How should I go about *actually* learning Japanese?

So I’m pretty new to WaniKani but I’m enjoying using it and see myself sticking with it. But I know that it’s not really a substitute for actual Japanese instruction or something similar. I don’t know how Japanese grammar works or when to use On’yomi vs Kun’yomi etc, so I’ve been wondering what other people are doing alongside WaniKani to make their Japanese learning a bit more… fruitful. I can’t do expensive textbooks (something under 10-20 might work though) and my next chance at taking an actual class doesn’t happen for another year or two in college. So what is everyone else doing for their grammar and stuff?

Tae Kim or Imabi are free grammar guides that are often recommend. There’s Cure Dolly, Maggie Sensei and Japanese Ammo.

Also you need to consume native content whether that be graded readers, manga or things like NHK News Easy.


Here’s a bunch of links for you to free resources:

Hope these help.


I was you…1 month ago.

The good thing is that WaniKani teaches you actual vocabulary in each level. This is a good thing, as you will be able to map these kanjis and meanings to Tae Kim and other apps.

I’m focusing 70% of my time in WK, an the rest in a couple of other apps.

Edit: This may not be 100% accurate, but so far these are my rules: On’yomi is the chinese pronunciation. You learn it so that you can read when Kanji are used in combination. Kun’yomi is the japanese pronunciation. You learn it when the Kanji is used by itself or in combination of hiragana.

Sample: 中東 Middle East. Each Kanji by itself (in Japanese Kun’yomi) would sound: なか - ひがし

But, since they are together, you use their On’yomi readings/sounds, combined: ちゅうとう

You are lvl 2. By lvl 3-4 this will all click.


More accurately, it’s the Japanese approximation of the Chinese pronunciation at the time the word was introduced into Japanese.

The only thing to be careful about this is that while this is true in general there are quite a few exceptions. 本 being a common word that is such an exception.


Yes, you are right. But at his/her level I think that those 2 rules can guide him well enough until he finds the exceptions.

The easier it is at the beginning, the more probably he/she will keep moving forward.

Sweet thanks, I still feel a bit weird about On’yomi being so common because it’s just straight-up… speaking Chinese. I dunno. But hopefully it’ll be making more sense soon.

The biggest advice that I can give is find what works best for you. I learned Japanese by traditional means (textbook led classes) for about eight years but it didn’t really grab me and make me remember what I was taught.
The three areas you must work on are Vocab, Kanji, and Grammar. It looks like you are fond of Wani Kani which is great and will help you with kanji and Vocab.
I would suggest you find one other resource for vocab just because WK teaches following the kanji so it may not teach you all the basic words that you would want to know right off the bat.
There are lots of online options to choose from and plenty of text books that are in your price range. I would recommend another spaced repetition system for when you want to review things.
If you want to make your own flash cards I know a lot of people who use anki.

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No, not really. It’s not at all like speaking Chinese. You’re speaking a long-ago approximation of a Chinese pronunciation.

Just listen to the pronunciation here in Mandarin Chinese for 本:本#Pronunciation

The Mandarin Chinese pronunciation sounds nothing like the Japanese on’yomi pronunciation for 本. And this is even before you get to the fact that Chinese is not one single dialect. It encompasses multiple dialects that are mutually unintelligible.


Yeah, it’s not like we’re speaking Latin when we use, like… aquarium in English. It’s just borrowed.


I also recommend Japanese Ammo. She has a beginner’s playlist that you can tackle a bit at a time so you have time to digest.

There are also a lot of apps out there that you can get a lot of mileage out of, for either free or a few bucks.

Also browse this forums for lots of tips and the reddit japanese learning forums as well if need be.

Other than that, the best thing I can tell you is to actually learn is not to give up. Fail, make mistakes, restart, but don’t give up. Just keep going no matter how messy it might be in the beginning, you’ll eventually find a style that fits you.


For structured learning and learning the beginner stuff, almost any decent textbook would be a good option. If they are out of your price range, you could see if they exist in a library close to you, When I started as a kid and had no money and no internet at home, I borrowed any books from library and the best ones I took copies of them.

You are focusing too much in a detail that is of no consequence for his/her learning structure at such an early stage.

For all intents and purposes we could just call it Pronunciation A and Pronunciation B.

Focus should be in learning A and B, as A+A will be needed as well as B by itself and B+Hiragana.

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I’m not sure I’d say that telling someone “don’t worry, using Chinese loanwords in Japanese isn’t like having to learn Chinese” is too much detail.


No, I think it’s quite appropriate to clarify that on’yomi is not “straight-up speaking Chinese”. A Chinese person, again glossing over the actual complexities of Chinese dialects, is not going to understand someone pronouncing their language using Japanese approximations.


You are correct. Once again.

But just delete “Chinese” and replace with “Language A”. That’s all a newcomer needs to understand in the first 3 levels. They would need to wrap their heads around the concept of Meaning A+A, Meaning B+Hiragana, not the fact that “Language A doesn’t even exist today as-is”.

I believe we both gave good advice for a newcomer, I will leave the topic here.

I’ll 3rd the Japanese Ammo suggestion. In the beginner lessons her Te Form explanation is way more refined than anywhere else I’ve seen (which is great because Te Form is probably the biggest hurdle of N5 level). Also I love that she gives both formal and informal examples.

Cure Dolly has been mentioned, use subtitles ;). I also like the book ‘Japanese the Manga Way’.

The Japan Foundation has Marugoto, MARUGOTO Plus Global Home , I’ve never used it much (I’m no good with structured courses) but last I used it, it seemed very complete (everything pdf, audio, online exercises) and free. (On a side note, why does no one ever mention it? It looks like a complete and free resource, perhaps someone more advanced than me can explain what’s wrong with it.)

There are also some awesome resource lists in the forums for even more resources:


Alright thanks, that makes a lot more sense.

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