Have you been studying Japanese for 2-3 years?

I saw a couple of posts in another thread where two users had mentioned that they’ve been studying for 2.5 and 3 years.
I’ve been studying for 2.5 years, and wanted to sort of compare notes and check levels and see how I have been doing. Not as a competition, mind you, but just as a rough gauge to determine if I am going about things somewhat correctly, or if I am getting horrible results with my current methods.

My current level assessment:

  • I’m just about to start level 35 on Wani Kani. I was using Wani Kanji heavily at the start, but slowed way down about 6 months ago figuring it was more of a marathon than a sprint. I’m a lifetime member, and felt I was neglecting grammar, listening, etc. by having reviews take up too much of my study time.
  • The Genki I, Genki II, and Minna No Nihongo Shukyuu de Yomeru topics are all easy reading for me at this point.
  • I can work through Yotsubato (hard) and ShiroKuma Cafe (moderate) mangas.
  • I recently purchased Tobira. I was able to read the first 5 section with much trouble and with very little dictionary use.
  • Listening wise, I can complete the exercises on mykikitori.com, but nothing much harder than that.
  • I feel like I understand a lot of grammar, but my production is still poor.
  • I just started Skyping with native speakers.

My favorite resources so far (in no order):

  • Wani Kani
  • Anki
  • Genki I and II
  • Tobira (love it!)
  • Japanese Pod 101
  • Bilingual News podcast

Hmm, to be fair, any way of studying Japanese is fine as long as you enjoy it. I also have those times where I doubt if I’m doing it correctly, but in the end, it’s the journey that matters. For me personally, I’ve been studying Japanese for two years. As for textbooks, I’ve used the first Genki textbook and got through half the second before I quit it and learned all the other Japanese grammar gobblygook from mostly maggie-sensei (I recommend her greatly personally, as she tends to get right to the point). For reading material, I can read any manga with light usage of a dictionary, and can read most novels without much difficulty (usually have to look up 2-4 words every other line, especially if they’re particularly long sentences). Right now, I’m reading 8 visual novels, two manga volumes, and one novel in Japanese. Mostly because I can never seem to finish one before I find something else that interests me, and also because of my lack of self control, hehe.

While I may be only level 27 on WK, I actually have all the rest of the WK content in anki, which is why I haven’t advanced beyond this current level for months. While my reading may be up to par, keep in mind that my speaking is very VERY below average, as I rarely ever practice it. My listening could also use some work, as I generally can’t follow most native Japanese conversations.

My personal advice is to simply focus on everything, because if you rush too much in one department, you will end up feeling like you’re lacking in others. For me personally, I’ve just started practicing writing kanji, and I feel like there’s still a whole hell of a lot for me to learn, despite the fact that I can recognize nearly all of the joyo kanji and N1 vocab. Just keep plugging at it, and enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Studying Supplements used:

  • Anki
  • Wanikani
  • lottsa music
  • shit tonna book
  • genki textbooks
  • maggie-sensei
  • jisho (very useful for reading)
    -memrise (dropped, since I didn’t like it personally)

I see you like reading (and music). One thing that’s been fun for me is reading the customer reviews for bands I like on amazon.co.jp. That leads down a nice rabbit hole of learning.

I’ve also just recently started lurking on the discussion topics here. I first found it here on WK communities.

Thanks for your response, and enjoy the journey.

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Oho, what a cute discovery! I’ve never looked at this before but as someone living in California, the first post caught my eye right away :joy:

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I’ve been properly studying for about 2 years, which is when I started WK. Before that I’d learned some Japanese because I was in Japan but I’d done very little about kanji and mostly just learned survival phrases / how to talk about my family, what I did on holiday etc.

Starting WK marked a totally new phase in my learning. Not only because I was now really learning kanji, but also because through the forums I was able to find so many great other resources. I’m now studying N2 material (don’t think I’d pass the test if I did it right now, but wouldn’t be far off) having been at N5 level just under 2 years ago.

