRB…

…I love when he kicks the guys and it makes a bell-ringing sound…

K, I’m back. Yeah, so it’s all my fault. Part of it has to do with the fact that Japanese has the structural power to handle the creation of very long sentences. Since it doesn’t require the repetition and restatement of pronouns (what one might call “subjects” in English), it can create multiple, clause-length modifiers for a single “subject”, without confusing the reader. Or something like that, I dunno — I read this in a book about Japanese (a Japanese one, of course).

So, like, at some level, I thought it would be good for me to put long sentences in the SRS. Also, I probably wanted to show off that I could handle it, you know, prove how leet I was — I don’t like doing this as much as it may seem, but this is a website about how you can get reeeeeeeearry good at Japanese, so some amount of “demonstration” is probably a necessity.

Anyway, I was wrong.

Shorter Items

SRS sentence items. Yes they should be sentences, but you must kiss. That’s right, make out more. Get the tongue in there and…NO! I mean KISS: Keep It Short and Sweet. Sentences, yes; books, no. Break up long sentences if you must, I find that commas, pronouns, and particles/prepositions generally represent a good breaking point. If there is no clean, natural breaking point, then perhaps just break by length. Either way, you may or may not want to use ellipsis marks (…, ・・・) to mark your break. You might also consider incuding the original, full-length sentence in the answer section, for reference.

Right now (June 2008), I have an absolute hard upper limit of 10 characters on my Chinese sentence items, with most items being 6-8 characters long. It’s a bit more fluid for Japanese, but a hard upper limit 30 characters (kanji-kana mix), with most items being 10-15 characters long, seems about right. Earlier in your journey, you might want to go for even shorter Japanese sentences, in the 5-10 character range.

Remember: a long sentence is nothing but a bunch of short sentences stuck together. And even if a sentence looks simple, sometimes you need to make it even simpler for yourself.

Here are some examples, mostly from Momoko (source sentence and resultant sentence only shown):

  • Source Sentence: 「マハティールとアブドラの対立は激しさを増し、マハティールは5月19日、自分が30年かけて作ってきたUMNOを脫退し「アブドラが辭めないかぎり復黨しない」と捨てぜりふを発した。」
  • Resultant Sentence:「捨てぜりふを発した。」
  • Quoted From: Tanaka News, 國父の深謀
  • Source Sentence: 『「もう、今を犠牲にするのはやめよう」という彼らの感覚は、必ずしも「今さえ良ければそれでイイ」という投げ槍な剎那主義と同じではない筈だ』
  • Resultant Sentence:「必ずしも・・・投げ槍な剎那主義と同じではない」
  • Quoted From: スロー・イズ・ビューティフル―遅さとしての文化
  • Source Sentence: 「 21世紀初期,先進機械人的發展步伐越來越快,其中日本更是機械人科技的領導者。」
  • Resultant Sentence:「先進機械人的發展步伐・・・」
  • Resultant Sentence:「發展步伐越來越快」
  • Resultant Sentence:「其中日本更是・・・領導者。」
  • Quoted From: 2077日本鎖國
  • Source Sentence:「アンパンマンが島に下りて見ると、岩の割れ目の中から泣き聲が聞こえて來ます」
  • Resultant Sentence:「アンパンマンが島に下りて見る」
  • Resultant Sentence:「泣き聲が聞こえて來ます」
  • Quoted From: アンパンマンとあおばひめ

Delete (or Edit)

Sucky sentence items. They’re different for everyone. But everyone has them. You’ll know them when you see them. You’ll feel it. The dread. I see you looking at that sentence item. Yeah, you struggled to find it. Yeah, you entered it. Yeah, it seems important to know. But you know what? You’ve gone your entire life up to now not knowing that sentence; if it really matters, it’ll come up again. Right now, all it’s doing is sucking up your time and energy. Remember, you want to get QUANTITY of repetitions here. An item that’s sucky is a weed — feeding off the nutrients intended for all the other sentences. Delete it. Edit it if you really feel like it. But if editing feels like a waste of time, and for me it often does, then deletion is definitely the way to go.

