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Secrets to Smoother SRSing, Part 7: The Place of Pre-Mined SRSing and Other Ramblings

This entry is part 7 of 11 in the series Secrets to Smoother SRSing

This is the penultimate installment of a multi-part series on smoother SRSing.

You probably get from this blog that I take issue with school and what it does to people. One of the things that happens in school is people are often forced to compete against one another in games of dubious intrinsic significance and even more dubious post-scholastic significance. When schoolkids do cooperate, they do so only in superficial, preset ways — anyone who’s ever had the teacher pick your class groups knows the kind of thing I’m talking about. Why was the learning-disabled kid always in my group? Yes, I said “retard”. How else do you describe a white kid who doesn’t like rap music? ALL white kids of sound mind like rap music! What, you think I like it because I’m black? NO! I was raised in a white neighborhood in Africa: that’s just how stuff goes down, son [faux-gangsta hand gestures]!

Another thing many schools have is an aversion to technology that reduces work — calculators, spell-checkers…[except in cases where Casio or TI used copious quantities of hookers and blow to bribe the local school board into pushing graphing calcs on the students…hey, even teachers need their hookers and blow, plus there are worse things to push].

So I never felt it right to put down the various mass-sentence collection initiatives out there. And I still don’t. In fact, I think they’re a great thing in that they potentially reduce some gruntwork…To the extent they represent selfless, well-intentioned teamwork, I think they could well be a great thing.

But, they do not remove your responsibility to be selective. As the saying goes, you can delegate tasks but not responsibility. In fact, due to the quantity of pre-prepared sentences involved; the responsibility to be selective is only increased a thousandfold, no a myriadfold, no, as many folds as there are grains of sand in the eyelashes of all the camels in Japan, yazalami. Think about it — when you’re working by hand, you are limited by your time and ability to concentrate. But when the input’s already been done for you, the opportunities to fill your SRS with duds multiply by hundreds and maybe even thousands. So you must become a professional weeder.

For the purposes of SRSing, weeding/selectivity is a synonym for both “delete” and “do not insert in the first place(although, the emphasis is on the “delete; there’s no need to bother avoiding mistakes if they can be corrected later for free). If you don’t like an item, throw it out. If an item looks at you wrong, throw it out. If you just can’t be bothered with an item…throw it out. If you feel “meaah”, throw it out. Even if you’re just a beginner but you sense there might be an error, throw it out. If your favorite sports team loses, throw it out. If you’re marching in the Army and you feel something funny, throw it out. Throw out sentences for cosmetic reasons. Don’t worry about false positives — there’s plenty more where those came from. You are precious; your enjoyment is precious; maybe even the process is precious, but the individual sentences are not.

Also…pre-mined sentences are definitely for outgrowing. Unless and until they start cutting sentence items with text and audio and video clips from authentic native sources. Funnily enough, this is starting to happen (this article has been in a half-written state for many months, so things change). iKnow are kinda sorta moving in this direction, and the new program subs2srs is a promising development.

Anyway, for now, it’s a fine, fine line. And you don’t need me to walk it for you; remember, I’m not a linguist or anything, I’m just the most handsome man on the entire Internet. So… have fun with it, and remember…the delete button is your friend.

Personally, I haven’t found pre-mined SRS items to carry enough of the je ne sais quoi weirdness that is the staple of my life…but this may be a temporary problem. Keep in mind that I am old man of sorts; I have my way of doing things now. It may just be the inertia of well-formed habit that keeps me doing things my way. Or it may in fact be the case that SRS cards that one makes oneself sit in the memory better, complete with the context in which the information was originally found — this lack of context definitely looms quite large. But, really, I don’t know.

Is the SRS alone enough? I want it to be. Fundamentally, I believe that every large problem can be solved through good systems…A good system gives us a way to connect tiny local actions into a larger global goal or solution. But in my experience with and observation of purely SRS-centric, low-immersion language learners, I have yet to see good results. I have seen people spin their wheels just dry-SRSing themselves into oblivion, avoiding immersion, with its rough edges and frequent lack of certainty, like a drunk salaryman on the train. I hesitate to hypothesize, but I think it’s safe to say that high-concentration, high-quantity exposure to engaging (=fun) native materials is a far better overall predictor of fluency than SRSing.

