How to remember Japanese words/grammar?


おはようございます。Today’s post is about how to remember Japanese words/grammar.

Students always ask me, “Sensei, how to remember Japanese words/grammar huh?”

Today, while studying, I came across a good approach and would like to share this with all learners out there.

It is called “Levels of processing”, developed by Craik and Lockhart in 1972. The approach suggests that attentional and perceptual processes at the time of learning determine what is held in our long-term memory. This can be identified in terms of shallow/physical processing (e.g. detecting specific letters in words, whether the word is written in bold, etc.) and deep/semantic processing (e.g. extracting meaning from stimuli).

There are two key assumptions with this approach:

  • information is memorable based on how deep the level of processing is
  • elaborate, long-lasting and strong memory traces are produced by deeper levels of analysis.

In order to fully understand the levels of processing approach, it is important to look at maintenance rehearsal and elaborative rehearsal.

Maintenance rehearsal relates to the repetition of a process, for example repeating a word over and over again. (or testing yourself the vocabulary or grammar over and over again)

Elaborative rehearsal refers to a deeper, more semantic analysis, for example thinking about how frequently a word is used in the Japanese language.

The levels of processing approach therefore suggests that long-term memory depends on:

Elaboration of processing – amount and complexity (Craik & Tulving, 1975).
Simple sentence: 「KFCを食べた」
Complex sentence: 「ハンサムなケン先生は にぎかななIONで KFCを食べました。」

Distinctiveness of processing – kind (Bransford, Franks, Morris & Stein, 1979). Distinctive but not elaborate simile: “a mosquito is like a doctor because they both draw blood”. Non-distinctive but elaborate simile: “a mosquito is like a raccoon because they both have heads, legs and jaws”

In essence, the more elaborate the processing or the more distinctive the process, the better the memory performance is.

I personally prefer to use maintenance rehearsal when I am learning Japanese. みなさんは どう思いますか (What do you guys think?) . Another way that I think you can use is to use colors when you are doing up your notes.


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