Best Review Method and Optimal Drill Mastery Level

Asked 4 years ago

  So, I've completed NihongoMaster lessons up the beginning of the "Advanced" level, but before I move on I want to spend a few weeks reviewing some things I learned previously.  I know there are some grammer points that my memory is a little sketchy on and I feel it would benefit me to spend some time reenforcing those concepts further.  I took the N5 earlier this month and before that I essentially made my own "Table of Contents" for the entire "Beginner" level so I have easy, direct links to every lesson as well as to the quizzes.  I know I can just retake the quizzes infinitely, but I feel like utilizing the SRS would be much more efficient.

  So, after that, here are my questions:

  1.  Is there any way to resurrect or restart a drill set for an individual lesson?  I noticed there is a way to pause drill sets, but they seem to disppear from that list when they are fully mastered.

  2.  In general, how have others in this situation approached reviewing?  Would it be better to use another resource at this point?

  3.  What do others feel is the optimal drill mastery level?  I have mine at the default of 5 and I feel at this point that it is too low.  I would like to change it, but I'm definitely not looking forward to the sudden reappearence of every drill (though that may be the solution to my review problem above...).

Sorry for the long intro and many thanks to anyway who would like to share their suggestions with me!


Hey Chris, this is a great question! I think my answer would be to increase the drill mastery level and spend your time going back through everything. It is definitely daunting to see your drills go up so much, but ultimately I think it's the best way. We can definitely look into adding back drill sets for individual lessons, that is a great idea! I know many people have wanted links to the lessons inside of the drills for easier review and we are working on adding that too! I will be curious to hear other people's thoughts/methods for review!

Taylor A.
Commented 4 years ago

Just subscribe to this drill set (don't which lesson it covers up to though!): https://www.nihongomaster.com/lists/view/110/nihongomaster-vocabulary

Commented 4 years ago

Know someone who might be able to answer this question?

2 Answers


I accidentally deleted my answers below: stupid morning fingers! I'm so sorry CJones666 and Plebaap, your comments got wiped but not before I read them!

Firstly going to recap what I'd written and then provide comments where relevant.

1. Set drill mastery to 'seven' - goi/kanji/grammar don't get inculcated enough with five and for more advanced students setting it to 'ten' means you waste a lot of time on basic hiragana/katakana/numbers recognition.

2. Every lesson contains a vocab (goi) list at the bottom with links to dictionary entries. Open all of these up and add them to your drills. It normally takes about two minutes to do but this is *very* helpful in terms of proper mastery in that you are drilled on the same vocabulary twice, one effectively in furigana (NM's internal drillset) and one in how you would encounter the term 'in the wild' (i.e. it being written properly in kanji).

For easy reference, just subscribe to these lists:
https://www.nihongomaster.com/lists/view/110/nihongomaster-vocabulary (through end of beginner lessons, I think - not my list so can't really say)
https://www.nihongomaster.com/lists/view/314/nm-vocabulary-written-properly-ie-in-kanji-not-hiragana (my own, from end of beginner to 90% of advanced done - NOTE HOWEVER mine omits a lot of vocabulary as I've not included terms I ready recognise and use)...

3) Which leads us to three. I gave the short version last time but will go into considerably more depth this time.

Short version: keep a list of kanji/goi you encounter in the wild. In my case whenever I'm in Japan (I've spent 15 months there over the past three years) I carry a notebook around with me.

At the start I was hardly fluent in Japanese, had good mastery of hiragana and katana and some spoken skills but... That wasn't enough at all and who wants to go around Japan saying 'wakarimasen' all the time.

My workaround was to take a notebook with me wherever I went and if I heard multiple people saying a word then would write it down and look it up later and... Add it to a drillset dedicated to the situation.

You stick with that (and that's a big ask for a lot of people I know but I was motivated - I've got 1000 entries on that list now) and what you're effectively doing is tieing your memories proper (such as going on a nature walk, finding a sign with the local animals/insects' names in katakana then writing them out along with an eventual translation) to vocabulary, kanji and grammar. That is basically the same learning process by which we learn our own languages when we're children.

Memorisation and drilling have their place in the process but they are not the end-all-be-all: exposure and usage are. Memorisation and drilling simply expedite this.

Now, a lot of people don't have the immediate option to hand of jumping on a flight to Japan. I don't either at the minute (roll on September) so for instances where I'm not in the country I rely on media and the worlds dreamt up therein as a substitute.

