How to study Japanese as a Beginner

Good morning,

I had a question about ,how to study japense properly,
I only use WaniKani but it feels like its not enough to pass the N5 test and to progress with my studies. I was thinking maybe to also start to use text books or maybe watching Japanese videos. If you guys/girls have any advices on how to progress and what i can use besides wanikani, let me know.

Thanks in advance <3

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this might help you. It’s written by the same company that made Wanikani:

Learn Japanese: A Ridiculously Detailed Guide (


If you want a really good overview of all of your options, this guide got me started and it’s what I swear by. It’s really long though, truly thorough.

The gist of what I did and recommend is this: you’re got a kanji resource, so that’s down. What you’re lacking is a way to learn other basic vocab and grammar. I used the Genki textbook for both, but your options are wide open there. Once you’ve learned all the foundational stuff, I highly recommend trying to push yourself to transition to reading and listening to real Japanese, which will be grueling at first, but you can always ask around here for the resources to make that transition easier once you’re at that stage. I made the switch to learning from Japanese media basically after learning the N4 stuff.

In the meantime though, even at early stages, once you just get started on that vocab and grammar study, you can practice your listening with resources for beginners like Comprehensible Japanese and your reading with graded readers.

Good luck :slightly_smiling_face:


It’s not. it might be nought for n5 vocab, but unclear at level, as the WK stats page only lists the kanji progression (and since it’s really not set in stone either, not for kanji either)

Best is to do some vocab cramming using a different app here. Kanji isn’t really a priority for n5.

For grammar, any of the books that are constantly brought up on these forums are fine. It’s just about personal preference I feel and whether you have access to a study group/peers or are studying completely on your own. You’ll find several comparison on here if you just search the forums for textbooks.

Otherwise, doing listening comprehension is a must, especially if you’re a beginner as it can be very confusing at first. It really is about exposure and experience which takes time to acquire. No getting around it really.

So, pick any media you like and keep at it until you can wrap your head/ears around the sounds/words. Then keep on doing it until you feel more confident in yourself and move onto something harder and harder. You’ll get there! :+1:

As for ideas for what to use for listening practice: there is this thread:

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you could also try an app such as busuu with which you can get quite a long way before you need to pay to carry on. I found that really fun and addictive when i was using busuu in December and January. I was doing that combined with wanikani. At the moment i use Fluentu which is expensive but which is my favourite of all the apps i’ve tried and which covers beginner to advanced levels.

Wanikani is definitely not enough to pass N5. In fact I’d argue you shouldn’t even start wanikani if you didn’t reach level N5. I’d start with a basic textbook like Genki and only start wanikani when you finish it. And I’d go very slowly with wanikani and continue grammar/vocab study until N4 or so. Kanji studies definitely shouldn’t be a priority at the beginning.


Personally, I’d advocate for kanji from day 1 just because it’s a pretty long grind so best to get started early, but I do want to echo the general sentiment for a new learner that in some ways you get the fewest early gains from kanji study. Nothing is going to be even slightly comprehensible without foundational grammar, and there are so many things you could read that have furigana (phonetic characters over the kanji) to bypass needing to have done kanji study. Not to mention, obviously, its absence in listening. It’s important to the language but not priority 1.

Just, once you are at the stage where you’re trying to read the sort of things you need to know kanji for, it’s likely to throw a couple thousand of them at you, haha. But as much as Wanikani is a good way to learn specific kanji, I think it’s as valuable if not more so in over time getting you comfortable with the process of learning kanji so you can take that up on your own, too.


Once you have hiragana and katakana down, I would recommend starting kanji, but you definitely need more than just kanji.

Can you tell us more about your goal? Is your intention just to pass the JLPT or are you working to become conversational?

Going with the minimal goal of being able to consume written and audio Japanese content (since those are the skills the JLPT tests), I recommend you pick up a grammar resource. Depending on your style, a textbook like Genki might work, or the video lessons of Japanese From Zero or Let’s Learn Japanese Basic, an srs like Bunpro (has a free trial) or Renshuu (free) would fit the bill.

You’ll also need vocab. Personally, I think it’s better to think this part as previewing rather than learning vocab. People who use WaniKani and other recognition srs (as opposed to recall, where you enter the Japanese when given a picture or the word in English or whatever your native language is) often have trouble seeing words “learned” through srs in native contexts. With that in mind, I recommend an app such as drops, lingo legends, or renshuu where you can either practice recall or not use languages other than Japanese.