Think of deletion as pruning or weeding — cleaning out a minority of overly burdensome items so that the majority can flourish. With sentence items, utilitarianism really works: the greatest good for the greatest number.

Length is not the only reason to delete a sentence item. Sentence items you just don’t quite “get”, or that you’re afraid might be wrong or awkward, also make good candidates for deletion.

This is Supposed to be Fun

Remember, sentences is not S&M. If it hurts, then it’s bad. No means no. Doing sentences should be like…popping bubblewrap. Requiring conscious effort, while being relatively easy and SUPER satisfying. Not to mention begging for repetition in an almost addictive way (addiction’s not the problem — it’s the object of addiction that matters). Doing sentences should make you feel like doing other sentences. If it doesn’t, then be aware that the fault probably lies neither with you nor with the language in question, but in individual items causing you dread. Get rid of them like you did your ’80s clothes.

Series Navigation<< How To Banish Boredom from Sentence-Mining (Sentence-Picking)SRS Precedence Rules >>

  36 comments for “Popping Bubblewrap: Tips for Better SRS Sentence Items

  1. Ivan the Terrible
    June 22, 2008 at 13:03

    Long sentences were the bane of my existence when I started out. I didn’t want to manually trim them down, because I thought I might make the sentence sound unnatural if I messed around with it, so I’d end up puzzled as to what to do with a wikipedia article that starts out with the sentence…say, 三國(狹義220年-280年,廣義184年、190年或208年-280年)是中國歷史上的一段時期,這個時期出現曹魏、蜀漢、孫吳等三個國家。

    So yeah, cutting long-ass sentences into sections works much better. I also feel it’s helpful if I can get a greater sense of the context of each sentence, however. So this is what I’ve been doing.

    On one side:

    …,zhe4 ge4 shi2qi1 chu1xian4 cao2wei4,…

    Followed by the whole of….


    …with ‘這個時期出現曹魏’ nice and underlined. Repeat for as many parts of the long sentence I don’t understand. So far, it works quite well.

    Only a max of 9-10 characters per card, though? That’s much shorter than I was expecting, and certainly much shorter than I’ve been doing. The ‘you can easily do 50 cards a day’ quote you have lurking in one of your past posts seems considerably less like crazy talk now.

  2. June 22, 2008 at 14:57

    good post.

  3. Zack
    June 22, 2008 at 16:51

    Agreed, excellent post. I’ve foolishly been adding long sentences a bit too much, and I’ve been really paying the price in my review time. I’m going to make sure to keep it low from now on.

    Good advice on the deleting sentences thing as well, if an item just doesn’t resonate (really annoys you or even if you really don’t like the ‘vibes’ it gives you) or you dread when you get it, it should go in the trash. The fewer of those there are the more smoothly your learning will probably go.

    I think this was one of the subjects that needed to be clarified, how to maximize time usage, and hopefully later on we can hear more if there’s anything more that can be talked about.

    Thank you KM

  4. Lloyd
    June 22, 2008 at 17:24

    I second (fourth?) the good post comments! Last fall I made a deck in studying for the JLPT2 that had about 2000 sentences. Then I let it slip and didn’t study it all for months. When I came back everything was up for review, which sucked. I just reset every card and started rocking through. But a LARGE percentage of the cards were awful; only one word, boring, Japanese to English, etc. So i just deleted the whole thing, which was painful cause I thought, “But I put in all this work!!!” but it was cathartic after I finally bit the bullet.

  5. madmerse
    June 22, 2008 at 17:50

    My sentences must have been way too long. In addition to the dictionary lookups, definition of definitions, and all the other woes that come with using a monolingual dictionary with my pitifully inadequate vocabulary, I added sentences that were reallly long (kinda like this one). It made my entry slow and it has been really discouraging.

    Your post came just in time. Thanks for the help. 🙂

  6. June 22, 2008 at 17:59

    If at any point in your life you decide to do some linguistic research or something, I implore you to do your PhD or research paper or whatever it’s gonna be, in front of “real” scientists, using terms like Popping Bubblewrap sindrome, language is sooo Simpo Theory, the importance of Fun, etc. 😀

    I’d love to see them going “Gasp! He’s not using big important words! He is SMILING! Why oh why is his silly little theory working?”

