Learning Routine / Pacing (Classic + Intensive)

I’m so glad! After taking both the regular-paced class and the intensive-paced class, I’ve learned a lot about what works for me and how I can make the biggest language improvements.

Essentially, as long as you identify your goals [1] and be very honest about what things distract you or make studying hard, you can structure your learning any way you want. Because I don’t use a textbook anymore, my current routine looks something like the intensive pace but cut down to 2 hours instead of 4.

:warning: For anyone skimming these posts, it’s important to note that it is VERY DIFFICULT to structure effective learning routines without a textbook unless you are an advanced learner. Textbooks group grammar, vocab, reading, etc in very mindful and relevant ways. Unless you are extremely knowledgeable about what you are doing, you’ll be able to follow a study routine with more success if you are following a textbook rather than trying to piece together various resources.

  1. just grammar and vocab? primarily listening? conversation practice? all of the big-four categories, reading writing speaking listening? ↩︎


Mmm, I was never very good at this (I’m quite bad at defining goals in general), but I agree it’s really helpful to getting the most out of learning. Especially when I was taking private 1:1 lessons I always felt that if I’d been able to better define and articulate some goals beforehand I would have got more out of them. (Not that the time was wasted by any means; just that if I could have brought more focus to them they might have been more effective.)

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I also don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to not have any particular goals. In that case, it would be perfectly appropriate to learn a little from all of the big four categories - reading, writing, speaking, listening - until maybe one sticks out to you more than the rest. But then, maybe they all remain equally fascinating and enjoyable. There’s nothing wrong with casting a wide net.

For me, I didn’t have specific goals other than “learn Japanese” until I’d put hundreds of hours in and realized how much I loved kanji more than any other part. It’s like art to me. And for that reason, I focus primarily on building my reading skills. But for the sake of the JLPT, I need to keep up with pushing my listening skills even though it’s not my favorite. As goals can easily change, so can your study habits!

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→ Sample Schedule: Academic Pace :books:

To give you a practical idea of how the academic 1-hour schedule is used, here are some examples of three types of learning days: Introductory, Grammar, and Reading, using Chapter 17 of Genki II.

Before you begin: It’s admirable if you’re able to sit down and suddenly be able to focus for a full hour with no distractions. However, I recommend creating a trigger to kind of Pavlov yourself into being ready for your study session. For students, simply entering the classroom is the focus trigger. For those of us at home, try choosing a specific drink, snack, song, or anything easy to get your hands on that will signify to your brain that you are about to begin your session. Throw your phone into the ocean.

Sample Chapter Introduction Day

When first starting a new chapter, the temptation is to skip ahead to the meat of the information. However, reading the dialogue is vital for providing a foundation for the upcoming grammar and vocabulary, as well as for learning the flow of a polite conversation. Today is about gathering the pieces of the puzzle.

  • Read Dialogue 1 (pg. 114) (est. 5-8mins)
    → First reading only in your head. As you read, use something to circle/underline unknown grammar, vocabulary, and kanji :pencil2:
    → Read again, this time aloud. If improving your speaking is a goal, record yourself to listen back.

  • Read Dialogue 2 (pgs. 114-115) (est. 3-5mins)
    → Repeat above

  • Compare your initial understanding with the English translation (pg. 115) (est. 1-3mins)

  • Vocabulary: New vocab group (pgs. 116-117) (est. 10-12mins)
    → Skim all vocab words
    → Choose either nouns or verbs/adj/other as your first group
    → Add each word to the vocab system of your choice - quizlet, anki, toriiSRS (though it is helpful to be able to add an image)
    → Try coming up with short sentences verbally using the new words - pay attention to particles on the vocab list

  • Kanji (flip to the back, pg. 300) (est. 12-15mins)
    → Do not skip this step due to being on Wanikani - these are all essential kanji that will appear in the chapter text
    → In your notebook, write each kanji using the correct stroke order
    → Read each associated on’yomi, kun’yomi, and vocabulary aloud

  • Kanji Exercises (pg. 301) (est. 4-6mins)
    → Parts A and B only
    → Part A is an exercise in recalling the translations
    → Part B is an exercise in recalling the kanji readings

Homework: Complete kanji pages in Genki II Workbook, pgs. 117-118

Sample Grammar-Focused Day

When reading to dive into grammar, general advice is to learn two at a time. Sometimes a grammar point will be extra long or extra short, and it will be up to your discretion whether to add/remove a piece. Use your new chapter vocab as often as possible.

  • New Grammar: 〜そうです (pgs. 118-119) (est. 5-8mins)
    → Carefully read the grammar explanation
    → Speak the example sentences aloud - take note of where the grammar structure appears in the examples
    → Practice tying new vocab words and the new grammar using the conjugation box

  • 〜そうです Exercises (pg. 125) (est. 10-15mins)
    → Complete the exercises aloud - it will waste significant time to write them all down
    → Take your time and refer to the Answer Key if you get stuck
    → Part A - Read each sentence and alter them using 〜そう
    → Example: 就職(しゅうしょく)しました → たけしさんは就職(しゅうしょく)したそうです
    → Part B - Alter each sentence and add context
    → “(I hear) Yamashita-sensei’s house burned down. (Why? Did he leave the stove on? Was there a criminal?)”
    → Part C will be skipped because it is entirely dependent on a partner

