Help, how do I restart my learning journey


apologies for the long post, a rambling stream of consciousness if ever there was one.

I’m in need of help, I want to restart my Japanese learning experience but I can’t see a way through the maze in front of me.


I dropped out of WK about 3 months ago after review burn out.
I’d hauled myself to level 10 in about 5 months but found the number of daily reviews a bit overwhelming.

I had the flaming durtles app on my phone, very convenient for knocking off a quick few reviews whilst killing time, but a constant reminder that I had stuff to do. I’m very much a ‘zero in-box’ person, I try to proactively tackle stuff I know I need to do.

I was focusing so much on the leeches and the stuff I couldn’t remember.

I now know that what I should have done is taken a learning vacation but instead I deleted the app and admitted defeat. I felt great relief but that was short-lived and then I felt a bit down about giving up.

I have a copy of genki I, and a subscription to bunpro. I felt I couldn’t spend time on them as WK was always waiting for more reviews to be done. Despite reading the words of wisdom, “don’t neglect your grammar and reading”, that’s pretty much exactly what I did (“I’ll just get to a particular level and then I’ll focus on that instead”).

Reasons for learning:

Recently I’ve been rekindling that feeling of ‘gee I really wish I could read Japanese’ again.

I want to be able to read Japanese for manga, anime, gaming and general digital Japanese content.
It’s a huge challenge, something good to keep my brain ticking as I head towards 50.
Also my kids are getting older and don’t need me as much. And, if I’m being honest, I don’t really have any other hobbies or friends to take up my time. I also wanted something to show for all the time in lockdown, rather than idly flicking through social media.

What is it you want?

Considering that a big motivation is to be able to read Japanese, I’ve spent precious little time doing this. I’d like to start that journey… So how’s it best to do that?

Grammar, how can I get into this? I wasn’t enjoying the genki/bunpro approach. The genki book is beautiful but it’s very much a classroom learning experience - I was skimming through to get to reading and grammar bits. Bunpro I just found I couldn’t do another SRS, it didn’t really feel like a journey either…

I feel like I want lesson/exercise/review format.

JLPT - I would like to try my N5 at some point to have something to show for my efforts

What should I do about WK? I’ve a review backlog of 1200+ items, I can recognise some kanji but probably not remember the kana… should I try to chip away at that, or bite the bullet and do a reset (nooo my precious levels that were dragged out of my brain)

I’m looking for a good balance of grammar, reading and kanji. I feel like I want to read a bit, take some grammar lessons, learn a bit of kanji… more of a leisurely stroll… I quite like being a japanese code-breaker and deciphering stuff, though it helps if the answers are available.


Started WK July 2020, purely focused on kanji, got to level 10, burnt out, stopped. Looking for guidance on how to have a more balanced and relaxed learning approach.

Is there a roadmap please ?

thanks for reading


You need to find what works for you personally.

For me, Genki was awful. I don’t know whether I actually learnt anything during my time struggling with it. That’s just me though; I know plenty of people who found Genki I & II invaluable.

From your post, I know that Genki isn’t really working for you either. Therefore, here’s what worked for me when getting started on grammar (once again, these may not work for you and if that’s the case, I strongly suggest trying out new things. You’ll know when you find something that works):

Grammar resources:
1. Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide – This revolutionised my learning. Every night, before I went to sleep, I just went through one or two grammar points from this guide. Before I knew it, I had learnt more over the course of that first month than in my entire first year of studying.

2. Maggie Sensei – I’d recommend starting with Tae Kim’s Guide, and then, one you’ve completed at least the basic grammar section, you can look at more specific stuff from Maggie Sensei. Grammar websites like these are incredible.

3. Wasabi – Another really great grammar website. Same as before though, start with Tae Kim’s Guide I think.

4. Imabi – I use this for grammar I can’t find anywhere else, i.e. classical Japanese grammar :wink:

Another point of note: Do not get too caught up in grammar. I’m suffering from a similar affliction, whereby I have learnt almost all grammar up to N3, but my vocabulary and kanji knowledge is drastically smaller.

A lot of people have it the other way around. So, and I think this goes for everyone, just keep in mind that balance is key. :wink:

P.S. Sorry I couldn’t give advice on the other stuff; I didn’t have time. I’ll do an edit in a bit with new stuff.


A roadmap is like the holy grail of language learning. You’ll find lots of options online and often conflicting advice :slight_smile:
When I took an N5 practice exam and compared it to my knowledge at the time, my guess was that you’ll need probably around 80 hours of kanji/vocab study, 80 hours of grammar study, 80 hours of reading practice (the test is in Japanese so you’ll need to be able to read at a reasonable speed to be able to finish it!) and 80 hours of listening practice to have a solid foundation for the test (obviously YMMV).
There are no official set requirements for the test, but a lot of sites will give you very good indications of what N5 likely encompasses.

Rather than zero-inboxing whatever any particular study method provides you with, you could start to tally spent hours to get to that 80-80-80-80. Create your own type of inbox basically and take the pressure off from any method you use. Kanji/vocab and grammar are likely the starting points for the first month, reading and listening can be added a little later.
Successful study routines are frequently re-evaluated. If something doesn’t work for you, change it. It’s not a failure but a potential improvement. Remember though that methods do tend to start at the beginning and a new method will have some repeat information if you switch to it.

Good luck!


thank you, with regards to Tae Kim, did you use the website or buy the book?

