Holistic Japanese Learning Advice Thread

thanks for ur brand of straight talk :stuck_out_tongue: i appreciate it, are you suggestion that you might be able to give me this ‘logical’ advice if i contact you via your profile? if so i’ll be sure to do so :slight_smile:

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well said! thanks very much, i think i’m gonna cast an eye over some dusty textbooks now, mix it up! give WK and DL a break.


Just for future reference, it won’t, don’t worry. I’ve seen threads run for thousands of posts after an answer was chosen. But yeah, by all means leave that ‘answer’ spot vacant. It might encourage more people to share information, and you or someone else might find it helpful.

The irony of it all is that I literally meant it just for matching the colours to their meanings, not kanji readings. :sweat_smile: Glad that worked out somehow. Hahaha. However, yeah, when you’re differentiating on’yomi from kun’yomi, reading length is a factor. I went looking for some of my past answers on this, and I think this is the most complete one:

I don’t think a kun/on classification is going to match the vocabulary/kanji classification perfectly, but maybe it’ll still be helpful.

Either way, all the very best, really. I hope you start to see improvement soon. :slight_smile:


I can’t guarantee it will work for you personally - Cure Dolly seems to be like Marmite - but I couldn’t get off the starting block with grammar until I watched the first few videos in her “organic Japanese” series. Playlist is here: Japanese from scratch: the game-changing course in organic Japanese.


This has to be my favorite quote of all time! Haha Can I use this in the future?
Makes me wonder if there’s hope I’ll come to like Marmite…


Rule #1: Duolingo for practice only.
Rule #2: First learn rule #1.


You’re absolutely welcome, it’s an English (the country rather than the language) idiom for describing something as “polarising” (in the political / sociological sense).


Oh yes, that looking/feeling like an idiot distinction is important. For me it was both; I was embarrassed but also I felt like I deserved to feel embarrassed because I was inadequate.

As many have said above, it’s so important to do things in a way that works for you, and a cumbersome notebook might not be the way; maybe typing up some reflections at the end of the day on situations that went wrong? Or even just bringing one question to your teacher a week and working on all the angles. If there’s a way to keep it fun, I think that it really important.


Here is some WK specific advice.
Don’t waste the words that you use here. Internalize them, so that you will recognize them in the wild.

Here is how you do this:

  1. Get the Self Study Quiz script.
  2. Every day, after reviews, do 5 or 10 or 15 minutes on the “audio quiz” setting. The vocabulary you have learned will be spoken, and you will recognize it.
  3. It won’t take long to start recognizing more words in the wild. Once you start recognizing a word, you will internalize it and hear it over and over in many places. You won’t forget it now either.

There’s quite a good explanation of the various じゃない, ではない etc. forms partway through this video: The Complete JLPT N5 Grammar Video(Game) Textbook.

EDIT: recently posted on Twitter, this excellent summary by @Jonapedia.


thanks mate, i’ll look this up :slight_smile:

hey mate, thanks for this, is this ‘self study quiz script’ something i can find on here somewhere?

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marmite is apparently very similar to vegemite (i’m australian), and the thing that trips most people up with vegemite is that they eat it on its own… it really should always be eatern with butter, maybe one part vegemite for 3-5 parts butter, it makes the taste much more mild… in that form it’s pretty delicious…

which might be a nice metaphor for cure dolly :stuck_out_tongue: if she’s not used the right way, the user is letting themselves down… i love how cure dolly is clarifying everything for me, though of course i couldn’t learn a lick of japanese without a lot of work outside of her channel


I’ve started to gain diminishing returns from wanikani, but I’m still only on level 4, so I’m worried I’m doing something wrong…

It’s just such a mess of hugely similar sounds - chyou, jyou, jyo, chyuu, jyuu, shya, shyuu, shyou - with these arbitrary switches between pink and purple pronunciations, and third pronunciations that are also purple? Or something? Why the f*ck is the kanji for “few years” actually “boy”? Why is the kanji for “all year” literally “year middle”? Shouldn’t that be “within a year”? Why are you teaching me “extremity” and “suspension” when i still can’t read signs in supermarkets?

It seems like I’m just trying to brute force memorize these things, but other people must have some other method, what am i missing out on? You people at level 60, i can’t comprehend how you have got that far, I’m not even impressed, I’m just incredulous!

These buggers at tofugu say i can’t begin to do their comprehensive course until I’m at lvl 10 and that feels so damn far away, my brain has just stopped absorbing new information.



Some of this has already been said, but…

The important thing about learning anything is to make manageable sizes of information for your brain. Some people need to move through more (or different) steps than others. There is a learning theory called i+1, the idea being that you can understand language that contains the information that you know (i) + 1 new idea, or about 1% new vocabulary, in a listening or reading context. And context is a key word; memorizing kanji meanings and readings will not help you to learn the other important aspects of a word’s use, like its collocations, etc. Part of learning is memorization - words, idioms and set expressions, verb conjugations - but the other part is using it and practicing it. To practice, you often need a supportive community, which is the point of these forums. Almost no one can learn a language by memorizing a dictionary. Don’t beat yourself up for knowing only one aspect of the language and then not understanding full-on native speech. And for the best retention, focus first on the ideas that you will need to use often.

Working in an office? Focus on saying “ohayougozaimas-” when you come in and “osakinishitsureishimas-” when you leave, “sumimasen” for basically everything, “onegaishimas-” or “kudasai” when you need something, and “arigatogozaimas-” as thanks.

