Mistakes you made when you first started learning Japanese

My biggest mistake was assuming Japanese could be translated word by word and then *voila’! you have a sentence!
Nah, i was dead wrong.
Japanese will be my fourth language, after Italian, English and French, and I found out at my expense that you have to FORGET everything you know about sentence construction and re-wire your brain to think in a different way.
Japanese is not just a language, it is a completely different take on communication itself, and even tho after 2 years I can hardly understand anything, I’m loving every second of it :slight_smile:


You dropped this \


Wanikani dropped it, don’t ask me! ¯_(ツ)_/¯

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Is joke

But you have to use three of them ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


In my experience, you don’t need to speak with other people in the language that you are studying, especially in the early stages. I learned English through books and other forms of entertainment, generally by reading and listening, and am now one of the best students in my year; I major in English.
Of course, you might function differently, but unless you know for sure speaking helps you a lot, there’s no need to spend extra effort to get yourself in a situation where you mostly or only have to communicate through speech. Even though probably most people who are studying a foreign language would advise you to talk to natives or people who know the language very well, remember that language learning is different for every person who tackles it. See what works for you in terms of efficiency and enjoyment and go with that.


Well, I think that would depend on your goals, you can’t generalize it like that.
If your goal is to be able to talk to people in Japan as fast as possible (no matter how broken your Japanese might be) then I think not talking to people as soon as you can is a mistake. If you “just” want to learn the language really well and are not in a hurry since you won’t have the opportunity to talk any time soon (and are young and feel like you have all the time in the world anyway) then things might be different.

I also learned English just by consuming different kinds of content and over time things worked out somewhat fine without me even thinking about it. But Japanese is much more difficult for me to learn, I am older and more busy now and don’t want to wait 5 years until I can actually talk to people. My goals and circumstances are different than when learning English (I really want to learn Japanese so that I can communicate while I’M in Japan; it is not something that just randomly happens because of school and media that I want to consume), so my strategy has to be different too.

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That’s a good point, but I feel like no matter what your goal is, you shouldn’t force upon yourself something that would generally make you feel uncomfortable. @Psittacus said that they are a quiet person, so I’m not sure how good of an idea is for them to push themselves to speak with people in Japanese, just to practice. As you said, it all comes down to their goal, but even so, they should still be mindful of how they feel about a learning method.
I don’t want to wait 5 years to speak Japanese fluently either, I am in quite a bit of a hurry myself, but at the same time, I want my learning experience to be somewhat fun. Also, personally, if I were to speak to somebody in Japanese prematurely, I would feel extremely embarrassed, which in turn might negatively affect my overall learning process. In the end, I believe people should find a balance between hard work and a good experience.

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So, so many mistakes.

  1. 14 years ago, when I first “started”, I had the book Japanese For Dummies. I don’t know if this is the case with modern editions, but it literally said “don’t learn kana, it’s too difficult”, so I was learning with romanji and had completely garbled pronounciation and learnt very little.

  2. This year when I decided I would actually buckle down and learn, I thought Genki was too expensive so I signed up for Nihongo Master instead. When I quit that a couple of months ago, I’d spent 80GBP, twice the cost.

  3. Learning under the influence. Chilling with beau in the evenings, enjoying some fine hydroponic flammable produce, then studying after and wondering why I was crawling along at a snail’s pace. I am now off the herb for good and feel like I’ve grown a new hemisphere in my brain.

  4. Letting other people’s opinions and or progress discourage me, like the idiots I used to live with saying “what’s the point” or looking on here and seeing people who’ve spent less time learning and are way ahead of me.

  5. Possibly the dumbest: ignoring a load of Wanikani mnemonics because I thought they were obscure and ridiculous. That is the whole point, you daft numpty. I’m actually learning them properly now and it’s magically working exactly how the wizard @koichi said it would.

Hello, my name is Ru and I learn the hard way!


I used pimsleur or whatever its called. So big of a mistake that I often don’t even refer to that as the start of my japanese studies and skip to right before I started WK.