  7. Munashi
    June 22, 2008 at 18:49

    Very insightful post! A must read for anyone using sentences in a SRS!

    I needed this reminder because long sentences has made me dread my reviewing lately. I’ll have to work a compromise though because I’ve been trying to add sentences with info I care about in addition to new japanese words/expressions. So it will be extra hard for me to delete some of them 🙁

    @Relja I once worked with a mathematics professor and he was ALWAYS using such surprising analogies! And it works! I don’t have the feeling he was an exception, it’s just scientific articles won’t use the same language as casual conversation and blogs. But even there you’ll find such terms as “Lazarus effect”, “Brazilian coffee beans effect”, etc…

  8. June 22, 2008 at 19:13


    yeah, I know the language of scientific articles is different than blogs, it’s just that I think that along with that “serious” sort of language sometimes comes a certain rigidness in thought (especially in language teaching and research, where I think the results of certain types of learning are the most obvious, and in the case of Serbia they are obviously horrendous). Also, the teachers in general (at least here) often tend to overuse such scientific language in class, thus bringing about a significant deficiency of motivation i.e. boring the students to death 🙂

    Fun is thus labeled as something silly, but in the bad way – it is expunged from the classes, because in classes we should all behave seriously. Your mathematics professor knew better, apparently 🙂

    Also, wouldn’t it be cool if once in our life we heard a speech in front of the language research community start with: “Now I know you are all very handsome…” 😀

  9. Nivaldo
    June 22, 2008 at 22:35

    I’m glad I didn’t stay out for months. I would have missed this super-hyper-mega useful post. I was already becoming red because I really didn’t know what do with the “offensive” sentences. I was already applying the “break the long sentences” thing but what to do with the short/medium but still not understandable sentences? Thought about coming here and voila. 😀

  10. June 23, 2008 at 02:17

    I was actually going to write up on this, but you cut me to the chase, Khatzumoto-sensei, so I’ll just share my own personal learning style, which I’ve been using comfortably for about a couple of months by now.

    When I encounter difficult sentences (and ‘by difficult’, I refer to sentence structure, because I think that’s what is most puzzling about Japanese for English speakers), I try to understand the sentence by going at in the following manner:

    1. I break down the sentence into small chunks.

    Let’s say the whole sentence is this:



    My own complete happiness, and the home-centred interests which rise up around the man who first finds himself master of his own establishment, were sufficient to absorb all my attention, while Holmes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature.


    A veritable headache, no doubt.

    But the sentence, when broken down, transforms into chunks that are simple and easily understood:

    自らのこの上ない幸福 My own complete happiness
    そして初めて自分の所帯の主人となった男の the man who first finds himself master of his own establishment
    周りに持ち上がる家庭を中心とした利害は and the home-centred interests which rise up around
    私の注意をすべて奪うのに十分だったし、ホームズの方は were sufficient to absorb all my attention, while Holmes
    ボヘミアンそのものであるその精神のためにどんなものであれ社交を嫌い who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul
    ベーカー街の私たちの下宿に残って古い本に埋もれ remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books
    週ごとにコカインと野心、 from week to week … cocaine and ambition
    麻薬による惰眠と、the drowsiness of the drug
    彼本来の情熱的な性質の示す猛烈な気力の間を and the fierce energy of his own keen nature … between
    行きつ戻りつしていた and alternating

    The long sentence has become rather transparent.

    Especially for beginners (myself included), I think it is absolutely necessary to break down sentences; otherwise, one would never be able to make heads and tails of things. (It is probably true that the sentence loses its ‘connective-ness’ when you break it up; but if you’re already accustomed with at least the basics of Japanese grammar, this shouldn’t pose a problem; what’s important is that you get a bird’s eyeview of the many basic sentences that make up the whole complex sentence itself.)

