My take on 10,000 Sentences in a Month

10,000 Sentences in just 1 Month

Doable? Yes.

A good idea? Definitely not.

You may have already read the guest post from a friend of mine, which is why I am talking about this today. If you haven’t read it yet then you can read it here — 10,000 Flashcards in One Month (Guest Post).

The following post is MY opinion on this issue.

Okay, so there are a few people out there that have latched on to the 10,000 sentences method (or AJATT). These guys expect that if they do 10,000 sentences in Anki or another SRS that they will magically become fluent. This is not the case people! Yes, 10,000 sentences is a good goal to aim for to obtain enough vocabulary and grammar to be “fluent” in your L2. However, if you study 10,000 sentences in a short space of time, it will NOT make much difference to your current level.

So you may or may not know that I have put my Japanese learning on hold and am pursuing German for the next year (I will be studying there come October). A friend of mine is joining me on this “adventure”. I tried to get him on-board AJATT a good year ago and in the last few months he’s finally started immersing and doing his reps. He is a few months ahead of me in German and I have no doubt he will become very good at German very quickly.

Now, when he read about the sentence part of AJATT, he said to me, “Why don’t I just do 10,000 in one month? It’s totally doable, If I study 500 a day then that’s only 20 days right?”. At first we were kind of joking about it, but he latched onto the idea. I told him it was stupid and it won’t work. I said that he would see very little outcome from the time he put in and was better of creating 10 sentences a day from native sources.

Well, he didn’t listen to me and ended up doing 10,000 German sentences in Anki within 1 month. 

Firstly, he used a pre-made deck which as most of you know is a big no no. This deck is laid out such that the German expression is on the front of the flashcard and the English expression is on the back, that’s it. Now, at the beginning stages there is nothing wrong with using English as a slight aid for the first 500-1000 sentences, however, you really want to be moving away from English ASAP. Having 10,000 bilingual sentences is not good. Also, using a pre-made deck is just plain boring and there is no contextual information, not to mention potential mistakes. This makes the sentences a lot harder to recall.

He also said that the sentences were all very easy, containing mostly words he already knew or sentences that he understood entirely. This isn’t a bad thing, as it is still exposure to the language. As Krashen states, “language acquisition occurs when learners receive messages that they can understand.” However, if these sentences are too easy (below your current level) then you will not be acquiring a lot.

Also the reps! He has 1000+ reps a day! THAT’S RIDICULOUS! Sure, during the last summer holiday I was doing a good 500-600 reps a day for Japanese (and I thought I was insane), but 1000+ is just crazy. Somehow he manages to get through them all everyday, which leads me to believe that they are way to easy for him. Anyway, it didn’t seem to help him too much:

“If you applied the brakes and took your time with a shared deck like this, you might have a chance at picking up more, depending on your proficiency and the quality of the deck, but for me it was all mostly for naught.”

Here’s the rest of what he had to say about the entire ordeal in his guest post — 10,000 Flashcards in One Month (Guest Post)

Now, a lot of other people have had similar thoughts on this and I have seen a lot of people complaining about it on forums. They reach 10,000 sentences but still can’t understand the language. Well this is because SRS alone is not going to get you fluent. You can’t get good at speaking real Japanese without first hearing a tonne of real Japanese. I’m sorry to break it to you but 10,000 sentences is not that much in terms of input, even if you do perfectly memorise them.

The SRS is just a tool which helps you remember stuff really easily, but you can’t remember stuff if you haven’t noticed or acquired it in the first place. Which is why you need immersion as well or you won’t get anywhere. Also studying 10,000 sentences that you haven’t found yourself is soooo boring. Seriously, you need some enjoyment during language learning because it is such a long process. It takes time, so at least study sentences you want to study.

I have realized the magic glue. And it is this: fun. — Khatzumoto

My guide to an input based learning approach would be something like this:

  • Listening per day: 18 hours+
  • Reading per day: 1-2 hours (if possible) and the reading from your immersion environment.
  • SRS: Complete all reviews and add anywhere between 10-25 new cards a day.

I’d like to finish up with some quotes from Antimoon and Khatz, expressing their opinions and experiences on the whole process.

You’ve been mining your sentences diligently, but you still have trouble even following a conversation let alone participating, right? Maybe you still can’t follow your favorite anime. Right. OK, I have a question for you. How much Japanese are you listening to? Whatever your answer is, I can guarantee you that it hasn’t been enough for long enough yet. Which is why I suggest you: Listen to 10,000 hours of Japanese over the next 18 months. — Khatzumoto

How much input did I get? It took me about 3 years to get from basic English skills to fluency. During those 3 years, I was exposed to about 1,000,000 English sentences (not necessarily different sentences). About 400,000 of these were written sentences (books, SRS reviews, dictionaries, classroom reading); 600,000 were spoken sentences (TV, recordings, listening to teachers, listening to my American cousin, classroom listening). — Antimoon

Anyway, that’s my 2 cents on the whole issue. Basically, you need a good balance of SRS, Listening and Reading over a long period of time.



By Matthew Hawkins