My Core 2000 review part 1

I’m going through the Core 2000 right now and I thought it pertinent that I record pretty much all of my progress. Doing google searches for “Core2000 review” or anything on Core2000 didn’t really bring up much comprehensive information, so I thought i’d blog about it.

I got pretty frustrated over the last few days trying to figure out the “best” Core2000 to use, because on Anki there are about 15 different decks that people can use to study the Core2000, with versions “optmized for learning by creating the idea i+1 environment (:p) ” and then regular versions with pictures and audios. After fiddling with different decks, I saw why some people had modified the Core2000 series, but also I saw that creating my “own version of study” for this would be difficult, and I decided to just go with a set of decks that follow the original model. That said, here are my observations so far.

What is Core2000? 

It’s the original program that is now called In it, you learn 2000 Japanese sentences that give you a way to study and learn well over 1500+ Kanji in context. This is one of the recommended systems to use after finishing heisig.

(You can see some of my videos about Transitioning through heisig here).

Why Core2000?

Well, it seems that the general consensus on the internet is that to gain reasonablえ proficiency and eventual fluency in Japanese, you will need to be able to read, write and speak about 10,000 sentences. Core2000 gives you your first 2000, nicely setup in a way that you can revise on a daily basis. I’d heard about other programs, like Kanji chains and Kanji Odyssey, but Core2000 seemed to have the most decks on Anki with audio and pictures, which meant it was “ready to go”. People also recommend writing your own 1000 sentences as a process to begin going “monolingual”, but if you don’t have the patience to find 30 “good sentences” or more per day to put in Anki, a pre-made system is a good launch pad.

How am I using Core2000? 

It’s pretty simple actually. The program is broken into 10 “steps” with each step adding 200 new Kanji which are given to you with sentence examples. It starts out with easier common terms in step 1 & 2, and then gets more difficult in the later steps. I’m at Step 3, and i’ve seen in tons of blogs where many people were bemoaning the fact that between Step 2 and Step 3 is a huge jump in the difficulty in the kind of Kanji you are tossed. Example, in step 2 you learn some simple words, little wonderful gems like:

甘い (あまい)ーsweet、天気(てんき)ーweather、手伝う(てつだう)ーhelp/assist、場合(ばあい)ーmatter, issue

In step 3 you get hit with doozies like:

経験(けいけん)ーexperience、発表(はっぴょう)ーannouncement、政府(せいふ)ーgovernmet、首相(しゅしょう)ーprime minister、開発(かいはつ)ーdevelopement

I’m currently going through Step 3 now, and i’m not finding it “that bad”. I say that because my listening comprehension is okay, and I find that after I hear a sentence the first time, I will know exactly where I don’t understand the vocabulary. When the vocab word gets dropped in, i’m usually good to go after that. I spent a lot of time trying to get the “easier i+1” deck to work in my Anki, but gave up after trying that route, because once I hit step 3, I didn’t find it so difficult I wanted to stop.

How am I remembering the Core2000 words? 

Well i’ve just started, so I’ll have to see as time passes how well I retain the meanings of the words. But with certain words, I will try to write/say a sentence in Japanese that relates to something I already know. I think this just gives me an image association on top of the sentence while vocalizing it.

A big part of the AJATT system is trying to write what you can read to ensure you can reproduce it later. I sometimes have issues with this, because I prefer to read sentences faster and writing might take a while. However, I can see the value in being able to rewrite the Kanji, you just need a specific number per day… say 50 sentences. Anyways, what I do sometimes if I am motivated is just create sentences with the vocab. So in Step 1, I was learning about 書き直す which means to “rewrite”. In the sentence I also noticed another word, 書類 which means “document”.

*note* In using the Core2000, your emphasis (based on what i’ve read) is just the vocabulary word. I’m assuming you will learn some harder words later. I just lookup different words sometimes, but it might get frustrating if you look up every word you don’t know. 

So I said to myself something like…


”when I was in high school, I rewrote a lot of sentences.”

This was true! So I might mumble that to myself, or write it down as a sentence.

I sometimes just make a sentence using vocab that’s already in the sentences i am seeing in Anki… so say for a word like “development” 開発、I would say..


which is loosely, “In my neighborhood, the government hasn’t done any building development.”

Now I may learn eventually that there is a word for “building development”, but this is just an easy way for me to fiddle with the vocabulary. And the point of Anki is to help you remember these things, so my thing is to just,

Review, Create Personal example, then Review later.

If I am really sticking with the meaning of a word, I just increase the repeititions. So I might setup Anki so that I will keep seeing the sentences over and over while occassionally learning a new card. (Sometimes i set Anki at 500 cards to do this.) This takes about an hour, but exposes the cards to me so many times that after a while the meaning sticks.

Why people have problems with Core2000

As I said before, Core2000 teaches you new Kanji in sentences. But say you are learning a new word and the sentences has five other words you don’t know? you will of course, get frustrated because you have to look up five other words. I am not sure how to get around this. Many of the sentences I’m seeing (i’ve skipped ahead to check some stuff in Step 4) aren’t that horrible. Their might be a word or two that I don’t know when i’m reading the sentence, and sometimes I just ignore it if the sentence is too dense. I think this was the issue people were having with step 3 and 4, the sentences got very dense for no logical reason.

But having difficulty with Japanese sentences I feel is relative to how much you listen to Japanese. I assumed I would have major issues with Step 3, and in fact because I listen to a lot of Japanese, the rapid-fire speech didn’t bother me, and i actually understood a lot of the harder sentences. Does this mean i understand everything? Of course not, that is why i am learning 🙂 I just decided that “i’ll need to learn these words anyway” and I focus on the key word, fiddle with it, and then move on. Again, if i forget that’s why we have Anki to keep us in check.

