Learning Japanese being ADHD

I used to go on this forum and on WaniKani a lot and didn’t know until recently that I am ADHD and that ADHD is the reason why it was so dam hard to study.

Since then, lists have been my forever friend! And I’ve been designing a small curriculum in advance each week to help me focus. :). It’s not as interactive as I want just yet, but right now it’s all about reviewing what I did learn.

The issue I have is with memory and learning Japanese interactively. Because of my jumpy brain, I learn very slowly.

Does anyone have any fun resources or ideas for language learning in general? I’m back to complete beginner.



I personally find SRSes (like WaniKani, Anki, Torii, Kitsun, Bunpro, etc.) work very well for me as long as I can stay in a decent rhythm of doing my reviews. The gamified instant-feedback kind of learning keeps my attention way better than most other sources.

Most people will tell you not to combine multiple SRSes, but personally doing exactly that is what has gotten me to a halfway decent level - decent enough to actually start picking out things I enjoy doing in order to learn more naturally by just using the language. Using WaniKani for kanji, Bunpro to get me started on grammar, and Torii for some vocabulary (somewhere between 1000-1500 words) got me in a position where I could start writing some sentences on here, join some book clubs, follow some Japanese folks on Twitter, watch live streams and clips, basically just enjoying doing what I would have done otherwise but with simpler stuff in Japanese. Now, I’m not saying that will definitely work for you - everyone’s different - but if you find that having an SRS helps you stay on track and the spaced repetition itself helps your memory, it could well work. And when you find something you enjoy doing in Japanese and the hyperfocus kicks in, you’re gonna make big leaps :slight_smile:

Now, of course, hyperfocus isn’t always going to be a thing. Part of your learning experience is going to be learning to accept that. That’s just what your brain does, and trying to fight it or making yourself feel bad for not studying when the executive function is at its worst isn’t going to do you any favours. Better to let it go, accept it, and get back into it when your brain lets you. Learning a language is a long-term endeavour anyway, so taking a break or slowing down every so often isn’t going to matter too much in the long run.

Also, check out the ADHD thread, we’ve got a few more recently diagnosed people in there, myself included :slight_smile:


Thank you so much for your message! It’s really refreshing to read what you mentioned about stopping sometimes which is what I’ve done in the past many times because I couldn’t understand why I was overwhelmed. Now that I know, I can work with my brain instead of getting confused over whether I really like it or not, when actually I was just overwhelmed.

I will check out Bunpro and Torii. Thank you again :slight_smile:


A lot of people don’t seem to care for it but Duolingo has been really improving my Japanese recently. Being able to study in small amounts while riding the bus or waiting around for whatever is really helpful, and the gameification and competitive aspect keep me coming back.

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not to discourage you… .but to be very direct…(mean this in a motivational way no negativity :wink: )

how do you learn anything? it takes work right? don’t let any labels define what you can and cannot learn. When I was a kid ADHD didn’t exist (it did but it wasn’t something anyone diagnosed and drugged the kids yet)…people just learned to work with the world they have…

you can do it and think about how you have learned other things in your life through school, etc…what sort of things did you do to keep the interest up…getting bored and frustrated come with any learning ability… Japanese can be and WILL be especially frustrating from time to time…

if it’s something you really want to do…committ and find a way to push through the rough times…the folks on this board are very helpful for motivation…use friends/family/etc… also consider gettting a tutor italki or some other method where you can practice with a teacher/tutor regularly. I don’t have ADHD (of if I do was never dignosed…never checked don’t really care one way or the other at this point…don’t need a label)…but what really helped push me through in the beginning was scheduling 5-10 lessons in advance with a tutor and doing the lessons at the same time every week. You can be flexible but any routine you can build will help. I remember there were some nights i was like I really don’t wanna do this…but after the hour was up…was super helpful. (oh that reminds me…if you are new schedule 30 min lessons)…don’t over do it! Trying to do 100% Japanese in an hour is REALLY hard in the beginning…30 min was still stressful…eventually bumped it to 45 min and now an hour is EASY…can’t always find the words haha stupid vocab I don’t know or can’t remember but getting there slowly every day.

Remember you can do “almost” ANYTHING you put your mind to! Good luck!!! 頑張って!


I’m sorry, I know you mean well but this presents an extremely misguided view of what ADHD is and how it can affect learning.

