I can read most textbook Japanese! But I can't read 'real' Japanese?

Yeah, the subtitles often subtly ‘correct’ the speaker’s Japanese

Yeahh…I mean I guess I have mixed feelings on the subject.

The actual framework that textbooks teach you is really a working framework of the language that all natives have in their brains, but its sorta been optimized in a lot of situations. So on one hand, I think that learning it does have undeniable value and its really an inevitability that you do, but yeah it really doesn’t do the best job of preparing you for consuming japanese media.

I personally didn’t like genki honestly. Thought it was shit. Still think its shit. Overall I agree with you and think that really the only way to get good at understanding japanese is input, but I can’t personally relate with feeling like anything I learned was particularly useless. That’s probably just me, but I feel like realistically anything I have learned will come in handy and it just needs the right time and place.

Either way, last time I worked through a textbook was like 4 years ago and since then I’ve become all the more set on the opinion that for achieving a high level of mastery, sticking to textbooks for longer than a month or two isn’t a smart choice. At the same time though, there are a lot of people who don’t want a high level of mastery and want very basic conversational ability. For that I think textbooks do a fine job generally.


If people want to learn how characters in manga speak, they can learn from “Japanese the Manga Way”. Normal textbooks aim to prepare people to understand standard Japanese used in education and work environment. Imagine if Genki or Minna no Nihongo teach people to address strangers as “お前”, they would be kicked out of the classroom pretty quick.


I’ve heard of that particular textbook but never actually checked it out. So long as its using actual native content, it would still fall under that category of native input so I could see how that would be more helpful for sure. But yeah, I haven’t seen or used it so its hard to really say, but it seems more suited to people like OP.

And I think you can teach people about お前 without teaching them to use it necessarily. But yeah for the purposes genki and mnh are intended for (from what I can tell), お前 isn’t really all that important of a word anyways.

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That’s a good one. I also use this one which is more general news:

Reading is my weak point, but I can speak pretty fluently. In my opinion the best way to learn native like Japanese, is to watch interactions between native speakers. I was lucky enough to be able to be in an environment where I could hear Japanese between native speakers. The big problem with many Japanese is when they speak to you, and hear the way you talk a switch in their brain turns on and they usually go into talking with a foreigner mode. Many speak unnaturally slowly and try and use simple vocabulary, etc.

If you don’t have a chance to live/work in a Japanese environment, probably the next best thing is to watch Japanese shows on Netflix. Terrace House, Ainori, Realove etc give you many hours of Japanese interacting with other Japanese. You will have the option to use English or Japanese subtitles, or none at all. When I watch I usually have Japanese subtitles on and use it as reading practice.

Is your listening good enough to pick up Japanese at native speed? Watching shows at native Japanese speed will improve your listening, but getting people to speak to you in a normal manner is quite something different. Most need to feel comfortable enough with your comprehension where they won’t try and dumb it down for you. Unfortunately for most foreigners learning Japanese you may have trouble with a native style of pronunciation/intonation/cadence. Many Japanese people go into speaking to a foreigner mode when they hear anything but a native sounding accent.

Hopefully the Netflix will allow you to improve your listening. Only a lot of listening and pronunciation practice will get you over the second hump.

These tips were mostly for speaking obviously. I would recommend NHK easy, and within they have articles to the non dumbed down versions of the articles. You can read them with easier Japanese to begin with, then once you know the jist of article you can see what regular Japanese would get.

I hope this is helpful for you.


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Thanks very much for sharing!

I understand anything from just words to some of the sentence meaning. What I usually do is try to break it down, then throw it into DeepL to see what it thinks is being said, then compare DeepL with what is written. Sometimes I am able to pick up things I initially missed when I see the translation. But overall it’s extremely rare for me to actually understand the whole sentence. Especially if it’s a big chunk of text

Oh no no. It wasn’t like that. It was just like, he wasn’t using polite language, he was just talking normally, which sort of went in the face of everything I’d been taught up to that stage, which included “old people are always more polite” hahaha I don’t think he was speaking a dialect. I do remember his sentences were suuuuper long though.

what i haven’t seen mentioned yet is that the first example from OP use significantly simpler grammar than the second.

the first example is built out of very simple sentences: please wait a little. i am at the dentist. i will send a message afterwards. mostly just statements of fact, with the most complex bit being the から which causally links two of the statements.

the second is just much more complex grammar. even with bits which were omitted because of casual speech patterns, it’s still a much more complex sentence.

personally, i can easily read the first example, while the second has me floundering.

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I actually agree. I only have Genki cause when I actually started doing Japanese in astructured university setting (as opposed to high school or d*cking around on my own) it was what they had, and it was the first textbook I’d been exposed to. I kept getting bored with it though, and in the 3 or 4 years I’ve had it, I’ve never even finished Genki 2. There were things that I learned from Tae Kim, a free internet resource, that were never taught in Genki, or even the university course I was in. Case in point, why sometimes it’s dakara, but sometimes kara. Sometimes nanoni, or nanode and sometimes just noni or node. And then I got angry. It’s super basic, something that you would expect to be taught early on, but in three years of university study, including introductory level (100 level course), it was never taught. And I was just like “what are they even teaching???”. And for some reason, it never occurred to me to look up, so I guess that’s also partly on me, but I mean, if you’re starting from basics, at least include basics lol

Ah well. I’m gonna start with imabi, cause I like having, if nothing else, something that gives you grammar in an intuitive order, but I still look up heaps of stuff now, completely randomly. I’ll get there. XD Absolutely feel like I’ve improved more in the 6 months since I started self studying than the three years at university XD


Thats good that you’re able to notice stuff that you missed.

I think this may be part of your issue. If its extremely rare, then I would guess that your problem lies in understanding how sentences fit together rather than vocabulary. Really, I would take a sentence that you don’t understand that seems somewhat manageable and really work hard to break it down and find out whats tripping you up. See a volitional verb right before と and don’t know why? Google “volitional + と japanese grammar” or something like that. Rinse and repeat.

I think people haven’t really mentioned it because its not as relevant/true. The second sentence uses pretty simple grammar still, but the bigger difference is that its not broken up like the first one. So while it may be a bit harder, I still think its grammar that a beginner would be able to figure out with google if they were in a different sentence that was more broken up.

Yeah, I had some doubts about the effectiveness of my university when I went to speak with the head of the japanese program. She was showing me through some of the videos and worksheets that they used and the whole time I was kinda surprised at how bad it all seemed. When asked about the level of someone who had studied with the university for the full 4 years and completed the japanese classes through the highest level she told me that they would be “around n3”. Kinda crazy to me.

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I suppose it depends on what you mean by “grammar”.

Personally, I would agree, but the argument could be made that ~てくる and ような as N4 grammar are more difficult.

Either way, I think the OP just needs more exposure.

Lol yeah. I started tuning out midway through second year, and was completely done by third year.

Like usual schooling (at least in my experience), they try and cram too much in too soon cause “there will be a test on this” and you don’t have the time to properly process and internalise what you’re “learning”. Which means you probably don’t understand much, and you definitely don’t remember it for long.

That and, they don’t explain things like da/kara, but in third year, we spend two weeks learning how to accept and reply to a traditional wedding invitation? Yeah, nah. I realised, not only was a bored and not learning anything, I was just wasting time and getting into debt for it. Defintely don’t regret leaving haha.

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