I hate SRS (spaced repetition system), even though I have used it for more than ten years for various languages. I can’t stand the sight of it anymore, yet, I know of no better alternative for a language like Japanese.

I know about 400 kanjis, which I have learned through SRS. I know about 1,000 Japanese words and the basic grammar. I have accepted that I will have to keep learning kanjis via SRS – as there is no alternative. It’s the rest of the language that I want to stop using SRS for.

I am an introvert and I don’t enjoy speaking with strangers over Skype.

I have pondered long and hard about whether I can learn just by listening and reading, but there are problems:

  • I can’t just pick up a book and start reading it because my vocabulary is very limited. I’d have to look up every word and it’d be excruciatingly painful.

  • I’d forget the readings of the words within a few seconds of seeing them, in a deluge of other words. And no matter how many times I see a word, the reading is unlikely to stick to my mind unless I invoke it actively, or I make an emotional connection to it (not sure how).

Has anyone from a non-East Asian background taught themselves Japanese only by listening and reading, and how did you do it?

Additional information: I don't like artificial "learning"-type activities, e.g. transcribing, repeating what I heard, talking to myself, and so on. I'd like to learn languages naturally, which involves consuming native media, and looking stuff up in a dictionary.

  • I feel like you answered your own question: "I'd like to learn languages naturally, which involves consuming native media, and looking stuff up in a dictionary." – AML Jun 6 '18 at 15:40
  • Yes, but the question is: is it actually possible with a language like Japanese? Has anyone done it? – Nagdalf Jun 6 '18 at 15:49
  • I gave an answer below, but keep in mind that the answer is applicable to any language, really. Japanese may be harder (take longer) from the perspective of an English speaker, but the basic principles apply to any L2. – AML Jun 6 '18 at 15:52
  • You might or might not also want to ask a question like: "I hate this and that aspect of spaced repetition. Does any similar language learning tool exist that does not have these features?" – Tommi Brander Jun 6 '18 at 16:31

Keep in mind that reading and listening are, generally speaking, passive learning activities. And while passive learning is better than nothing, Active approaches (speaking, writing in the case of language learning) are much more effective for ANY type of learning, including language learning.

That said, I think that ReadLang is a good partial solution for you. It will allow for easier reading and looking up of unknown words. Also, graded readers are super useful because they start with easier words/phrases and progress to harder words/phrases. As for listening, try to take an active approach, as described here (cloze deletion listening is one good example).

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