Learning Japanese with ONLY vocab and TV?

Hey all!

I’d love to know what people think of the plausibility of this technique?

I was planning to learn 16 new words a day plucked from various sources. From signs/posters/road markings in immediate surroundings, anime & tv, words I hear in conversation, children’s books etc… put into an Anki deck.

I would then supplement this by watching/listening to lots of TV & Anime.
I do live in Tokyo so I have a lot of native listening material around me too.

16 x 365 days = just under 6000 vocab = JLPT N2. Of course this is rough and patchy so may or may not constitute N2 but for me it’s just meant to be an engaging way to learn by plucking out the words and phrases that I want to understand.

1.What do you think about this approach?
2.With a fair vocabulary will the grammar reveal itself with enough listening comprehension?
3.Will it be silly to have such a patchy vocabulary with vocab of all levels?
4.Has anyone tried a similar approach of learning tons of vocab?

Thank you!!


This is probably the biggest question with that approach.

I don’t know what your current level is, but if you’re a beginner, you could give yourself a huge boost in comprehension by just studying N5 and N4 grammar, alongside your vocab mining.


I think you can. I also think exposure is the only way to really understand grammar.
But studying it is a pretty big jumpstart on the process. It’s the advantage foreign adults have over native babies. We can study. There’s really no reason not to. Even if you’re not studying a specific resource, at least looking up specific things when you see them for an explanation is going to help.

Hey! Thanks for your response!

I’m beginner level yeah. Basically I’ve at dipped my toes into almost every study material available and have found it so so difficult to stay focused. When I was out of Japan I was progressing fairly well at Genki, struggling to concentrate but still progressing.

Now i’m in the country and have been for 6 months, I guess that inner urge to learn has gone or perhaps the material has gotten a bit more dry - but regardless I think Genki is great! I’m just so bad at focusing on text books, I seem to retain vocab best from physical interactions.

I was using Bunpro but I’m worried even that lacks enough context for me to keep in my head. these grammar rules. I’m dying to learn in a way that makes it exciting and challenging again.

10 letters


Hey, thanks!

Yeah, I intend to keep looking up things that I come across and adding them to Anki only if i’m pretty clear on what it means :slight_smile: Luckily I have housemates to ask about more casual speak. Yep true about adults v babies, i’d like to be a lot less passive than a baby haha.

I’m just finding textbooks to really sap my energy when it comes to learning Japanese, I want to create an engaging learning environment based on my interactions.

Hey, do you mean 10 words? :slight_smile:

I’ll say more about this because it’s often been my approach. A lot of people around here (and in general?) really like the idea of learning everything ahead of time, and then I guess getting to enjoy material as an almost reward. Prelearning vocab, grammar, etc. And there’s merit to that. But my method has mostly been to dive into things and pick it apart later.
I remember reading things like Yotsubato early on and not even knowing, for example, what the たら construction was, but I’d just google things like “たら japanese grammar,” read enough for a basic understanding, and keep going. And that is how I like to learn.

But, I didn’t do that exclusively. I do own textbooks. And I’ve (eventually) read them. I just tend to find what I want when I want it instead of going cover to cover.

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Maybe a taking a class would be helpful? (But maybe you’ve already tried that since you mention Genki…)

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I would love to do that! I’m too poor and don’t have enough time unfortunately 笑, so self studying Genki for me has just been really hard. I wish I had enough focus to just read on and on and do the exercises but yeah, so tough for me! Honestly it frustrates me because it’s just embarrassing to be wasting so much time.

I see! That’s somewhat reassuring hearing you kinda approached it in a similar way! Sure, I do own Genki which has given me a lot so far, so I will try and squeeze what value I can out of it.
I think my way of learning is pretty similar, I like hearing something on TV, immediately searching the web and feeling fairly satisfied after that the information will stick. Of course i’ll be using Anki to remember all the words I learn.

