Essential Beginner Information

Is there any general Japanese language knowledge that you wish you knew when you began learning? Also how about any Tofugu must-read articles?
Thank you :slight_smile:


When it came to userscripts, there was one I kept seeing in level 60 posts:

I read the description: I didn’t get it. I was directly advised by other people to download it and was told what it did: I didn’t get it. So I didn’t install it. But I should have just trusted them.

The script illustrates how there can be a relation between certain radical usage, and certain on’yomi readings. A whole bunch of kanji readings became none-issues, since I knew that a particular radical being in a particular location in a kanji usually means a reading of [bla]. This can even work with kanji you’ve never seen before.

It’s not the case with every kanji, and exceptions are always plentiful. But if you use scripts at all: use this one. :slight_smile:


That its ok if the grammar doesn’t make perfect sense in the beginning. It’ll sort itself out along the way.


Don’t try to be perfect the first time, it will come with time and practice.


I was thinking about it recently! It’s impossible to understand many grammatical concepts as a beginner until you have an overview of what’s available in the language and see many usage examples. Then over time it kinda start making sense (especially if you also study classical grammar a bit too).

What I wish I’d focus on in the beginning is studying the radicals and kanji composition more.

Up until wk lvl 20-30 I remembered many kanji visually as distinct images. I would struggle to recognise kanji if the font is a bit different. And I’d struggle with visually similar kanji later on. So I’d recommend paying close attention to kanji components early on. Learn to write them too, so that you can recognise them in different fonts.


A wide selection of ebooks and used books can be extremely easy to come by through sites like Bookwalker or Mandarake - there’s no need to default to new physical books on Amazon Japan just because the interface is familiar.


Thank you everyone for the advice

Do you mean that its better to learn the kanjis as “slide+nose+dirt” (…u get it) instead of as a “whole”, because later on it will be easier to differentiate?

I find that sometimes the story that WK tells you to remember the kanjis…is a bit over the top.

Also, at which level do you think is better to start with grammar?

That’s the point, the whole thing with radicals is that you should be able to look at the kanji, first try to remember it as an image, because that’s fast, then if that’s out of the picture, scan the radicals in it and just go “king and drop? oh, of course, that’s ball, and ball… ball. ah, たま”

If you’ll be doing WK for long enough, then beware 死 levels. Turtle do not like to be burned and will put up a fight.


(You’ll be okay though, no one has perfect memory :slight_smile: )

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Ah, also, my advice.
A level gets easier as you progress through it.
Never feel like that it’s a bad thing, if you don’t remember a third or even a larger portion of the kanji and vocabulary. It will get better. If you start with an average of around 70% each review session, you will average out at around 80% by the end.

And secondly, you can start reading at whatever level, probably not right away, but basically at 5-10 you should pick up your favourite dictionary and your favourite manga, and start your painful journey. Not because you will understand it perfectly, but because all the known vocab, and all the known kanji you meet along the way will be drilled into your brain even more. Then the srs will deal with the rest of the bunch.


Yes. In the beginning most kanji look pretty distinct, so it’s possible to remember them as a whole.

When you look at 日 it’s easy to immediately think “oh yeah, I know this one”. There are very few kanji that have a similar structure. I can only recall 曰 (notice the middle line is not connected to the box on the right). Perhaps 白 too but it has 1 more stroke and it’s easy to tell them apart. So you can pretty much think that if a kanji looks like 日 it is 日.

Then there’s another group of kanji that a fairly distinct - those that use a ton of strokes but have an unusual composition. For example 鬱. There’s no kanji that looks like it but with one or two rasicals off. It’s same to remember it as an image and not bother with the radicals.

However, with most kanji you need to carefully look at the radicals because at a glance they look very similar.


If you have time

  • laid back and enjoy the ride
  • pick whatever material you enjoy and have fun

If you don’t have/limited time

  • welcome to hell

Just be prepared for an everyday struggle, really. At first, WK may look like hell, but it actually is a haven. Once you truly start diving into native material, you might feel hopeless at first. Just don’t give up.
Easy said than done, though.
PS: radicals are your best friends!

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The advice I always give to people is to please be kind to your future self. Any new lessons you do in WaniKani will come back as reviews hours, days, weeks, and then months later. If you overload yourself with lessons, it can be hard to keep up with them when those reviews come back in large batches again and again. Even if you’re going full speed, WaniKani is not a sprint, and it takes dedicated, daily work to make it through the program. When you plan today’s workload, think of yourself six months from now, who might be tired, demotivated, sick, or busy. Plan your regular study schedule around the work you can easily complete on a daily basis, not the work that you can complete with maximum effort in ideal circumstances.


I’m surprised that despite the amount of people mentioning memorizing kanji by their shapes, nobody yet seems to have brought up Jitai, the font-randomizing script. I highly recommend getting it, along with some very difficult fonts like ArmedBanana, to get your brain to recognize kanji not only by their shapes in one font but by their ‘skeleton’ which is preserved across all fonts.

I don’t really think it’s wrong at early levels to memorize kanji by their shapes, really. You eventually learn by trial and error which kanji you need to look at radicals to disambiguate and which you don’t. Scripts like Niai help with this a bit but most of the time you can just retrain yourself to look for telltale signs (which will often be in the left radical).

Screen Shot 2021-08-21 at 18.37.51

Edit: I don’t know what’s up with my font, but the difference between the two is now even more difficult to see…


Happy reading! ^>^



Wow this is amazing. I always wonder if I could randomize the font of Kanji on WaniKani.

I’m having a hard time trying to read native material right now when they are in different font style.
Especially, those hand writing kanji in manga on Twitter.


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Interesting, in your case they are only different in the general shape (日曰).
I checked out a few fonts and with some of them the difference is very minimal.
But with these two confusion wouldn’t be a problem because 曰 is pretty much always used in the form 曰く and is relatively rare. So just based on the context it’s easy to see which one is which.

You would benefit from the tofugu master guide.
It goes through everything from learning kana to kanji and also it goes over when to start grammar + vocabulary. Tofugu also has many articles detailing so much; such as reviewing every grammar textbook and weighing the pros on cons, random stuff about japanese culture etc.