Help with learning Japanese?

Look this will be the stupidest topic y’all will read just.

Ive been studying wrong, I’ve never studied a language before and just thought “Hey why don’t I just try Japanese!” And went in all blind and not knowing what to do. I CAN form a few basic sentences but that’s it. I don’t expect myself to hold real conversations at all.

Recently I’ve been watching anime with no subtitles or no subtitles at all, it works better, but I still feel stuck. I also try to Teach myself words and all that, attempt to read articles, use Jisho for new words and all that.

I just feel like I’m getting nowhere. It’s probably just self esteem or something (I usually feel like someone needs to tell me I’m right before I believe I’m right unless it’s like, math or something I’m 100% sure I get) but im pretty sure I’m just struggling and need tips.

TL;DR I’m stuck and I need studying tips cuz I goofed.


Some things to note:

–When learning something with as much raw data as a language, the amount of progress that would feel amazing at the beginning feels slow and routine later on, but it’s still progress. 1-10 is a big jump, just as big as 3445-3455, but the bigger one will feel less rewarding.

–Can you remember what you teach yourself? If so, that’s learning and progress that you provably have done!

Languages take a lot of work, and intermediate blues can set in surprisingly early. If you aren’t feeling much progress on vocab, try doing some grammar practice or english-to-japanese work or something else related but new-ish.


Best advice I can give is come up with a schedule. Even for the small things. I had a schedule on my way through Wanikani, and I have a schedule now for grammar. Set aside time everyday and do something. Reading, grammar, listening… you have plenty of choices. Doing something is better than nothing.

Also, are you actively studying grammar? That will help. If you need a resource we have a thread here on Wanikani specifically to find learning resources.

The best thing to remember is to not give up. You can get it if you try. For instance, I started to learn Japanese back when I was a senior in high school. That was back in 2012. Seven years latter and I’m still struggling. It’s a matter of persevering. Tell yourself you can do it, and you will.

Good luck and don’t give up!



(Ah, so it’s my self esteem and not me being an idiot

See, I do tend to remember, I just worry I won’t ever learn for some reason. I just don’t understand a lot of what i read or hear…

I am not an expert in this because I just started. ( 5 month and going) but I can say I felt like this too. I got a Kanji book and Genki and I felt so overwhelmed and panicked and I was scared I will never be smart enough for it but I decided to do some research and I realised Japanese language needs a lot of patience and love to be learned.
First thing, I decided how much a day I will use WaniKani. It can eat your time a lot and just knowing Kanji won’t help. And writing and trying to learn 60 kanji/vocab a day won’t help bc I will forget it. So I decided to learn 20 items a day, no matter what.
Then, I decided to learn vocab, outside WaniKani. I did a lot of research on this because I don’t like Anki and I wanted something like WaniKani because I love it. So I decided to use Torii. An SRS application, a lot like WaniKani and it helps a lot.
Then, the most important thing to be able to understand Japanese and maybe the reason you have problems with understanding Japanese, is grammar. This is really important. Here I use two sources. Genki and BunPro. Genki for learning the basic, BunPro for the reviews and learning more.
I think you need something like WaniKani and other specialized apps to steer you. I tried learning on my own too. Like searching random words but I got so scared of them and gave up. Using apps that will teach you the easier things first will help you not get scared. And I think having an app to remind you “hey, don’t forget about your words/grammar/kanji” is better that doing it all alone.
And don’t forget, it takes years to be able understand a language. And Japanese is special. It needs a lot of love, patience and ambition not to give up on it. It needs a looooot of time. Sometimes I feel like an idiot, like when I forget the reading for “day” in WaniKani but I don’t give up. Because I love this language and I want to be able to understand it.
Don’t give up. Try and try and try again. Get pissed off at a word/kanji/grammar rule for being hard. And then read it again and again. Ask for help here. And then say heck you word, now I know you HA! And start again!


It seems like you lack direction. I would recommend aiming for a very specific goal like shooting for N5. Unless you already are, then I’m a doofus.


I dont have a very clear goal tbh I just want to be able to understand even the modt basic of sentences.

1 Like

I stopped paying wanikani cuz it would stress me, so im not sure if i’ll want another program like it…

Yah, i guess this is more of a struggle than I thought. I barely started taking it more seriously too!

What kind of study routine do you currently have? It sounds like you need to start from the ground up with grammar. A good grammar foundation can really help you getting started in parsing basic sentences. Early on it’s going to be extremely difficult to understand anime, with or without subs, if you don’t have a ton of listening practice under your belt.

Suggested study routine:

  1. Choose a grammar source (Genki, Bunpro, Tae Kim are all popular)
  2. Learn vocab (either from your textbook, or from another third party tool)
  3. Learn kanji (I hear WK is good)
  4. Begin reading practice (beginner book clubs here, NHK News Easy, graded readers)

If you were stressed out before with WK, then you should slow your pace to balance your studies.


If you went the same anime route as me, then perhaps listening to songs would help as well! While anime helped me with basic grammar such as the use of particles, listening to songs greatly boosted my vocab, plus it’s more engaging and less domineering than anime!


Are you me from 2 years ago? If that’s the case then the light at the end of the miserable tunnel was Bunpro. The only reason I started to care about goals and direction was because of the way they structured the site. Makes you think “Hey maybe this JLPT thing that literally everyone talks about is important (not being patronizing that’s exactly what I thought”. You’re already at level 15, just one more level and you’d have the Kanji for both N5 and N4 under your belt, leaving you able to focus solely on grammar.

