Making learning Japanese fun and enjoyable

Hi all,

I had ran into a major problem. A problem which I never thought I would never suffer from. Actually, let me start from the beginning of my so called ‘journey’ in learning Japanese. Like many here, when I discovered the wonders of the Japanese language I was overwhelmed by its awesomeness. It was almost as if I discovered a whole new world, I was honestly mind blown. I can remember clearly the day I discovered it, I was looking for TV shows similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender which was actually an american cartoon. I was recommended Fullmetal Alchemist on an online forum. All my life I have disregarded Japan despite growing up watching Naruto, Yu Gi Oh, etc. Once I finished the series, I vowed on that day to start learning Japanese, I mean it can’t be that difficult of a language right? I instantly rushed to the internet searching for hours on ’ How to learn Japanese’, ‘Best way to learn Japanese’ etc. I then purchased Genki 1 & 2 and went breezed through them in about 2-3 months. ‘Super easy’, I thought at the time, ‘There’s no way this language is one of the most difficult to learn.’ Hungry to learn more I continued to research other methods such as AJATT. I didn’t particularly like the whole ‘learn like a baby’ thing because it seemed a bit stupid to be honest. Babies and adults are different in many ways. I did however like the concept of sentence mining. At this time, I also discovered WaniKani which at the time was a huge accomplishment as I didn’t know where to go after Genki.

Literally every day, I surfed online for all things Japanese and found posts on Reddit. People just like me and greater levels in Japanese than me sharing their thoughts. A theme which kept occuring throughout the posts was the idea of ‘burning out’. ‘That could never happen to me’ I thought at the time. I was so obessed with Japanese how could I possibly burn out. I continued with WaniKani constantly doing all the reviews and constantly learning all the words as they came. i also continued with sentence mining usng Anki. As months went by I felt my desire for learning Japanese quickly deteriorating. It felt like all the energy and passion I had when I first started was dying. It was around my 17th birthday last year that I just couldn’t take it anymore and I ultimately lost desire. I was still doing reviews and stuff but I wasn’t learning anything new. Earlier this year, the seemingly endless wanikani reviews drove me nuts and I unsubscribed at around level 20 and instead of quitting I tried to find other methods as many language learners do and came across the idea of immersion in native materials. At the time, I was excited because it was definitely better than doing flashcards all the time. This excitement didn’t last very long as I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of words I didn’t know.

I felt stuck. It felt as if there was a brick wall I couldn’t penetrate. I didn’t want to quit because I HATE starting something and not finishing it but at the same time I want to enjoy learning Japanese and not make it like a chore. How do I keep Japanese fun to learn? Do i switch between methods? Do I use textbooks like when i used Genki? Should I use both flashcards and textbooks as well as diving into native materials? It’s all too confusing.

(sorry if I bored you with my life story lol)


Start working through graded reading material (i.e. reading material rated by grade level). It makes reading much more manageable to a relative beginner. (search “graded reader” on the forums)


I don’t have a magic answer, but I can relate in the sense that I am a person who gets really exited about things and gets way into them and then can have the problem that when that “natural” motivation fades, I have a hard time staying dedicated.

I think the best advice is “The best plan is one you don’t quit”.

I think that is the best thing about WK. Not that it’s nessesarily the “best” way to learn the kanji, but it is a structured learning process that I do everyday, even the days i’m “over” learning japanese, or feel super frustrated with my progress.

So thats what I would say. The most important thing is to have some practice (for me it’s WK) that makes me not give up on the process of learning japanese every day. It could be something different for you.

With a challange as long-term as mastering another language, there will always be big ups and downs in your motivation over the span of the years that it takes. The analogy of learning a sport or musical instrument is a good one. If you have every done either of those things you will know that over the years there are days that you feel like you “don’t know anything”, or get demotivated for any number of reasons. But even on those days you still “go to the gym” (sorry to stretch my analogy here).

So the boring suggestions:
-absolutely find native material you are interested in to engage your learning process (and dont forget about things like song lyrics, or even recipies (if you are into cooking), or other things that aren’t books).
-finding a different textbook or grammar resource can let you see things explained in a different way
-reading native materials will be super hard at first, so set you goals differently. Not thinking: im gonna read this manga like I would in english, but I’m gonna try to read and understand 1 page of this book a day
-the book clubs in the forums here are good for getting into reading

But in the end, there are parts of learning a language that are a chore. Memorizing 10,000 vocab words is a chore. Learning to read and write the Kanji is a chore (its a chore for japanese kids too). Reading super basic texts that aren’t that interesting is kinda a chore.

The light at the end of the tunnel is that it doesn’t last forever, you do get better, that wall comes down.

Edit: after rereading this, it feel it comes of as a little to generic sorry. I prob just could have said that I have had and continue to have similar experiences. About every 3 months or so I will feel like I hit some kind of plateau and it is very frustrating, But it has been my experience so far that when I have powered through I come out the other side feeling like my japanese level has improved.


:sweat_smile: … I think you’ve realized now how difficult can be.

Because of that I would recommend striving at achievable goals. At first there’s the wonder of the language itself… the magic of kanji, new grammar and cool words not present in your own language. That for me kept the interest for the first months… Genki (well … textbooks) end up to be a huge energy sucking activity, so I stopped that and went ahead with this after the first 6 months.