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Minna no Nihongo has you covered, my dude. You buy the main book and the translation book. You read two pages in the translation book that explain how the grammar points introduced in each chapter work, then you go back to the main book, read some example sentences, listen to an example conversation, and get to work on your exercises. Write four or five sentences using one sentence pattern, then another, then another. After that, you get some listening practice and a test to see how well you’ve taken it in. After every three or four chapters, there’s another test to cover the previous section as a whole.

Throughout it all, you’re working entirely in Japanese, which means you’re thinking entirely in Japanese and developing a native understanding of the language, which I think is a better environment than working half in English with a perspective that leans towards translation. Too many people pick up Genki because they see everyone else is learning with Genki, but I really do believe you could do better with Minna no Nihongo.


I actually used the Android app. (Be careful though, it allows you to tap on words to see the meaning and that’s partly why I was so able to go way ahead before learning the necessary vocabulary :sweat_smile:).

Just to add to the points above, JapanesePod101 could be a good addition to learn grammar in a different way - they do short ‘podcast’ type lessons where in each episode they introduce new grammar point and some vocabulary by going through a ‘real-life’ like dialogue. Could be good for you if you don’t particularly like the rigid ‘book’ approach? Also offers some listening practice and can be done whilst walking in the park or something :slight_smile:

As for the WaniKani review pile, if you don’t want to completely reset your progress, maybe try to look at the kanji/vocab lists from the levels you completed and try to re-learn them before jumping fully into reviews (it should take less time, given that your brain will recognise some of them). Then, when you make a mistake during reviews, take your time to look at the word, and spend some time re-learning it again rather than doing it the ‘wrong, next’ approach.

I’ve had huge piles of reviews before and I’m very similar to you in that ‘I gotta do everything now’ aspect. I think the most important thing is to just internally agree with yourself that this is going to take time. Set yourself a reasonable daily goal/limit of reviews you want to do and don’t try to do more than that. It might take weeks before you clear up that stack but it’s okay, you want to spend your time on other stuff, otherwise you won’t have a chance to practice the vocabulary you’ve learned and you will most likely burn out again.

Also, good luck getting back into it! I am pretty much doing the same now so I know how dreadful it can feel. Don’t give up! :slight_smile:


for that feeling of needing to always do reviews, i reccomend a relatively strict regime of using WK only 3 times a day: once for lessons and reviews. 4 hours later for first review (this will usually be a quite short session). and 8 hours after that for reviews. limit your workload by limiting either your lessons or the number of apprentice items. but importantly, outside of those three sessions, don’t do any WK, so it doesn’t dominate your headspace.

i can’t give you any recommendations for grammar, i learned most of mine on duolingo, and that’s got a ton of issues (but it worked for me, so…). i’ve also used Tae Kim and Imabi.

but you say that you are learning japanese in order to read, so my big recommendation would be to start reading. there’s lots of recommendations around for beginning readers, things like よつばと and しろくまカフェ, or graded readers. but frankly i had a look at graded readers and tried よつば, and they just didn’t grab my attention. instead i’m reading やがて君になる, and though it is probably really a bit too high above my current level, i’m having fun reading it.

the emphasis here is on fun. i am of course learning a lot while reading, but i am not worrying about grammar i don’t get, and looking up words as a matter of course. i’m reading for enjoyment, and getting that sweet sweet absorption learning as a side effect ^^

it’s also extremely motivating!


Grammar - You’ve already got some good recommendations here so I’ll just add in Cure Dolly on Youtube. She has the best explanations of Japanese grammar I’ve encountered.

WK - There’s a number of threads on here about others who have tackled massive review piles. Check them out to see how they handled it. Some general advice is

No new lessons until the review pile has been dealt with

Don’t try to do all the reviews at once. If you do 300 reviews and they’re at the same SRS stage. Then that pile will come back as 300 in the future. Split the pile into chunks, maybe 100 daily. You can further split that into 50 in the morning and 50 in the evening. Those will become your 2 main review times every day.

It may seem daunting, but if you work at it but by bit, you will overcome it.

Good luck!


thanks @Furf, there’s a bewildering number of books when I search for that; don’t want to get the wrong thing, is it too much to ask for links / isbn…

yeah, have looked at the Cure Dolly before, pretty good (find it hard to get past the robotic voice but I liked the vizulisations)

no chance that I’ll manage 1200 reviews at once, so thats not a problem… summoning up the courage to tackle it is…

I don’t know what this site is like for ordering, but it’s got a clear presentation of what you want to start with. The red Shokyu I Textbook and the yellow Shokyu I Translations & Grammatical Notes.

I didn’t pick up the workbook, but the textbook has certainly enough material for me, especially since WaniKani has been providing supplementary vocabulary and kanji study.

I hope you get along Minna more than Genki if you decide to get it.

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If you like the classroom experience, maybe try looking for a online classes or see if your local community college has any Japanese classes (if you have a school nearby)? And to help keep your interest, I definitely recommend doing one of the book clubs on the forums here! Or just reading any manga that you find interesting. I’ve been reading Haikyuu!! because I LOVE the anime, and that’s been really fun!

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oh well done! I picked up a few volumes of haikyuu as I love the anime too, but found the manga too hard… a big problem was telling the difference between names and regular kanji… nice bokuto profile pic :slight_smile:

10 lessons in 5 months feels a bit too chill for me already. I don’t think taking it even slower is a good idea. Then again I want to be done with wk asap and then move on to videogames. I don’t like the idea of doing wk for kanji and other stuff for… other stuff at the same time. Maybe it’s just me. Can’t even explain why it feels like that to me, but I tend to trust my intuition.

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