Dstahn’s Study Guide

This is my first attempt to learn Japanese and I hope to succeed.

I am currently working on a PhD in Bioengineering. I did the minimum in language learning college and high school (Spanish and French respectively) but I was never able to care enough about the language for anything to stick or for me to really try and learn. I have always enjoyed Japanese art and enter name the like many others I am sure. I have been fortunate enough to have friends in Japan that I have a visited a couple of times and I just love the country. I really feel like I want to learn Japanese and it aligns with my long term career goals as well (see more on that below). I like WaniKani and have used this method for much of the class work that I have done in my Masters and PhD for learning (mainly using Anki).

Current Study Tools:

  • I am currently working on Level 1 in WaniKani
  • I have been following the Tofugu Beginners Guide and it has been fun
  • I am currently looking through posts to find a good textbook to supplement my studies so thank you all for posting
  • I hope that once I get a little farther into this I will be able to setup a study plan (I love make Excel schedules :smiley:


Short term: I really hope to be able to talk with my friends in Japanese. I am hoping to visit again in the Spring of 2021 and I would really like to be able to have basic conversational skills.

Long Term (5+ year): There are a number of Japanese companies that I would really like to work for. I have had great conversations with people who work there at conferences and the culture is something that I think I would fit into. This of course means that I need to have a strong ability in Japanese and I hope that within 5-8 years I will be fluent enough to sit for the JLPT N1 test.

I hope to update this once a week at least to help myself see the progress. :slight_smile:


I think it’s very cool to have both a short term and long term goal! This is going to be SO helpful in keeping motivated, I’m sure. A little further down the line I’d recommend joining one of the book clubs in the wanikani forums - they have absolute beginner to advanced selections. They also use google sheets to keep track of vocab (similar to Excel I believe) so you may enjoy that. Wishing you the best in your studies!


The most common names for beginner textbooks are Genki and Minna no Nihongo. Genki looks pretty good from what I’ve seen, but I haven’t used either series. (Genki has translations for the dialogues in the textbook, and comprehension questions are posed in English, at least initially, so it’s beginner-friendly.) I learnt my Japanese basics from a French publisher called Assimil. Their French edition claims to bring you up to a B2 (roughly mid N3-low N2 level based on my experience), while their English edition is currently only able to bring you up to A2 (about N4 standard, I think?). I think their approach to language learning is really good though, and Assimil’s target audience has always been self-learners, so you might want to check it out, even if it’s just for the English edition. (They should have samples available somewhere…) Both editions are meant for beginners, by the way, it’s just a matter of the amount of content available.

For intermediate textbooks, I’d recommend Tobira (roughly N3-N2 level) because it focuses on introducing various aspects of Japanese life and culture, so you get to learn about Japan and pick up genuinely useful words (instead of pretending, for instance, that you’re a foreign student living in Japan and following somebody’s scripted life). I feel that the texts and dialogues are pretty authentic – the articles at the very least remind me of NHK articles, except that they’re usually a little easier and come with vocabulary lists. Speaking of Tobira, they have a beginner’s textbook coming out in 2021. (It’s just FYI, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be more than advanced enough for an intermediate textbook by then.)

For advanced textbooks (i.e. for getting to high N2-N1)… I have a recommendation from a fluent friend, but it’s sitting on my bookshelf at home and I can’t remember the title. (And I’m currently in France for higher ed, so I’m nowhere near that bookshelf. Hahaha.) In any case, the highest levels of fluency usually only come with a lot of personal effort e.g. newspaper reading, dictionary reading, conversation practice, so a textbook probably isn’t as essential.

PS: personal question, even though this thread really should be about you:

Could I ask what sorts of companies you’ve spoken to or found interesting? Any names? And what sort of conferences were you at? (This is of course only if you’re able to disclose such information and are comfortable with doing so.) What I’m actually doing in France is preparing for a bioengineering degree – I’ll be sitting a battery of entrance exams next month to see what schools I can get into. Assuming everything goes well, I’ll enter one of the top schools and graduate with a master’s degree in engineering with a focus in bioengineering in about 3-4 years’ time. (Don’t mind the weird degree title, because the top schools in France all say they’re ‘generalist’, so you’re an engineer first and someone with specialised knowledge second.) One of the countries I’m really interested in after graduation is Japan – I might even apply to do a second master’s degree there, because some schools in France encourage their students to do an additional degree, particularly if they want more focused or applied knowledge. I’d like to work in the pharmaceutical or biomedical sectors, but I have no clue where to start getting information about those sectors in Japan. Would you mind sharing what you’ve learnt?

On my end, I hope there are other ways for me to help you, so don’t hesitate to ask more questions. My approach to Japanese might be a little unconventional though, because I grew up speaking English and Chinese, so kanji was one of the things I didn’t have to learn when I started.