One thing that attracts me to SRSing is the feeling of quantitative progress. So I decided to find myself an easy way to get this feeling in areas other than SRSing. This month, I’m watching 100 unique Cantonese movies — not not counting repeats or other exposure materials such as the news, cartoons, regular TV shows, books and so on. I cut away boring parts ruthlessly. Some movies I repeat all day, some I sample, skip and skim through in one minute before discarding. But more on this in a future post.

As things stand right now, the immersion environment is still the foundation and center of the process. SRS acts like a glue and bridge. The SRS ensures that information from the environment is not lost, again acting as a sealing agent of sorts and a bridge into a more free-wheeling, on-the-fly enjoyment and use of the language [memorizing information can free up brain cycles you can then use for having more fun]. In any case, what’s real is the environment; the environment is the real world; real stuff by and for native users. If you run away from that, trying to escape to the comforting (?), sometimes familiarly school-like arms of your SRS, then you are, in a sense, running away from reality. Not to mention the fact that there are parts of every language that fall between the cracks of deliberate attempts to record and collect that language, but that are a very real everyday part of it. In no language does this seem more true than Japanese. Indeed, some Japanese people can seem intent on keeping you away from the language as it is actually used, but I imagine the same could be said of patronizing speakers of any language.

Or something. I am now theorizing. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Please don’t treat me like an authority, or imagine that I think I am one. The ultimate authority on your language process is you. Take advice, take in opinions, but know that in the present day and age, your best guide is your own process of play. Yes, play. Call it “trial and error”, if you want to feel more “grown-up” about it. But know that, really, it’s just play. Screwing around.

As an erudite forum critic of mine once pointed out that I don’t even follow my own advice. And it’s true: I don’t. Insofar as I am frequently making tweaks and changes to the sails of the ship in order to make better use of the winds of reality, I literally do not follow my own advice. Ultimately, there is no AJATT “system”, or at least I do not want there to be. I merely presented it as a system to make it easier to digest, to make it seem more concrete and less flaky, but what is ultimately more important than any detail of implementation is the idea that you can do this on your own, having fun, simply by becoming what you want to be Later by turning into it Right Here and Now — there are tools that can help you do this, but they’re all disposable, to be discarded the moment a truly superior alternative shows itself. Here, superiority is as much relative as it is absolute. A “superior” tool can’t just be objectively better, it must also fulfill certain subjective criteria.

Anyway, SRSing feels like it’s just now starting to take off…But, things are developing at an exciting pace. There may very soon come a day when a single product has all the tools in one box, everything you need for fluency in a language. But not yet. Not yet…Not freaking yet. I am many things, but I am not a Luddite; I honestly want everything to be in one box. But there is no such box. A lot of people with boxes want to tell you they have it. They don’t.

The SRS is easily one of the greatest (and yet, least used) educational tools of the last 100-150 odd years. And this series has been about how to use an SRS. Abandoning the SRS altogether would be like, I dunno, throwing out one of the greatest (and yet, least used) educational tools of the last 100-150 odd years. It’s like abandoning electric lights because “they’re too bright and they cut me” — yeah, if you stare directly into them at point blank range, then you’ll just end up seeing stars, and if you crack the glass and rub the tungsten filaments on your naked eyeballs, it might itch a bit. And if you pour the mercury into your evening after-dinner libation and drink it, then, you might turn into a white kid who doesn’t like rap music. But if take those same electric lights, and shine them on books, then you can read the best comics in the very dead of night.

An SRS will simply harm and blind you if you don’t use it sensibly; if you try to beat yourself with it, it’ll hurt. But, used correctly, i.e. with judicious attention to fun and immersion, it can help bring you, at the very least, literacy in Japanese or Chinese or whatever else, in far less time and with far less effort than you ever thought possible.

So use one. Just don’t be used by one.

