How did you learn Japanese?

Hi! I’m new to the community. I’m very curious as to how you people here are faring with the Japanese language–if you’re conversationally already fluent or can understand but not reply, etc., alongside your background and exposure.
I’d also like to know some other ways to learn Japanese, especially Kanji, aside from WaniKani, preferably sources from the Internet though. Thank you!


Nice to have you with us. Check this out.

There’s also this list:

Everything listed is free. Only free resources inside! (It’s a shorter list.)
I started learning from a friend from Japan.

I answered that in more depth in another thread, wish I knew where it was so I could link you. I’m not conversationally fluent, that’s for sure. I’m able to read a reasonable amount of NHK News Easy articles, and can understand most of a (children’s) manga “Yotsubato!” at this point, and converse mostly okay (with fairly simple sentences) over HelloTalk in Japanese (I’m talking about reading and writing). As far as speaking goes, I basically don’t - I haven’t done any language exchange, but I’ll shout out random things myself at home. If it comes out of nowhere (it sometimes does!) I’ll double-check the meaning, and my random intuition has always been right or close to right on this so far (one day, I can’t remember what I was thinking about, but I suddenly shouted “やっぱり!” in the bathroom). So I think on some very basic level, I’m beginning to think in Japanese. I’ve been watching a lot of things with subtitles for the last 17-18 years, however - so that’s a lot of listening practice and some shadowing practice. But even while I recognize the sounds and feel of the words, because I’ve only been seriously studying for the last year and a half (minus 6-7 months), my vocabulary and grammar comprehension is still fairly low. I’ll look for that other thread because there were a lot of other interesting answers in there (not only mine) tomorrow.

Welcome to WaniKani, and best of luck with your studies!

EDIT: This wasn’t the link I was looking for, however it is a very interesting discussion (that goes off-topic for a bit, and I’m partly to blame for that)… Have you been thinking in Japanese?

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I started learning Japanese in late 2013.

As for general exposure… I live in Japan and make an effort to be in situations where I have to use Japanese. For example, I only speak Japanese with my Japanese girlfriend, and I take tennis lessons in Japanese.

For reading, I read light novels, regular novels, blogs, Wikipedia, and even just the dictionary sometimes lol.

For listening, I subscribe to the Sonnai Project channel on Youtube, that has a handful of assorted podcasts. I also watch Japanese TV occasionally, but usually not anime.

I supplement my kanji studies with KanjiLS on the iPad. It’s great for writing drills. You can set it to give you random words that are missing kanji. It keeps the drills interesting.

For grammar, I like to mostly rely on things I absorb from reading and listening, but when I want to reinforce stuff, I watch the Nihongonomori channel on Youtube. They also have good content for vocab and whatnot too.

As for my level, I’m studying for N1 in July.

I started studying Japanese at my local university in August of 2010. Back then, I took the classes to fullfil the foreign language requirement for my psychology major. I liked studying japanese however, so in 2012 I officially declared Japanese as my 2nd major. In May 2014, I graduated with a japanese and psychology degree.

I was intermediate level by the time I graduated. The first 3 years of classes, i had used Genki I & II. Fourth year we used Minna no Nihongo intermediate. By the time I graduated, I knew about 400-500 kanji (forgetting kanji was a common occurrence for me, so I’m sure it was less than this. But I was supposed to know this many). In standard university classes with Japanese professors, you learn kanji traditionally (stroke order, easiest meaning first).

I had originally registered to wanikani (with a different account) during my junior year of university I think, when it was still in beta mode. However, even though I did a couple of levels, I stopped using it because I was busy and also because I was already learning using traditional method (it can be a bit difficult if your professor wants you to learn one way and you want to learn another… all the textbooks are based off of traditional method).

My conversational ability was upper beginners -almost intermediate I think. I wasn’t very confident in it. But I was pretty good with writing (paragraphs, essays). Reading not so much…cuz of kanji.

I’ve never been to Japan.

After I graduated, I stopped studying Japanese for almost 3 years. I got burnt out from studying/school etc.

My interest of the Japanese language was recently rekindled, and I started studying kanji again using wani Kani last month (april). I had tried picking it up over a year ago, but that obviously didn’t last.

My level right now after a 3 year hiatus? I would say it’s beginner. Not only did I not study, but I wasn’t practicing japanese either.

That being said, after 3 years, I still knew how to read hiragana, katakana, and a few of the commonly used kanji. Basic conversation ability. I remember basic grammar, some random conjugations. But I’ve forgotten most of the other stuff.


I started properly studying Japanese about ten or so years ago, when I first took Saturday classes in elementary, but I wasn’t seriously motivated until recently. In terms of ability, my hearing is pretty good, though I still get lost at more complicated words, and my reading is… l o l Writing is meeeeh and my speaking is like non-existent hahahahaahahahahahaha

Yeah. Being at this pitiful level after ten years of casual studying is pretty sad. But WK has seriously boosted my comprehension and I’ll be taking classes again come Fall, so I’m hopeful about that. I’m gunning for the N3 in December.

I’d recommend Tae Kim’s Guide for a nice crash course in grammar, but if you want to really beat it into your head read and write a lot. Join communities like HelloTalk or participate on Japanese Twitter or something like that. By practicing your reading and writing, you’ll get a natural feel for the grammar you formally learn through textbooks and grammar guides online.

