How do you get the drive to study outside of SRS?

You don’t need to treat studying as a ‘big event’. It’s simply making little choices that accumulate into real progress. Here are some examples:

If you watch online content before going to sleep, just take twenty minutes of that time to read through something valuable to your Japanese. You can still spend the rest of the time watching your favourite stuff, it’s just those consistent twenty minutes every night will start to add up.

In your breaks between your work, I know many people like to check social media whilst they eat something. If this is you, instead of using social media for the full break, use just a little bit of it to read through that same book.

It’s always the little changes, like the ones above, that make a real difference. If you’re wondering, this is taken from real experience and the book I read was Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide. Just a single grammar point in any spare moment and it has really helped.

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Have you tried Satori Reader? The reading is divided in small chunks, so maybe you can make yourself go through one every day. They can integrate with your WK level and it seems you can create SRS cards from their content on the spot.


I’m not one to talk, considering my level (I reset recently cause I found that working through 700+ reviews where I don’t remember the prev levels was not worth my time), but finding a Japanese Manga might help. Most of the teen manga has furigana, so you can read it without knowing the kanji. And for those you don’t know, look them up.
I do this even though I don’t know the kanji as it helps with my reading speed in general. Reading it out loud is good to get the brain-mouth thing working.
Choosing a manga for an anime series you’ve already seen helps to, so you focus less on what exactly they are saying since you know the story already, and the general gist of what is going on in each scene.

Hope this helps! Good luck!

Well first thing you gotta do is go to the DMV ;D

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Telling myself “some amount, any amount” really helps me get into reading on a daily basis. As long as I crack open a book and read one sentence, I consider that the base level for my habit tracker… then I have two more “levels” for myself… If I read more than 10 minutes I track that separately and that’s what I aim for on a daily basis… 10 minutes is often enough to truly get me going with reading. I’m into the story and in the groove of things and then I don’t readily put the book down unless I get too sleepy. And finally reading for an hour or more is another habit I track… I don’t have any expectation that I read that much too often (life is in my way) but I find that if I’ve already read for like 40 minutes in a day or so, that goal of an hour REALLY motivates me to go that extra little bit to say I read more than an hour.

In case you can’t tell, I dedicate time over expecting certain results. Doing the thing a little bit at a time makes it happen, and making it happen regularly makes it happen more and makes it much more enjoyable overall!

It sounds like using some of the principles at play with wanikani (timely accountability and gamification) could help you achieve more with your reading if you can strategize about how to build in just a couple of those parameters.


Mine is mostly Japanese class. I also like to communicate with the Japanese friends I’ve made along the way.

Also, I set up study meetings with myself, or other people to force myself to book learn for an hour or more here and there.

When you say “lack of context”, do you mean the story was difficult to follow, or that the dialogue was lacking enough information (such as pronouns) to follow? Or something else?

Is there a series you’ve read in English, or a manga-based anime you’ve watched, and really liked? One that you think you might be interested in reading in Japanese?

When I first dipped my toes into the world of たどく (reading lots), I pretty much struggled with everything. In the first six months, there were five series I was interested in that I dropped after the first (or in one case second) volume. It’s not that I didn’t want to read more from them (over a year later, I picked two of the series back up this month), but rather they were too difficult for me to follow. My grammar wasn’t at the level I needed it to be to enjoy them.

During those same months, I picked up the Japanese release of a manga I already knew very well, having watched the anime (English-subtitled) two or three times, and read the manga (English translation) once or twice before. And lucky for me, while it wasn’t the easiest of manga, it was still fairly easy. I was able to use remembering most of the series to not worry about the parts I didn’t understand when reading, because I already had the full context. I was able to keep on reading, appreciating the parts I could understand, and building up some grammar pattern recognition even for the parts I didn’t understand. The more something unknown feels familiar, the easier it will be for me to learn when I finally look it up.

The two things that have boosted my reading ability the most were 1) reading lots, and 2) knowing when to look something up and when to not look something up. I had to kind of feel my way through the latter before I could successfully do the former.

The only thing you really miss out on is the feeling of active participation with others. What you gain is the ability to read at your own pace, a wealth of discuss up front to read through. And you can still ask questions and get answers, even a year or more after the book club completed.

Are there any simple manga you’ve read in English, or any simple (scenario, dialogue) anime you’ve seen that you know is based on a manga, and you believe you’d enjoy going through the story again reading the manga in Japanese?

By the way, this was me two or three times in the past, and each time I gave up and made zero progress for a few years before trying again. Would not recommend!

None of these are communicative. They are good for practice and production (if you say aloud what you are doing), but they do not include communicative activities where you are expressing ideas about real life.

These are my recommendations:

  • Start a journal and/or a record of your own life. Start describing your personal life, your family and friends, your hobbies and interests, your opinions, etc.
  • Something that TokiniAndy has recommended that I think is a great idea is reading about your hobbies in Japanese. In other words, don’t just choose graded readers or things that other people recommend just because they are recommended, but, rather, go online and find material that interests you (e.g., I’m gonna do this with Japanese baseball soon… and with some of the heavily charged American politics, lol).
  • When you find yourself getting tripped up by something and it bugs you, then pause and make a note of it and why it is tripping you up. If it’s a vocabulary item, you perhaps need to re-review that item (there are a few strategies for doing so I could recommend). If it’s a grammar point, you might need to review that particular item. If it’s something else, find out what that thing is! You may need to find content that is closer to your level (85-95% comprehension is a good target for reading practice. But 95-100% comprehension and easy reading can also be good to develop pleasure reading habits).