    2. SRS-ing the smaller chunks before the big sentence itself.

    When handling difficult sentences, I import the big sentence into my SRS (Anki) first. But this sentence, I immediately suspend (for later reviewing).

    I then make several smaller chunks from this sentence, all of which I group under one category (such as ‘Cut Phrases’, in my case). I set the reviewing priority for this category to the highest available. (Playing around with the Deck Features in Anki will allow you to do this.)

    I’ll then do only these small and easy chunks. After some time (i.e. several repetitions), I would re-enable the previously-suspended difficult sentence. This time around, the difficult sentence would be very much accessible, as the smaller components of the sentence have already been understood.

  11. rich_f
    June 23, 2008 at 03:57

    More so than worrying so much about length, I’d say it’s more about the “+1” principle.

    The way I see the “+1” principle is like this: when you introduce something new to your SRS, you should be testing one new thing at a time… two at the most… three is really pushing it.

    If you’re a beginner, then everything is “+1” to you. So naturally, your sentences will be short. As you advance, you’ll have more, “Oh yeah, I know that” moments, so your sentences can get longer, with fewer “+1″s.

    Now when I put in a new sentence, ideally (to me, anyway) it would have one new word and one new grammar concept. Yeah, I know, I just said one new thing, but I like to combine new vocab with new grammar. I just don’t want to overwhelm my brain… but I don’t want to go through 800 versions of “ケーキをたべました。” either, because that’s boring.

    But for the most part, if you’re following a “+1” approach, length suddenly becomes a non-issue.

    If you have a huge and impossibly long sentence with a lot of new material in it, you’re going to hate it most likely, because it’s going to be full of “fail points”– places where you can blank out, causing you to fail the sentence.

    But if you have a long sentence full of words and concepts you already know for the most part, it’s not hard at all.

    And when I have a sentence that I want to learn that has too many fail points, what do I do? I find every vocab word I don’t know, grab my electronic dictionary (or an online one), and just find a few sentences for each new word. Since I tend to learn the new sentences all in one session, they all sort of “ride along” together until I get them all down. The main sentence will probably lag behind due to my not remembering everything right off the bat, but repetition seems to work just fine.

    Then again, I don’t take on monstrously long sentences like Wan Zafran does. 😀

    But yeah, in the end, it’s all about fun. If it’s not fun, you won’t do it.

  12. khatzumoto
    June 23, 2008 at 09:52

    Hey rich

    Good points all around. You’re right — the i+1 principle, and by extension “fail-point count” lie at the core of all this. You made a great point here:

    >If you’re a beginner, then everything is “+1″ to you. So naturally, your sentences will be short. As you advance, you’ll have more, “Oh yeah, I know that” moments, so your sentences can get longer, with fewer “+1″s.

    The reason I was focusing on length is…I personally had some basically i+1 sentences that were still too long (and therefore boring, for me). Like this one, where the intention/i+1 was to learn 「荒唐無稽」:


    and this one:


    In addition to (or perhaps as a part of?) i+1, I believe another principle at work is that of the brain/people wanting a series of short, quick victories (more on this in a future post). Then again, i+1 may be the “all-encompassing” concept, and length just a facet of that…Maybe length just gives a convenient metric or guide. Because of course there are sentences that are short enough, but definitely not i+1 and therefore unmanageable at this time.

    Perhaps length of sentence naturally increases fail-point count, even with i+1 at work? What do you think?

  13. Nuke-Marine
    June 23, 2008 at 16:16

    My problems with long sentences came about with UBJG (which Khatzumoto posted a review about). Unlike most other training books I got (mainly from Kodansha), this book did not have just single sentences. You had discussions and paragraphs. So the sentences could be long and boring at times. Considering I tried to write them out, that really made production annoying at times.

    Anyway, I did go back and edit all the sentences I had down to a core sentence or two. I also added in the understood parts which would not be understood in a single sentence. So I also agree that sentences can get too long, which hinder the reviewing process.