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Myself I often have to remind myself what my real goal is - it this case it’s learning Japanese, specifically being able to communicate using the language. Sometimes I forget about it and focus too much on the tools I’m using and set wrong goals: finishing a book, learning words/grammar, sticking to my daily routine etc. That includes “burning 'em all on Wanikani”. That’s wrong (and I’m aware of it), but also easy. You can pat your back saying you’re working hard. Little you know how ineffective that hard work may be.
In my experience learning a language (or accomplishing anything in life in that matter) requires a little bit more than just hard work. You have to be intelligent and flexible about it. You have to constantly ask yourself what’s the best way to achieve a goal you’re aiming for and, if it’s not what you’re doing at the moment, you have to change your habits and adapt.
Even if you’re well organized you’re to-do list may contain things like “finishing book/Wanikani until…”, “learning household related words”, “review everyday”, “spent half an hour learning before going to sleep”. That’s praiseworthy and it is hard work, but it doesn’t guarantee to take you where you want to be be, especially if you want to get there fast.
What’s your real goal? Is it speaking Japanese? In what sense? What are you doing to get there? What’s the best way to get there (at the moment and in your case)? What are your strong points related to speaking? What are your weaknesses? How to improve them? How should you practice? Do things you do now take you any closer? What should you change?
All the above may seems obvious, but it’s not easy to apply it to our lives. It really requires stretching your mind often. It may require you to leave the famous “comfort zone”. It may require you to break your habits (and if you don’t replace them with new ones there’s a risk you abandon learning whatsoever). You may loose the feeling of progress if your Wanikani level doesn’t determine it any more. And you won’t be able to take for granted anything any more.
I know we all enjoy learning Japanese, we enjoy it no matter what we actually do. And that makes it especially easy to get lost somewhere along the way, while we wonder and admire the landscapes.
TL;DR: My sole advice is: keep the eye on your goal, work intelligently and be flexible. But still enjoy it and keep it easy. You cannot “learn the language” entirely. Accept it and use what you already know. It’s not that someday you’ll be able to cross out “learning Japanese” from your to-do list. There’s some quantum weirdness to it. In part you’re already there, but still here :slight_smile:


Back in the day when I was still super stupid and even tinier than now (when I was around 12 or 14 or so? no clue), I used to print out lists of Japanese vocab and grammar, proudly put them on my table - and never looked at them again. Yet, I was convinced I knew them by heart and was oh SO good at Japanese.
If only it worked that way…


Two things:

-a sh**load of vocabulary cards. handwritten. An believing after storing the first 1000 words STILL thinking that I would review them on a regular basis. I got confused so easily on what box of card I need to review when and was sorting them in the weirdest way ever. AND I thought : meh, Anki looks so complicated and all the time to store stuff into this and blaaaaah.

Oh lord thank you so much for Anki, I do not know how I could live without this today.

-Buying a TON of research material and never even started. Like for two years. I was hording books on how to lern japanese, I was hording manga in japanese (which are on a level I still cannot read at all, even though those are “easier” ones, not to mention the tons of japanese games I bought while being in Tokyo (granted they were used and very cheap but I have around 50 up to now and still cannot play a single one). I was just assuming that just by surrounding myself with material I would magically learn japanese by myself.
Which of course couldn’t work …

I’m actually kind of proud that I managed to get through the living language series and Genki I (which Genki II being the next) after starting in pure chaos…My face has the expression of complete horror when I open the cupboard with all the japanese stuff that’s filling all of it. I also constricted myself with a buy-ban. NO more additional books, manga, games, whatever until I have cleared everything I have here


Always wanting to learn, I bought books, but never followed through with reading them because I had other “pressing things”. There’s really a difference between just wanting to study something and having reasons why you want to study something. When I actually had reasons, that’s when I had the proper motivation to start and continue learning Japanese.


I did that too XD Sooo many papers flying around in my room…

Not purchasing げんき straight away. It’s one thing to read something like Tae Kim to refer to (which has its place in studying Japanese), but entirely another to have exercises and force yourself to recall and use the information you just learned.

Granted, I work full time and commute, and so I only get about 30-40 minutes a day with げんき and/or WaniKani; however, I’ve made more progress in the last few weeks than I had in the months prior just by adding a textbook and holding myself accountable to it.

It’s no different then reading about how to run a marathon and then not actually running to train for it. You won’t get very far that way.


Haha glad I’m not the only one who believed in learning by printing lol.
Even now, more than 10 years later I keep finding lists here and there, it’s insane :'D


Way too many mistakes to even list them all.

Conjugation - regret not really doing the boring work during Genki I days of really memorizing the different conjugations for verbs and adjectives. Boring, but very worthwhile to really learn them solidly from the beginning.

Anki - nothing against Anki, but spent way too much time making cards instead of studying. SRS is great for memorization but let someone else do the building (like WK!)

Reading, writing, speaking - wish I had found more ways to do all of these sooner


I feel like this is the closest to the struggle I’ve always had. It’s been a lack of consistency based on my mood, not based on where I’m at in my studies.


I can understand this. I’ve tried to make it so that I use Japanese in one way or another every day to make up for not doing actual study because I just don’t feel like it

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I did this same thing. Bought a bunch of beginner books like Genki and Youkoso! and games on Steam that had full Japanese language support without playing them. Got the entire Dragonball manga series (that was expensive!) because I was convinced if I liked the material I would learn it. I bought novels from Half Price Books when I would see them. I actually majored in Japanese in college and I’m not sure how I ever made it through. For my last class I tried to write a report on こころ. Luckily my teacher let me change that to something less ambitious. It still sits on my shelf, mocking me with its presence.

I made the mistake of thinking buying stuff was a good proxy for studying. I also used the “I’m too busy” excuse for far too long.