Grammar is probably my weak point and I still get massively frustrated by listening especially when not understanding what someone said then two minutes later slapping my forehead and being like, Oh my God, that was so simple! Kanji - purely due to WK - has become one of my strongest points and I think my speaking is pretty decent. I’m sure I make a lot of grammar mistakes but I can get my point across on pretty much any topic and kind of think and speak at the same time.

Resources I’ve used have changed over time. I’ll try and put them below in the order I used them:

Japanese for Everyone (This is not Minna no Nihongo) - Textbook for beginner through N4, this was my only resource pre-WK.
Sou-Matome N4 gammar and reading
NHK Easy
One-to-one lessons - I go for 90 minutes once every fortnight on average. Like my teacher and we mainly do speaking practice and she reads over my writing every week - which has gone from a half dozen example sentences to essays on comparing the historical progress of Eastern Vs Western civilization.
Dragonball - This was tough straight after Yotsuba but the story’s clear from the pictures
Sou-Matome N3 Grammar - My girlfriend had this. It was far too tough for me at first.
Tobira - My favourite textbook ever. Started tough but I found it really useful and a great confidence boost to read whole pages of text. Good listening practice too.
Weekly Language Exchange - Been doing this with the same girl for 2 years now. Invaluable.
Nihongo-no-mori Youtube channel - Excellent once you get to the N3 and N2 material. Didn’t like it before then.
Memrise - Started doing a lot of N3 courses and WK expansions. Now doing N2 grammar on there.
Sou-Matome N3 Reading - By the time I got this, I actually found it quite easy.
Mirai Bunko Kids’ Books - Maybe my most valuable resource. These books are cheap and the first time I started reading something with walls of text outside a learning resource. They have hiragana, which is annoying, but for grammar, reading speed, vocab they’re great. I’ve read probably 20+ of these. They’re for kids / teens, but they can actually be very entertaining if you choose the right ones.
Kino’s Journey - My first light novel. Many people recommend this as a first novel. I actually found it very difficult. Finished it but would like to re-read to try and understand more.
Sou Matome N2 Grammar
Kanzen Master N2 Reading - I’m using this a lot right now. Far better than Sou Matome. I can usually get the answers correct but it takes me too long to get there, which is why I don’t think I’d pass the exam. Feels good to know you can do it, though. Just need more practice.
Anki - Switched to this from Memrise recently. I do the Jtest4you deck which is heavily grammar focused (but all the cards are example sentences).
Real News - I often read stories on Tokyo Reporter in English then try the original in Japanese (or vice versa). This is hard but gets more doable as you get a feel for news style writing.
Real Books! - This has long been my goal. Currently reading In the Miso Soup in Japanese. I find it easier than Kino’s Journey.
Real Japanese Youtube Channels and shows on Netflix - Started with PDR-san and Dogen for practice but I’m starting to watch others just out of interest. I currently like toco toco tv and トップランキング.

I find it’s really great to go back and revisit old resources to see how far you’ve come. I remember the first time I picked up my girlfriend’s N3 Sou Matome and thinking, Jesus, if I ever get to that level, I’ll be amazed. Now I’m at the stage where that book is too easy for me, and I’m certainly not amazed. I still feel like there’s so much more to learn, but at least I know I’ve improved.


Thank you for sharing this. Maybe I should try Sou Matome, too (as I can find it in my bookstore).

As for me, I started about 4-6 years ago with Google --> Japanese.about.com I am preparing to go to Japan on an academic trip at that time. I have (almost) never taken a Japanese class.

So, some of the first materials I used are

Tae Kim’s guide to grammar
Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji

Japanese iOS app was the main dictionary I used. I paid for it, and thought it is worth paying; it is powerful.

I studied for about 1 year, and effectively paused my study; only to receive some newsletter and read something sporadically.

About 2 years ago, I have some more free time, and I want to improve my memory, so I resume Japanese study and think of WaniKani… (I have seen WaniKani in Beta for some time, but didn’t start using it before).

As for what I recommend now, please see 新 Monthly Progress Thread, but in short

Sounds like you are doing just fine for where you are. I’ve been a member of wanikani for ages but only started actually using it on Jan 8th or so of this year and it’s been good for me. My grammar is pretty good. I’m supplementing with the core 30k deck now because I’m going into my least busy work season and I figure it will give me more learning opportunities.