    My problems with not following the +1 issues (as Rich points out), came to a head with Kanji Odyssey (outstanding set of books by the way). There, even a short sentence or two were packed with new material. I was trying to railroad my way through it. It just got tedious seeing the same sentence again and again (ie, not fun). Finally, I decided to follow the +1 method and SUSPEND cards that had too many new items in it. After adding 300 or so sentences, I will go back and look at the suspended cards. If they’re then a +1 (heck, even a +0) I unsuspend them. Such is the beauty of the Anki program (amoung other things).

    I guess to sum up your point: Short, sweet and progressive.

  14. rich_f
    June 23, 2008 at 16:26

    Yeah, I see what you mean… but I wasn’t really talking about memorizing paragraphs like that, I was thinking more in terms of 30-35 character sentences, to be honest. For the most part, when sentences stray past that point, they’re not worth remembering because they’re poorly-written.

    I did my master’s in journalism, so now when I see “utilize” instead of “use,” I just cringe because “utilize” is bad English. It’s a 25-cent word where a 5-cent word works better.

    I think that concept can apply to any language. Rather than saying short is better, I’d say better is better. A good clear sentence that doesn’t get lost in itself is the sort of thing I’m always looking for. Then again, nobody talks like a newspaper, either. It’s 10 kinds of tricky to find the right sentences sometimes.

    I’d say that i+1 works for good, clear sentences, but it will break down if the sentence is too long and convoluted. I think I would have problems memorizing either of those chunks in English, let alone in Japanese, simply because my brain would just shut down after a certain point. It stops being about language learning, and starts turning into memorizing a book.

    It’s sort of like how relativity works just fine and dandy until you start getting too close to a black hole, and then everything gets all weird. Those sentences are very close to collapsing in on themselves and becoming black holes of meaning, from which not even the tiniest bit of enlightenment can escape. 😀

    But i+1 should work for most average stuff. It’s really just an overly clever way of saying “Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” for those of us who have a high nerd coefficient.

  15. munashi
    June 23, 2008 at 22:29

    Hi Khatzumoto,

    When you mentioned “the brain/people wanting a series of short, quick victories” I couldn’t help remembering something I found out while reading on procrastination (hmm …no comment) :

    [Piers Steel, a University of Calgary psychologist,] came up with something he calls temporal motivational theory (TMT). It boils down to this:

    Utility = E x V / Gamma D

    Utility is the desirability of getting something done. E is expectancy, or confidence. V is the value of the job, and includes not only its importance but also its unpleasantness. Gamma stands for how prone a person is to delay doing things. And D means delay, or how far away the consequences of doing, or not doing, the task are.

    The bigger the top number compared to the bottom, the less likely a task will be put off. So if you expect to do well at a job (E), and it’s a pleasant thing to do (V), and you’re not prone to being delayed by distractions (Gamma), and it has to be done right away (D), you’re not likely to procrastinate.


  16. Daniel S
    June 24, 2008 at 02:25

    This is the kind of post I’ve been waiting for. I always feel bad deleting sentences, but I can definitely understand what you’re saying here.

  17. nacest
    June 24, 2008 at 18:15

    I’m certainly not a journalist, but I too try to pay attention to how well-structured a sentence is. English is not my mother language, but I agree with you about how long sentences suck. It’s the same in my language.

    On the other hand, I didn’t feel like discarding long Japanese sentences, because I know nothing about the style of written Japanese. It could be that long sentences, in Japan, are not such a bad thing. Maybe if you’re really fluent in the language, understanding them gets really easy, much easier than it would be in English or Italian.

    These doubts have led me to the decision to avoid any thought about style until after I’m fluent.
    What do you think? Does it make sense?

  18. Zack
    June 25, 2008 at 02:32

    “Perhaps length of sentence naturally increases fail-point count, even with i+1 at work? What do you think?”

    I personally feel that this is the case.. it seems to happen to me at least.

  19. nest0r
    June 25, 2008 at 12:23

    Yea, short sentences all the way, definitely. Minimize new things learned per card, keeps the bubblewrap popping going at a steady pace without redundant, already-learned words, et cetera. It’s really a necessity when you’re doing these production sentences. Really does take a load off. I find, doing the image hack/TTS mod, I’m happy with 2-3 new vocab/grammar points per sentence, for 10-15 sentences a session. It won’t be anywhere near 10,000 sentences in a year+, but there’s plenty of new stuff learned each day that’s retained really well, and of course what’s important is a manageable, steady and fun pace.