Working with kids? Get familiar with command form - “te o aratte, kudasai!” “kiite, kudasai!” “issho ni renshuu shite kudasai!” etc.

You know best what your job expects you to say regularly - so I’d start there.

For holistic/balanced language learning, choose a way to work on each of these skills at a manageable, comprehensible pace for yourself:

  • Reading (e.g., easy stories for Japanese learners, Duolingo translations, BunPro stories, something from this Wanikani forum list, etc.)
  • Writing (e.g, Duolingo’s sentence building, handwriting practice sentences to drill grammar or vocabulary, this daily challenge, etc.)
  • Listening (e.g., example sentences on BunPro, YouTube learning channels, anime, radio, Duolingo, etc.)
  • Speaking (e.g., practicing with your wife, limited practice on Duolingo, making friends in town or in online learning communities, signing up for community classes - this one is the hardest in the era of COVID)
  • Vocabulary (e.g., KanjiTree, Wanikani, Anki, Duolingo, kanji stroke order practice, this Shiritori game, etc.)
  • Pronunciation (e.g., YouTube channels, feedback from your wife or friends, Duolingo’s new feature, etc.)
  • Grammar (e.g., BunPro, textbooks, Duolingo, self-practice drills of a new structure, etc.)

You will see on this list that some programs can help you with more than one skill, if used to its full benefit. Have you perused the full list of Japanese learning resources yet?


Hey mate,

Thank you so much for taking the time to decipher my rage’y rant and produce such a helpful post for me. I want to pick through it carefully…

i+1 is interesting, my first reaction is to ask: ‘how can i find such specifically tuned content’?

“Don’t beat yourself up” was a good point…

You’ve touched on an interesting source of my frustration… I’ve known the office greetings and such for years - osaki ni, etc - among many other reasonably practical tracts of language, but i took a n5 practice exam from Japanese Ammo with Misa on youtube and I got 50%! Because I have no idea what ‘to stand’ might be, or other seemingly crucial core vocabulary bytes that totally undermined my understanding of those basic-ass questions… This lead me to make this post lamenting this apparently giant blind spot I have… that said, as i mentioned, you replied, so on i go…

I’ve been teaching English here for years, but I have a master in architectural design and i’ve always said that when my japanese got up to standard i’d try to switch to that industry - i realized that my japanese wasn’t going anywhere teaching english so i just cut that and am trying to rapidly learn japanese and start my real career - so my frustration is rather compounded, you see? Anyway, learning vocab which might be useful in architecture is interesting to me, i’ve tried it but got bogged down in the complexity of the kanji, but yeah i might try to go back through it. My wife is a practicing japanese architect so in theory she might be helpful, but she’s awfully busy :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m going to take the next hour of my time or so to go through your various recommended sources for getting this information, thanks so much for those links. They genuinely give me a boost, because i just continuously come around to a point where i reckon all the sources i’ve sub’d to/collated don’t actually teach me whatever i need to get better than 50% on JLPT5…

I’ll leave it there, it’s good to vent so thanks for your response and your help. Probably exactly what i was looking for with my little rage’out there, in all honesty…



I feel like this can be less helpful than useful. If the learner is zoning out, then the audio practically becomes background music. The important difference between second language learners and native learners is, like you said,

Toddlers and babies are highly motivated to try to communicate so that they can meet their needs and also because we’re social animals. As adults, we also don’t quite have the same abilities and capacities. Babies brains double in size from birth to 1 year old and by 5 years old, their brains are mostly grown (although not done developing). That brain growth is a big part of what allows babies and toddlers to learn languages so well at their age and why you see complications for children who have not learned a language by 5 (too often children who are hard of hearing or deaf).

It might be easier to learn if you change your perspective a bit? A person who’s only lived a few years is probably a boy. A few woman must be a girl.

Do you remember also learning 水中(すいちゅう)? Underwater? I think it’s useful to note that it can throughout in some contexts. So something that happens “all year” is something that happens “throughout the year.”

It’s just based on ease of learning. The general rule is that kanji will get more complex and it’s a happy coincidence if the easy kanji is also commonly used. Even at just level 31 though, I find I’m really able to read a lot of signs, labels, remotes, and websites to the point that my quality of life now is so much improved compared to when I first moved to Japan (little to no kanji knowledge then).

Just like you have to learn addition before algebra and algebra before calculus, your knowledge will build upon itself.


I haven’t found a grammar resource that I genuinely like yet, but I would recommend drops. It has an app and web version. It has a focus of associating pictures and vocab/phrases together. I find the free version more helpful because limiting my studies to only 5-10 min/day means that it feels like less of a chore and that I’m not burning out while learning. You can choose a topic instead of going through a set course. It also fits that sweet spot of teaching kana vocab that I don’t get on WK. Notably, it doesn’t not teach grammar, so if you’re having trouble breaking stuff like osakinisitureisimasu into its parts, it may not be as helpful to you yet.


It’s funny you should mention this, because I also bought the Level 0 stories several years ago. I could only pick out a couple of words then. This last weekend, I picked them up again and, to my delight, was able to read and understand them, all 6 of them! I just ordered the next two sets. What a great motivation kick! Good luck to you!


As an Australian I feel this quote deeply. Marmite just doesn’t have the same tang as Vegimite