I'm giving up on textbooks

And relying almost 100% on listening now. It is my last effort to find a way of learning this language. For 6 years I’ve started and stopped for mental health reasons but also…I have some sort of weird fear of learning. When I think about all I have to do, I freak out so much. I can’t look at a textbook without feeling overwhelmed and having to deal with cascading negative thoughts.

I’ve been listening to N5 practise questions and answers with explanations and I find it a much better way to learn. The fact that after a few days I can understand many more N5 conversations is testament to the power of interactive learning.

I know that books have to be looked at in order to understand grammar, but has anyone learnt a language mostly by listening? By taking an ‘organic’ approach to language learning?

I dunno, just listening teaches me so much more with much quicker results.


Different people have different preferred „channels“ for learning, some learn through reading and some through listening. Nothing wrong with that :blush:
I‘m glad that you figured out what works well for you. And YouTube is full of excellent grammar videos, e.g. Nihongo no Mori or Sanbonjuku, just to name a few.


The people who are best in their language (natives) didn’t use any textbook for studying it.
Makes one think…


Not always, I was raised in a Russian-speaking household and my parents enrolled me in an immersion program for it in elementary, and currently I’m in high school (#still learning lol) and the size of the textbook i have to carry is just :sob:

So while I do agree that immersion helps a lot, I still use a textbook to learn so not using a textbook isn’t always the case (sorry if I went a bit off-topic there lmao) :sweat_smile:

edit: to op: i’m sure you’ve probably considered this but maybe reading along might help? like modern fiction or whatever ur interests are, there’s bound to be an audiobook of it on the internet somewhere :slight_smile:


I just use the steven Krashen approach which worked well for me in English and french. Just read and listen, watch movies with subtitles in the target language. Learn tons of words and then if needed occasionally look at the grammar guide for reference.

Immersion can be started with the knowledge of basic grammar and top 1k-1.5 words which can take 2-6 months from zero depending on your time investment.


I kinda ‘have’ to read, because otherwise, I won’t feel certain of what words I’m using, especially when there are a ton of words that sound the same. I prefer to see the words that I’m learning, and I tend to try to ‘see’ sentences in my head as I speak.

However, as far as organicity goes, well… I learnt most intermediate grammar by watching anime and looking things up, sometimes with the help of transcriptions I found online. I had Tobira somewhere on my shelf, but I just didn’t have the time to sit down and read it, and whenever I got back to it (I generally took unplanned breaks of 1-2 months between chapters), I found that I had already learnt >90% of the grammar in each chapter I started. In other words, it’s possible learn without a textbook. However, you might still need somewhat formal resources (or just good websites) for the sake of getting detailed explanations. They don’t have to be enormous books though.


I often feel the same way about textbooks. I sit down with one to study but then feel totally overwhelmed, even though I may have encountered the grammar before. Knowing how much there is to learn is overwhelming and sometimes I worry about whether I’m using the right textbook when there are so many options out there! Like @NicoleRauch said, it’s all about finding out what works for you.

I follow a couple of accounts on Instagram of English speakers who are learning Japanese purely/mainly by using immersion.

Have you tried using an app? Many people use Bunpro (I’ve just started using that myself!). Maybe just study 1-3 grammar points a day if that’s ok for you.

Remember to always remind yourself why you started learning originally - if your goals have changed, change your study habits/immersion to reflect that.

Good luck! :grinning:


In the case of Japanese, IMO in order to succeed you NEED to learn the grammar, especially if you come from a language that is completely different structure-wise, i.e. any language besides Korean. You probably could go by without learning any grammar but that probably takes longer.

If you hate textbooks, try Cure Dolly. I also hate textbooks and she is my primary resource for learning grammar. One video per day should be enough, and by the 30th video or so you already have basic grammar knowledge and that should be enough to get you started.

You can watch her videos while also doing immersion in the side, like listening to podcasts or reading graded readers to further cement what you have just learned.


Russian is the only exception :joy: The grammar is just too difficult even for natives…

I think that learning is a process that only happens when you feel joyful.
It does not matter what you expose yourself to, if it makes you joyful you will learn it however “difficult” others may think it is.
If you don’t like a textbook now that means you don’t need it now.
Maybe later, when you are really interested in something you might change your feelings about it,
but until then it is better to ignore it I think.


The people who are best in their language (natives) get non-stop input for their entire lives and are forced to use it every day.

Makes one think…


Why don’t get non- stop input and force yourself to use it every day then? :sweat_smile:

I don’t say this to insist OP needs to change their strategy; there’s a lot that can work, but I hear this line repeated a lot in regards to immersion learning and it confuses me to no end. Kids implicitly pick up a staggering amount of knowledge; I’m not arguing that point… but am I the only person whose school had English (or insert your language here) classes? No, right? 12 years of my life were stuffed with loads of explicit instructions on grammar, lists of vocabulary to learn and spell, and countless hours of forced reading.


Of course you are right about the importance of studying systematically from a certain level. But the bitter truth is, that most of the people here will speak a ridiculously lousy Japanese after studying for 12 years compared to a Japanese child who never ever went to a Japanese class.

Why I know that? Because I am one of them :joy: :joy:

You really do be out here just exposing yourself like that.


Clap-, clapbacks? :eye::lips::eye:

OP, if you wouldn’t mind sharing, where do you find your N5 listening material? I’ve been trying on and off to learn Japanese for like three years now, and I’ve finally found WanKani which is really helping me keep engaged. However, I’d really like to do some listening exercises while I’m working or whatever. Thanks!

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There is no tried and true method to studying, so if you need to toss those textbooks to the side because they’re not doing much for you, then go for it!

You should know that each person learns and absorbs information in a different way. Some of us are visual learners (we learn easier by looking at images and processing information). Some of us are auditory learners (learning from hearing things - this might apply to you if you find it easier to absorb info by listening!). There’s also reading and writing learners (learning better from reading and writing text vs. a visual or auditory representation of it). This also happens to be the most practiced learning style in the classroom despite not all students being this type of learner - in fact, Japanese students are forced to study via rote memorization). Then lastly, there’s kinesthetic which is tactile learning (for example, hands-on learning - being able to apply what you’re learning like making a science fair project). there’s plenty of these kinds of learners, but it’s rarer to find these kinds of activities in the classroom due to lack of supplies and time issues.

Each of us have a style of learning that we learn the best in, but a combination of a few of them are actually helpful. For me, my weakest area is auditory learning. I’ve noticed that I can’t seem to focus especially during long talks. But if you noticed that this is actually helpful for you, then you should concentrate on listening to podcasts in Japanese, TV shows, anime, news, songs, various styles of listening so you can get used to the different ways of speech. Try to mix it up!

And to answer your question, yes, there’s plenty of people who have learned a language just by listening. Just last month there was a German guest who stayed at our guesthouse. He had been living in Japan for 20 years now (not all at once), but when he first came here, he had absolutely no knowledge. There were no textbooks like we have now, so he learned bit by bit from his neighbors and his interaction with people. Now he’s fluent and also teaching German in a Japanese university.


I just wanted to recommend https://www.youtube.com/c/Onomappu for op and others wanting to learn by listening immersion. His videos are a bit like diary entries with small visuals to help your understanding. I find his choice in topic and clarity and speed of speech to be really helpful!


You should know that Im pretty sure all of this has been debunked.