I don’t blame you for that, mind you. It’s how many view ADHD, and it can be hard to understand ADHD from the outside. Even from the inside it can be… tricky, to say the least. Even psychology as a field has only fairly recently been figuring a lot of things out.

The idea that “you can do it if you just really want to and you put your mind to it” and that that’s enough is what we’ve been told our whole lives. It’s not helpful. It’s harmful, even. Our brains just do not work that way. And frankly speaking, well-meaning as it may be, “you can do it” is not the motivational comment you think it is when sometimes you really just can’t.

Wanting to do something and actually doing it are further removed for people with ADHD than it is for people without it. “Putting your mind to it” doesn’t amount to much when your brain is actively getting in the way of actually sticking with habits.

And speaking from experience, “how did you learn anything” is not a simple question to answer. Not to mention that especially with late diagnoses like mine and OP’s… “what sort of things did you do to keep the interest up” often means “postpone things until blind panic let me get them done at the last possible second” or “nothing, and then I hated myself for not just doing my homework”.

You’re essentially telling people to not have ADHD.

When someone asks you how to run a marathon with asthma you don’t tell them to just stick with it and keep running, and just keep breathing. That’s definitely part of it, but minimising the issue to that is completely ignoring what asthma is and does. You’re doing the exact same thing here. A runner with asthma will need to take some precautions - maybe they need to carry an extra inhaler, or avoid days with a high pollen count. Maybe they need to take some extra care to avoid high pollen counts or smog. Maybe they need to breathe differently.

ADHD means you’re gonna need to do approach some things differently. Learning a language is definitely one of those things.


@yamitenshi completely missed the point…makes it sounds like people with ADHD are new to the world…it’s been around since before it was diagnosed…saying don’t let this stop you from learning…

My point is this…how did you get through elementary school, middle school, high school…college…did you survive…?? Did you learn a skill, woodworking, metal shop, sewing, cooking…anything…Never said anything was easy and didn’t say to just buckle down…

Take the learning tools/skillsets that got you through those life events which worked for you and apply them to language learning…that was my point! Don’t let any naysayers tell you ADHD makes life impossible.

I know lots of people with various "dis"abilities…they still live quality lives and don’t let anything stop them from being themselves. To the OP…Just do you…Since this thread will derail not going to send any further replies. But I did want to clarify since at least one person unintentionally completely twisted my message…Wish the OP the best of luck! and again to the OP…if you find solutions/tricks that are specific for learning Japanese…be sure to share them so others may be motivated.

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Poor vision was a thing before glasses, but I’m still damn happy I’ve got some vision correction sitting or my nose because this message would be damn hard to type without it. Yes, people got by without glasses, and still do. That doesn’t mean people who can’t see well don’t live their lives differently without them.

With very mixed results and an inability to complete anything on time unless I was very interested in it. All my report cards said “you can do it if you put your mind to it but you need to try a little harder and do your work on time”. All of them.

One and the same here - but with the same inability to complete anything on time unless I was very interested in it, as well as an inability to get myself to do homework. The only reason I graduated at all was I accidentally happened to glean enough from classes to pass exams… barely.

I didn’t. See the above but with even more personal responsibility and not having the right tools to let myself actually do the things I needed to.

Yes, many. Plastic modeling, drawing, cooking, got into Italian, Japanese (repeatedly), magic, programming, game development, machine learning, electronics, playing guitar, building guitar amplifiers and effects, baking, took an interest in tea, whisky, coffee, and that’s just describing the last five years or so. Beyond the basics and the initial plateau, though? …Maybe one or two in my life? And I have no idea why I did stick with those, as opposed to any of the others. Jack of all trades, master of none, as many with ADHD are.

The one exception? Japanese, in the most recent attempt. Because I found things that happen to work with my ADHD specifically.

You kinda did, though. You may frame it as “don’t let your ADHD discourage you”, “don’t listen to the naysayers” and “you can do anything if you put your mind to it”, but those are really just unhelpful platitudes and insist on ignoring all the ways ADHD makes things harder.

See, I get why you’re saying that, but if there were enough of those for any results OP wouldn’t have been looking for a late diagnosis and wouldn’t have come back saying ADHD was the reason it was so damn hard to study. Same goes for me. Can’t speak for OP, but relying on the tools that got me through school amounts to relying on motivation magically coming at me at the right times and getting lucky enough to actually learn some Japanese in a reasonable timeframe. That may sound silly but it’s literally what got me through school as far as I went. It’s well-intentioned, but it’s just not helpful.

