I looked around a bit on the forums but didn’t see any other active topics about this so here I go
First of all, I know that level 7 isn’t exactly at a point most people would consider difficult, but for whatever reason it’s really gotten to me. I’ve been on level 7 for 23 days and even if I sat myself down and did all my reviews as soon as they were available I’d probably still be here for another week at least. I actually had a pretty good pace going for a while but I had to put WK on the back burner while I focused more on midterms and now I have 300+ reviews almost all the time because I don’t have the time or motivation to keep them down.
Problems with WK aside, I’ve been discouraged recently with my lack of progress in grammar. I got all the Genki books for Christmas but whenever I actually want to sit down and work on Japanese it’s been my kanji review that eats at all my time. I understand that Japanese is really complex, and I’m not expecting to be fluent at level 7, trust me. But lurking in the beginner book club threads and trying to read some of the practice pages really shows just how much I don’t know. How have you guys started your grammar journey? Should I read Genki cover to cover or is it a better idea to start reading a book and just looking up grammar as I go? With most “easy” material I try to read I understand almost none of it, so it’s hard to even search for anything specific grammar-wise that I could learn.
I guess I just feel a bit lost here. Even if I did get my reviews and lessons under control, how am I supposed to progress with my grammar? I know everyone wants to be able to read right away, and I understand that it takes a lot of work, but I don’t even know what to put that work into. Lately it seems like I spend more time trying to plan out how I’m going to learn rather than just learning, which obviously isn’t helping.
So I ask the community - How do you deal with this type of thing? What are some good grammar resources for complete (and I mean complete) beginners to reading Japanese?
I’ve gotten burnout several times and I just lose the motivation to do anything related to studying Japanese. Usually I just have to wait it out and it’ll come back to me in a few weeks/months. If you can, at least try to stay on top of your reviews until it passes, if not it’s no big deal. Trust me when I say there’s nothing worse than trying to force yourself through a burnout phase, it’s not good. When it’s over you can catch up and get back to your routine even better than before.
As for grammar, I found reading through textbooks to be quite boring so what I did was go through Japanese Ammo’s grammar series and it helped me so much
WK is a great resource, but it does eat up some time. The first thing I would do is get those reviews under control. Either bite the bullet and work through them until your Apprentice items are at a more manageable level, or reset a level to trim them down quickly. Then, set a hard limit on how many Apprentice items you’re allowed to have at any given time, and stick to it, since Apprentice items are the largest influence on workload. Don’t worry about going slow - the point is to learn not to complete all the levels in a year. So as long as you’re making some progress, then you’ll get closer and closer to your goals.
For grammar, you can try BunPro. It works a bit like WK, so it may be easier to work through than sitting and staring at a textbook. Genki’s a great textbook, but it does have the disadvantage of being a bit classroom-oriented. The exercises/workbook would be good to work through, though. You also do pick up patterns through exposure that you can look up afterwards, so finding things to read/listen to is always a plus. A Dictionary of Basic Grammar is an incredibly useful lookup tool when venturing out into the wild.
The “beginner” book club is accurate but also a bit of a misnomer. What’s really meant by “beginner” is “just starting to read native material”. So I wouldn’t use that as too much of a benchmark for where you are right at the moment. It might be better to start with graded readers or similar. NHK Easy is also a popular recommendation. I like the TangoRisto app in particular because it has stories from NHK Easy, is updated daily, has great options for furigana/no furigana, easy lookup for readings/meanings, AND it’s all mobile, so you can put your eyes on a few lines of Japanese while you’re on the train or trying to get through a boring class or whatever.
I think the best solution to is to reset to an earlier level, that way you’ll get rid off the piled up reviews and start clean. Reset to the earliest level you don’t recognise its kanji, maybe 5. Most of the time two level reset solves it for me
Next time you plan on taking a time off, activate Vacation Mode, or maybe do your reviews once a day without taking any new lessons
At ~300 reviews, I’d say bite the bullet, do your reviews, and keep only doing reviews in the next few days.