One thing you could add in (and prob enjoy) would be the NHK easy news articles. You wouldn’t learn much, but I enjoy them and learn like 4 or 5 new words per article (sometimes more or less depending on topic).

I’ve been studying longer than you but I def hit the advanced learner outside of Japan plateau, which is why I committed to WK this year.

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It’s been about two years now since I started learning Japanese. Passed N1 last December so I’d say that’s where my comprehension level is at, however due to almost completely ignoring speaking and even writing to some extend so I’m currently playing a bit of catch up with those, speaking especially. Been having weekly chats with some friends I’ve made online and random people on HelloTalk. Besides the current speaking and writing practice that I’m getting with friends, all I’ve been doing is reading books at about rate of 2 books in Japanese per month since last July. I tend to read Japanese news sites for about 1-2 hours each day depending how much I got free time available.

I’ve made posts about my method of learning and the materials that work for me but without going too much into detail here’s a quick list:

Youtube - Japanese Youtube channels, started with Let’s play channels, mostly politics/economy discussions now.
News sites and papers such as 読売新聞、日経、毎日。。等。
新完全マスター文法 N4-N1 - the only source of grammar I’ve used. I kinda swear by these since I was able to pass that N1 grammar section with relative ease thanks to these books.


It’s been on and off for me for a while, but I’ve consistently been on for about two years now. Most of it has been self study, so my knowledge has been all over the place, but I have a good grasp on extremely basic content. Just recently I restructured how I did my studying and so far it’s been going much better than it ever had, except for when I was in class.


  • White Rabbit Flashcards (good quality, but I didn’t have the discipline to use physical flashcards)
  • Nakama 1 & 2 (good for when I was in class, not so good for self study)
  • Two Intermediate Japanese College Classes
  • Genki 1 & 2 (What I’m using now, they are serving me well)
  • WK (Better for me than physical flashcards, I also use 1x1 and level reordering, but not type reordering so I do my vocab before new radicals and kanji)
  • A couple dozen fiction books which I’m in the middle of skimming (prose and scripts, but also the Korotan books)
  • A couple dozen Nino/Arashi DVDs
  • Tons of Arashi media downloaded including music and radio programs which have really helped my listening.
  • I also have Integrated Intermediate and the three grammar dictionaries on tap.

The only resource I briefly used that I wouldn’t recommend would be Tae Kim’s guide, it really screwed up my grammar, and I’m still trying to fix it. orz

I’m not really sure when I started studying, but it may only be 3 years of ACTIVE study if I wear to add up the times I was actively learning new things.

My reading is at a pretty high level I think, the biggest benefit I got here was the Shin Kanzen Master books, both the grammar and reading Comprehension. By the time you get to N2 and it forces you to be 100% in Japanese it helps a lot. I can talk about most things I want when typing, but when speaking I don’t think I sound nearly as eloquent, although it’s getting better.

Listening is obviously the hard one, but it’s slowly but steadily on its way. I had a friend visit here a few months back and we spent the whole week speaking almost only Japanese. I didn’t say “Eh?” nearly as much as I thought i would.


Be interesting to know (of those that have already replied) any other factors on study.

For example, were you studying full or part time, alone or with a course or tutor?

Would also be good to know if you work full or part time too?

How has it screwed up your grammar? I’ve been using it for the past two weeks, and it seems to be quite a solid introduction to various grammar points and structures, all the way up to Special Expressions at the moment. It misses a few grammar points on its way through the more basic grammar, but that isn’t such a big deal.

Some lessons are initially confusing or vague, but after reading through them several times, as well as searching only the particularly confusing points like 〜ている looking for alternative, more in-depth explanations, and finally hearing them in anime or songs, they sink in fairly well. Admittedly, I still have to research and get a better feel for 〜ている、 〜ったら and ば , though.

I’ve heard his blog is a mixed bag, with references to how he talks about the suffering passive and sentence order in Japanese, but that his guide is fine.

What’s wrong with the guide?