In my eagerness to give people an easy series of steps to follow, I fear I may have done the world a disservice. I use the SRS; I have it do work for me that I would otherwise have to do [dynamically sorting 15,000 paper flashcards into dated boxes? are you kidding me?]; it is my secretary; it schedules my reviews so I don’t have to. I wouldn’t walk into any language unarmed with an SRS. But for too many people SRSing has become the main course. For too many people…following the instructions on this site ever more accurately has become the main course. The problem is not so much with the individual actions as with the overall subtext of submission. Which makes me wonder…

Why do we so carefully pick out clothes, food and TV channels…but not ideas? Surely we can all agree to like Subway sandwiches, but decide to use different fillings and not get too worked up over the presence or absence of olives? If you want to know if the SRS card format you’re thinking of will work…why not just go and try playing with different formats? Play. There is no “fail” in “play”. Don’t ask me whether stuff will work; I don’t know and I don’t care. Don’t look for my approval or anyone else’s. Think about it — if I or anyone else thought what you were suggesting doing were correct, we would be doing it ourselves. Discovery (frequently? only?) happens where you go against what everyone is saying, go against the grain and into new territory. Don’t be afraid; don’t explain yourself; don’t argue; just go.

Did you know that whenever you ask me whether not doing something will work or not, a puppy dies of cancer? Again, think about it — if I’d spent my time experimenting with what happened when I didn’t do something, then the site would be called “Various Experiments Involving The Selective Exclusion Of One Or More Parameters In Self-Directed Acquisition of Japanese Dot Com”. But it isn’t; I had no time for that. The only technique I used was maximizing enjoyable Japanese exposure time such that it asymptotically approached 24 hours/day. That’s the only style I am “qualified”, as it were, to give advice on.

So do your own thing. Listen to your feelings. As Southern California as that sounds, really listen. When something is boring, either make it un-boring, or just don’t effen do it; it’s that simple: Do = No. Listen to your “FUNDAR” (Fun Detection And Ranging). Respect your own preferences. Don’t do crap you don’t feel like doing just because someone else says to. Choose. Keep what works, lose what doesn’t, and have fun no matter what. You can get the task of acquiring proficiency in a language done, anyone can. But you don’t have to suffer boredom to do it.

The tools and methods I mentioned on this site were and are heavily customized to my unique preferences and situation. I still think they will work for many, perhaps even most people. But if they don’t work for you, that doesn’t mean you have to give up; it doesn’t mean you have to eat Chocolate Frosted Whining Flakes for breakfast for the rest of your life; it doesn’t mean you have to make up a new theory about certain ethnic groups having fast-twitch muscles for language assimilation — it simply means that there’s a different path out there for you. Your task is to find or cut out that path. Only you can do this. And, no, the Whining Flakes will not give you energy for the journey, so you can leave them at home.

Remember: I did not use the SRS (or RTK, or whatever tool) because some Cosmic Law Written Down On Stone Tablets That I Done Picked Up On A Random Peninsularly-Situated Mountain In The Middle East required me to do so, I did it because it was, on balance, the simplest, laziest and funnest solution to a specific, persistent, overarching problem — memory decay. In other words, the tools filled a need. If you have no need, then you need no tool. In fact, I might as well tell you, I had originally thought of writing AJATT in a more gradual, oblique, “mysterious” way, where people would only be introduced to tools once they understood why they might need them. But it was easier to just lay it all out. In any case, if you don’t understand why things like SRS, RTK or RTH are useful, and you’re feeling oppressed by them, then do yourself a favor and don’t use them — no one’s forcing you to. A method cannot merely be quantitatively effective in order to “work”, it must also be qualitatively tolerable, or better yet, enjoyable. Go your own way, and you may discover methods you like better, that don’t involve these tools at all. Or you may struggle and stumble along and finally realize how cool these tools are. Or you may take a path somewhere down the middle, mixing and matching [I imagine a good number of people will fit in here].

Or something…I dunno…just quit asking me 😀 . Stop asking permission from people who never had the authority to give it to you in the first place; stop asking for directions from people who’ve never been there. In all likelihood, there are no directions and there is no road: you may just be the First. You’re on your own. Enjoy the freedom.

Thanks for reading, check back soon for the series finale.

