Advice Needed!

Hello Everyone,

This is my first time posting here. Seems like a really helpful community, so I wanted to look for some advice here as to how I can tailor my studies to learning better.

I have been using WK since May 2020 and am on pace to reach level 60 right around the 2 year mark. It has been really easy to be consistent with it and I find that it is really sticky for me. The problem I’m running into is that I feel too much of my energy is put into it and I don’t ever read outside of grammar study. I also do a little Duolingo every day.

For grammar, I went through Genki book 1 by myself and I am 8 chapters into book 2 that I’ve been doing along with classes. I try to review the chapters, but the grammar is less sticky for me. I think I tried reading some things when I was around level 15, and got discouraged at how difficult it was given my limited vocabulary and grammar. Now at level 48 and being nearly finished with Genki, I feel I should be able to read some things, but I almost don’t know where to start and don’t want to get discouraged again.

It feels like I’m in this cycle of doing and Duo and WK every day very diligently, amassing a massive vocabulary, and VERY slowly becoming able to use it. I rarely actually speak Japanese outside of grammar study. It also feels like I’m forgetting things that I’ve learned in both WK and Genki. WK almost feels like a crutch to make me feel like I’m doing something when in reality, my progress is slow. I’ve just continued this way because it’s what’s comfortable, but I’d like to take inventory and adjust.

So with that little bit of background of my language journey, here are my questions that I would love to hear some advice on:

  1. Advice on goal setting in language acquisition.
  2. What are some ways to help solidify grammar concepts outside of just reading the textbook and practicing exercises?
  3. How can I diversify my learning in ways that are also “sticky” and can be worked into my daily routine? I’m looking to adjust my routines based on my learning needs.
  4. Practical advice for beginning to read proficiently.
  5. Anything else that may be really helpful in learning Japanese and/or staying motivated to do so.

Feel free to address any one of these questions (not necessarily all of them). And thanks in advance for the advice!


2, 3, and 4 I think the best advice is to read more. Experience the concepts in the wild and look them up as you go. Start with graded readers and nhk easy, then easy manga/books. It’s pricy, but I really like Satori Reader since it seems to stick to around a N4 (roughly Genki II or Human Japanese Intermediate) level of grammar with some optional explanations and translations baked in.

It sounds stupid, but reading is the best way to get into and get better at reading. It’s painful at first, but will get much easier with practice. Seeing grammar in a native context should help with getting ideas to sink in over time (“natural srs” is not just for vocab!).

If that’s too much and you want something super bite sized try the Bunpro trial. It’s basically 10 example sentences (with audio and translations!) for every grammar point or keyword they cover so it’s low key a shit ton of reading practice even without using the more output focused SRS. Moreover, the example sentences vary a bit in complexity and build up over time so many of them help reinforced previously learned concepts. In that sense I think it’s actually really good at compensating for grammar resources that are limited in examples and useage (cough Genki and Tae Kim cough). I like the SRS as well, since it kind of forced me to reexperience things in certain intervals where it was kind of easy to let certain texbook topics get forgotten after going through a chapter. Also, it has a built in search tool that’s pretty nifty and a free version if you don’t want to pay or use the SRS.


Personally, I’d focus on listening resources, be that YT, podcasts, radio, audio dramas…since making the correct grammar seem natural and obvious is about exposure and repetition I think. Of course reading manga, news articles etc would also help solidify your understanding of grammar, it’s just that conjugation forms are somewhat easier to hear than to read, or so it’s always been for me at least :slight_smile:


Hello, I would consider just starting to read, really. You didn’t mention if that was your main impetus to learn Japanese, but let’s say it is. Do you want to read books? Manga? For me, it’s both, but I started with manga first, now I diversify and read both. Some read light novels, too. Start with what’s tickling your fancy. Then read every day, even if it’s only one or two pages. Have perhaps another book at the ready (manga or novel or light novel), because sometimes the first one’s going to be a bit too tough that day, so this way you can read something else.

I personally wanted to get rid of WK and everything else that’s just smacks of training wheels as soon as possible. Still, I recently bought the Japan Times “A Dictionary of Basic, Intermediary and Advanced Japanese Grammar” (that’s three separate books) to look up stuff when I encounter it in real life.

The more I read, the more fun I’m having. Sure, there are days when it seems I’m not understanding a lot, but the stretches of days with understanding are increasing, so I don’t mind. It keeps me grounded.

Others have different approaches and use Anki decks to mine new vocab and the like. That does nothing for me. I prefer to look up a word when necessary. It’s enough for me to know it in the moment. If it’s recurring, I will look it up until I remember it. I allow myself to infer. Sometimes I’m uncertain and double-check (to find out I was woefully wrong, but hey, that’s okay, too. Learned something new that way :slight_smile: ).