I’ve been studying for almost 2 years now, self-study only. I haven’t really used grammar resources consistently in more than a year, so I’ve been stuck on N2 level for the longest time. I mostly just look up grammar I come across. Video games, what I usually use my Japanese for, rarely use N1 grammar, so I’m doing pretty good comprehension-wise. My main problem is that I’m still bound to a dictionary because of a lack of sufficient vocabulary. Listening and speaking is still bad because I’ve neglected practicing those.

What I’ve used:

  • Human Japanese (beginner and intermediate)
  • WaniKani (duh)
  • JapanesePod 101
  • Jisho
  • Kotobank
  • Anki
  • Houhou
  • Tons of video games
  • Imabi
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Studying for a bit over 2 years now. What I’ve used so far:

Genki I&II
Japanese the Manga way
Dictionary of Basic/Intermediate Japanese Grammar
Shin Kanzen Master N3 - Reading / Grammar / Listening
Shin Kanzen Master N2 - Reading / Grammar
JapanesePod 101
iKnow Core 6000 (almost finished now)
Videogames (Youkai Watch 2/3, Dragon Quest Series, Ace Attorney)
Lang-8 (on and off)
Anki (for grammar reviews)

Outside of videogames I really lack any exposure to the language. I really would like to read books (not Manga) in Japanese, but it’s hard getting them here in Germany if you don’t own a credit card. I can read the N2 reading material in textbooks without much trouble, but real Japanese (not videogames or NHK easy) still gives me trouble. I also really lack in writing and especially speaking practice. Now that I’m finished with WK lessons I’ll focus on this.
Overall I feel like I got a really solid foundation, but the lack of exposure to real Japanese is holding me back.

I’ve been studying for 2-2.5 years maybe. Well, many starts and stops before that, but a couple of actually trying.
But that said, I failed N5 in December (by two damn points). Feel I haven’t gotten much better. Trying to be a fully functional and responsible adult, doesn’t leave me nearly as much study time as I’d like. WaniKani and Anki vocab decks eat nearly all of what little time I have.

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Close to three years, but WaniKani has been my main learning source all that time. I want to look at other options as well but my work schedule plus WK’s often enormous review queues have put me off somewhat. I’m currently on Level 21 but I might take a break and look at some other resources when I’ve reached 22.

In the beginning I dove straight in without any real knowledge of the Japanese language outside of phrases and words I’ve heard in anime. WK recommends knowing Hiragana before starting but I knew nothing of that whatsoever. Early on I was taking notes of the Romaji readings of words, but as I progressed I essentially ended up learning Hiragana from WK as well and now I can read that just fine. Katakana I still struggle with though.

I’m on Textfugu and EtoEto as well but I haven’t had a good chance to use either of those properly. Beyond this, I’ll sometimes watch Japanese YouTube channels, mostly on toy reviews. A friend once got me a book titled Japanese the Manga Way and that’s been a good read so far. I also have a Dekaranger manga which I need to start reading already.

If you don’t mind only reading part of a book, you can try creating an Amazon account, downloading Kindle and then clicking on ‘download sample’ on the Kindle items. This is one light novel that I want to read eventually, which I’ve bought, but the free sample is a good portion of the first chapter: https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B01MYUF2BI/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

I know that his way of doing things works for some people, but for me, the explanations he used were unsatisfying and in some cases caused me a lot of confusion. Plus, I felt that learning casual form before polite form was counter intuitive.

When I took classes I had a harder time grasping grammar than I would have if I had gone in clean, at least that is the way I feel about it.

Hmm, okay. That’s fair.

I’ve read through several points in the guide several times to get a better grasp of them and to refresh my memory. I felt that Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide became useful after I had already been exposed to the basics of the basics, such as conjugation and ~ます forms. At this point, the entire guide has become essential reading; I’m not going to start using native material mainly as a source of study until I’m done with it.

Maybe Imabi afterwards.

For the record, aside from the beginning few lessons, Tae Kim covers polite and casual forms together, which I have found immensely helpful.

I’ve been studying for what feels like a helluva long time, but if I crunch it down to useful, focused study it’d probably be about 2 or 3 years. I’m currently working on finishing N4 material - didn’t get higher than that probably because all my study was so scattered and unfocused.