What is the end point of Core2000? 

Already after doing steps one and two and part of step 3, I am starting to be able to coast through some words. I was reading Slam Dunk the manga today (first Manga I’ve read since I left Japan) and I definitely very quickly and easily read some words that I picked up from Core2000. But I still got hit with at least 20 words that i didn’t know at all which slowed my reading down. But the point is, if I’m only at step3 and i’m easily reading certain words I couldn’t read only weeks ago, by the time I’m at step 8, I should be owning some basic Japanese vocabulary.

The end point I’m seeing, is being familiar with say, 2000 Japanese vocabulary words which can allow me to phase into going monolingual.

this is important, because a massive hurdle is the “idea of doing everything in Japanese” that my mind still can’t really believe yet. But from the blogs of people much greater with Japanese skill than I, it seems after learning 1000 sentences, you will be able to start operating in Japanese only. After 2000 you will DEFINITELY be able to at least navigate menus in programs, maybe play a few simple video games and so on. So this is my goal for doing the Core2000

To :

A. Be able to phase into learning Japanese monolingually.

B. Have a familiarity with 2,000 Japanese vocab words that I can speak and write.

C. Start the Core 6000 program (another 4,000 on top of the core 2k)

Final Note on Core2000

Like i said i’ll be making notes as I go along, seeing which words and sections I’m having trouble with and see if I can start phasing into monolingual status. I think i’m approaching 600 sentences, so by Step 5 or 6 I will see how it feels to use an all Japanese website. Other than that, Ihave the same issues like anyone studying.

I get unusually frustrated at times when I can’t remember some things, and sometimes doing 500 repetitions with Anki can get a little boring, but what i’ve found is that if you give yourself a “prize” say some REALLY easy manga after doing 500 reps, you will read through it quite easily and see what you are doing it working. Ifyou do reps and you aren’t using Japanese right after, it might not seem like anything is happening.

I am tempted to experiment with doing 1000 reps per day as a way of inundating myself with the new terms and expressions. This will clock about 2.5 hours per day. I wanted to test it for 5 days and see if I actually learn more, or just get burnt out more. If I do the experiment i’ll post my daily progress. But for now, cheers!

About marcusbird

Writer, Designer, Filmmaker
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5 Responses to My Core 2000 review part 1

  1. Paul Nogas says:

    100% right in Core2000 focus on the vocabulary word. Some of the other ones you will pick up just after hearing the sentence enough times, but pretty much all of them will come eventually in the 2000.
    what helped me the most was to always repeat the sentence OUT LOUD, just after hearing it.

  2. Do you think it’s wise to start the Core 2000 if you havent finished RTK? I’m up to about kanji number 700.

    • marcusbird says:

      Hey David good question.

      I think to answer your question comes down to efficiency (as you perceive it) and time. Recently i’ve been thinking that language is like the image of Ouroboros, the serpent eating its own tail. Basically everything feeds everything else. In a natural learning environment for Japanese children, they will most likely be able to read and say many Japanese words they cannot write and be fine with that until they learn how to write them. However, it all depends on the ability you want to possess in the way you want it.

      So at 700 Kanji you’ve made excellent progress, and I’m not sure if you’d feel intimidated by words like 機能(きのう :meaning ‘feature’)which contain two Kanji in the mid 1000’s and late 1900’s of the Heisig Kanji list, but this word comes pretty early in the Core2000 program. So assuming you’d be doing RTK and Core2000 you’d have to be :

      1. Getting the core meaning of new Kanji in your head through Heisig
      2. Getting the actual meaning of Japanese words in your head in context
      3. By extension get the meanings of individual Kanji readings in your head as well

      How well this works depends on how good your memory is or how much time you are willing to put into study. Personally, i’d want at least 1500 Kanji that I know or have been exposed to before diving into Core2000. The main reason is this:

      The study of Core2000 or similar systems basically feeds you a constant stream of words, with common meanings over and over and over. So if I know 1000 Kanji after a while, I will be able to read the common readings for those 1000 Kanji without too much trouble, because i keep seeing them. The advantage for us Heisig people, is the strength of that base where we have already spent a good bit of effort getting the relative meanings in our heads. But as I’m going along i’d also have to learn the other 1128 or so Kanji in the Jyouyou list.

      So for people like me, who have done RTK and then do Core2000, what is happening is that I’m not “learning new Kanji” i’m reinforcing Kanji i’ve already learned with meanings in context. The more Kanji you know is the faster you can move I believe. At 700 Kanji I think with many new words you’d have to learn the Kanji readings, writing and meaning + the meaning of the context word all at once. that might be a little brutal at this stage. I was going to write a blog post on this (probably will after this post hehe) but it’s all about a system you can:

      1. actually do, in a reasonable amount of time, without burning out or going crazy.

      I didn’t decide to do the Core2000 until I was about 1700 Heisig words because when I started earlier I got hit with a lot of Kanji I didn’t know, and i wanted to ensure i’d seen them at least once and had an idea of the root meaning before diving gung-ho into the Core2000.

      let me know if you have any other questions!

      • Wow,

        thanks for your informative and well thought out response to my question. Based upon your advice i’ll continue through Heisig. I should be finished by Christmas at my current rate of exposure. I guess it’s not that long to wait. 🙂

        Really enjoying your blog, keep up the good work.

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