There are 2 potential ways to dealing with a review backlog, both requiring the use of the wrap-up button (the clock icon in review mode):
If you have 300 reviews (day 1), do your reviews until you hit 200 (day 1), and keep it there for the next day (day 2). Then whittle it down to 100 (day 3), and keep it that way for a day (day 4). The next day get it all the way down to 0 (day 5), and then keep it that way for at least a day until you feel ready for new lessons.
Every day do 10/20/50/X more reviews that you have incoming the next day. You have 300 reviews incoming the next day? Do 120 reviews, and then keep your queue at 180 for the rest of the day. The next day you have 80 reviews incoming? Do 100, and keep your queue at 160 for the rest of the day. This is slower than the first approach, but it means you won’t get hit with waves of reviews later on.
If neither option is attractive, you can always reset your level down 2-3 levels and get rid of the apprentice/guru items.
Once you’ve gained control of your reviews, give yourself half an hour (and no more!) X times a week to just sit and study with Genki. 3 times a week? Not bad. 2 times? Awesome. 1 time? Excellent. Just do it regularly, and in time you’ll see progress.
Once you feel ready to do new lessons, don’t do more than 5-10 new lessons a day. That should keep your apprentice items low, which should in effect limit how many reviews you’re hit with in a single day, which should help with freeing time for other things. High apprentice + guru item numbers = high workload and more reviews per day than you’re obviously comfortable with.
Learning a language isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. You’ve got to learn how to pace yourself. I know you want to read things right now (and I do too!), but it takes time to get to that point.
More generally now - burnout is a real thing, and the way to handle with it is 1) to take things easy for awhile, 2) to know you have a plan. Doing Genki and WK is definitely a plan that will get you closer to your goal of knowing Japanese if you follow them to the end, and once you’re through with either, you can always figure out where you are and what you should be doing next.
Put yourself in vacation mode for a week, and once the week is over come back and see if you’re ready to get back. In the meantime, watch anime. Play a game. Remind yourself why you’re learning the language, and what you’re getting out of WK. If you decide not to come back or to come back at a later date, that’s okay too. Remember to be kind to yourself.
In November I slowed my WK process to prepare for the JLPT. Then, a week before the test, I got sick (which didn’t help during the test) and it lingered for a while. I basically didn’t level up for about 2 months. I just ignored my reviews and lessons and only came to the forums. It was pretty refreshing, as it was like the first time since 2016 that I hadn’t been leveling up at about 8 days a level (I reached level 60 once and reset).
I know it doesn’t really relate exactly to what you’re talking about, but I guess the takeaway is that sometimes you need to just take a breath and let the content you’ve absorbed just sit for a bit and start up again when you feel ready to.
I personally studied Japanese several years haphazardly first off, but once I started Japanese 101 at my university, I realized that the studying I had done was not very useful. That 101 class was fairly easy but past that I was basically even with all the other students who hadn’t studied Japanese previously.
I would highly recommend working through the two Genki books or equivalent Minna no Nihongo. If you don’t force yourself to get a basic foundation in grammar you’re going to feel super lost and be unable to create sentences.
Kanji is just one part of Japanese. It depends on what you want from the language but IMO it’s good to have a rounded understanding of the language. Get your reviews under wrap and cut down the amount of new lessons you do each day so you’re not getting slammed like you have been. I try to balance grammar, vocab, and kanji study so my learning is more rounded–I live in Japan so speaking/listening is something I don’t need to study as much.
I’m going to be a little radical here and say that my recommendation would be to reset your WK and stop focusing on kanji unti you’ve learned some vocab and grammar. To me, kanji is practically useless without a fundamental understanding of Japanese, but that’s my opinion entirely and you’re free to disregard it. I personally learned grammar through Genki (albeit in a class), and I think it’s a useful tool if (and only if) you follow through with it every day for a dedicated amount of time, and practice not only reading but also speaking to reinforce what you’re learning. Make use of the audio CDs where applicable, and see if you can look up some quizzes or tests that people have made to be used with the textbook. Bunpro is a useful tool for reviewing imo, but I have difficulty actually LEARNING grammar using their system. Japanese Ammo I’ve heard is a lot of fun compared to a textbook, so give everything a try and see what you like best and what sparks joy, so to speak.