Then I recommend immersion. Immersion’s key. With immersion, you can better see how vocab and grammar work naturally and get a feeling for what’s appropriate language-wise.

If your goal includes communication, I also recommend making a native Japanese speaker study buddy or talking/texting one. This can be done through various websites and apps. If you’re too nervous, websites like renshuu have production practice with prompts for you to answer.


So I’m gonna say this about the N5, the less kanji you know the better (at least in this stage of your learning). For the N5 I recommend just finding some JLPT Anki decks for Vocab, Kanji, and Grammar, and practice the listening portion of the test by listening to YouTube JLPT N5 Listening Practice Tests. You can also use some practice test workbooks that the JLPT puts out to get an idea of what the test feels like and what you’re expected to do.

N5 is mostly hard because that’s the stage where everyone is figuring out how to study languages as well as Japanese and it isn’t easy. I flailed and floundered all over the place in that stage until I finally got into more set routines. But if I could do it again, that’s the advice I would give myself. Do the anki flashcards every day and practice listening to N5 practice tests.

It also wouldn’t hurt to find some series of grammar videos for the JLPT N5 as well.


I do want to add this bit to as more of a warning. Careful to not get so hung up on passing a test if your goal is to learn the language. I did that from N4 to N3 and while it helped my understanding, I couldn’t use the language at all.

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I would still recommend at least knowing the basics of Kanji, like what Kun’yomi and On’yomi are; they are based on radicals; stroke length matters.

Not just about passing JLPT N5, but also paving the way to being able to use the language practically.

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The N5 is largely in hiragana, so being able to know the words in their hiragana form is more useful than knowing the kanji. The way it worked for me is I learned the words in hiragana and then kanji, then internalized the kanji enough to be able to read the word in hiragana again. I think this is how it for a lot of people because they learn the kanji but then rely on it as a crutch, but after reading more you become much more fluid and able to read words in almost any shape and form.


I think it’s mainly a problem for WK and RtK learners. Most other learners focus more on vocab over kanji and don’t have a big skill gap of more kanji than vocab.

I do agree that the way out is with reading though.


Yeah, I remember all the things I used to say about when I started WK and how frustating reading became when things didn’t have kanji. BUT after 3 years of reading it became much more apparent what was being said and when. Like if I read そうなかんじです。 I know what “kanji” is being used based on the context and frequent usage.


But that’s all in kana :drum:



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I would argue the opposite. Even Genki has kanji early on. Kanji is introduced starting in lesson 3. Lesson 1 is hiragana and lesson 2 is katakana then they immediately start introducing kanji.

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Sure, but the whole genki books has very few kanjis and they are introduced very gradually. However you’d have to be quite high wanikani level to cover them all since the order in wanikani is very different. If you do wait until you know all of them before starting genki (or any other textbook) by the time you do you’ll have burnt the first few levels months before and probably forgot it all before you can read anything. I’d rather just read the textbook and cope with the very few kanjis appearing.

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But you don´t need to make your whole study schedule dependent on WaniKani. I you burn an item and discover that you forgot it by the time you actually use it you can just relearn it. It will take much less time than the first time around, one quick look at the defintion will probably be enough to keep it in your memory for another few months.
I think it´s neither a good idea to try and learn all possible N5 Kanji before learning grammar, nor to only learn them after to make sure you don´t forget one because you don´t use it.
When learning a language it´s inevitable to sometimes forget stuff, even stuff you supposedly burned already.
And if you only want to learn Kanji at a point where you can use them with your grammar after you burned them to ensure you won´t forget them, then you should only start WaniKani after the N1, because WK introduces an N1 Kanji as early as Lvl 2. Which is fair I think, WK orders them not after their N-Levels but their complexity to make it easier for beginners to learn them. I think it´s very effective early on (and crumbles a bit later), but it´s no use to hold off one or the other tool because of that.
You never know what exactly you will encounter, I had to brush up on an N5 grammar point recently, because in the one year since I learned it, I somehow barely saw it used in my material. But this time a quick glance at the explanation jogged my memory and I´m good again

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I am only talking about my personal experience. I started with wanikani early in my Japanese learning journey and regret it. I use it now that I am past N4 level and I feel I am benefiting a lot more from it than the first time round when I feel I basically just wasted my time learning stuff I then completely forgot. I feel that time would have been better invested in studying more grammar and getting to N4 sooner, since that’s what enabled me to actually read stuff. Kanjis are a non issue at that level, all the simple material has furigana anyway. Maybe for other people is different, but if I could go back I wouldn’t touch wanikani with a long stick until getting to N4.