Advice on resources for busy people

Obligatory apology if this isn’t in the right section.

I have an older family member that’s interested in learning Japanese from the ground up (no foundation except reading/watching a lot of manga/anime/dramas), but they’re incredibly busy in their daily life. Ultimately, they want to be able to go to Japan and get around using the language with a decent level of competency.

So I’d like any advice from the community about good starting resources for really busy people. I got them Pimsleur at their request, but for anyone that used similar resources (like Rosetta, Human Japanese, etc), which do you feel worked best? How does Japanese For Busy People compare to just getting them Genki?

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This may sound like a slightly odd suggestion, but I’m going to suggest looking into Japanese from Zero. It does use a progressive kana system in the books, which is off-putting to some people. (Meaning in the early chapters when only some of the kana has been taught you’ll see monstrosities like “こre ha rinご です。”, but by the end of the books it will be complete Japanese.)

My thought for suggesting this is that it’s a slower paced series, but can be completed in faster sections. What I mean is, even though it takes longer than Genki to cover mostly the same information (5 books instead of 2), each chapter is smaller and more direct. For example, I may take a couple hours a day for about a week to go over, practice, and memorize a chapter in Genki, but I can read a chapter in JFZ and do the built-in workbook activities in about 45 minutes.

Mostly though, it’s really going to be down to the person’s learning style and personality. I recommend JFZ for people who don’t have much time per day, but I personally favor Genki and just use JFZ for review.

It’s also worth mentioning that I’ve never looked at Japanese for Busy People, so that may be an excellent option, I just don’t know it.


If they don’t have a lot of time for study, then youtube videos, or podcasts might help, cause they can be done in the background.


Thanks for the suggestion! I’ve never really looked at that series before, so I’ll put it down as something to consider.

I’m mostly just trying to amass a lot of options that I can reasonably give them for their learning journey. My learning path isn’t feasible for them at all, so I wanted to see if I could get feedback from others that’re learning in similar situations.

Do you have any specific ones you’d recommend? I didn’t start listening to any podcasts until super recently (~within the last 1 or 2 months), but I see JapanesePod101 getting tossed around a bit.

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I highly recommend LingoDeer and if you do a search on the forums you can probably find a bunch of different posts from me ranting about why.

But in short I squeezed LingoDeer’s Japanese I course into my extremely busy (80 hours/week) work life using downtime on my phone over the course of maybe 6 months.

When I had more downtime to backtrack I read Genki I cover to cover and found I basically knew 98% of it so it’s no less legitimate of a learning resource just because it’s an app.

And it’s 1000x more useful than Duolingo which is kinda a joke.


“learn Japanese pod” is an enjoyable one.

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Noted, thanks for the suggestion! A mobile app might end up being a better alternative to an actual book, but I’ll see how it goes.

I’ll write this one down, too.

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I really like the Nihongo con teppe series. Won’t recommend it for a total beginner, but the podcast is so easy you would be able to understand a lot after the first JFZ book (if that is what you chose). I would also recommend the JFZ YouTube videos for your family member. It can be a bit unserius at times, but it has an easy pace, and you can easily follow it even if you don’t buy the books.

Japanese For Busy People is strictly business Japanese, and a bit old. I would recommend your relative going through Tae Kim’s Guide, because it covers pretty much all of the basics of the language, in conjunction with Genki, Textfugu, or whatever else as long as it is completed. That with Pimsleur should give a solid enough foundation to just learn from reading and talking at that point. At least, it has in my experience.

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I think I also qualify. Old, pretty busy with a “foundation” of manga/anime and some kana knowledge. So what’s the timeframe your family member has in mind? Priority on reading, speaking or both the same?

There’s no timeframe she wants to learn by, it’s just the only obstacle she wants to overcome before planning a trip to Japan. The priority is mostly speaking/listening, with reading being a possibility later down the line.


Oh, I had no idea it was only for business Japanese. That’s good to know.

Frankly, if you’re incredibly busy in your daily life, such that you aren’t able to carve out, say, a couple hours per day for Japanese, you aren’t going to get to a decent level of fluency.

I’d encourage your relative to think about when she wants to achieve this goal, and how much time she’s willing to put into it each day. If the answer is “in 5 years, and 30 minutes per day” – don’t bother. I think that to be successful in learning Japanese you have to do it for its own sake, and you have to make a lot of room for it in your life.

If the goal is to go to Japan, just go to Japan! You don’t need to speak the language to have an amazing time there.

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I’ve told her this too, but it’s just a personal thing she wants. Whether or not it actually ends up happening that way is up to her, but being a student of the language myself, I’d be remiss not to try and give her some help, or at least somewhere to start.

The resources I’m writing down are really just to offer some kind of groundwork. If the end result is her not continuing with learning, then that’s alright.

I went to Japan after studying (on my own, among other responsibilities) for a year. I was able to read a fair amount of stuff but speaking was basically impossible for me. If your relative is self-studying and doesn’t have much access to speaking practice, they may want to adjust their expectations accordingly. Even listening is a little hard to get good at without access to speaking practice. I do think Pimsleur is a very solid use of time, even if it isn’t in-person communication.

Overall it was a very fun to use all my Japanese practice on my trip! Do you know how long it is until their trip?

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The trip hasn’t been planned at all yet, it’s just something we’ve been talking about more as of late. Speaking practice is something I (or others we know) can help with.

For all I know, she could end up scrapping language study after awhile and going anyway :woman_shrugging:

WK+Bunpro. It can be dry work, but it’s efficient.
I’d just add a short textbook in the beginning to ease yourself into it.
Maybe add some bilingualmanga (e.g. yotsubato) for immersion and entertainment.
then of course listening practice, with Netflix and japanese subtitles, and so on.
But make no mistake (or let her make no mistake), you’ll need a huge amount of time to learn japanese to any practical degree.

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No worries, I’m pretty familiar with how much time, patience, and effort goes into learning the language. I’ve been at this grind myself for almost 6 years, after all :cry:

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Since their priority is speaking and listening, Pimsleur is a very good option. Online/in-person tutor to supplement will be better use of money than most textbooks. That being said, Human Japanese is a light read, inexpensive and on mobile if they do want something.

One important thing is to get them to do a few tutor lessons early on with the focus of hearing and making all the different sounds of Japanese. That way they can be sure that they can actually hear and repeat what Pimsleur is saying.

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