Series Navigation<< Secrets to Smoother SRSing, Part 6: Maintain Only the Baseline/SRS HolidaysHow To Banish Boredom from Sentence-Mining (Sentence-Picking) >>

  29 comments for “Secrets to Smoother SRSing, Part 7: The Place of Pre-Mined SRSing and Other Ramblings

  1. AJ
    May 14, 2009 at 00:05

    Huh, no comments yet? This must have just went up. What are you doing writing at midnight? Then again… why am I up at midnight? Apparently for the ability to go on tangents in comment boxes.

    Back to the origin reason for this, good post! For a long time now I’ve separated myself from that world of looking for the best way and instead finding the way that was the most fun for me. That happens to be going through multiple sources at once while still trying to finish up the last legs of RTK. A lot of people tell me to do RTK at once, as one big thing (even you do :P), yet I just can’t stay interested it in that long. I love kanji, but I like reading kanji more. I get depressed every time my Japanese friends text me a mail and I know what it means but I can’t read it. That’s why I learn readings a long side. Plus, I’ve done enough of the book to be able to get through the first KO2001 book without any problems at all.

    Anyway, thanks for the good read, as usual! Your posts always give me motivation.

  2. 克己
    May 14, 2009 at 01:05

    Hey Khatz, excellent point you made here. And, I think anyone that follows your advice will have come to this conclusion themselves.

    For me, SRSing, was something that I did religiously, and I only used sentences from the dictionary and nothing else “because it was quick.” (Monolingual, by the way). But, then I kept seeing this same idea on “reading” in your target language and what it can do for you. (You learn grammar and vocabulary like a madman with practically no effort at all, to name a few). So, I gently eased into reading a little bit everyday that wasn’t dictionary definitions. And, soon I came to understand that, just by reading, even without a dictionary, you can learn tons and tons of words, that you can then go and look up in that monolingual dictionary and learn even more words!

    But, something I had neglected was any other source. What I mean is, I didn’t read the lyrics of the songs I listened to (a shame, because イッサイガッサイ is an excellent song). So, I started on that and when through a couple songs and just picked out the easy stuff. Because, the way I look at it, the more I pick out the easy stuff, the easier the hard stuff looks and then becomes easy. And, then the next day, I didn’t quite feel it on the lyrics, so I tried reading a story. The next day, tired of that, so I moved on to the internet to find something to read. Later that day, didn’t feel it any more, back to manga.

    And, one thing that I also was neglecting to do because it didn’t feel like I was going to learn anything was just watching movies, cartoons, and TV dramas. But, from what I’ve read, people over at ALGWorld become fluent in languages simply by watching, looking, and guessing about what’s going on. Hmmm. Sounds an awful lot like TV. Alas, I watch more Japanese kids shows like ドラゴンボール and カードキャウターさくら, the same things I grew up with. And, now, I’m saving up some cash to go buy my Japanese copy of ムーラン, and ジャングルブック, and of course ラストサムライ. And, I fully intend on giving each of these films a month or two to get as much as I can from them, and then maybe try on another film, or something else.

    One point I’d like to bring up is that, the delete button, it’s scary at first. In fact, it’s terrifying. You spend hours learning those sentences with the dictionary, but they don’t have the same feel and flavor of sentences from manga, music, and movies. And so, you just have to delete them. But it feels like your taking a step back. You find a bunch to delete a bunch. And it’s painful. But, when you’re immersing yourself properly, that sentence count doesn’t matter so much as the fact that, last month, you watched 200 hours of Japanese TV and your understanding of the language grew immensely, or the fact that you read the entire Dragonball Z manga and you have no problem saying “Vegeta, what’s the scouter say about his power level? …” In Japanese.

    So, as a result of these things, I’ve come to this point where, I use the monolingual dictionary as a tool to learn related words to those found in the sources I’m surrounding myself in, instead of using it as a primary source. And, I’ve learn to let go of things. Things like that compound you had no idea what it meant in the first place, but you still looked it up because you wanted to parse that manga carefully, but, you’re still on page 2 and the first page didn’t have any words on it. Yeah. And, I used to do the audio->text cards talked about in your Chinese notes, but, as a super beginner, I found that to be exhausting, so I changed it up and decided to just do it from the Japanese sentence itself. And, I don’t really write them all that much because it makes it easier to blast through them and get back to doing real stuff in Japanese. And, I even limit myself to 100 reviews a day, which I didn’t before.