Addressing the burnout, I think it will start to get better once you start to make some tangible progress. Every time I get burnout, it tends to be when I feel like I’m stagnating, and it goes away when I can feel myself making progress again. If you need a break, absolutely take one! Learning should be fun, I think. Good luck with everything.
Motivation will only get you so far. Wanikani is definitely not gonna be fun the whole way through. The fun will ebb and flow. You’ve gotta get some discipline going if you want to actually reach your goals.
I’d recommend putting aside some time as being for both WaniKani and another thing you like. By doing X number of reviews every so often while doing the other thing, you can make the pile of reviews far less intimidating. I got a pretty long way playing Darkest Dungeon and clearing 20 reviews between battles. So if you like games, play a game for a few hours, clearing 10 or 20 reviews after set goals. If you like reading, clear 20-30 reviews after finishing a chapter. Any hobby that you can stop and go with works.
I’ve also found certain types of music are good for keeping my heart in studying. Personally, I’m big on lofi and jazzhop. Pull up a playlist on Youtube, turn the volume down on the video, then turn the system volume up 'til its where you like it. This way, the music won’t drown out the reading audio. Here’s what I’ve been listening to today:
Don’t try to read Genki all in one go! Set a goal for yourself so you can progress steadily. For example, do one chapter of Genki every two weeks. Then make a schedule for how that might look.
Monday: read through the dialog and listen to the audio.
Tuesday: go through half the vocab list and add it to Anki
Wednesday: the other half of the vocab list
Thursday: listen to audio of the vocab list and then the audio of the dialog again. Marvel at how much more you can understand vs Monday.
Friday: Read half the grammar
Saturday: read the other half of the grammar
Monday: Do half the exercises
Tuesday: Do the other half of the exercises
Wednesday: Do half the exercises in the workbook
Thursday: Do the other half of the workbook exercises
Friday: listen to the audio of the dialog again.
Of course, you could go faster or slower, do everything in a different order, etc. The point is, make a big goal and then define concrete, time-based steps you can do to make it to that goal.
Japanese grammar can be very difficult in the beginning. I had to go through the concepts in chapters 1-5 in Genki twice in classes before they finally sunk in. When you get used to Japanese, it becomes easier and easier to pick up new grammar concepts and then you can speed up your learning if you wish. Just take your time in the beginning and let your brain adjust to thinking in Japanese.
I second reading some graded readers! Level 0 if you know absolutely nothing or Level 1 if you got through a few chapters of Genki already. There’s a thread now about graded readers.
If you are trying to do everything by yourself, I really commend you. I’ve been taking Japanese classes twice a week for a 14 months now – it’s the only real way I could really get a handle on the grammar and sentence structure. This is coming from someone whose partner is Japanese. But more power to you if you can do it alone! If you finances allow it, even taking a weekly class would really assist you.
I’ll throw my hat here and say that consistent progress will be faster than going hard and burning out. I averaged 21 days per level up for the first 10 levels, and while that is slow it allowed my to stay on top of my reviews and mete out my lessons at a comfortable pace so it was never hard or frustrating. Gradually as I got better at learning I increased the pace of lessons, but I think you should prioritise doing reviews every day and not lessons. If you don’t get around to doing lessons or don’t feel like it, the world won’t end, but doing so many lessons that a consistent review schedule is unmanageable is a fast track to burnout, frustration and quitting.
Everyone is impatient to learn more now but learning a language won’t happen overnight, you need to be able to maintain consistent learning for a long, long time, so start reasonable and comfortable and build it up from a place of comfort and stability.
I would also follow other recommendations to drop down a few levels to clear your review schedule a bit, multiple huge review sessions with many errors will not motivate you.
