How to learn as much as possible in 3 weeks?

My friend is going to Japan in just under 3 weeks for a summer internship. He’ll be at an English speaking company, so learning the language for work is not an issue. Still, he’d like to learn as much as possible by the time he gets there. He’s already learned hiragana and katakana and signed up for WK free.

What do you guys think his next steps should be over the next few weeks? Should he continue with WK free to get exposure to at least some kanji/vocab? Watch a lot of anime? Hit the grammar textbooks? Looking for preferably free materials, we’d love to hear what you guys think!

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Finish Tae Kim, and get a good JE dictionary on smartphone.


The only cheat I can really offer is to learn katakana really well, there is a lot of it in japan, and most of them are for english words, so it’ll at least help him a bit, especially with restaurants.


Three weeks ain’t much… WK pays off in the long-term, it’s not really structured to deliver specific value in a few weeks since the kanji are learnt by ascending stroke count.

I’d second focusing on grammar + phrases/expressions →
how do you say ___?
what do you call this?
at what time tomorrow?

Aedict is a good dictionary for Android.


I enjoyed the Nihon no Mori beginner videos to get some additional clarification on points I’ve read in Tae Kim. They’re kind of goofy, but it was nice to get something other than reading grammar points.

First playlist

Second playlist

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Because it’s such a short of time I would recommend pimsleur. Just get the one with 16 lessons. I don’t normally recommend it but it does have its merits for situations like this.

How I would go about it for the next 3 weeks is like this:

Do 1 lesson of pimsleur a day which takes 30 minutes.

Go through Tae Kim and reread it a few times.

Sign up for the Japanese pod101 free trial and download the Nihongo Dojo lessons. Listen to those whenever you are commuting or don’t have time to actually sit down and study.

If you are willing to spend some money I can’t recommend enough the Japanese Level Up or now beginner deck. Has a majority of the same grammar points as the genki serious but in sentence format allowing you to do a crash course. I would do that adding 30 new cards a day.

Won’t be perfect but will allow a solid foundation given the short time frame.


I also second practicing Katakana specifically, as practicing it along with sentences and grammar won’t be enough.

Practice drilling it on Memrise, for example HELLO カタカナ - by まゆっち - Memrise.

It would help with reading store signs.

Kanji is too hard to practice in too short a time.

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Well Wanikani takes over a year, so that’s a good choice but not the best. I think maybe buy some grammar and kanji textbooks and read them and study them. I have a little notebook my dad got me and I wrote down some 1st grade kanji and studied that. Next I’m going to study 2nd grade. Maybe that will help you too!!! Hope this helps.

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Ooo yeah forgot about Tae Kim! Thanks!

That’s a great insight! Are you there now/have you been there a lot?

@Subversity the phrases are a good idea! It’s easy to get caught up in WK when you’re not actually speaking in Japanese to anyone for a while. Thanks!

@anon23020753 Those videos are great! Thanks for the reminder!

@Byakko1 Thanks for the well thought out response.

No, but its something I’ve heard a lot from the people I’ve talked to living in japan, something I’ve noticed when watching videos that take place in japan, and something that I’ve seen kouichi say in a tofugu article.

Seems at this point your friend should focus on strengthening kana-reading and speaking/listening over kanji. Kanji is more of a long-term thing, and in the circumstances you describe, knowing vital phrases (questions and answers used in simple everyday interactions) would be most useful and doable. Maybe you could do simple dialogues (greetings, ordering at restaurant, introductions, asking for directions, etc.) together a few times a week? And non-language things like manners and common practices/things to watch out for would also be good to learn about.

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Hopefully once he gets there, the learning won’t stop. Have him listen to this:

Get a bit of structure down before going, then don’t be shy… use it as MUCH as possible. His Japanese will be amazing for someone who only studied 6 weeks.

Highly recommend this channel: Learn Japanese, and then Tae Kim’s Japanese guides (as recommended above). The YouTube channel has tons of short, easily digestible videos that cover a wide range of grammar and phrases, along with vocabulary. Quick and convenient, but I recommend supplementing it with something else too.

He could get the Genki books. Easy to work through and commonly used in college classrooms. Not a free material though.

This does not answer your question directly. Your friend should learn to use Google Translate on the smartphone.

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I am not sure if Google Translate can work offline, but having an app that can OCR (detect Japanese characters with phone camera) helps.

If he has just three weeks I’d just suggest buying the Harper Collins audio CD set just to learn as many spoken basic phrases, questions and greetings as possible. It’s how I started before a holiday some years back.


It can! With camera translation, at least.

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