I don’t think anybody said that, though? I said that ADHD warrants some additional strategies and considerations, which is exactly what OP asked for. Again, you’re well-intentioned, but not helpful.

I also can’t help but wonder why you felt the need to put quotes in "dis"abilities but it reminds me of the whole “differently abled” movement and leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. They’re disabilities and they’re called that for a reason. They don’t prevent people from being themselves and living the best life they can, absolutely, and people with disabilities can be very capable and happy, as well as achieve things plenty of people without any disabilities never do - but I assure you each and every one of those disabilities comes with its own struggles and needs its own considerations.

I… honestly don’t think I’m the one missing the point here. My entire school life was littered with all of the things you said above and more, it wasn’t helpful then, it’s not helpful now. And that experience is not unique to me, it’s probably the single thing I see people with ADHD frustrated about most.

But considering the size of the strawman you built to whack… I don’t think I’m gonna get my point across to you, and I’m gonna leave it at this. I hope it’s informative to others.


@Nada-San just want to apologize for any disruption caused by others…I cannot control other people’s personal responses (or if someone takes something personally) my comments were meant for you only…wish you the best!

You both have good points to make.

@shuly it’s not easy to be in another’s shoes. ADHD is the reason I’m still on minimum wage jobs at 35 and it was responsible for my homelessness in my 20’s, my ruin of relationships, my difficulties with eat, with keeping friendships. It is a very debilitating condition and without proper control it can rip chaos. I think @yamitenshi is coming from the angle of this. It’s a very different world.

I took your point in, though. Thank you for the motivation. Lists are a saviour at the moment. The problem I have with learning a language is creating one’s own curriculum. There’s is SO much to look at online and that alone is overwhelming and confusing. Slowly, though, I am playing around with a self-built curriculum. One thing I know is that textbook learning isn’t for me…

@shuly in terms of getting through things for those with ADHD it’s so unbelievably hard. On paper I’ve succeeded with a degree and grade point average of over 90% on essay papers. In private, I self-harmed and had enormous meltdowns trying to get through it. My point being is that, yes we get through it with grit and determination, but it is probably 10 times harder than the neuro-typical and we can suffer easily.

But, but, we do it. Slowly, but we do :slight_smile:


I don’t know if they exist, but you might want to search around italki or other platforms…there might be some tutors/teachers that specialize in teaching techniques for various things like ADHD that can help you perform at your best. Seems like there must be someone out there…might need a professional teacher vs a community tutor…but I’d bet there has to be at least a few teachers that could help you develop a curriculum that works and help get you over whatever hurdles and obstacles are in your path.

I really do wish you the best! Despite how any of the my comments may have been twisted by others…there was never any ill-will or malice behind them. Sending good thoughts and positive energy you’re way… I believe you can and will eventually reach your Japanese goals, even if it takes longer than others. Hopefully in a few months you’ll be able to update with some news of some positive forward progress!!!

and… Happy Halloween!! :jack_o_lantern: :ghost: :bat: :candy:


It’s fine, your comments meant well and I took them in as good messages.

I’m right at the beginning of my journey in understanding how to navigate the condition. Yes, I think in the future I may get a teacher so I can simply practise conversations. Definitely it’s the way I’m able to memorise better.

Happy Halloween as well!


I am also trying to learn Japanese and have ADHD. I am trying to learn on my own and have noticed a couple of things I need one of them being how excited I am to try this new thing out when the newness runs out and my excitement does my motivation does as well, so I am constantly switching between Japanese learning apps and it works, get a lot free highly interesting apps and YouTube channels and switch it doesn’t matter what you learn or when you learn just keep learning, also watch a lot of things in Japanese like anime for language exposure and you will continue to learn. Use apps that make you feel like you are learning though otherwise your motivation will be sucked away and you will be stuck again, in conclusion try to have as much fun in your language process and make it easy to do those things because if it isn’t accessible I won’t do it and I am guessing other people with adhd won’t either. Also don’t attempt to memorize vocable or the alphabet find fun games or stuff to do that

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edit: I shouldn’t have written this if I wasn’t willing to explain my thoroughly. I was brief out of fear that I wouldn’t post it at all if I didn’t make it short. Reading, watching anime, and playing games is great! I’m just saying that consistently doing that every day enough to learn Japanese takes a lot of executive function that you might not be able to muster on a consistent basis in order to rely on it for Japanese study. But then again, as another poster said, everyone struggles with ADHD differently.

