My relationship with SRS
I LOVE anki. It really helped me when I was a student to get perfect grades and succeed academically. It also does greatly increase the progress that I am able to make in learning Japanese. But this isn’t something that I want to do for the rest of my life. My ultimate Japanese goal is to stop studying and I have decided to start working towards it. Due to the fact that SRS is such a powerful tool, it has taken a lot of experimentation and time to figure out what the best balance for me is.
Failed Attempt at quitting SRS
Since I graduated from university, I have put a lot of time into my Japanese to make up for lost time. My major area of study was unrelated to Japanese and I was really academically motivated to do well in school. So I quit Japanese all together or 2 years, only using it to hang out with friends and my partner. After graduating, I started studying Japanese again and really heavily used SRS along with JLPT textbooks. I was able to get back to my previous Japanese level with in a few months and have been trying to work out how to quit studying ever sense.
Late last year I tried to quit anki and just rely on reading novels and watching Japanese TV. It did not work out because I was not reading nearly enough to make up for the loss of anki. While TV helps to reinforce words that I have learned, I found that I do not pick up any new words unless its from an educational youtube channels. I ended up not progressing much in my language ability and decided to get back on anki. I started over. Got rid of my previous homemade decks and just re-downloaded a N2 vocab deck that I was using previously and cram reviewed it. I started making a new J-J vocabulary deck and used anki as much as I could. This was too much tho and while it did help me for a little bit, I still needed to make more changes to really help my Japanese.
My current style
I was inspired by the advice of Stephen Krashen to ditch traditional vocabulary exercises and try to invest my time more into extensive reading. I am finally reading enough to make this a viable path for me. I do still watch JLPT based educational videos on youtube as I am generally interested in grammar and all of the explanations are in Japanese.
I have stopped using pre-made decks. While they are easy to use and really help me get the reading for different words down, its takes too much of a time investment to use anki to teach me the meaning of each word. This makes sense as anki is a review tool and not really a teaching tool. Now I just pick a few words at a time from native media. I try to make as few cards as I can. But sometimes a word will stick out to me where the meaning of the word is very clear, and I just need some sort of reminder to make sure I retain the meaning that I already learned. It seems like an obvious way to use anki, but as I was using anki to cram information for tests in school previous, this is a complete new style for me.
I watch Japanese media and read novels on my days off from work(3-4 days a week). Since I have really increased the amount of pages I am reading, I am finding that I do not need to use anki as much anymore.
If I come across a new word, I just look up the reading, reflect on the meaning, and move one. If I stick to reading one novel at a time, there is a good chance that the new words will pop up again at some point.
Once I feel that I have reached N1 level, then I will start actively studying for the JLPT and then the professional exam I need in order to continue with my career once I move back to Japan. I know that it will take a lot of work and time. I am working hard at my current job too so that I can learn as much as possible and have a good knowledge base to work from when taking the exam in Japanese.
I hope that in the future, I will be able to read books to the extent where I do not even need light use of anki. I think I should be able to get to that level in a year or so. But then I will have to start using anki again if I do indeed end up taking that professional exam in the future.
Do you really need SRS?
If you are not actively reading Japanese novels on a regular basis and want to make good progress with your Japanese, then I recommend using SRS. For me personally, the level that I need to increase my vocabulary consistently without heavy use of SRS is one book a week.
But learning a language is not a race. You should examine your goals and make daily habits that lead to success with whatever your individual time line is. Reading novels is a great way to increase vocabulary.
SRS is an extremely powerful tool for language learners and I recommend it to pretty much everyone. But at someone, studying forever doesn’t seem like a great idea and you might get tired of SRS while still wanting to make good progress with life long learning. It takes a great amount of daily input to make progress without SRS. But it is up to you to decide how you want to design your daily life and how to continue with Japanese as the years go on.
If you are at the point of reading Japanese novels on a regular basis, I think it is worth examining how you spend you time and how much of your life you want to invest in SRS.