Edit: physically writing out a daily schedule for learning is not a bad idea either, I have to use a task manager to keep my various pursuits in check so including Japanese in that wasn’t a huge ask but it helps monumentally in keeping yourself in check with what you have time for and how much you are physically capable of learning.
Language learning definitely requires consistency, so burn-out can be a real threat to your progress. On the one hand, if you keep pushing, it’ll probably get worse. On the other, if you take a break, you’ll have to “reboil the water” so to speak. Perhaps you can find a middle ground. When I was overwhelmed with other obligations and just couldn’t get myself to do my grammar lessons or my reviews, I tried to at least stick to a bare-minimum routine. Just five minutes a day if necessary. That takes little motivation, but will at least keep you making progress and - possibly more importantly - keep you in the habit of regular study. I’ve used this technique for other things too, like exercising. I figure I can do three push-ups when I get up no matter what. Not as great as a full body workout at the squat rack, but it’s something. Eventually, the thrill will come back and you can ramp it up when you are ready.
In regards to grammar learning, I learned my third language using multiple grammar books and exercises. This wasn’t as effective as I had hoped. Later, I learned a technique from a really good language learning book that suggested simply reading your grammar book through every few months. Every time you read it through, more and more things will make sense. If there are exercises, do them mentally as writing them wastes time, and look up the answers immediately. The important thing is getting as much observation of how the language works as possible. This supports the natural process that your brain must go through of pattern recognition. No amount of rule memorizing will ever make the grammar really stick in any useful way. Ultimately, the grammar must just become a part of you. This is just like your native language; sure various rules were solidified by learning them in school, but in reality you know most of your grammar because it either sounds right or doesn’t sound right.
Hope these thoughts and everyone else’s helps you and that your motivation returns to you soon!
About the Lvl.7 “blues”… I didn’t got those… in my case sounded like the level 25 blues… I guess treatment should be the same though.
Do reviews but no new lessons… first days not so different… but then… those will shrink… and shrink… and eventually you’ll have like 20-30 review per day or even less… and then everything will be 大丈夫 … I promise … I did this for a whole month… and then when new lessons… I paced those more slowly than pre-crisis … until it felt ok again to retake my old speed.
Meanwhile… find something that you enjoy doing in japanese. Picking up a graded readers if you feel those beginners club choices are still too hard (which is totally normal… any native content will blow you at first no matter how much Genki / Tobira lessons you’ve gon trhough)… only reading helps you at getting good at reading… just find material that helps you learn while having a good time… (enything with more than 5 new words per page will be too much).
A similar approach to listening: watch a show (a short one, 30 mins for example). watch it raw or with jp subs… see how much you get… watch it later with english (or your L1) subs… no whinning (because you don’t understand as much as you want)… in total it’s just an hour of your precious time, and half of it you’l be understanding everything… But the first time you watch an episode, you’ll realize how much you understand (aided with visuals) and progressively see the gap of all that you don’t understand yet.
No rush with this approach… i did a couple of 10-12 episodes shows in about 2-3 months…
extra point for ripping the audio of that show and listening as passive immersion …
Listening constantly something you WANT to listen will be a booster to your listening abilities…
I mixed with something a bit more complicated to kept reusing those shows… sentence mining … but in any case watching and listening constantly was a great help.
After that month … heck … even 2 months of slowing down… and doing other activities… hopefully you’ll see more connection regarding what WK and Anki is teaching you with actual content and fun stuff…
now just keeping doing the same… and remember if you collapse again favor immersion… that will most likely turn you back into doing the other stuff once you feel better.
As for grammar advice… well, no advice , just my experience… I hated Genki… finished the last chapter of Genki 1 … planned on getting the second one … buth loathed that one too. So I kept reading and reviewing new things I bumped into using grammar reference books (Handbook of Japanese Grammar Patterns for learners and teachers … or something similar )…
No noticeble harm was done I think by that approach… reviewing grammar on the spot made it more digestable… and improved the taste that textbooks and drilling left me with…
Anyway take everything I said with a grain of salt… basically know that there’re different approaches besides textbooks and SRS apps… and can work well alongside or even on their own if you become too stressed