    And, on the topic of those premade sentence. Especially the ones from iKnow, they don’t really come from real context that most people even care about, so they don’t help build MIFs (Mental Image Flashes), which are essential to native-like fluency, I believe.

    Thanks again for all the advice you’ve share.


  3. May 14, 2009 at 01:09

    Wonderful post. I’ve been thinking a lot about this very thing lately. On the RevTK forums there are some guys who basically make SRS textbooks, and while, yeah, I really appreciate the effort and I know most of them intend for us to just download the spreadsheet and copy/paste what we like, I think a lot of people are just adding every sentence, despite how prosaic or boring it may be. It’s also rather evident that the majority of focus is on SRSing and not immersion. It’s been good, though, in that it’s kept me aware of my own studies… helps me make sure I don’t do the same thing.

    Great post 🙂 I hope the final entry includes what you decided about your sentences while in Taiwan. I’ve been so curious!

  4. Upaya
    May 14, 2009 at 04:57

    “In fact, I might as well tell you, I had originally thought of writing AJATT in a more gradual, oblique, “mysterious” way, where people would only be introduced to tools once they understood why they might need them.”

    In a way, that’s what you’re doing right now. Some have taken “the AJATT method” to an almost religious point, and now you’re giving them more powerful tools, saying “hey, um, you don’t really have to pray twelve times a day”. I like that.

  5. Jack
    May 14, 2009 at 06:03

    Bad point on the second paragraph.
    You don’t give a third grade student (who must learn to add single digit numbers) a calculator and expect them to use it to solve problems. A calculator is to be used for checking one’s own work and at no other time. Adding is a skill and to learn this skill you must add and add until you can’t add any more (called the Drill & Kill learning method, which is how the school I went to teaches). If the calculator adds for you, you won’t learn. Eventually (usually by the beginning of 4th grade), the student will find, at least when adding single digit numbers, that the calculator is a hindrance and not a help because the student can do it faster than the calculator.

    Additionally, the graphing calculators you disparage in the same paragraph are useful learning tools despite whatever backroom dealing conspiracy theories you may espouse.

    It’s understandable that SRS would not be part of an educational toolbox. They are a fairly recent invention.

    On deleting items: It takes a long time to get from adding an item to “I know this so well I don’t need to study it anymore.” You wouldn’t add a fact like “Rising water vapor condenses and forms clouds” to your SRS – you know this fact too well to need to study it ever again. It wasn’t that way when you first learned it though.

  6. Jonathan
    May 14, 2009 at 06:27

    >>A calculator is to be used for checking one’s own work and at no other time.

    I sure hope you’re implicitly qualifying this with something like “for basic arithmetic only.”

    I think I would somewhat disagree with that statement anyway, but that’s a discussion for another blog.

  7. 克己
    May 14, 2009 at 09:18


    > On deleting items: It takes a long time to get from adding an item to “I know this so well I don’t need to study it anymore.” You wouldn’t add a fact like “Rising water vapor condenses and forms clouds” to your SRS – you know this fact too well to need to study it ever again. It wasn’t that way when you first learned it though.

    I’m sure that the deletion doesn’t apply to those items that you know well, at least, not exclusively. I’m pretty sure Khatz is talking about duds. Those sentences that just don’t set right with you. For those, you just delete those out as soon as you can, or never let them in.

  8. May 14, 2009 at 11:35

    Great post khatz. and quite timely considering some of the heated discussion going on in the comments of your last post. This is gonna help put things in perspective for me a bit. In an attempt to help myself with my japanese classes ive been loading in sentence after sentence from my textbook. Deep down this has been a grind, albeit kinda interesting. I need to focus more on the stuff I’m really into for my SRS. I think its time to start sentence-mining ROOKIES again.

    complex calculations are all done on graphics calculators because writing it out by hand is a waste of the students time. The student still needs to remember and understand the equation itself.
    As far as deleting SRS items, its not really for when you “know the item”, because we know that human memory is quite failable. You still need your SRS to “remind” you even if you dont see the card for years at a time. Deletion of annoying SRS items that you keep forgetting or are uninterested in was more the point. I tend to encounter this alot with my sentences (about 1 in 4 cards). I would never delete a card because I knew it too well, I would simply give it a 5 and move on.