Graded readers were the next activity that brought me new hope and made me felt like the gap from total newbie to actually knowing japanese was getting narrower. I would totally recommend that if your only reading practice has been textbooks so far.

While not really into AJATT, the immersion part (MP3 player and JP shows while doing shores) has been really great for getting used to listening :+1: … as an unconscious activity I can vow for the benefits.

While researching it’s very advisable, there’s the version where you wanted to study japanese but most of the day went by looking on “how to study japanese” ( I’m sure many of us have had that experience :disappointed_relieved: ).

Native books, this was the next step to graded readers for me. But hey, I’m talking series aimed at 1st-3rd graders, so there’s that. I can easily go trough the kanjis thanks to what I learned in WK. Vocab wise the routine both in WK and Anki have paid. There’s still lots of new words, but not too many as to interfere with the actual reading.

As for grammar, after Genki 1, I opted for a sentence mining routine and use Grammar reference books to study unknown points. I’m using Genki 2 now to review and check that indeed I know all basic grammar that’s in there. But the whole textbook routine was something very unappealing to me.

Anyway, there’s lots you can do to make japanese learning fun again, particularly putting rewarding activities in every step of the learning process. The material that lead me to learning japanese is now very far from my actual abilities, but I’ve managed to find enjoyable material along the way, so there’s hope :muscle::muscle:

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I had the same doubt with you. I started learning Japanese 20 years when I was a little kid. For the first 10 years, I didn’t find the efficient way to learn Japanese. I restarted to learn when I was in university. I watch drama and movie I am interested, and fall in love into jpop music. I regularly go to Japan and see concert and my target is to be able to speak with my farourite singer.

I passed N2, tried N1 but failed. I didn’t keep going to improve my Japanese. I think that is because of the target I want to achieve. I am able to talk in conversational level like asking question during travel. I found I don’t have motivation to work a bit more harder, because I don’t aim at working in japan and getting professional level. But I do wanna keep Japanese not deteriorating :slight_smile:

So I think the important part is you identify the level you want to achieve. That’s it. You will spend time on it if you are interested in it. No one blames you as you are enjoying what you are doing.


I think the people who have responded thus far have provided excellent points and advice. I believe having goals helps maintain long-term motivation. After reading the OP, I wasn’t too sure what your goals for learning Japanese. You don’t have to share them if you forgot to mention them, but I feel that has always been a standby for me when I’m going through difficult times in my studies. Additionally I feel that getting closer to my goals helps to make the journey of learning more enjoyable. If in the case you hadn’t made any goals, please allow me to expound; for example, only having an overriding “I want to be fluent” type of goal is too vague and hard to determine whether you’re making headway. Using “I want to be fluent” as a starting point start asking “what characteristics does being fluent entail?” or “what kinds of topics do I want to be able to talk about?” Add from those answers begin to tease out smaller more tangible goals like “memorizing the most frequently used 2,000 words” or “having a conversation with someone in Japanese without resorting to English”. I encourage you to write your goals down because over time you’ll start seeing those things to come to fruition. Realize having goals means continually broaden one’s horizon’s. In other words, as you start realizing your goals you should be continually adding new goals to take the place of the one’s you’ve attained.

I think this is a great analogy. Having experienced this personally myself there seems to be a battle of self-worth with goals that become near and dear to you. So I’ve learned that in order to continue with my own progress, I don’t try to compare my progress with another person’s because there’s nothing good that will come of that. I think it’s good to see what people are doing right so that you can implement it on your own, but the “I wish I were/had…” type of mentality is a direct ticket to burn out city. Do what is right/best for you and your circumstances and leave the rest.

I think the most important thing is to not give up. As long as you’re moving forward, you’re progressing. I wish you the best in your studies.


I agree the motivation is the most important element to learn a language.

To keep the motivation, I feel happy and feel like motivated to improve when the local people can understand what I said. And I am able to understand the Japanese website when I plan the travel in Japan (internet surfing japanese hotel website, buying concert ticket, booking a restaurant). It makes me feel good when I am capable to do the plan.

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As others have mentioned, motivation will come and go. A great thing to do it have a plan ahead of time. I think there was something like this one Tofugu, but the simple mentality shift from “If I feel like it” to “I do this no matter what” will help. Doing anything consistently is difficult, but once it becomes a routine, it’s just one of those things, like brushing your teeth. There are probably days you don’t feel like brushing before bed, but hey, you gotta do it. It won’t always be fun. That’s a big thing to consider as well.

Understand that it doesn’t always have to be fun. Think about the players in the World Cup right now. Not every game of soccer is fun for them. But they’ve got to do it. It’s how they pay the bills. Professional musicians, top-level company executives, YouTubers, language learners: we all experience burn-out, and even if we love what we do, it’s not always fun.

As for where to go next, I’m having a great deal of fun re-reading Harry Potter in Japanese. What’s really helping is that I’ve read this complete series in English so many times in the past. If I get stuck, I’ve got enough context to know what something probably means. It’s also pretty nice that it’s a children’s book that scales in difficulty as the series progresses. I don’t know if the same thing happened in the Japanese versions, but I guess I’ll find out.

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