If you aren’t already watching anime subbed you should, so you get used to hearing Japanese, but note that anime talking speed is nowhere close to a native speaker’s talking speed. For that you’d want to watch talk shows or game shows. And for speaking… uh. Dunno? Make a Japanese friend and Skype them? The people above have some good recs so use those.

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I started last May and have spent way too much time in Wanikani and almost no time outside of it (Chapters 1-4 on Genki). This was probably a terrible plan, but currently on track to be level 60 by Christmas then as Kanji practice greatly slows down I am going to focus my effort on grammar. (Would like to be done with Genki I by then also, just hard to find time for it and 7 day levels on WK)

Hopefully by year 2 mark this will merge into something useful.

best friend in middle school was half japanese and obv that was a huge part of her life so i wanted to learn everything about her since we were super close and because she wanted to take me to japanese festivals but was concerned i’d feel left out.

she started off teaching me hiragana and katakana. once i’d learned that stuff, she gave me a few simple phrases and words to practice writing weekly on a practice sheet with grid lines (which was awesome cuz that was my first experience with them). the first words i remember learning were colours and numbers. then she gave me all her old manga but that was far too advanced cuz i had no clue how to read kanji.

in high school, she left for japan forever and it’s been a while now but ever since she did, i’ve wanted to send her handwritten letters because why not? so i kicked my ass into gear and tried my hand at self-learning in order to get to a good enough communication level a couple of years ago.

NOTHING REALLY WORKED FOR KANJI LEARNING until i found wanikani, bless this site :raised_hands:t3: and here i am, slowwwly getting better. can’t wait to surprise my old bestie once i get good enough :grimacing:

tldr; shounen JUMP motto: friendship, effort, (hopefully) victory


I used the app Human Japanese. I really like it! Then I used WaniKani. :smile:

Hi violetfan! Is WK your first experience studying Japanese, or have you done some elsewhere already?

I started studying Japanese in 1997, but took some very long breaks.

[details=It’s long and not very exciting story]I took 4 years of Japanese in high school, and did well in the classes, but I didn’t have any exposure to the language outside of classwork. The summer after my senior year we took a class trip to Japan that included a ~5 day homestay. Between their limited English and my limited Japanese, we managed well enough, although when they had the tv on I couldn’t really understand any of it.

Then I took 2 or 3 semesters in college (honestly can’t remember how much; it was over 10 years ago). I tested into the 2nd year and had no trouble with it. At that point I also started to get into J-Pop, which helped my listening skills and was motivation to keep studying. I went on another school-arranged trip, and my husband (has ~2 years of college Japanese) and I went on our own for our honeymoon. At that time, I was able to understand quite a bit, but I still wasn’t comfortable having a full-out conversation (but then again, I am also not a very outgoing person even when using my native language).

However, I graduated with a science degree in 2005 and didn’t do any studying again until I got interested in the language again/had more free time last January. (Although in the meantime I occasionally listened to J-pop or watched a bit of subbed anime, but I forgot how to write most of the kanji I had learned. And I also forgot a lot of other stuff, too.)

Anyway, I checked out a Living Language texbook/CD pack from my local library to review and see where I was. If JLPT level is a useful indicator, I think I could probably pass JLPT 4 with a bit of focused studying. [/details]

Since last January I’ve been watching a lot of Japanese TV (something almost every night) and listening nearly exclusively to Japanese music, as well as to a weekly talk radio show. My understanding is sketchy at times, but it has definitely been improving. You’re asking about conversation, but I don’t have any opportunity for that here and haven’t sought it out online, so I can’t really answer. I also don’t do a whole lot of reading practice, as such, except for a cookbook I found at a library booksale and song lyrics (and the occasional entertainment news article, but those are usually a stretch). I started using WaniKani this January, and it’s been great for kanji and vocab! Although the slow start was a bit annoying, I’ve already seen a lot of the words come up in various places, so that is what really keeps me motivated here.

Plus, everybody in the Japanese language only section of this forum is really nice and helpful.

[Edit: sorry, I can’t seem to get the hide details function to work properly… It looks ok in the preview but not in the actual post :confused:]

I would have to say that my first attempt at studying the language started in late 2015 when I moved to Japan to work. Since I live in the countryside, learning became imperative in order to have somewhat of a normal lifestyle. Since then, I’ve become conversational and can generally follow what people say to me (if I’m focusing on what they are saying). Sources I’ve used include WaniKani, HelloTalk, local community Japanese classes, regular conversation exchanges on Skype, Tae Kim, Tobira (textbook), Renshuu, NHK Easy News (as well as the normal NHK News) , Satori Reader, Shin Kanzen Master books, Sou Matome Vocabulary, Shadowing: Let’s Speak Japanese, as well as a variety of websites used to prepare for the JLPT.

I come from a Japanese family but since I was born in Brazil I was alphabetized in Portuguese. So I am not fluent in Japanese but I can understand the basics and maybe some more… I also took Japanese classes for two years but I did not achieve the expected results in conversation and I ended stopping my studies. This year I decided to return to study on my own for a while.

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