Mistakes you made when you first started learning Japanese

Back when I first started learning Japanese in classes, our teacher would teach us one new set of hiragana a week. This of course, meant that hiragana ended up taking over 2 months for us to learn. And the best part was that even after all that time, when we came to do a test on the Japanese we had learned, we were allowed to look up the kana if we couldn’t remember them. Over 2 months, and I couldn’t even remember half the kana.

Whenever I found a word I didn’t know, instead of using a Japanese-English dictionary, instead I would copy and paste the word into google translate. On top of that, I decided that the best way to learn kanji would be to pick a kanji (any random one) out of the N1 kanji list and try to learn 1 kanji per day. Apparently I thought I would be a kanji expert in no time. And of course, when it came to vocab I thought that once I had wrote down a word I encountered in my notebook, I thought that at that point that word was as good as learned.

Sometimes when I listen to Japanese or try to read something out of my level, I question whether I have really learned anything at all, but when I look back at where I was just 2 years ago, I realise I’ve actually learned a lot not just about Japanese, but also about how to study Japanese.

Does anyone else have any embarrassing confessions about methods of studying they used when they first started learning Japanese that later turned out to be a complete waste of time? Or are you all just perfect?


I took Japanese in high school (only in my first year). I can’t remember us even looking at kanji. I thought “well, what’s the point in learning kanji when you can write everything with hiragana anyway”.

Since I ended up here a good ten years later I’m sure you can understand how well that worked out for me… ¯_(ツ)_/¯


When I was about 10 I had one of the Pokemon games in Japanese. I thought I could read/translate it by taking the text input from the name select screen and make a table that equates all the Japanese kana to the latin letters at the same position on the keyboard in the western versions. You can guess how well that worked. :stuck_out_tongue:


Probably the biggest one for me was trying to learn words without learning the kanji first. Like when you’re going through Genki and Tae Kim.


I’m still really early in my Japanese studies but the mistake I’m making now is not talking to Japanese people or other Japanese learners in the physical world/my class (only talking to other learners on Wanikani forums). I’m just too quiet a person. As a result, my reading and writing is great but speaking is pretty much non-existent.

I’m going to try and make some friends this semester, I’ve applied to be a buddy for a Japanese exchange student and I plan to volunteer at a Japanese festival in the summer so that I can practice speaking and listening.


Like some others my mistake years ago was thinking I could just ignore kanji because it seemed too hard and just learn ‘the rest’ of japanese.

This of course didn’t work and learning kanji first now I realised that its like a japanese learning superpower!

Also thinking I would take loads in iust watching anime. It really doesn’t do anything without outside study. Consuming media is more for reinforcing your studies that study itself


I didn’t make a mistake persei, but the biggest thing for me was staying committed in the beginning.

I tend to move between hopeless depression and obsessive hopefulness when it comes to my study, but whenever I’m down I remember where I started, not even being able to read kana, now, here I am understanding kanji (a tiny bit). Hearing the occasional word from a show and knowing what’s going on, understanding some grammar and now actually enjoying how things like desu and the ha particle work. All this after only a few months.


I never memorized katakana :x therefore, I can barely remember how to write it and I can read about 30% of katakana words. I can read/write hiragana no problem though. I always just wrote in romanji for katakana on exams. I’m like 12ish years later from taking Japanese in college and I’m just now conquering that one.

Also, not writing in my workbooks. I spent way too much time copying the questions into a separate notebook. Write in your notebooks. It commits you to finishing it, I think. By preserving them, it’s like giving yourself an excuse to go backwards and need to do it again.

I also get really motivated and eager, make way too much work for myself, and then get burnt out and give up. I spent too much energy writing things down I never read again, or cramming too much information at a time. I read something @koichi recommended: always stop studying Japanese when you WANT to keep going, that way you’ll be more excited to get back to your lessons and keep going with them. Freakin’ genius right there.

So, that’s my $0.02 :slight_smile:


I used to make all of my vocab decks by hand…I had no idea of the existence of Anki until I started studying for N3. Poor index cards…I spent a lot of time on those when I could’ve just been clicking away in Anki D:

I already threw them all away when I cleaned up for the new year but I think I had about 500 and I would put it in these things


Meee too. So many index cards. I had shoebox files of them.


I would study grammar by itself, but I could barely practice the grammar because I learned so few words that I could only make a handful of sentences that made sense.

also, I thought that spending money on a book would give me a reason to read it, and me reading it would increase my skills, but I couldn’t read the book at all, and you need context to use context clues.


About the time I reached near the end of Genki 2 I think I got antsy and started thinking I knew more than I did. I never ended up doing those actual chapters, and even to this day I know the causative and passive worse than anything else in the book because that’s what’s at the end of the book.

But it’s not just that, I ended up being a lot more scattered with my learning and trying to read things way beyond my ability because I was really overestimating my ability.


The first time I went to Japan I was 18 and so worried about saying something incorrectly that I barely said anything. Needless to say, my speaking ability didn’t improve much!


I was in pretty much in the same position as what @Syphus described: felt overconfident at the end of Genki 2, sped through the last few chapters, and then jumped right into material I wasn’t ready for, but could muddle through.

It took quite a while before I was able to resume grammar studies, because I got “enough”, but it came at the cost of not being able to really identify what I didn’t know.

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Is hand writing flash cards a bad idea?

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Not exactly, it’s just that it takes more time and effort, plus if you make a writing mistake, you have to throw it away (poor thing).

But if hand writing flash cards makes you memorize faster, or you personally enjoy it more then go ahead! :smile: nothing wrong with that at all! :tomato:

oh and I always see your avatar and it makes me so happy 'cause that anime feels so underrated sometimes.


I never learned katakana and never bothered to study it because it felt like a pain and I thought I could just live without it…
oh wait, I haven’t fixed this mistake—

I’m a university student that took the JLPT N3 last December (and likely passed), but at my university I’m taking a Japanese Language 101 class where I fail my katakana quizzes because I can’t write them and ソ、ン、シ、ツ still look painfully similar even though I know the difference :blush::sparkles:

Reading out loud is embarrassing because I do okay with kanji and hiragana and suddenly I’m sounding out sounds when I hit a katakana word…

Another mistake was thinking I could read Natsume Soseki’s novels if I just looked up all the kanji rather than shooting for something reasonably at my level.


The only thing I remember was buying a tuttle book of hiragana and katakana and I brought it to high school all the time and wrote all the runes 50 times and it WORKED


Hmm, I used Tofugu’s guides to learn hiragana and katakana and from there I came here to learn kanji and vocab. It’s only been 4 months since I started, so there wasn’t really any time to develop an embarrassing study method or anything like that.
Although I guess I did waste a little bit of time when I used Duolingo on the side back in October-November…


When I got started I was super eager. I had always felt like Kanji were the most beautiful signs I had ever seen, and it was some sort of secret code that I would never ever be able to get the hang of. …So on a whim I just jumped in somewhere at random. I didn’t have any text books at the time. I just started memorizing complete sentences that I found in user-created Memrise courses (50 essential Japanese blah blah…) :joy: Without any grammar or separate vocabulary, so I had no idea what those sentences meant. Super hard to cram in. Then I visited Japan and found people weren’t using those exact sentences at all! Just a complete waste of time. :laughing:

I’m still looking for a way to study properly at this point, even. There are no courses nearby that I could sign up for, so it’s all me this time. :muscle: