A Beginner and his questions

Dear all,

As a complete and absolute beginner regarding the Japanese language, I would like to ask you some questions. First, some background: I have absolutely no experience with the Japanese languague (other than from a great holiday in Japan this year). I have taught myself to read hiragana (almost) with the help of Tofugu and mnemonics, which have proven to be pretty useful and drastically improving learning speeds.

I am wondering what would be a good time to start working on learning kanji, and eventually (I guess) grammar? It makes sense to me that katakana is not essential for this, but I would love to hear some views on this.

In addition, I would be very interested to hear some tips from people who have been at this for quite a while (‘if I would have known this as an absolute beginner…’).


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Katakana is not essential at all for wanikani- there’s a handful of words that require a few, easy enough to pick up what is needed.

Also, while you do need a solid Hiragana base to use wanikani, any weaknesses you still have in Hiragana will be ironed out thanks to the constant Hiragana exposure.

Kanji is best learned whenever you want to stop being confused by the weird squiggles, which means ASAP. It’ll help with reading and just understanding the language in general.

Grammar is also a good idea to start early, but you don’t need to learn everything right away. The key thing is to understand Japanese sentence structure (subjects, objects, verbs, particles, adverbs, etc), because then you can start attempting to read sentences, which will help you with wanikani and reading on your own. I’d start working on grammar as soon as you feel solid about wanikani, which for me was level 7 or so, and then, once you have basic grammar down, start attempting to read sentences.


Welcome! From one Japanese learner to another, you picked an amazing language to learn! :smile:

Well, you’re on WaniKani already, which is made for learning Kanji. I’d say the sooner you start that, the better! You’ve already covered hiragana so you shouldn’t face any immediate problems, but you’re going to need to learn katakana as well (katakana is an essential part of Japanese). If you’re using the guide on Tofugu, that should take you less than a week. As for grammar, I would say start now. A lot of people who come onto here new to Japanese like to wait a bit, but in my opinion you should pick up a textbook (or grammar guide, etc) and start learning early on. You’re going to want to be able to use the stuff you’re learning after all!

As for tips, don’t stress! Learning a language is a marathon. Remember the passion and the excitement for learning Japanese that you have now! Pin it on a board! Stick it on a post-it note! Think about it when you go to bed! Just make sure you remember it when you find yourself stressed, or you’re feeling lazy one day.

Also appreciate the small victories! This will really help you push forward in tough times. Sometimes I’ll discover something or realize something and propels me forward with a million times more motivation!

And most importantly, have fun!



Definitely have a solid grip on hiragana, go ahead and start making yourself more comfortable with katakana (it’s not essential at first, but you will come across some vocab words utilizing it on here + it’s just generally good/necessary to know)

Once comfortable with hiragana, I’d say you’re ready for some turtle-burning! (AKA learning those kanji :turtle::fire::grin:)

As far as grammar goes, it’s never too early to start on that. Koichi (one of this site’s co-founders) recommends getting to level 10 on here before diving into textbooks, the reason being that textbooks will be using kanji in examples/explanations, so knowing some going into it will make it less of a headache. However, that’s not a requirement, you can learn the kanji in textbooks along the way too ^^ so go for it!


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Never take any breaks, you will forget everything guaranteed.


It depends on how long you take breaks. I have taken a week or so off from WK and grammar studies and still remeber most of what I learned. Taking breaks can sometimes help you avoid burning out when your motivation or mood is low. Taking a small break and coming back refreshed and with recharged batteries can sometimed be a good thing (Just dont take too long breaks, or you will probably forget a lot and lose your consistency).


For now, your job is to figure out how you want to study.
There are quite a few ressources for each skill that you’ll have to master.

You’ll want some kind of Grammar ressource, like TextFugu, Genki, Tae Kims Grammar Guide, Minna no Nihongo or A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar. Some of those come with practice material and essential vocab, others dont. Using multiple ressources can give you another perspective on a certain topic, so its also worth considering.

I’d advice you to also take a look at Anki (Which is pretty much a flashcard software) and get an essential vocab deck for it. There are free Anki Decks on reddit, some of them complement certain textbooks like Genki. If you want to save time and actually remember your vocab, spaced repitition (Like WaniKani) is the way to go. Anki does that too.