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Well, Genki isn’t the only introductory grammar resource out there :wink:
I hear a lot of people recommending Tae Kim’s grammar guide:

I didn’t use it in the beginning of my studies, but I’ve found myself using more recently with one of the book clubs to explain specific grammar concepts. It seems to be pretty concise compared to Genki. And since it’s electronic, it’s easy to search for whatever grammar point you’re trying to understand.

replies on this forums have to have at least 10 letters, but my reply only had 4 :slight_smile:

not possible to learn japanese with just tv and vocab, but you’ll find out yourself.


Yeah, I’d encourage that, personally. I also, frankly, suck at studying and find it boring - unless it’s self-motivated. And boy, back in the day, when I saw something in a manga I wanted to understand, I would sometimes spend hours researching it. So there’s a very real difference between “well this is the next chapter” and “THIS IS SOMETHING I NEED TO KNOW” in terms of how easy it is to care about what you’re studying. But you DO need to study sometimes. It’s just a question of how.

Anyway, just make sure you find stuff that you can pay attention to and enjoy. Early on, the basic thrill of “I understand this!” is enough to get you through objecively boring material, but I’ve long since extinguished that flame. What I watch and read and play has to be genuinely entertaining for me to pay attention these days, and that cross-section of “genuinely entertaining” and “comprehensible” can be pretty narrow sometimes.

^ that’s a good place to look up things you run into early on, and it is less dry and more concise.

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Be careful about watching anime. They tend to use speech patterns and vocabulary that would make you seem very strange/rude if you used them in real life. I also think you will not learn much about grammar using this method. I have been watching Japanese TV shows alongside my traditional studies to increase immersion. (Terrace House is on Netflix and is the perfect show for this; since it involves new people arriving all the time, they constantly repeat the “Hello/Nice to meet you/How old are you/Tell me your life story” conversation.) That said, I still have trouble keeping up with their conversations, and have learned maybe 5 words or phrases from a month of watching. On the other hand, when someone uses terms and phrases I’ve studied, I understand what they are saying and it is very rewarding.

Definitely watch Japanese media to give yourself immersion, but don’t use it as a substitute for traditional studying. がんばって!

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Haha, thanks I am aware. I’ve started tae kims a while back but I found it (like Genki) very hard to focus on. It’s my fault I know, I’m not knocking the resources. But I want to find a method which is truly engaging for me.

I’ve been over and researched everything out there almost… Genki, Japanese the Manga way, Lingodeer, Tae Kims, JapanesePod, Pimsler etc, etc… I just have found recently I cannot engage with Genki and I think it’s the best of all of those resources personally. Whilst out of Japan I was able to drive myself to do 1/3rd but since I’ve been unable to progress.

I can for sure use something like Tae Kim as a grammar dictionary for when I find a piece of grammar I don’t understand :slight_smile: I think that would suit me a lot more.

Thanks for the advice!

Thanks! Yeah I’m aware, that’s why i’d be using TV here in Japan, and conversation too :slight_smile: I started watching Terrace House for that exact reason but I guess it was hard as I wasn’t genuinely interested in the show haha. I did learn a few things from it though, perhaps I can try again!

I wouldn’t use it as a substitute for studying, more just as listening material to practise the words and phrases I’d learnt from seeing things, reading things, hearing things etc.


Everyone says this, but shounen anime isn’t the only anime that exists. Yeah, if you talk like you’re in One Piece it’s going to be a problem, but (outside of the game) people in ネト充のススメ talk like real people…

I’m with you on this, I have sat infront of Genki or Tae Kims or whatever resource countless times with the attitude of “Okay, this is the day, I’ve sorted all the resources I need, I just need to keep at it day by day”

But then somehow I’m almost falling asleep at the material, barely able to focus on the words let alone engage in the activity, especially as Genki has so many partner activities which I cannot bare to do with myself even if I try hard.

Hmm, seems like my flame is out too. But i’ve still got some wick left so i’ll keep trying to see how I can light it whilst being progressive in terms of learning techniques!

Hmm. A lot of the anime I watch (they’re pretty mainstream) involves a lot of extremely familiar back and forth between characters. And a lot of “you’re an idiot!”, which is not something I’ve ever heard in real life in Japan…