Word lists & vocabulary quiz

Several months ago we launched a new kanji section of the site, including kanji lessons, and an SRS kanji quiz. Today, we are pleased to announce the natural expansion in the form of vocabulary lists and reviewing tools.

Until now, when it comes to vocabulary, we have pointed our users to third party tools such as smart.fm which generally covered all their needs. However, in light of smart.fm’s recent rebranding into iKnow!, and its subsequent transition into a paid service, we were forced to reconsider our position, and implement our own solution earlier than planned. We’re glad we did as we’re really excited by what we have to show you.

Vocabulary is the unquestionable key to rapidly expanding the breadth of sources that can be understood. Often, it’s not the grammar used, accent employed or any other part of what is being said that prevents full understanding; it’s just not being familiar with the words used.

To give example, upon reading the sentence 「私は落書きをしました。」, it’s simply impossible to know that the speaker is speaking about graffiti unless it’s implied by some kind of context or the word 落書き had previously been learned. The grammar used is simple, the vocabulary is a little obscure. The quickest and most efficient way to do harness the immense linguistic power that a wide-ranging vocabulary can give you is rote learning through targeted, thematic lists.

Example sentences & audio

The lists are integrated into our look-up dictionary which allows you to see the words used in thousands of Japanese sentences from the wonderful Tatoeba project. While this is still work in progress, all vocabulary will also soon be accompanied with a play button, allowing you to hear the correct pronunciation of the target word or expression. Like all other audio content on this site, the pronunciation audio is recorded in a professional sound studio, by a native speaker—Japanese reggae singer Masako ‘Machaco’ Okazaki.


After you finish learning, you can use our vocabulary quiz to review all the new words and expressions. The quiz intelligently chooses what words to present, based on your past results. The words are written in the script that is most often seen in Japan (most often kanji) and you are then given the choice from four possible English translations. The English equivalents that are given as options are taken from other words that are in that lists’ level, meaning that some thought is required to ensure that you’ve picked the right word.

For those who aren’t too interested in learning the kanji of the word, upon mouse-over, furigana (kana reading) is presented. The very presence of the kanji should mean that your recognition of the characters improves if nothing else. The key objective, however, is ensuring that the meaning of Japanese words is learned in order to quickly boost comprehension skills. Words learned for personal expression are best learned in the context of our Japanese lessons.


After you review some of the words, you should head straight back to the word list where the individual words and expression will now be coloured depending on how well you know them. This will prove to be not only a great method to instantly see your weaknesses, but also as a motivational tool. Just think, one day that whole list will turn green with a bit of hard work!

Browser extensions

Like our kanji quiz, the vocabulary quiz can also be accessed via a dedicated Google Chrome extension (Opera extension coming soon) which allows you to review Japanese without even visiting the main site. Together with NihongoUp Toaster, this further shows our dedication to allow you to spend your valuable time learning, instead of searching for content or setting up complicated software.


Can I create and share my own lists?

We currently don’t plan to enable our users to create their own lists, and prefer to provide our own curated content which is high quality, proofread and recorded by natives, and well organized. However, the way we divided all the vocabulary into thematic clusters, and into several distinct difficulty and usefulness levels, we believe that this limitation should not pose a problem.

We have already covered many day-to-day topics, and currently plan to introduce more interesting lists similar to the already released yojijukugo (four character idioms), and lists with some highly-specialised vocabulary. We are also considering creating word lists that would compliment some of the popular text books and computer games, and in the coming months, we will be creating lists tailored those taking the GCSE and JLPT tests.

Will the feature remain free?

At the moment, we are not completely decided as to which parts of the vocabulary content will remain free in the future. If we decide to monetize the features in the future, however, they will be integrated into the premium offering on the site we will be true to our promise that premium users get access to every update, forever.

This means that for $9.99/month, you would have access not only to the vocabulary lists and quizzes, but also to the online textbook, desktop apps, and all the other premium features of the site, making it a phenomenally good deal compared to alternatives which offer just one or two of these services. If you think that it’s for you, there will not a better time to secure your lifetime membership.

What is the future road map?

A small weakness of NihongoUp at present is our separate reviewing applications are not in any way linked together. In the future, we would like to interconnect all of the NihongoUp online, desktop, and mobile reviewing tools, and use your activity history from all these apps together in order to improve our spaced repetition algorithm and provide you with the most detailed statistics and progress reports possible.

Of course, we’ll also constantly keep adding new vocabulary to the lists, refining them to be as useful and comprehensive as possible. If there is ever a piece of vocabulary that you think should be added to a pre-existing list, or even a new list that should be created, please feel free to suggest (in English or Japanese) through our contact form. Additionally, we want to liberate these lists from the site eventually, creating downloadable PDFs, flashcards, and Anki decks. For now, however, we’re focusing on creating an awesome set of vocabulary lists and a quiz that is a joy to use.

Please try it for yourself!

If you have a NihongoUp account (that is if you’ve ever signed up for the lessons, contributed to JapanLike, or posted at the forum) then please head to the Japanese vocabulary page and choose something that interests you and something that is appropriate for your level. If you are new to NihongoUp, please create a free account first and dive right in!

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