  20. nest0r
    June 25, 2008 at 12:28

    PS, Rich – That ‘utilize’ vs. ‘use’ x-cent word stuff is old-fashioned bunk, the values’re all relative to the writer/audience desires and needs. ^_^

  21. Nivaldo
    June 25, 2008 at 21:40

    Hi, nacest! Only now I could read your comment and yeah after my friend finishes university, maybe I can shake him a little bit to “AIATT: All Italian All The Time”.
    As for what you said above, I’m not rich_f but wanted to get in the conversation,失礼します. I actually think it makes a lot of sense.
    Like everyone else, in the start, I was finding long sentences impossible to read. After a month however, I think they are fun to read. Well, I still don’t get long, long sentences, just those medium-length ones. But that LEGO structure the sentences have really make reading a lot of fun. I don’t really know how to explain it, I think I just like their logic. So yeah, I think that thinking about style after (as opposed to before) becoming fluent makes a lot of sense since you become better acquainted with the structure. To me, reading long sentences IN JAPANESE doesn’t suck after I get used to them, especially with those kanji, oh, they turn everything into a dream (exaggerated a little bit 🙂 ). 😀

  22. rich_f
    June 27, 2008 at 22:04

    Don’t get me started about that. The way they teach (or don’t teach) grammar these days in US schools makes me stark raving mad. Grammar isn’t rocket science. It’s just agreeing on some basic rules to communicate clearly. But there are a lot of native English speakers these days who can barely do that. (Just go to any gaming forum and you’ll see the truth of it.) Makes me want to stick my head in a bucket of lye until the pain goes away. 😛

    As for longer being better? It’s never better when it comes to sentences, no matter the language. Read a JP newspaper article or two, and you’ll see that sentences are still pretty short for the most part. The basic rule of journalism is to write to the 4th grade level, because you want to sell papers to everyone. The whole idea is to get info to as many people as possible, as clearly as possible. You wouldn’t expect a 4th grader to read those horrible sentences, would you?

    And people who use “utilize” in any written form really should be stabbed repeatedly with blunt, rusty scissors. (Especially bureaucrats.) 😛 It’s not the most egregious offender, but it’s up there.

  23. LS
    June 28, 2008 at 03:04

    I think your advice here is fine but please don’t buy into nihonjinron-flavored BS about Japanese supporting longer sentences due to some syntactic characteristic. English and Japanese both fully support sentences of (literally) infinite length. Take it from a student of Japanese with a degree in linguistics (me). The current trend in English writing and pedagogy away from long sentences is just a modern preference; read some English novels from the 19th century if you don’t believe me.

  24. Jonathan
    June 28, 2008 at 03:53

    I don’t actually have anything against “utilize” as a word, but thinking about it, I’m pretty sure the only time I’ve ever used it is when I’m bored and trying to come up with the Heisig keywords for random kanji. 😛

  25. nest0r
    June 28, 2008 at 09:55

    Who said longer is better? (Lots of n-names in this thread, want to make sure you know it wasn’t me.) Well, if your goal is to write in a generic 4th grade way for ‘journalistic’ purposes, then by all means, avoid words like ‘utilize’ and other rigid, dry advice passed on by bad writers in school, such as ‘avoid passive voice’, ‘use Anglo words’, et cetera. I’ll admit that it *is* better than Youtube-style grammar, though. ;p

  26. nacest
    June 28, 2008 at 16:30

    (The part about long sentences was directed to me, I think)

    you may be exactly right, I don’t know. I just preferred to ‘wait’ until I’m fluent before making decisions about these (after all) secondary things.
    I thought Japanese might be an exception because I noticed that some stylistic conventions are different, at least in the book I’m reading. For example, the tense of the verbs is not always coherent. Usually the narration is in the past tense, but it often jumps into the present tense, for reasons I’ve yet to discover. But I’ve decided to just read on until those reasons become clear by themselves.

