How do I prevent aimless learning

I always found the Japanese language intriguing, especially its writing systems, the whole concept of kanji blew my mind, like how these ‘strange symbols’, could have their own meaning and that could then combine with others to create words and or bring deeper meaning to words.
Born and raised in Germany and later moving to Britain in my teens have kind of fundamentally enabled me to always appreciate international languages. I am fluent/native to English and German and have an advanced-level understanding of a third language (parent’s native language).
I just finished university in September and will obviously look for a job in my chosen field.

I have dabbled with the idea of learning Japanese for the last few years, but nothing concrete, really. The language always seemed to be such a distant world away, both physically and metaphorically, and was always put off by the idea of attempting to scale such a huge wall. Nevertheless, I kept engaging with the language, albeit from a ‘safe’ distance Non-stop consumption of anime and manga, or ignorantly plastering things with Kana for ‘aesthetics’ regardless of whether there was meaning or not in what I spelled. However, one day when watching said anime, someone mentioned something about a part-time job (アルバイト), a term that is very similar to the German word for work (Arbeit), the previously other-worldly language, suddenly wasn’t so other-worldly anymore.

I officially started my endeavours in May this year by purchasing a Tango n5 vocab book and a Genki 1 textbook after having only learned both hiragana and katakana a few weeks prior. I enjoyed it very much and thought that I would think about learning kanji some months down the line, especially since I was still wrestling with the two aforementioned writing systems.

Through enough research, I eventually landed on Wanikani in June, and honestly, that was a godsend. Apart from anime and such, I am also a massive gaming enthusiast. Wanikani managed to scratch that itch perfectly with its UI as well as the massive customisation options available. Through it, I realised I am much more comfortable learning with technology through a screen than by staring at a text book. I eventually also joined Bunpro because of it’s similar feel to Wanikani as well as Kaniwani. I listen to podcasts daily for listening practice and have been looking at options for getting an online tutor for speaking.

Not a day goes by where I don’t learn something new, and that feeling of finally getting something you have been stuck with is the sole reason why I am still, if not more, as keen on learning the league.

However, that is where the first questions come to mind.

With the abundance of resources, I’ve been devouring 100+ reviews daily across platforms. I don’t feel burned out, but I’m concerned:

How do I ensure I’m on the right track and not just randomly learning?
How can I ensure the resources I use are the most relevant for my learning stage?

With platforms like Bunpro suggesting specific resources for different grammar points, it shows that some resources are better suited for certain stages than others. How do I ensure I’m optimizing my learning process and not just drifting in a sea of information?

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This, to be clear, is not a coincidence (i.e. Japanese took the word from German). :slightly_smiling_face:

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Judging by your WK level, you’re still learning very common kanji that come up all the time regardless of content. So don’t worry, you’re not wasting your time by memorizing the vast majority of these kanji.

The “niche” stuff really starts coming after level 30. By then you’ll know over a thousand kanji already and you should really consider consuming simple native content, be it NHK easy, Sakura Reader, videogames or manga for instance.

Once you’re there you’ll be able to use that real-world Japanese to decide what part of your studies you need to focus on. For instance for me right now the weak point is clearly vocabulary, that’s what I find myself looking up most often while grammar and kanji have become minor issues while playing games (my main source of native Japanese at the moment). So I’m focusing on that.

Don’t overthink it. Basically anything N5 to N3 is stuff you’ll want to know regardless of what you intend to do with the language, be it for kanji, vocab or grammar. You really can’t go very wrong or waste time learning these things.

Then, to repeat what I said above, you should work on slowly spending more and more time consuming real content instead of just going through textbooks and SRS reviews. That’s where the fun really begins!

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By the way, have a look at wkstats to get a feel for how “useful” individual WK levels are:


You can see that at your level, you can expect to recognize about two thirds of the kanji in the wild, which is already impressive but not enough to read comfortably. However every level increases that percentage by a large amount because you’re still learning a lot of very common and very useful kanji.

Meanwhile for me at level 43 I have around 95% coverage, which lets me read most day-to-day Japanese comfortably (at least as far as kanji is concerned), but it also means that I’m working on less common kanji and as such it takes a lot more effort to really feel an improvement.

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~currently towards the end of level 3 WK~

This is something I struggle with too, especially since I’m at the beginning. I’ve only been actively studying for 8 weeks, and learning how to learn Japanese is an ongoing project. Strategies change according to your needs. I don’t have it figured out yet myself. My next task is to find my Go-To listening practice, since most of my current methods feel like apples I’m not tall enough to reach.

Some questions to ask yourself as you pick which resources to use:

  1. Is this website/app/tool engaging? If it’s not, find two other resources that do the same thing and pick the more exciting one.
  2. Is this suitable for your level? If Too Hard = Red and Too Easy = Blue, you want to focus on everything Purple.
  3. Are any of your specific goals being met with this tool?
  4. Have you noticed any knowledge gaps, and is this resource filling any of them?
  5. What are your strongest skills and what are your weakest?

Information from these many sources all synthesizes together. The cliche answer is that whatever intrigues you is going to be the best way. There’s no way in hell I’ll ever be able to use a textbook consistently outside of the classroom. So I won’t bother trying.

Last bits of advice from a fellow Japanese newbie

  • Be decisive. I’ve spent too much time looking for The Best Thing Ever when I should’ve just stuck with the things that were already working. You’re hungry now, eat the food in front of you.
  • Keep a list of resources & organize it however makes sense.
  • Keep a list of short term and long term goals and check back in to see if you’re on the right track.
  • Find ways to gauge your learning. Online tests, books you couldn’t read before, previously unapproachable podcasts etc.

Best of luck!
-WinterWaker

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If you don’t have a goal, then pretty much everything is randomly learning isn’t it?

In the words of WK’s founder, the vocab on WK is fairly randomly chosen and not meant to be in order of frequency or something like that.

What is it that you want to focus on? Being able to live in Japan? Being able to read most manga? Anime? Pro-wrestling?

It just depends on your goal and honestly what you want out of the experience. There’s any number of optional userscripts (or native features on other websites such as renshuu.org, lingolegends, etc) that let you pick the depth of knowledge that you want. There’s no one best way to do it, just different ways that might be better suited to your goals.

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