  9. Rob
    May 14, 2009 at 13:15

    さすが、すごくいいポストですね。 ありがとう勝元さん。

  10. 40 pancakes
    May 14, 2009 at 19:15

    That was amaaaaaaaaaazing!!!!
    Now, how many times a day should I choose what I want to do and not follow your advice religiously? Can you be a little more specific, and tell me which parts of advice I should ignore?!?!?!?! Hehe.

  11. Chiro-kun
    May 14, 2009 at 21:33



  12. khushvele
    May 15, 2009 at 04:15

    yo khatz, i’ve put together a bunch of beats w/ cantonese clips synced over them (mostly instrumentals painstakingly ripped from kanye’s “college dropout,” ironically enough). should i throw up a link?

  13. james
    May 15, 2009 at 08:25

    great post. your use of the english language is delightful. your ability to express ideas clearly and efficiently is rarely matched by any other bloggers (and even professional writers).

  14. Hextator
    May 15, 2009 at 14:08

    Why do I feel like this is directed at me? ;D

    I hadn’t really been paying attention, so I only recently noticed you started this site in “late 2006”.

    That’s about the time I started reverse engineering vidja games, and now I consider myself one hell of a CS student.

    Would have been really cool to study Japanese over that period of time. Not sure why the idea didn’t occur to me considering I was already watching Japanese things and listening to Japanese music over their English counterparts shortly after…

    Anyway, Feed Me Japanese looks REALLY cool. I have to wonder how long it took to get together the people it must have taken to plan that sort of thing.

  15. Райан
    May 15, 2009 at 19:30

    Something I’ve found infinitely more useful then just a dictionary, that helps me learn new vocab and cement how to use words (something some people call grammar) is oddly linguistic texts about , especially syntax books. Seriously useless books if you use them the way they were written (“You must use this case in this circumstances!” who the heck remembers that crap when speaking?), but they come with thousands of native example sentences that are actually interesting in themselves! Of course, you either have to already have enough experience with correctly and well pronouncing the language or find a way to have these read aloud to you for them to be extremely useful…but it’s a good bridge between the feeling “GAH! There’s so many words in this book/newspaper/comic I don’t understand that it’s depressing!” and “Hey, this isn’t so bad…in fact…it’s pretty fun!”

  16. Tagore
    May 17, 2009 at 10:29

    Райан: Couldn’t agree more. I have a lot of usage handbooks, idiom guides, etc., but I picked up a copy of Tuttle’s “Handbook of Japanese Usage” used pretty early on in learning Japanese and I think dollar for dollar it was the best purchase I’ve made. It’s a very slim volume- maybe 1/4 of the size of one of the Dictionary of B/I/A Japanese Grammar books, but it has probably as many entries and examples sentences as all three of them put together. And the usage explanations, while short, are given in kanji/kana, romaji, and English translation, so you acquire the ability to talk abvout Japanese usage at the same time, which can be useful if you want to ask a Japanese speaker for help.

    I agree about the immersion being more important than the SRS. I love my SRS- but I see it mainly as something that supports the “real Japanese” side of things. One use for it that is often overlooked is as a scheduling mechanism. For instance you can read something in Japanese, look up and learn all the words you don’t know in it, and then just throw a reference (whether a url, or a page number in a printed book, or something else) to it into the SRS. Then, when that card comes up you go back and reread it. Best used, in my experience, with fairly short passages. Otherwise it can be a bit hard to face the cards.

    I’ve not really done much sentence mining- I find it hard to relate to sentences on their own. Instead I’ve just read certain things so many times that I practically have them memorized- in some cases I do have parts of them memorized. I think this serves much the same purpose as sentence mining, and I find it a lot less tedious. The use of the SRS as a scheduler ensures that you return to them at reasonable intervals.

    Also, chopping up media can be really useful, and can be used in conjunction with SRS as scheduler. I have some files I’ve made by chopping all the uninteresting bits out of dramas and just concatenating interesting monologues and dialogs into one file (with appropriate fade-in/out and other editing to keep the transitions from being to painfully abrupt). I haven’t actually used the SRS to schedule viewings of these, but it might not be a bad idea.