The only manga I read is Crayon Shinchan (which is actually really good for learning a) naughty words and b) everyday language due to the setting), which is a fountain of good solid, information. A lot of people like the more adventurous series like One Piece/Naruto/Bleach and they're certainly great fun but the vocabulary isn't really suited to actually living and dealing with people in Japan, in Japanese, in real life. It's great if you want to understand those imaginary worlds but the real-life applications aren't to the same standard on the basis they're fantasy.

Come to think of it Youkai Watch would probably be a good series for a beginning (N4 or thereabouts) learner of Japanese out of the more recent crop with its everyday situations and that.

Anyways I digress: the principle with media is the same as with the real life situations. When you read manga, watch anime, play a game in Japanese (hello cheap and cheerful emulation and if you'd like I've got recommendations based on your N level), do it with a notebook and pen in hand. Take notes, then add them to your drills.

Enjoy what you're reading/watching/playing but be an active recipient of knowledge, not a passive recipient of storylines.

The benefits: your reading speed/listening comprehension is going to shoot up due to the immersion and secondly it's a great source of learning new kanji/goi. Even with a base knowledge of 20 kanji there's so many ways they can be combined which mean loads of new vocab to add to drills. If you repeatedly see a kanji you don't know that looks interesting, look it up and add it to your drills. Again, be an active learner!

Personally - and I'd imagine the other highly ranked students would say the same thing - I use and abuse the list system. I've got lists dedicated to conversations I've had with friends, games I've played, the one manga series I read... Basically doing everything I can to remember the circumstances under which I learnt the vocabulary and kanji so it goes into the long-term memory banks.



Answered 4 years ago

Hi Kenny! Once again, thank you for such a detailed response! I feel, based on your suggestions, that I am on the right track! I have several vocab lists I use on Memrise (I like their SRS system more for vocab and their app is really nice on mobile) that I am constantly adding things to, but I think I need to be doing that even more. I tend to mostly consume dramas and films, because as you said, the language is more "natural." Would you recommend skipping the English subtitles and using Japanese subtitles instead? Also, I would love your game recommendations. I'm probably between N4 and N5 at this point, at least in reading ability and grammar. I have a large pool of games to access from, but haven't dived in just because I don't know if it would be a slog to get through something that is too advanced! Thanks, Chris

Commented 4 years ago


Just answering via another answer as being able to insert breaks makes them easier to read!

At N5/N4 your hands are a bit tied with media - I think exposure is enough at the level. The subtitles help in terms of cherry picking vocabulary and at any rate most free streaming services have them hardcoded in... Or at least I think - I've not had time to really get stuck into a drama or anime in yonks.

Ultimately though, and to its detriment, watching television/film is a passive exercise. Probably the best option is a game which is fully voiced or has furigana for the kanji but... That's a somewhat limited pool. I think that's something each of us has got to work out on our own, bearing in mind the best way we learn things, interests, etc.

Regarding games, I'm playing one right now for the Super Famicom called 'Hajimari no mori' (Forest of origins, Forest of forebears, something like that) which I wish I'd done when I was preparing for the N4. It's a point and click adventure game so is very text heavy and - the occasional technical/archaic vocabulary and formations aside - completely charming and very easy to follow.

Here's an overview of the game (in English):

And I've also been keeping a running vocabulary list of words you'll encounter which are a bit above N4:


Or probably better to keep your own list! I normally keep the Super Fami and NM dictionary in separate windows then whenever I hit a word I don't know, look it up and add it to drills (or if there's a word made up of kanji I know but don't know the meaning of the combined kanji/kanji I've seen a lot but don't know the meaning of, etc.).

Another series I would recommend which is a bit more action-oriented is the Rockman Dash/Megaman Legends series. The first one in particular is quite easy to follow and I was N4 when I completed it. The Kirby games are a good shout as well. Also, somewhat unexpectedly and some archaisms aside, any of the earlier Final Fantasies or remakes (up to and including V) are easy enough to understand.

Again anything targetted at younger children is going to be relatively easy to pick up and play.

One caveat is the first time you're exposed to anything text-extensive in Japanese... It's overwhelming. But the more you do anything the faster you get at it, the easier it becomes and you're building brain muscle so... If you're serious about your Japanese studies I'd strongly encourage you to give it a go.


Answered 4 years ago