EDIT: I second @OikawaTooru’s book club idea! Reading as early as possible is a good way to get exposure, see grammar in action, and pick up new words and structures. There are some books that manage to use a lot of descriptive vocabulary without being too grammatically challenging, so they’re good for people starting out. Kiki’s Delivery Service is one of them. (The book club is doing a re-run in June, I believe. You can always drop by to spectate if you’re curious.) I’m also part of a ‘learning through translating’ club on the forums: we’re currently working on NHK News Web Easy articles in one thread and on a manga in another. (The manga home thread is here with a story summary.) Most of us were beginners when we started translating, and many of us still are (advanced beginners, perhaps, but still beginners :stuck_out_tongue:). The idea is to try to work sentences out with some guidance from more advanced members while picking up new vocabulary and grammatical structures.

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Thanks for the information!! I will definitely look into the book clubs once I start learning some words. :slight_smile:

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Wow, thanks for all the information. A friend of mine also recommended the Genki books so maybe I will look into those first. That is so cool that you are studying in France. I will always hijack any thread to talk science and engineering lol, so no worries.

So my Master’s thesis was in biomedical sciences with an emphasis in dental materials. I have worked primarily in ceramics and implant research. My PhD project is still being worked on and I have been delayed in the research side of things because of this Covid nonsense, but likely my research will continue in bone metabolism and implants.

The company that I really want to work for is called GC Corp. They have a large dental materials labs. I really like them because they also have offices and labs in America (where I am from). This is nice because even if I can’t get a position in Japan right away it would potentially give the chance to transfer if a position became available without starting all they way over in a new company. I have met them and other companies at the American Chemical Society, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the International Association of Dental Research conferences. They have been awesome resources for meeting companies and networking.

If you have any other questions or want me to go more in-depth let me know. :slight_smile:

Thanks for all the information!!

Welcome to the WK community!
I wanted to link the WK guide made by a (famous) WK user:

I also wanted to give you three tips that I wished I had known when I started here:

  1. The time WK requires will increase more and more, now you should have little to do on WK. Use this time to get ahead on other areas.
  2. This website is Kanji-focused. Even the vocabulary is kanji focused and some time not the most useful (not useless, just not the best for a beginner). Study vocabulary somewhere else since the beginning. (As a side effect it’ll help you learn some WK words more easily)
    You have already used Anki, so maybe check this:
  3. Grammar! Tofugu say wait till you are lv 10, some people will wait till they are lv 60. Well, don’t! The sooner the better. Use the surplus time of the first easy levels to bring yourself to a suitable level to join the reading clubs.

There’s also a (long) wiki with all resources on this community page.

Anyway welcome! I hope you’ll see improvements and fall in love with WK like we did.


Also, Kitsun.io is a more user friendly Anki, if that appeals to you for vocabulary supplementation.

Thank you for the link. I am definitely going to read this tonight when I have some free time. Also thanks for the tips. It is always nice to have help so I am not wasting time.

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Ooo I have never heard of this one, I will have to look into it. I just used Anki because that is what all my classmates were using.

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Welcome to WK @Dstahn236! And what a great first post! It would be really nice too if you could add your study log to the Master List! Anyway, welcome to the WK forums, and all the best with your studies and your study log!


Thanks for letting me know. I added mine to the list.


Nice one! :+1: :smiley:

Oh wow. I’ve never looked into dental treatments before, but implants are something I’d like to learn about in the future: I think biomedical devices are really interesting, and some of them will have to be implantable or at least compatible with the body in order to be truly effective. (In secondary school, I did a literature review about microfluidic chips that aimed to filter metastatic cancer cells out of the blood. It was pretty boring as a project because my group was expecting to do some experiments, but the ideas in the papers were really interesting, and that’s how my curiosity was piqued.)

I took a look at GC Corp’s website, and it’s amazing how international they are. I really hope you get a job with them in the near future! Still, I’m curious what other companies you’ve heard about. Before you mentioned GC Corp, my knowledge of Japanese biomedical and pharmaceutical organisations was limited to Takeda and the RIKEN Institute. :sweat_smile: I know that interesting research is being carried out at various Japanese universities, but I haven’t heard much about Japanese companies in these sectors. (I mean, I’m sure that getting into a good engineering school in France will mean I’ll have the chance to attend various networking events and recruitment fairs, but I’m not sure how many Japanese companies there are here, even if I believe economic relations between Japan and France are good.)

Yeah I wasn’t really into materials research until my Master’s degree. Before that, I did a lot of drug design and high throughput testing. But materials just kind of pulled me in once I started and I haven’t really looked back.

It definitely hard to find some of this information without some help. I have gotten lucky in that I have been able to network at some of the larger research conferences. They are a gold mine for getting to know universities and companies looking for people. I would definitely look around while in your masters, there are a lot of conferences in Europe that might have some companies from Japan attending. I also have some mentors that work with Asian companies that have introduced me to people which has been nice.