    Besides, one may argue in the following way:
    – I don’t want to write long sentences because they are hard to understand.
    – I want to be fluent in Japanese and understand everything I read in Japanese
    – Some Japanese people for some reasons (lack of style or something) use long sentences
    – Therefore it may be useful to practice long sentences even though I don’t plan to use them myself.

    That said, I think Khatz’s advice in this post is sound, and I’ve already started to avoid long and boring sentences. What I said above was just for the sake of dialectic.

  27. palesh
    June 30, 2008 at 13:20

    I’m not sure I agree with Khatz on a small throw-away point he made. He’s stressed in the past that with enough effort, time and willpower, nothing in Japanese will remain outside the realm of total comprehension. In that way, I strongly disagree with dropping sentences you “don’t quite get” — just be honest in grading them and stay patient. The only situation where I might agree would be if new information came up that gave you reason to believe the sentence was awkward or incorrect.

  28. robrave
    July 1, 2008 at 18:35

    I found this yesterday, and seems to be what we need 🙂


  29. Jon
    August 9, 2008 at 06:55

    I’m unsure on this one, and the uncertainty substantially comes down to the question of whether some errors on Antimoon are intentional or not.

    I use the term “error” somewhat controversially here; in particular, I’m talking about the tendency towards very short sentences that some of the articles and success stories have, which sound unnatural as all get-out. It’s entirely possible that they’re written that way primarily to make it easier to read for beginning learners. If that isn’t the case, however, it seems to me quite possible that there’s some damage caused by focusing on short SRS entries at work here, assuming they’ve followed SuperMemo’s advice along the same nature.

  30. Nukemarine
    November 6, 2008 at 23:31

    Sorry for the necro post, but I had a mini-revelation (I have lots of those, then I have some that contradict previous ones, creating lots of rework, so take this with a grain of salt and sugar).

    Don’t sweat the length of sentence. Just do this: BOLD term the kana and kanji portion of the sentence that is the word you’re testing. Next, DON’T WRITE OUT THE SENTENCE, just write out the word being tested. Yes, write out the sentence ONCE when you first review it. But after that, just worry about that one word the sentence is there as context to test you about. For those that did RTK, this is akin to Heisig saying you don’t have to write out the kanji endlessly on end to learn them, just once or twice properly can do it. In addition, if you fail a sentence, it’ll be only because of this one word (or concept) that’s being tested.

    Now don’t misunderstand me. You still want to read the entire sentence. You still want to understand the entire sentence. But with the above, you stop failing a sentence cause of any dozen of words in it. You focus on that one word you added the sentence for in the first place.

    In case you’re doing TTS, there’s hope here too. When you convert your sentence to audio, put a copy of the word at the front with spaces or commas (1 or 2 seconds worth) followed by the actual sentence. In your Anki (or other SRS), bold term your kana and kanji sentences. In your definition field put the J-J for that word only. You can add the J-E if you need to for that word and others, but ALWAYS put the J-J so it’s there when you need it.

    Yeah, it’s the +1 thing all over again. But I was finding that CHORE (ok, boring task) of writing out the sentences again and again. I sweated whether to fail because I missed one of the words but not all. This takes it all away. That sentence is about that one word. Everything else is context (important, but not being tested). If I cannot pronounce that one word (via Kanji to pronunciation) or write that one word (via audio to kanji), then the card is missed. Missing other things, well, you have other cards that’ll test them soon enough.

    Basically, longer sentences should not be an issue now.

  31. Chris
    November 21, 2009 at 18:09

    I’ve gained a decent amount of proficiency in Spanish and now just starting to work on Japanese since my gf/probable future wife is Japanese and I might move there at some point.

    Although I am definitely digging the whole “environment” building parts of this site, I can’t see most people building up 10,000 SRS sentences without sticking a gun in their mouth on a bi-weekly basis … and having it go off during at least one of those episodes.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but how is that not just like … or worse than … (cough) studying in a class?

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