Pre-made SRS is amazing for people with ADHD.

When you design study methods, be mindful of the amount of executive function a task takes, and if possible decrease the amount of executive function necessary.

On the internet people love to suggest doing “immersion,” by which they mean doing things like reading a book and making flashcards of all the words you don’t know as you go along. This is really tempting for those of us with ADHD, I think, because people with ADHD are often people with tons of obscure knowledge they’ve gained through hyper-focusing on stuff. We’re masters of “learning passively while doing something else,” partly because we’re so bad at learning any other way.

And so we think, “Yeah, we’ll pick up Japanese just by reading!” But I think it is kind of a trap for us. Because the whole, “Open the book. Find the page. Start reading. Find a word you don’t know. Open your computer. Open Anki. Open the deck editor. Add a card. Make sure it has audio/images/etc. Okay next sentence. More words you don’t know, repeat” process takes so much executive function, and there are so many opportunities to get distracted.

Don’t get me wrong, learning by playing games, reading books, and watching anime is still open to us, but I think ADHD learners need to have much more Japanese already under their belt before they can do it effectively. At the very least, you shouldn’t rely on it as your primary way of studying, because you very likely won’t be able to keep it up for months at a time (which is what is necessary to actually learn a language that way).

Instead, I think you are exactly where you need to be: Acquiring kanji through WaniKani. Having a kanji foundation is a huge first step towards being able to acquire Japanese through other means.


I’ve personally found that with that foundation, the whole learning by immersion thing works pretty well. Just… minus the flash cards, I’ve tried and I just can’t do it.

You’re exactly right. Looking up a word, making a card, adding it to a deck, doing it as a “lesson”, then keeping up with reviews… it’s just too much on top of what reading already takes in the first place.

Just reading and looking up words as I go along, though? You bet, I can do that. And you know what? I’m learning just fine. Am I learning as efficiently as I would be with a “normal” brain and flash cards? Nah, probably not. But I am learning more efficiently than I would be when forcing myself into flash cards with an ADHD brain, because that would amount to giving it all I’ve got for a week and then finding zero pleasure in reading whatever manga I was in the middle of because it feels like a chore. Wouldn’t even last long enough to let the SRS do its job.

It’s slow, but it’s also fun. It’s just become part of my entertainment. I mindlessly click around on YouTube, watch some Japanese stuff in the process, scroll around on Twitter where I see a bunch of Japanese tweets because of who I follow, read some manga, some of which is in Japanese… It’s not fast, but it’s learning all the same. And I’m not in this to speedrun Japanese anyway. And by making Japanese content something that’s just naturally a part of my usual distractions, it’s not very likely I’ll just drop it entirely.

I will say sometimes working through a lot of Japanese gets overwhelming and takes too much mental effort to do in the first place, but when that happens I just accept it. It’s not a constant thing, and there’s a good chance if I’ve had some rest (or I’m procrastinating on something productive) I can deal with it just fine - and forcing myself to read it anyway is exactly what’s going to make it feel like a chore. And because of that, learning this way is actually what I can keep up for months on end. It’s actual studying I have trouble keeping up with - an SRS helps with that, but as is evident by my complete lack of having done any reviews on WK, Torii, Kitsun or Bunpro for the past few months, it kinda comes and goes.

Of course that’s just me, and YMMV - everyone’s different, and everyone’s ADHD is different. But it does show that if you work with your brain instead of working against it to do the same things others do, keeping up habits can be a lot easier.


This is the most overexaggerated take on it I think I’ve ever read.

With single click anki add its literally

  1. Read
  2. Look up/add words you dont know.

That’s… making quite a few assumptions there. It doesn’t quite work like that if I’m reading stuff on my phone, which is most of the time really.

Plus, to you that process is just “read” and “look up/add words you don’t know”. But neither of those things are single-step actions. If what you replied to is overexaggerated, then your take is certainly oversimplified - and I’ll be honest, my experience is closer to @MichaelCharles’s than it is to yours.


Yes, youve got me. Its all actually a trap all along to people who have ADHD

I’m sorry, do you think you could rephrase that into something halfway rational?

What’s your point?

Theres no end to the people who make excuses for why they don’t read and learn from more native content. I think the reality is its not easy for anyone, and some people care more about whats easy.

It just so happens that some people with ADHD are gonna use that ADHD as their excuse, I guess.