    Something I am just starting to do is collect very short audio clips for “shadowing”. They have a beat of silence on each side so you can catch the rhythm, and then just shadow the clip for 20 or so repetitions- since the clips are very short this only takes a few minutes. One thing about this is that you _really_ wind up burning the usage into your head. The ostensible point is to improve your accent, but if you always make some characteristic mistake doing this with a few correct sentences involving the point in question is as good a way as I’ve found to cure that.

  17. Tagore
    May 17, 2009 at 10:37

    Also, I think I have a pretty good idea of what would be in that all-in-one box, at least for comprehension (and if you understand Japanese, written and spoken, fluently I think you’re likely at least 80% of the way to speaking it well.) But it would have to be hideously expensive, because you would have to license a lot of media for it, in order to avoid the dry-SRS syndrome.

  18. QuackingShoe
    May 19, 2009 at 08:26

    Really happy to see this post. Major props.

  19. james
    May 19, 2009 at 11:20

    I would love to say my SRS doesn’t control my studying… but I’m afraid it does..

    Everyday I have about 300 reviews. I add new words at a quick pace. But the problem is if I don’t do my SRS reps for a while(even 9 hours or so) or say only do a 100 one day, I know they are just adding and adding and will be waiting for me. So I try to keep doing them as they come….Opening up my SRS and see 400-500 due is not a motivating or fun sight. I guess maybe my solution is less new words right…. but..

    The problem is, when I am immersing myself, reading, watching tv, etc. and I see a word I dont know, I want that word to be in my SRS NOW!! I mean I want to know everyword eventually right? It’s a real struggle to read a book and NOT stop when I see a word I don’t know. Like I’m scared of NOT knowing that word. Recently I’ve gotten better but still. I’m stuck in self imposed knowledge slavery.

    I know Katz somewhere I read you were the kind of person that wanted to know EVERYTHING. I’m like that myself.

    How do you guys keep your SRS reps down and read for enjoyment rather then hunting for new words??

  20. Ernesto
    May 19, 2009 at 13:01


    Are you putting in just words, or sentences? Cause’ if it’s just words, no wonder you have a ton of reps.

  21. Rob
    May 19, 2009 at 13:36


    Here are a couple of my suggestions:

    Let the SRS go. Chuck it for awhile and keep reading. If you keep reading, the words you need to know will keep appearing. Each time you’ll be seeing them in new context and their meanings will be even clearer than if you repeated the same sentence 5-10 times in an SRS. I did this and I’ve never regretted it. Khatz might not agree to get rid of the SRS completely, but even he states above that constant exposure to new interesting material is better than SRSing. So if you keep reading and listening then you really can’t go wrong. My advice is to give it a try. The SRS will always be there if you change your mind.

    A different approach that you might consider is rather than throwing away the SRS entirely, throw away the deck that is bogging you down. Start from scratch again. That might sound crazy but I think it would be very liberating and motivational. Remember how pumped you were when you finished RTK and started putting sentences in for the first time?

  22. adshap8
    May 19, 2009 at 22:54

    >James (And anyone else!)

    I feel the same way as you. I’ve already broken the 10k sentence mark and 3000 kanji mark, and I find that I usually have about 300-400 sentences a day to review. If I took a break for a few days, it would go up to 700-800. I also want to learn every new word I don’t know.

    I also have a separate SRS for law school which I get up to about 4-5k cards a semester. In addition to the Japanese, I do about 200 reps a day for that SRS.

    I remember reading your success news story article, and I think you might be stuck at the same phase as me which makes you feel like you are held captive by the SRS. It’s going from the fluent phase to the native level japanese phase that I feel the SRS is vital.

    I’ve been studying Japanese history lately and any Japanese person knows what 旧石器時代、縄文時代、古墳、卑弥呼、 are but I was clueless on it. I can read a newspaper perfectly fine, but encountered tons of words I didn’t know in the field of history (as well as different sciences). I was shocked to find out I didn’t know what 鰭 (ひれ) was the other day, when it’s such a common word.