I know I sound like a Bunpro salesman at this point, but it also helped me with this as well. Each grammar point has 12 example sentences, and unlike Wanikani, they make sure that you’re able to understand every sentence as you come across them, it builds off grammar points that you already know.

Again, I’d like to emphasize the importance of a clear goal. To approach the language without one is like travelling without a map, you’d be utterly lost.


Yah, i am studying grammar as well atm. Its all easy to understand and all, i am also teaching myself vocab and kanji, but id just rather use jisho. For starters, i dont want to spend money much.

I just feel like i understand far less than what i want to.

I just started studying a way i feel actually works, though, im just disappointed in the last year where i didnt know what i was doing, took a dumb break, then decided to just do kanji because i believed my problem was not knowing enough kanji.

Maybe i should keep on doing this, as in what you recommended, and see where it takes me.

I’m a broken record when it comes to recommending this resource, but here I go again:

The videos on the CureDolly youtube channel helped me loads and loads. I first went over old videos in order, and then this playlist, taking a lot of notes. She handles things a little differently than some textbooks, but it clicked with me, and I love her work.

It’s easy to have the structure of “just watch the playlist in order.” I know the style and chosen method of “organic Japanese” learning isn’t for everyone, but it’s a free resource, so I figured I’d throw it out. :slight_smile:

inhales deeply Standard disclaimer: the voice filter and the visuals are quite off-putting, but I’d personally say the content is worth giving it a shot. Full subs are available if you want to nix the audio.


I like it! It is a little weird, but she describes it very well. I just finished watching the first video, and she describes her take on language in a very easy to understand way. It’s funny; I had to go to college to finally figure that out, but she described exactly what I learned. Language is modular. You can attach and add as many things on to it as you want, but you’ll always have your basic core sentence every time. I definitely plan on checking more of this out. Thanks!


I am a beginner learner here… and I do not at all expect to be able to understand much spoken Japanese - especially natural sentences when spoken.

I expect that will come much, much later - I suspect your expectations of yourself are too high for your progress.

I studied German for 5 years throughout my schooling, and I remember listening to native speakers on audio not long after high school (trying to continue my studies) and not being able to understand what they were saying and being quite disheartened.

I think being able to understanding native speakers is going to be more towards the end of your learning journey, not near the beginning.

My partner and I recently watched My Neighbor Totoro… and we were both able to understand much more of the spoken dialogue in that movie when compared with other Ghibli films. Still, it was only a handful of words we understood, but it was fun :slight_smile:

I can’t speak from experience, but I do believe you are expecting too much of yourself at this stage of your learning. I think I read an article somewhere… Tofugu or TextFugu… about learning a little bit at a time is the only way to learn… you can’t expect to learn everything at once because it’s not realistic.

I am personally enjoying WaniKani a lot (so far), so I will be sticking with it for for that reason… it is an enjoyable hobby.

1 Like

it’s been about a year now tho, so really i have no idea what to expect at how long, plus the whole (ive literally been doing this wrong for about 10 months) thing is probably another reason why i feel so far behind

yeah, i always have EXTREMELY high expectations for myself. I expect to be very good at everything from the beginning, and when I’m not, I tend to be very discouraged. I keep on going, but I keep on telling myself I suck for doing so, and that I’m not who I really want to be. Like tbh I think I’m stupid.

Maybe I should just lower my expectations on everything.

Yah, I’ll try watching them.

I totally understand where you are coming from. I jumped into Japanese about 2 years ago now and I feel like i’m just now moving at a pace that feels rewarding to me. I spent a lot of that first year or so trying to figure out which resources I should be using. I dabbled in a ton of apps, websites, books, and videos until I found a routine that worked best for me. All that being said you have to decide for yourself what you’d like to gain from learning Japanese. Determine your goal. It can be anything from being able to speak fluently, to understanding Japanese movies and TV shows. Once you know where you want to go, you can come up with a game plan to get there. That way you can see your progress and if you aren’t making the progress that you would like, you can adjust the resources that you use.

Someone already posted the link to the topic with all the learning resources so I’ll add a link to something else. Here is the Let’s learn together topic. A lot of people, myself included, post a list of their study tasks they hope to accomplish for the day. I use it to keep myself responsible for the things I say I’m going to do for the day. You can also just skim through there and look at the resources people are using to study. I’ve found a lot of cool things that I plan to use in the future just by looking at what everyone else is doing.

Make sure you take the time to give yourself credit for what you’ve learned so far. Japanese is a difficult language to learn and you can already form basic sentences and watching anime without subtitles. You’re moving in a direction! Focus on where that direction is going and you’ll appreciate that progress more.


ok yah the sentences thing is pretty, ok.

I can’t understand what the tv shows are saying, but I’ll say it again, they do help; I feel super proud when I do manage to pick up a sentence or two. Or in music, I feel happy ^^

so yah, maybe I am making some progress that I’m too blind to see because I’m focusing too much on what I DON’T know.

I mean, yah, I should be focusing on that, studying what I don’t know, but, you know what I mean.


I know exactly what you mean. Seriously. When I get down about the progress I’m making I usually take a break from studying. Not usually more than a day or two. During that time I’ll watch one of my favorite anime and every time I can understand more than the last time I watched it.

For me, when that happens, I start to feel like I’m doing something right. It keeps me motivated to keep doing the work I’m currently doing. Cuz let’s face it, learning Japanese is work. I’ll feel much better when I can make 2 sentences on my own. That’s my super short term goal. 2 sentences.

I’m focusing on increasing my vocabulary and I am diving into Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese Grammar so that I can start making sentences on my own.