My Challenge: From 0 to speaking proficiency in 6 months

I tried Pimsleur after hearing so many recommendations, but that first lesson was 28 minutes of dissecting a 10 second conversation. I don’t have enough fortitude to handle that level of repetition.


Hi ! A 3 month trip, that sounds nice !

I mostly agree with what has been said. It’s ambitious but probably not impossible. Especially if your comprehension is focused on very specific day to day usage of the language.

I have a similar experience than you, but in Spanish rather than in Japanese. So it’s in a different league in terms of difficulty.

I was planning to stay 3 month in Spain in order to learn the basics of Spanish.So with 0 experience in this language 3 months prior to departure, I started learning on my own. When I arrived in Spain, I was picked up by a local at the airport to bring me where I would stay. He could only speak Spanish, nothing else. I was understanding him more or less, but replying, that was almost impossible for me.
Upon my stay there I took 1 month of intensive class (4hours/day). The rest of the time I would spend visiting. By the end of my 3 month there, I could talk on daily topics, talk about something I did or something I plan to do. Officially I obtained a A2 level. By language standard, it’s not a lot, but the few things I knew I could use rather efficiently.

Spanish is rather an accessible language given my background but the point is, it might well be that when you arrive you won’t be able to talk, but if you are consistently in situation where you need to communicate, I’m sure you will improve a lot during your stay. (Especially if you’re travelling alone)

Good luck with your studies !


neither do I. lol I tried just doing it mindlessly in the car. After I think the 5 or 6 lesson I realized I wasnt even trying anymore.

When I read the title, Ti thought “Wow, that very ambitious” but after reading your post, I understand better your aim and while it is definitely challenging, it´s not impossible.
For Wanikani, I don´t feel it will be too slow or restrictive for you for very long, in a few levels you will have much more items :slight_smile: And the speed won´t feel slow at all XD The more kanji you will learn here, the more vocabulary you will get later on ^^ But it is definitely a good idea to complete Wanikani with other tools so you can directly learn the vocab you will need.
However, you don´t mention grammar anywhere. Honestly, while vocab is very important, grammar is very important too. Or maybe I didn´t understand correctly ? Try to go through basic grammar so you can talk and understand when you will be there.
Anyway, good luck and enjoy your trip in Japan !!!

Others have said this already but for your specific short term goal you’re allocating way too much time to non-speaking activities. If you’re willing to spend money, I would suggest you buy the full Miku Real Japanese course so you have everything available for your 6 months time frame. These are audio based so you may actually be able to use them more often than things that require sit down study. You’ll learn things that are actually said (you’ll quickly hear it in the dialogue in your shows), you’ll be forced to practice producing the sounds much more than you would otherwise, and you’ll be focused on “How to express what you want to say” rather than trying to understand some grammar explanation in English. This should set you up nicely for your eventual italki lessons.

If you want to do additional study, learning a bit of Kanji with WK is worthwhile but for vocab, imo you would be much better off getting this inexpensive Collins Visual Dictionary instead of wide netting it with the vocab from Genki. You can pick and choose a small number of things you want to memorize and bring it with you on your trip for quick reference.

I suppose only time will tell if a plan is successful. I’ll be travelling to Japan in August, so I’m creating a 6-month improvement plan with a goal of conversational fluency as well. I’m doing an experiment, so mum’s the word on my actual plan. Sometime in May let’s get on Discord and chat and see how far we’ve both come in our goals!

1 Like

Hey all,

It has been a while since I started this thread.

Here is my ≈2 month update.

I would like to start this with a thank you for all the feedback and tips I received. Especially @SoraR for recommending the Miku Real Japanese course. It’s what I mostly use to practice grammar constructs and pronounciation.

I have a habit of time tracking all my daily activities, this includes learning Japanese.

My stats for December:

This results in 111.8 hours total and an average of 3.61 hours/day for December.
The 31st isn’t quite over yet, so I’ll be tacking on another few hours today :slight_smile:

Again, I don’t learn vocab with WaniKani exclusively, but use it in combination with all the Genki textbook vocab in Anki. This is so I can learn 10-20 new vocabs a day. Will also look into the collins dictionary suggested by @SoraR, but for now this is simply a time thing for me, as I can just use premade Anki Decks. (Again, thank you for the tip @SoraR, you are a champ!)

What I don’t count as “learning” is me watching YouTube videos on Japanese and Anime. I’m trying to listen to as much Japanese as I can to familiarize myself with the language as much as possible and pick up tidbits. I found a few channels I quite like. E.g. Dogen, Miku and NihongoDekita

An update on the learning approach

I have pivoted from pure vocab learning → vocab + listening and grammar.

