Learning Japanese as a non-native English speaker

My native language is Norwegian. There are hardly any resources for learning Japanese in Norwegian, so I have to learn Japanese through English books, web sites and so on. It’s not a big problem, I’m used to studying in English, but I do wonder what it does to my Japanese. It feels like I don’t have a connection from Japanese to Norwegian. I either understand “directly” from Japanese, or I have to translate first from Japanese to English and understand “directly” in English. Please don’t ask me to translate from Japanese to Norwegian!

I know that there are many non-native English speakers here. Do you study Japanese with resources in your own language or do you study with English resources? How do you think that affects your Japanese learning?


Whatever I find on the internet are English resources, but luckily I was able to find a really good Japanese class in the Netherlands. The teacher actually wrote up a grammar companion in Dutch, to go along with Minna no Nihongo, so I’ve learned most of what I know through Dutch.

My English is pretty much on par with my Dutch in terms of understanding and production, but I think it really has helped being able to connect certain grammar and concepts better. Learning through both languages gives me more perspectives to look at things from, as well.


My native language is Hindi but I feel comfortable with using English to learn Japanese. Sometimes though I form mnemonics and tricks in my native language instead of English depending on which one’s easier to remember.

Also, there are many similarities between Japanese and Hindi sentence structures and grammar so it kinda aids my learning.


I don’t see a problem with this. English isn’t my native language either (although I think I have close to native level comprehension ability).

Up to a certain point (aroubd N3) I was studying in English, afterwards I’ve moving to Japanese sources. So the more advanced your Japanese studies are the less you need to rely on English.

And for the fundamentals you don’t need to be English native.


My native language is Turkish, and Turkish has much more similarities with Japanese than English has. So sometimes I wonder if I’m not taking full advantage of this by learning it through English. But since language acquisition mostly works in the background I’m hoping my brain makes the neccessary connections to help me learn easier :slightly_smiling_face:


My native language is German, and first the first couple of levels I did the same, too. Translating from Japanese to English and from English to German but it kept messing with my head, especially because there were a couple of English words in Wankani that I didn’t know either, so I had to learn those words first and learn the Japanese later on, and that really slowed me down.
I’m trying a new method now. I’m using the “add synonym” feature to add the german meaning and just keep working with that. If I’m not completely certain about the meaning of a word I work with the WaniKani definition and a japanese-german dictionary and its working out pretty well. I know this way I can easily make mistakes by messing up the translation and learning the wrong definition but that can happen with the english definitions too, I guess.


I think this is key. The problems arise when you start translating the words English to German, without checking the actual nuance of the Japanese word, since English has many words that may sound and look the same, but have different meanings. Then you can easily end up translating the wrong meaning.

Yes I know. I trying to work with example sentences to capture the nuances, but some words are tough. Maybe I’m on the wrong track with this and making it too complicated. I’m just hoping to make it to the point d-hermit talks about, that I can just work with Japanese and make up my translation mistakes with this.


My first languages are Spanish and Catalan, but I’ve lived in English-speaking countries for over ten years, so like others said I feel comfortable enough in English to learn another language through English rather than my native languages.

Obviously there are many resources in Spanish, but I actually tend to use English resources, because there’s simply more of them. Also, often Spanish sources are actually translations from English, so I’d rather go to the “original”.

Having said this, recently I’ve found myself drawn to online Japanese teachers who speak Spanish. My level isn’t good enough to do the full lesson in Japanese yet, so they explain things to me in Spanish, but the materials are in English. So I’m used to learning most Japanese words and grammar in both languages, which is actually very useful because often one is more useful to understand or remember certain things but the other is more useful for other things!


I am a Polish native, been studying English for many years, I have been living in the UK for 4 years now and I feel pretty comfortable to learn Japanese through English resources. The only problem is that sometimes mnemonic stories use words that I don’t know or don’t use them in daily conversations so they don’t stick in my head. Sometimes I come with a Polish word that suits the mnemonic story better so I guess that’s an advantage of being bilingual.

Personally I think that studying Japanese through English resources doesn’t make too much difference just because I am living in an English-speaking country so I am very much used to that language. It would be much harder if I was back in Poland or if I wasn’t fluent enough.


Would it be possible to re-write your notes in Norwegian? Luckily, Norwegian and English aren’t that structurally different from each other, so it should be possibly to explain the Japanese grammar in Norwegian without too much difficulty. I sometimes play this game with myself when doing WK reviews where I’ll type the answer in English (if I need to write the meaning), then say the definition in Norwegian at the same time. It’s very difficult, but I find it fun! :laughing:

But besides that, understanding Japanese
directly from Japanese is actually better for your brain than understanding Japanese → native language, because you’re thinking in Japanese. I’d say it’s a fairly good sign if you end up in a situation where you’re thinking “Oh, I understand this in Japanese, but I don’t know how to translate this”, because it shows that you understand how Japanese works, and you can think in Japanese.

By the way, I’ve done a fair deal of Japanese → Norwegian translating, so if you need anything about Japanese clarified in Norwegian, feel free to @ me, and I’ll help as much as I can. There’s a surprising amount of Norwegian speakers on the forums, so if you posted a thread asking for Norwegian translation, I’m sure people will be able to help you!


My native language is Swedish but I hardly use it anymore so learning through English is actually preferable for me since Swedish and English have very similar grammar structures in the first place. I doubt learning form Swedish (or Norwegian) would benefit us in a greater way.

Regarding the translating part, I believe that as you become more and more advanced in your Japanese studies, you should be able to translate sentences as concepts rather than focusing on specific words.
If we assume that this is correct, you should be able to hear a Japanese statement and then sort of intuitively be able to create a suitable Norwegian way of expressing the same sort of statement.

(This is just my assumption and should not be taken too serious)


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