But I would humbly suggest you get out of the comfort zone WK and every other learning environment provides and start implementing. Reading, if that’s your goal. If it’s listening or speaking, then do those. If you don’t use what you’ve learned, you’ll start forgetting.

Good luck!


If you enjoy consuming any sort of Japanese media, you can just consume more of it while doing your best to understand. Honestly, I think that subtitled anime (it doesn’t even have to be subtitled in Japanese!) is the best for this sort of stuff, because you’ll probably notice at least a few familiar words and structures, and you’ll be able to check if you’re understanding correctly by reading the subtitles. I think that both of your goals can definitely be helped along by finding Japanese content you enjoy and studying it, because it’ll be more memorable (and therefore ‘sticky’) and will expose you to more diverse usage than you’d find in a textbook. (I learnt most of what textbooks call ‘intermediate grammar’ just by watching anime and looking up what I didn’t know. I did my best to find some go-to grammar and meaning reference sources, but almost all the exposure I had was thanks to anime.)


A lot of the answers to those questions will probably depend on why you are learning Japanese and what you want to get out of it e.g. is it to be able to read manga, watch anime, talk to people in Japanese? Also whether you like reading or prefer watching or listening to media.

For grammar I really like Cure Dolly’s videos on youtube, as they are all fairly short (usually less than 20 minutes) with clear explanations. I can understand why people don’t like them but they really work for me, and stick much better than the explanations in Japanese classes I’ve been to.

I haven’t started reading yet, so I’m interested in seeing what replies you get for that. I should start but keep putting it off. I have a Studio Ghibli book of Spirited Away so even if I never actually get round to reading it I can enjoy the pictures :slight_smile:


Liar!! :jeans: :fire:

For me, the goals set themselves as I engaged with the language. I wanted to be able to read a certain book, but my grammar and vocab were lacking, so I knew what to focus on. There was a certain show I wanted to watch… but my grammar and vocab were lacking, so I knew what to continue focussing on. :joy:

As others have said: exposure. Read things. Watch things. Write things (even if it’s just for yourself and riddled with errors). The more mental connections and examples your brain can associate with a certain thing, the better it sticks. So you want to use and encounter it in as many ways as possible.

This isn’t really easy to answer as an outsider. You mention how you’ve noticed that you’re using WK as your safe space, being able to tell yourself that you’re progressing as long as your levels are going up. If WK is taking up all of your study-time, you might have to slow down on WK to make sure you can add enough alternative stuff to actually make progress in the language as a whole, rather than in the vacuum of WK reviews.

I added and dropped things to my study routine frequently, to walk the tight-rope of being as productive as possible while being on the look-out for burn-out, and slowing down before the daily studying ground to a halt completely. I would speed up and slow down, with the singular goal of never stopping. Never fully losing momentum.

Unfortunately, there is no way to start something new with any form of proficiency. If something is new, it inherently means you’ll be bad at it. You have to push through that struggle. Through the slowness. The awkwardness. The confusion. The frustration. Just like when you were learning to read as a kid. It takes huge amounts of repetition and input. You just have to grind out those hours of actively doing the thing that you want to get better at.

I started playing a visual novel game in the WK level 20s. I had gone through the first 10 or 20 CureDolly grammar videos while taking copious notes, and eking into N4 on BunPro. It took me 9 months to get through the game. At the very beginning it could take me 3 days to get through one screen of convos and investigation. At the end of the game, I could read in one afternoon what would have taken me two weeks at the start.

Motivation is a false friend. It never lasts. Self-discipline is what got me through 2+ years of studying 7 days a week. Motivation is an amazing extra when it’s present, but you can’t depend on it. If you’re planning on the long, long, looong journey of learning a new language, you can’t expect to want to study every day.

As you move up to intermediate levels and higher, there is less low-hanging fruit. When you know nothing, progress comes in a flash, because everything is new. As you get further and further, you have to put more effort into getting fewer results. It’s not a good feeling, but as long as you’re stubborn about it, you’ll be able to look back and see that the stubbornness meant you kept progressing, even at a slower pace.

At level 48, I’m sure you’ve been through the peaks and valleys before. You know that sticking with it even when it feels like pulling teeth is what gets results. :muscle:

Best of luck!


Here’s my TL:DR rundown. But more importantly, a lot depends on what you eventually want to do with the language. I’m assuming being able to read more so here goes :smiley:

I would finish Genki 1 + 2 at least if you’re on your way and take a look at other grammar resources like Bunpro or Tae Kim’s Guide to make sure you have a solid foundation before diving in into reading.

While Duolingo gives some basic vocab to work with, I think that + WaniKani might not be enough. But you can mine vocab while reading, so no worries there.

A) more grammar
B) More reading + mining vocab

Reading books, Twitter posts, news articles, etc. It’s more important to know how to organically use the grammar you know and learn a bit of new stuff in the process.