The two other major companies that I have looked at are Tokuyama and 3M. Tokuyama do some pretty cool research, especially in the materials side of things. They do lots of cements, ceramics, and composites. 3M is just a monster company that has its hands in everything. They are another company that is also heavily based in the US which might help with transitions. They are also well connected with the universities there which might be fun as well.

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Thanks a lot for the advice. I guess I’ll go do more research and keep my eyes peeled once my master’s degree starts. I have to admit that I don’t know much about 3M beyond the fact that it makes household products and masks.

By they way, I just thought of another bunch of Japanese resources: NHK has some free Japanese lessons on their site. There are several series available with their target levels indicated on a chart on that page. The one I’ve seen on my Facebook feed is やさしい日本語 (‘Easy Japanese’), and I think the lessons are quite well done. You might want to consider them as a way to study on the go (or with multimedia), or just as another way to engage with Japanese.

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Dear Study Guide,

Today I finally unlocked the first set of vocab words. Trying to keep track of rules and exceptions has become a whole new thing for me. I thought that exceptions in English were rough but I am struggling hard with this.

I have found that remembering the Kanji/Vocab meaning is relatively easy for me. Where I struggle is in remembering the readings associated with each one. I have thus begun making an Anki deck just to hammer out sounds in my free time. This has definitely helped me with getting those more consistently.

My friend stepped me through the first couple chapters of Genki I and I then I bought it on amazon yesterday. Should be here tomorrow. I hope that this will also help me progress a little bit. The other thing I will look at in a few weeks is Bunpro. I feel like I don’t know enough words right now to even attempt that yet so I will hold off for now.

I am feeling good so far. It is still fun to drill at 7am and 8pm each day, I hope that continues for a while. I have been drilling my hiragana and katakana each day and the hiragana I am solid on, while the katakana is a little more iffy. I know that I really need to get that down pat, as my goal in 6 months or so is to start trying to read scientific papers in Japanese. Even if it takes me a week to go through it, I want to start being able to really start getting biomedical science papers.

Thank you for your time. :slight_smile:


(Edit: I misunderstood what you wrote a bit, so this response isn’t directly on knowing the readings, but rather on knowing which of multiple readings to use.)

For most kanji, this will become easier in time. You’ll intuitively know which pronunciation to use based on whether the word is all kanji or includes hiragana.

There will definitely be kanji that continue to be difficult, such as different readings for numbers used in different ways, but these will be the exceptions.

Good luck!

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Soooo this just got much harder for me lol. Turns out I am pretty good at remembering radicals and kanji, and absolutely terrible at the vocab words that come after. So now I am in this terrible cycle of unlocking more words and having a bunch of reviews that I struggle with.

大, 人, and 下 words are the death of me right now, though I have been getting better at them slowly. I haven’t done much studying outside of the reviews which maybe slowing me down some. I have been breaking Genki I into chunks and studying the words and phrases I don’t know (using Anki). Once I have a good handle on how to say them, what they mean, and when to say them I move on. This has been good so far and has also helped me from getting to overwhelmed.

I have also found out that my conference next (supposed to be in China) was postponed a year because of the Covid garbage. Thus my trip to Japan has been delayed as well. While this is a total bummer now, this does give me two years to learn as much as I can. I hope that by that time I will be able to converse well there. I figure it is about time to set up a monthly goals list.

June Goals!

  • Start an Anki deck for items that I am getting less than 60% recognition on
  • Slow way down when going through the lessons (part of the remembering problem)
  • Reach level 5


  • Start after reaching WK Level 5


  • Start after reaching WK level 3


  • 1 lesson/ week
  • Lesson 1
  • Lesson 2
  • Lesson 3
  • Lesson 4

After writing all of this out, it seems a little ambitious given my time constraints. Thus, I will try give this a try this month and adjust next month as necessary. Likely near the end of this month I will be moving into the research lab and my time may decrease. But I’m determined to have these be slow downs and derailments :slight_smile:!! I also want to say thanks for everyone that has reached out with advice and everyone that is keeping their own study logs. They have been inspiring and make me want to keep fighting the good fight :muscle:!!!

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There is a [Userscript] Self-Study Quiz that you can set to do exactly this, I highly recommend it, it will save you lots of time.

Experimenting is the best way to learn! :muscle: If it doesn’t work out, just shout out to the forums and help will come :slight_smile:

My sincerest sympathies, I also hope to be more fluent for my delayed holiday.

EDIT: P.S. Hello! Nice to meet you :slight_smile:

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Hey thanks for the tip on the Self-Study quiz script. The problem that I have, is that I am usually doing this on my IPad. And I have not been able to figure out a way to get scripts to work on here. I might just start doing a nightly self-quiz on my laptop to solve this.

It is nice to meet you too!! I love reading your study guide. It has helped give me motivation. :slight_smile:

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