  • New Grammar: 〜って (pg. 119) (est. 3-5mins)
    → Same as before - carefully read the grammar explanation and make notes as needed
    → Speak the example sentences aloud - take note of where the grammar structure appears in the examples
    → NOTE: In the instance where one grammar point is very short like this one, feel free to add a third point

  • 〜って Exercises (pgs. 126) (est. 10-15mins)
    → Again, complete all exercises aloud and use the Answer Key to help whenever needed
    → Part A - Ask about the character and report on what they told you
    → This one is trickier than it seems, since you need to know the vocab before altering the sentences
    → Part B will be skipped because it is entirely dependent on a partner

  • Crafting Sentences (est. 8-10mins)
    → Use a notebook to combine your new vocabulary of the week with today’s grammar points
    → Be as creative as you desire, theme them around a fictitious restaurant or from the viewpoint of a villain

Homework: Complete Workbook pg. 44 - for bonus exposure, look up new grammar points in immersionkit.com and listen to them in the context of anime

Sample Reading Passage Day

The reading passage is generally the final boss of the chapter - after completing all new grammar points and learning all new vocabulary, the reading passage has been specifically chosen for someone at a Chapter 17 level.

  • Pre-Reading Exercises (pg. 302) (est. 3-5mins)
    → These are short questions meant to prime you for the content of the passage - we can see that the subject is Yoko Ono
    → Prioritize reading and answering questions aloud, use new grammar points whenever possible

  • Reading Passage (pgs. 303-304) (est. 25-35mins)
    → It can be easy to run out of reading stamina very quickly - before reading, identify the halfway point and mark it
    → A supplementary vocabulary list is on pg. 301
    → Reading slowly with a pencil/pen in hand :pencil2: mark anything that stands out - your new grammar, unknown words, etc.
    → Stop at the halfway point you marked previously - take a moment to look away, summarize what you just read
    → When you feel ready, continue reading the rest of the passage, still marking as you go
    → When finished, mentally summarize the full passage. Was there anything you weren’t sure of?
    → Listen to the passage on the OTO Navi app

  • Post-Reading Activities (pgs. 304-305) (est. 10-15mins)
    → Usually what follows a reading passage are questions on comprehension, but this one focuses on the timeline
    → Chronology - Filling in this timeline helps build your ability to skim Japanese text in search of specific items
    → Lyrics Translate - A fun way to stretch your vocabulary knowledge
    → Reflection Essay - Yikes. This one is only for the strongest among us
    → Write a Biography - See above

Homework: In the workbook, complete the Listening Comprehension exercises on pg. 49 and the chapter wrap-up questions on pg. 50

Chapter Introduction → Grammar Days → Reading Passage → Chapter Test → (New Chapter)


:books: Genki I and II Answer Key
:desktop_computer: ToKini Andy’s Genki series
:memo: Seth’s Genki Study Exercises
:loud_sound: TheJapanTimes’ OTO Navi App


i know this is an old post, but i had a minor revelation.

the very first thing I did seeing it was reject it as a whole - ‘it’s a big block of japanese text, i can’t read that’.

then i read the extracted sentence, thought ‘oh, i can read that, i can probably read the whole block’

then i started reading the block silently in my head, but even though I knew pretty much all the words and grammar at my level, it was still weirdly tiring.

So i just started reading it out aloud. I think that slowed my reading speed down enough that I could start to easily identify where words were, the natural pace of a sentence, etc.

Just wanted to comment about that lol


I reread the note - I’m sure that it was even easier for me to read today than it was originally (BTW, thanks for the ‘like’ which brought my attention back to it).

One thing stood out, though, which I’m unsure of - I noticed that the verb おく was used three or four times, but as it was written in hiragana I’m not completely certain that I’ve translated it correctly:





So evidently there’s some commonly-used grammar point that I’m missing here…


~ておく means to do something in advance, in preparation for the future.


Thanks for that clarification…

I’ll be on the lookout for it in the future.


Reading this post (btw, thank you for writing it, it’s very useful material :blush:) remembered me that I progressively gave up on reading or repeating out loud. However, I know it helps me a lot to memorize. I’m gonna resume that habit^^


Yeah, I am doing that too. While wanikani and writing for every item.

@taiyousea Could sample a study routine if you use all books from minna no nihongo?

Willing to 3 cups of coffee your way. I would be indebted.

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I hate that my instinct is to skip over big text blocks as well, even when I could feasibly read it. I’m trying to kick myself out of that habit. But reading aloud is the crux of the learning process in the classroom so you landed exactly where Nishikawa-sensei (the email author) wanted you to be :grin:

It feels so embarrassing to read aloud somehow, but this was the most important tip I gained from any of my classes and I still will randomly start reading aloud even when I’m doing manga pages for the daily reading challenges. Not only do I notice more grammar/vocab, but my conversational abilities have improved massively from before this was my habit.

:sob: I genuinely tried, I popped open Minna II to see what I could do, but I’ve never used this series and the format isn’t intuitive to me at all. I simply don’t know what grammar is new or review for one chapter vs the next the way I do after all those months using the Genki series :weary:

But @fallynleaf wrote an excellent topic on Minna no Nihongo tips and tricks that may be able to help!


Thank you for trying!

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