Join us at the勉強しましょう-let’s-learn-together/31441/4973 thread and set tangible goals. Have a look at how others do it and maybe something will inspire you :slight_smile: .

A) Use it in a way that brings you joy
B) Diversify your learning diet so that you get exposed to different resources and ways of explaining grammar and vocab

これ以上 :smiley:

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Doesn’t seem to have been said yet, so I will add - if you want some support to make starting reading less overwhelming, hop into one of the old Beginner Book Club or Absolute Beginners Book Club threads and look through their past volumes to pick something you want to read. There’s plenty of choices, people will have already asked some of your questions about the grammar, and usually you can get an answer to questions you have even if it’s been a while since the book club was running.

Reading native stuff is always overwhelming when you start - proficiency comes with practice. Sounds like you have a decent foundation to work from and it’s time to jump in, even for just 10 minutes/day. Personally, I enjoyed the Read every day challenge last summer (link is to the current thread) to help me get into that habit - haven’t really hopped into one since then, but it kicked me to get started.

Do you have a goal thing you want to be able to do in Japanese? Read a specific book, understand a specific show? That can be helpful to guide what steps forward come next - if it’s ‘read specific book’, starting read anything has to be a next step.


I think you should look at how to slowly add more reading into your daily study routine and hopefully find your own balance between reviews, studying grammar and reading. At least that’s kinda how I went about it.

For more grammar practice I find bunpro helpful. Just add grammar points I learned from the chapter I studied and let it sink in for a bit.

Reading is still gonna be painful in some sense if you pick something that is either too low or too high of a level. You should pick something that is close to your level, preferably a bit above where you’re at and maybe something you’re already familiar with. Then pick at it on a regular basis. We currently have a reading challenge going on people can join, to read whatever little or much they want every day for the coming two months. I think it’s great not only to have that accountability and motivation for yourself, but also posting regularly there will be great source of motivation for others. Plus it’s a good place to see what people will read, so you might find some good recommendations on what to read next. Another thing is that you can see back your progress pretty easily.

I read Yotsuba after finishing genki, but I think it’s one manga you could already start while learning from genki 2. Polar Bear cafe is also a good choice. Even the tanuki favorite 雨と君と might work, as you have more kanji under the belt. Pokemon games in kanji mode is another that I could have done before maybe. I find having a little project like this where you can do a bit every once in a while on my own pace very benefical. Either way you do gotta start trying and you’ll make mistakes, but that’s how you learn.


I meant creating a thread/post. That was a reply.


Thank you for your response. I’ve used Bunpro a little and have the full version of it. I probably use it once a week (if that)

From this response, I think I will try to utilize it more and look into graded readers (I don’t know much about them at this point). Thanks for the tips!

Awesome, thank you. I like listening to podcasts on my way to work. Do you have any recommendations? For Japanese, I only have “Learn Japanese Pod” and I feel it’s helpful. Do you have any other podcasts you’d recommend for beginners?

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That is very good advice. I think my main goal first would be listening comprehension. I know reading is super helpful. What tends to work against me a bit is that I have never been a big reader in any language I speak. But I’m getting that trudging through it might benefit me a lot. And stopping to think about reasons for learning is important too. Thanks for the reply!

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It all depends on what stuff you enjoy or find interesting I think, more so than the level of what you listen to. :thinking: That’s true for both reading and listening I think, in that it helps you to get over the inevitable hurdles in comprehension.

Personally, I’m more into audio dramas than podcasts, since I like to follow a story. But there’s descriptions of some popular podcasts on the Ultimate Additional Resources list that is worth a look.


You’re welcome. Depending on where you live, perhaps audio books off audible are an option? Read in tandem with an ebook of the same translation. Someone else here is doing trying to do that with “the little prince” by Saint-Exupéry. I’m not a big fan of Amazon, but their audiobook/e-book combo could be beneficial for your needs, combining the desire to listen more perhaps with giving visual confirmation for stuff you’re not familiar with.

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I like this way of looking at it. I will need to be more conscious of that and create some short/mid term goals.

I love this. Such a great way to look at the process a whole. And allowing to yourself to slow down and give yourself some grace. This is great advice that I definitely need to hear from time to time.

I guess a better way to word my question would have been “an efficient way to start reading/improve reading” (looks like my native English still needs work as well :sweat_smile:). But it sounds like there may not be a “good way” vs a “bad way,” moreso just good resources a bad, from what I’m gathering. And no matter what, it’s going to be a grind.

What is a visual novel game? Do you have recommendations for other games like this?

Just reading this is motivation by itself!

Thank you for taking the time to respond. Really helpful!!

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Thank you for responding with such great advice. I will check out those links as well!

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Thanks, I’ll check those links out.

I think my biggest goals when starting were listening comprehension with anime and games. I like Playstation, so games that comes to mind are like Nioh and Ghost of Tsushima.

Just starting will be key, whatever it is. Looking forward to looking through those book club links.