  • Japanese for Busy People: Personally, I hated this book, mostly because it’s boring. I only did the first few lessons back in about 2006, but it was the only textbook my local library had. On the other hand if the only reason for you to learn Japanese is for business, it might be good.
  • Hakase (textbook): I don’t really recommend this one, either. While I’ve seen many people say that you have to be careful with Genki because it’s geared towards a classroom environment, this book has almost NO exercises meant to be done alone. This was used in the university class I took (more about that later)
  • Yookoso (textbook): I don’t recommend this book either (lol). It’s pretty old, so you’d probably have a hard time finding it anyways. Ended up picking it up after my high school’s Japanese program failed.
  • Physical dictionaries: Because I started in like 2005-06, there weren’t many (any?) good online dictionaries, so I have a couple Japanese-English dictionaries and a kanji dictionary. I absolutely LOVE having a physical kanji dictionary, but Jisho is much easier to use quickly (also, I tend to use Google Translate on my phone to write a kanji, then copy/paste that to Jisho). If anyone who reads this is interested in getting a physical dictionary, I recommend trying to find one that doesn’t use romaji. When the page index is labeled as “sake” and you’re not sure if it’s the English or Japanese section, it can get kind of annoying.
  • University class: I took a year-long beginner class back in 2007-08. Unfortunately, because I already knew some basic things like kana, I ended up tuning out the very beginning and burned out towards the end. Largely because I like going at my own pace.
  • Google Translate: Please don’t shoot me. As mentioned above, I use this to handwrite kanji to look them up. Sometimes I use it to get a second opinion on a sentence. I absolutely don’t use it to communicate by writing in English and taking whatever Japanese-ish sentence it spits out :fearful::cold_sweat::scream:
  • Jisho: Who doesn’t love Jisho? Example sentences, Wikipedia links, and some really interesting entries like 教えて君 that you likely won’t find in physical dictionaries.
  • WaniKani
  • Genki II: recommended. Many of the exercises can be done solo, and many of the pair/group exercises can be reworked with some imagination. Alternatively, there’s plenty of people who use/have it, so it’s not hard to find someone to do the exercises with. One thing I didn’t care for though, was putting a bunch of grammar lessons in the front of each chapter and then putting the exercises in the back - I prefer lesson, exercise, lesson, exercise. Lots of flipping around the way I did it.
  • I just got the first two volumes of the Japanese Grammar Dictionaries, and I’ll be getting the 3rd later when I approach actually needing to use it.
  • I just ordered An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese and I may order Tobira soon-ish. No such thing as too many resources.
  • Tae Kim’s Guide: I use this kind of as a portable grammar dictionary. Rather than do initial learning from it, I use it to look up things I forgot or am questioning if I don’t have my physical ones nearby.
  • HelloTalk / Lang-8 / HiNative: imo, they all have strengths and weaknesses, so I use them for different things.
  • NHK Easy: Hit and miss, sometimes the articles are interesting to me, sometimes not. News generally doesn’t interest me at all, which is becoming a problem :stuck_out_tongue:
  • Rikaikun: this is mostly for when I’m reading NHK Easy and am too lazy to copy/paste into another resource.
  • A few various manga, most of which is pretty niche or is always recommended.
  • The Little Prince (星の王子さま): I’d read this in French when taking that in high school, so I figured it was probably a pretty good practice book. It’s not bad so far - I struggled with it a lot last year, but I recently picked it up again and got myself a copy of the English version for reference. I use sticky tabs to keep track of which sentence I’m on so that I don’t feel pressured to finish an entire chapter in one sitting. My biggest frustration is when I don’t recognize a word because it’s written in kana instead of kanji. What a problem to have.
  • Pokemon Moon (in Japanese, obviously): This was a decent option IMO because I’m already familiar with the general idea of a Pokemon game, I could ask my coworkers questions about story that I didn’t understand, and I didn’t have to import it or anything. Plus, I use Bulbapedia for move names since they include the originals in the article. I’m still trying to finish it though orz