    I want the full knowledge level of a Japanese person my age, and that requires an SRS. ( <– This site suggested by Khatz has been amazing for accomplishing this goal)

    What I usually do to keep myself from being overwhelmed by 300-400 sentences a day, is do only reviews for about a week with no new inputs. In the mean time, every time I find words I don’t know, I highlight them/copy them (depending on what source I’m using). After not entering for a week, my sentence reviews usually come to about 225-250 a day. Once that happens I take all the words that I’ve been building up from reading materials, start entering them in as sentences for a few days, until my reviews get back up to 300-400, then repeat the process. It keeps everything fresh.

    And last, I consider SRS like an invaluable game. Remember why you are using it. Why give up the most valuable weapon available to you. I think any dragging down that a large SRS brings, is immediately cancelled out by the feeling when you see words/sentences in the sources you are reading/watching/hearing. Just because you are a pro baseball player, who loves the sport, doesn’t mean you enjoy practicing 1000 swings a day. (You love the results which makes the practice worthwhile)

    Regardless of what many other people are saying, I think giving up the SRS would be giving up your most valuable asset. Instead of worrying about being enslaved by it, learn to love it. Learn to consider it your ally. Don’t let it drag you down, let it be by your side.

    And Good Luck!

  23. Ernesto
    May 20, 2009 at 15:56

    They should make an SRS program that has reps of songs with their lyrics being displayed on the bottom of the screen. I’d sooo download that.

  24. けんじ
    May 22, 2009 at 14:40

    Nice one Khatzu XD I laughed at the puppy comment. Here, made a motivational poster for you:

    Been reading raw manga and watching tons of raw anime thanks to you. I wont add more because you no understand English.

  25. Spencer
    August 22, 2009 at 02:21

    I think this article is the best article on the site. I love the “There is no AJATT “system” ” quote because it is so true… I dabble into a bit of this and a bit of that. Everyday I seem to be finding things that are fun in Japanese and then just doing them. I agree SRS is awesome but the whole immersion thing is where its at.

    keep the fun alive…


  26. Linda
    November 21, 2009 at 00:54

    Hey Khatz,

    thank you for sharing your knowledge and views with everyone, it´s really encouraging 🙂

    i found a pretty usefull SRS app for the iPhone/iPodTouch, which i´d like to recommend to everbody:
    It´s called “Karatasi” and should be available in german and english (i got it from the UK-iTunes store).

    It´s a simple Flashcard app, that uses the Leitner Algorithm and lets you create your own decks etc..
    What i really like about it is the fact that it lets you format the cards by editing the html code 😀

    check it out ^^

    greetings from germany


  27. Harry
    October 13, 2010 at 10:05

    What happened to the finale??

  28. 星空
    December 12, 2010 at 10:23

    I think part of the deification (and thus abuse from which) comes from the emphasis on use and lack of identity of the SRS.

    “Spaced Repitition System”
    it’s nothing more than a fancy name for FLASHCARDS. the only difference is they’re electronic. they have no physical bulk, no physical manifestation other than pixles on the screen. but it’s the metaphysical bulks that’s murderous enslavement.
    the metaphysical servant [the SRS] masters its master [the human].

    REBEL! don’t fall to the likes of a computer program.

    (i have no problem wiht flashcards or SRS’s, don’t get me wrong. I’m just not a flashcard/ SRS kind of person.)

    PS: 他の大罪/題材、勝元先輩:私の肌が白いと言えるが 差別用語なんだと思うよ。「ラップミュージック」は 
    2:嫌いな事の中で一番嫌なのだ。嫌だ嫌だ嫌だ。イヤだ!!!そんな事をドウ言えるのか教えなさい。「白い肌の者達全部がラップが好きだ」と。 タイプする*前*に考えなさいよ!

    私もお前の事も桃色っぽい。 李

  29. SRS Addict
    December 16, 2010 at 00:35

    There are people that hoard physical or digital objects. They spend more effort pursuing objects than they do actually using them (Moving physical stuff around, purchasing hard drives, etc.). The same mentality can creep in with SRS. You don’t need to memorize everything you read, in the same way you don’t need to own everything you kind of like. In the same way that people take a minimalist attitude toward owning physical objects, you must take a minimalist attitude toward owning mental objects (Knowledge). In other words, SRS is like a house. Don’t clutter it up with crap.

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