I find my motivation from my real life. My wife and stepsons are Japanese, and I live in Japan, so I’m very much trying to catch up to where you already are and go beyond that. Also, as a professional language instructor myself, I have a decent sense of my own limitations and needs as a language learner and how to go about finding out the answers to my questions… but it still takes work, and the curiosity keeps me going…

I’m curious if you’ve ever looked at any physical textbooks such as Tobira or anything like that? A good textbook should include Presentation, Practice, Production, and Communicative Activities so that you can apply what you’ve learned in a meaningful way that hopefully will make it stick better. Also, a good textbook should provide appropriate grading so that you’re able to steadily gain confidence and progress. Some texts are better at this than others. SRS does this in a mechanical sense but not in a communicative manner.


When would you recommend to start reading/watching Japanese with no translation. As I’m just starting out, I’m a little confused as to the “order”. If I use WaniKani for about level 10, is that enough o start trying to read?

Rather than WaniKani level, the main things holding you back from reading will be your grammar knowledge and how many vocabulary words you know. You can find many sources of reading material that include furigana readings over/beside the kanji, meaning you can read them even without knowing the kanji.

I recommend jumping into learning grammar as soon as you know hiragana and katakana, and start learning common vocabulary.

Whenever you decide to start reading, it’ll be a lot of work. You could start reading today if you could tolerate having to look up every word and every bit of grammar, but it’ll feel near impossible until you’ve completed a basic grammar course (be it a textbook like Genki, or an online course like Tae Kim’s written guide or Cure Dolly videos).

You may also want to look into graded readers, which are written specifically for language learners to ease them into reading/learning.


Thank you! I’m planning on getting the Genki I book, is there a specific resource for learning vocabulary?

Maybe you need to do some introspection? Like, it took me like two years to realize that even though I was learning to read Japanese for novels, I didn’t actually like reading novels that much.

Since you have ADD maybe try a more passive, more high intensity form of entertainment. Some people have recommended anime and shows, but those require you to actually comprehend what’s happening in order for them to be interesting.

Have you tried youtube channels? Maybe game streamers or vtubers or something? Even if you don’t understand what they’re saying at any one point, their dialogue is just a stream of conscience so you can just try and take in what you can, without there being any need to double back.

In terms of actual novel reading though, I’ve personally found that reading aloud makes it high intensity enough to be bearable.

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What started getting me back to seriously studying Japanese again was taking up Wanikani. So far it’s been fairly easy because I’m familiar with around 80% of the words/kanji I’ve encountered so far. So working through WK and having my husband watch me speed through lessons and reviews and encouraging and congratulating me when I’ve started to read kanji as it comes up on TV or on signs, that’s been the biggest motivation booster (as well as just my own epiphanies that I can finally read some stuff and not opt to pull out Google Translate image reader to automatically translate for me without trying).

Once you start feeling that success (and you have someone to cheer you on along the way as well, especially someone who really cares about you), then I think it’s really easy to push your motivation further to try to self-study and tackle other material that’s maybe less “fun” (in the sense of a quiz game style). I mean, that’s what it was like for me.

So now I’m not afraid to try to read books, even if it’s an ES first grade level book. And I can look up the vocabulary I don’t know about and study along to the material I pick up from WK. The Kanji drills I started doing that were frustrating in the beginning (because I couldn’t distinguish onyomi and kunyomi and figure out which kanji goes for which reading or what the possible reading is for the kanji of vocab I didn’t know yet) are now a lot more doable, although still a little challenging (since it’s geared to native speakers that are familiar with some of the more culturally relevant sentences).

Of course, this all helped because I formally studied Japanese in university, 3 years of it besides 1 year of Kumon previously. We covered Genki 1 & 2, so I know all the basic grammar structures up to basic keigo. Plus I can technically write (with a dictionary) or type in Japanese and know most of the time which kanji I need. The recall process was just difficult because I wasn’t actively studying or practicing. Doing WK basically encouraged me that I’m not starting at level 0, and that I have a solid base to work from. And that I just need to get kanji down, so delving into the other aspects of studying the language became easier to do.

From the beginning. Even if it’s playing in the background, it helps familiarize yourself with the sounds of a language. You also start to notice sentence structure vaguely and start to piece together when words and sentences end just by listening. Most people naturally do this no matter what age.

And if you turn on the Japanese subtitles rather than English you might even start to learn how to say some words and know how to pronounce some kanji just by connecting the sound with the characters. Be sure to look a word up to make sure you actually understand the pronunciation. You can use you finger to write a kanji in a dictionary app on your phone if you don’t get the pronunciation correct when you type it in. This is why I suggested simple shows like Sesame Street Japan since the show is very visual since it is geared towards teaching children.

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IDK if this is any help(or was said by someone already) but just on American netflix the show “Alice in Borderlands”(in original language) had a surprising amount of Japanese that I could recognize or at least vaguely comprehend from context with my VERY beginners level Japanese and “the Great Pretender” has an option to watch the original Japanese with Japanese subtitles (although TGP switches spoken language often during the show as part of the plot).

Fair warning, I’m far from fluent enough to attest to the linguistic accuracy of either. (TGP being an anime might not a great option, but it’s about polyglots so…maybe?)

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I take weekly lessons which helps me hold myself accountable a bit whilst naturally reinforcing some of what I’ve learned using SRS.

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