Mistakes you made when you first started learning Japanese

What’s a good way to remeber the vocabulary?


Reading manga as fast as I can and forgetting more than half of it the week after.


For beginners, try out either Memrise, Anki, or any similar app/program that works off SRS! Both are very popular (and useful) resources, but if you want other ideas then check out this thread:

A good piece of advice when it comes to learning vocab (this actually applies to grammar and kanji as well) is to try to get reading practice! This may be tough low level, but any sort of exposure to Japanese on a regular basis (even if you can’t understand most of it) will really help! To really remember stuff, you have to make sure you’re seeing the stuff out in the wild rather then just constantly being tested on it in an app.

1 Like

I took six years of Italian and couldn’t even make a sentence beyond Io sono Americano

when I started learning Japanese I used Memrise. I decided I wanted to learn Kanji and accidentally thought N1 is the easiest level. 100 Kanji compounded words and lots of guesswork later, I figured that I should reevaluate this statement.

Oh yeah btw, I am currently in the pain of starting to using wanikani while being pre-immediate. YAY LEVEL 1!!!11!!!1111!oneeleven


My biggest mistake was learning the formal 〜ます forms of verbs first. As a result, when I first learned about て form it really broke my brain and took three times as long to understand it/master going from one from to the other. If I could do it again, I would start with the dictionary forms first and THEN learn that you can modify them to make the polite, since a lot of grammar is built on the dictionary form NOT the polite form.

Oh god, this is exactly what happened to me and it broke my brain so much I quit my uni course because of it. A full semester learning polite form Japanese and all of a sudden they throw て form in the mix and it felt like I was starting over completely. Now I’m learning dictionary form first and the language finally makes sense to me

I think most Japanese courses do this because they are focused on getting you speaking first, which does make sense but it is then so much harder to get a grasp on the rest of the language


I reckon most courses start with ます-form because that’s pretty much everything you need in order to function as a tourist in Japan.


That’s true. Plus -ます verbs are easier to conjugate so for people new to the idea of conjugation, it’s a lot more friendly. Personally I never had any problems with learning -て form conjugations, but I guess I was just lucky.

1 Like

Had a similar situation early on thinking that N1 was the easiest level. Spent a very frustrated hour trying to look up references for it and not being able to understand a single thing.


Yeah, agreed, and my teacher said that her experience suggested people who learnt dictionary form first really struggled to get used to polite form, because it’s not necessary to speak ‘correctly’, whereas you have to learn dictionary form in order to be able to use many structures.

Plus her opinion was that she would rather we sound overly formal/polite than be rude if we visited Japan ^^

But maybe it then depends on how you’re taught to form ~て form etc.


After 8 years of German, one of the only things I can say are “hallo” and “Ich weiss nicht”


I’m still a newbie (only started learning Japanese in December) but for me:

  1. Katakana. Still a bit wobbly with that. Am I the only one who just prefers hiragana?

  2. Remembering to take my time / prioritising. Japanese is my 3rd language. German is my 2nd, and I’m actually living and studying in Germany right now to get to a C1 level (currently B2). I have to remind myself that my Japanese goals are much more long-term than my German ones, and that German is my priority at the moment. But that’s a very personal ‘mistake’ to make… right now, I guess Japanese vocabulary and grammar is still pretty novel and (dare I say it) fun, whereas with German it’s just a case of learning ALL THE WORDS so I can be more expressive in writing/speaking.

  3. Just looking up random words with jisho.org to learn. I don’t know if I’ll ever take the JLPT - I’m learning so when I go back to Japan I can actually communicate and not stand awkwardly by while my sister arranges everything - but finding out there was an option to filter results by JLPT levels was a lifesaver for me. I like to add 3-5 new kanji to my Anki deck every day, and I just get them from the JLPT5 list.


Wieso hast du überhaupt Deutsch gelernt, wenn du es eh nicht brauchst?
Oder musstet ihr in der Schule eine Fremdsprache auswählen, und du hast dir gedacht, Deutsch ist die einfachste? xD


I think it would have been fine if i knew that I was learning a specific form for politeness but I was under the impression I was learning ‘Japanese’ so when the rules changed it was a massive shock because as you say, what I was learning was easy to conjugate and then it suddenly stopped making any sense

ます was easy because all the stems stayed the same. When we shifted to plain form and the last vowel sound sometimes changed which comletely changed the ‘letter’ you would use was too much. And without understanding of kanji either I couldn’t tell what parts of the words would change and what wouldn’t

I know better now and everyone here on wanikani will too because there is no ますform here but every now and again I’ll see someone say ‘Japanese isn’t that hard, I mean you just say something and put です on the end. Simple’ and I know their world is going to be rocked in the same way

Like, I totally get why they do it that way but it just did not work for me


Don’t worry, I also took a while to fully be able to read all Katakana. They really are harder to memorize than Hiragana.
I can recommend putting Japanese everywhere in your life if possible, like following Japanese people on social media, playing games in Japanese,…

About your 3rd point- I’d recommend trying Houhou instead of Anki! http://houhou-srs.com/
It doesn’t have an Android app, and the developer currently paused development, but as it is right now I really enjoy it way more compared to Anki.

1 Like

Wow, I feel like I understood 70% of that! Better than what I thought.

So, yeah, I had to learn German for school. So 4 years junior high, plus three years high school, plus one year university, at which point I FINALLY managed to switch to English.

I actually enjoyed learning German until the third year, when I had a pretty bad teacher and more or less gave up. After one year of basically forgetting everything, it was pretty much downhill all the way.

I kinda regret it, though. My adult self would tell my kid self to just learn on their own. My kid self didn’t even know that was an option.

I also just discovered in the last few years that you can achieve so much more if you learned on your own, with your techniques, and the way you want.
Not to mention that I don’t care about half of the subjects I learn in my school (which is already specialized in electronics) and that I will only need 2 or 3 of them for my future.
If I learned those subjects the way I learn Japanese right now, it would only take maybe 2 years instead of 5.
Ok, but to be fair, understanding stuff from other fields can help you get a broader view of everything.

You don’t have English as a mandatory subject, but German instead? Is your school insane? xD
May I ask where you live and if that is normal in your education system?

So your teacher didn’t want to teach you Japanese correctly, but just Japanese for visiting Japan?

Edit: changed “teach correct Japanese” to “teach Japanese correctly”

I’m from France, and it’s normal. I assume that it’s because French and German are the “official” languages of the European Union.

That being said, we need two foreign languages AT LEAST. If you picked German, you HAD to pick English as second (that is third) language. If you picked English first, you could pick whatever was available (at least German and Spanish, and often Italian but different schools will have different options).

We had a sample class of English and German while I was in elementary school, and I liked German better. The problem, though, is that once you make your decision (at the mature age of 10), IT CANNOT BE CHANGED, EVER. That was mostly fine with me, but my university was only allowing ONE foreign language, due to my major (I mean, I could still attend more, but I would not receive credits for it). In my case, that would have meant to keep going with German for at least 5 more years. So I did all I could to switch (including attending the final test of the English class without even being officially registered) and they finally gave up.

For another suggestion, Google Street View is a great way to see kanji in the real world. Just plonk the little man down anywhere near a major train station, and wander at random.