Mentioning reddit, here’s a little starter guide from the Japenese Language Learning Reddit
Also, if you want to take Japenese Lessons (Probably best to wait until youre a few weeks/months in), you can check out italki. You can post questions over there and japenese people/teachers will answer them for you. (There’s some alternatives to italki, but I dont know why you’d need them :stuck_out_tongue: )

Regarding your question when to start with grammar:
It really depends. When you’re deciding to use Genki, go ahead. It’s a good pacing and you dont need Kanji to get started. If you’re instead using Tae Kims Guide to Grammar (Which is free, so atleast take a look), I’d also advice waiting until youre a few levels in since knowing some of those pesky kanji will help :stuck_out_tongue:
It’s really a tradeoff though. Knowing Kanji will help with your grammar studies, already knowing some grammar will help with your Kanji (Since you can use them and know some basic compound, verb and adjective guidelines)

There’s really no definitive answer to those choices, just what works best for you.

Turned out to be a lot more than I wanted to write, I hope some of it is helpfull :slight_smile:
Good look with your studies

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I’d say start learning kanji as soon as possible (after learning hiragana).

Japanese has a lot of homophones, and although I appreciated early on that knowing kanji made it way easier to read Japanese for this reason (as well as the fact that words aren’t spaced), I don’t think I fully appreciated that knowing kanji also therefore helps you to understand and retain vocabulary so much better.

For example, I learnt that ‘science’ was ‘kagaku’, but for some reason could never quite remember it properly. It wasn’t until I learnt that word on here that I realized that the ‘gaku’ came from the kanji meaning ‘study’, also found in ‘school’ (which I now feel idiotic over, but whatever). It really helps you to make links between things if you’re learning kanji and vocabulary. So don’t wait!


Never ever underestimate the ability to read Katakana! :ok_hand:
It can give you a superb idea of what is going on even if your japanese is not so good!
e.g. in the menu (like chicken -> チキン), a lot of shop signs are also in Katakana (Karaoke!!! カラオケ) or later in games.
I’m playing the newest addition to Pokémon in Japanese and there is a *** lot of Katakana. Helps me recognize abilities and moves :wink: And keep this alphabet alive in my brain of course.

And another thing is to figure out how you learn best.:thinking: I can say for myself it is not easy to do so. I went through a lot of apps and websides and was eventually pretty desperate that nothing held my interest long enough. :smirk: But I have WaniKani now :wink: powered by imagination!:unicorn::rainbow:

And for learning to write… nothing will ever replace :writing_hand: pen and paper … that’s my experience.

Hopefully it helped a bit :slight_smile:


Beginner here too studying Japanese for 6 months. Welcome!

I would start learning kanji now. As I heard Kristen say on the tofugu podcast, “you don’t want to be illiterate do you?” My hiragana has improved a lot with WaniKani. It helps with both.

I’ve also benefited from JapanesePod101 to learn grammar and hear the language spoken. It’s really helped me a lot. Absolute Beginner Seasons 1 and 2 is a good place to start and you can try it for free. After that follow this awesome guide from blogger Alan of Nihongo No Baka where he reviews each of their “seasons” (for example, skip Newbie Season 1 and do 2,3, and 5).

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Avoid literal translations at all costs. (Just as good for Japanese as for any other language you want to learn)

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Hi Panamapeet!

Katakana might not be essential for Wanikani but it sure is essential for anything else regarding the japanese language. Take it very seriously (not like me) because you will see it everywhere… I mean, like リテラリー everywhere.


I’m glad someone agrees! A lot of people overlook this because of how much can be done electronically, but I find that writing helps tremendously with remembering kanji! Plus it’s super fun!


Heritage speaker here. A few fair have said it so far, but learn to write and learn to write correctly. My biggest regret growing up speaking Japanese was never bothering to properly learn how to read and write and once I moved to Japan, it bit me in the rear so hard it still stings years later. Being able to speak to people fluently but not being able to write stuff down or really read that well is extremely embarrassing.

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Thank you all! This is very helpful and good to see that I have landed in such a nice community :smile:. I will start with Katakana and slowly start with Kanji as well. It is a very daunting task as I can see from the posts in this forum, but I look forward to trying! I will definitely be back with more questions :smiley:


I haven’t stressed katakana because it’s everywhere. I found it easier to learn from individual words than from cramming it all into my head and trying to keep it straight. I tried focused study, I learned about half of them but couldn’t keep the other half straight. Only by actually reading japanese works was I really able to start to get a handle on katakana (because that provided context that made the katakana more memorable).

Katakana is usually, in my experience (which is manga and VNs, so take this with a grain of salt), an individual word which you can look up and identify, but generally isn’t in a stew of other katakana words. This means that it isn’t terribly hard to identify and decode, unlike Hiragana, which is often presented in a jumble of words and you really need to have Hiragana down to even be able to begin to make sense of some sentences.

So all this is to say that Katakana is important, it’s worth learning, but don’t stress over it if you can’t pick it up right away, because so long as you read native japanese you will pick it up eventually.

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