Sentences in flash cards

Curious how other people handle this and its been something i’ve been considering:
Has there been research or does anyone know if its more helpful or more harmful for retention and utility of a vocabulary word to put an example sentence on the front of a flash card as well? To cue your memory with context? Or would this “break the game” if you will… I’ve been considering it because I figure the words all exist in the real world with context in the first place, but would this train your brain to only recognize the word well in a single context?

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There is a contingent of Japanese learners who believe you should only (or mostly) be studying with sentences. Context being a very good argument for this.

But the barrier of entry is higher than if you start out with straight vocabulary I think.

I try to strike a balance between the two.


That contingency has really good arguments and they may be true in so far as they can potentially speed up the process of learning words by directly focusing on collocations with specific examples. However, my experience tells me that it is perfectly possible to gain native-level understanding by unconsciously ‘sentence mining’ if there is enough input; as that is how I acquired English to C2/Native level whilst never making any conscious effort to study it, never looking at a dictionary, and simply consuming comprehensible enough content for me to enjoy it.
That being said, I concede that as a native Portuguese speaker, English’s latin-like grammar and highly Latinised vocabulary provided an advantage that cannot possibly be compared to learning Japanese (unless, of course, you listen to content that is very heavy on English words or at least English concepts such as Baseball commentary; in fact, it is hypothetically possible in my view to have a highly developed unconscious understanding of Japanese grammar whilst knowing relatively little Japanese vocabulary. Although this would be highly unpractical as it would severely constrain your viewing options so I don’t recommend it but I’d love to test it).
That being said, I’ve opted to continue studying from word lists whilst doing 10-15 hours of active immersion with occasional dictionary lookups of words that seem to pop up particularly often and which I don’t yet know at least a basic meaning for (often these are content-specific terms, an understanding of which will vastly improve the comprehensibility of the input in question). Your brain will do the work if you give it enough input, but I think for people more pressed for time or who want to really get ahead in their reading, sentence mining is the way to go.