I still focus most of my time on vocab, because I think it’s vital to know a critical mass of words to be able to understand and form sentences. I’m certainly not the king of languages, but I know three already and have some experience in how “I learn languages”. This may be different for others, but that’s what works for me. So, please bear with me :slightly_smiling_face:

I’m doing roughly 1 hour of listening a day now. Most days it’s more like 1.5 hours.

I find the Miku Real Japanese course awesome for this. It covers a lot and goes through the concepts at a decent speed.

I generally listen to a lesson once. Then again to note down the grammar constructs and all words I don’t know. I have a notion document where I dissect the grammar and visualize it for revision. Then I listen a few more times to practice.

She structures her course with monthly lessons, e.g. 5 audios/month. I find this a bit too slow, so I’m doing 1 month’s worth in 2 weeks, overlapping the next month by one week.

Current distribution for listening/grammar and vocab:

Will be here with another recap in a month

Happy holidays and a Happy New Year everybody :slightly_smiling_face:


Well done! I think focusing on vocab and basic grammar is definitely the way to go. You can go a long way with only N5 grammar if you have the vocabulary.

1 Like

It looks like a good plan overall. I would say once you get a little over 2k vocabulary (about N4 lvl vocab), use that vocab time for shadowing, live partner practice and immersion.

1 Like

Nice update and Happy New Year!
Looks like you’re serious serious

About the Collins Visual Dictionary, if you’re planning on continuing to put this amount of hours in with Anki, I would still recommend getting it but more to serve as a quick reference for when you’re in Japan rather than a vocab study source. It’s inexpensive and portable, and sometimes you don’t expect to need to know something specific until you suddenly do. When it’s no longer useful to you, a fellow traveller may find it helpful.

I think I may have a better suggestion for you to draw new Anki material from after you’re done with the pre-made decks for Genki 1 and 2. I assume this would be after your next update though so if you’re interested, you can always let me know then.
(Free resource)

If you don’t mind though, because of how committed you are (3.61 hours/day!!), I want to make one more recommendation that costs money. I suggest you do this Kana Pronunciation Course with Tezuka Sensei. There is also a trial version. From my experience and most likely your experience as well for the language(s) you’re native in, speaking proficiency is usually judged by (What you say) x (How you say it). Miku’s audio addresses the first part and this should help with the second. Since you are doing so much shadowing, confirming you have the sounds down should have a multiplier effect on that practice.

I have taken lessons with Tezuka Sensei before and she’s very willing to adjust the material to your level. There is more to pronunciation than just hiragana and katakana so if she finds that you are already proficient at those, she will happily move on to other things. Meshclass also has an excellent (imo) youtube channel that she features in.

Looking forward to your next update


What’s up

Another month has passed since my last update.

Here is my ≈3 month update.

I have been working away at learning as much vocab as I can, while also putting significant effort into listening comprehension and shadowing. I have also worked through most of Genki 1 and had my first talking lesson with a native japanese teacher via italki.

At this point, learning Japanese has become more like a full time job for me. I do get a ton of enjoyment out of it though, so it doesn’t really feel like that. I spend pretty much every free minute learning Japanese.

In January I learned 155.7 hours and an average of 5.02 hours/day.

I’m seeing significant improvements in reading ability, plus I understand a lot of Japanese conversation. Listening to native Japanese people speaking at their natural speed for a month definitely helped a lot.

Current distribution of time invested all in all (Nov 2022 - January 2023; including):

Will be here for another recap in a month.

Happy learning



It looks like you’re doing a great job! If you’re comfortable with it, I would suggest starting a small daily diary, IN JAPANESE, detailing some of the things you learned or studied that day, and then review that diary with your language app teacher weekly. I wouldn’t normally suggest that for someone so early on into their study, but since you have a goal of speaking, output practice is important.

1 Like

Thanks for the suggestion @Chocobits

I’m currently recording every session and watch them back to see what I could have done better. I also already have a study log, where I note down how far I have come per week.

I don’t really have “teacher”. Also small discalimer, I have only done 2 trial lessons so far. I go into the talking lessons more to practice conversation. That said, they obviously tell me when I make mistakes and how to correct them.

Thanks again for the encouragement :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

This is quite a late update for February, but I guess better late than never.

Here is my ≈4 month update (just 10 days before the 5 month update :upside_down_face:)

I shifted my focus more towards grammar with the goal of finishing Genki 1 and Genki 2 by the end of March, which I’m well on track on.

I ramped up the conversation practice via iTalki. Currently doing 2 hours per week, will probably ramp it up to 3 hours per week in April (the last month of the challenge). I feel this has a massively positive impact.

In February I took a short break from new Kanji lessons on WaniKani to focus more on the grammar, but I have since gone back to doing one level per 7 days

Here are the numbers for February:

In February I learned 161.63 hours and an average of 5.21 hours/day.

Reading is getting more comfortable. I do half an hour of reading every 4 days. It doesn’t feel like I’m a first grader learning to read anymore, although it’s still not easy by any means.

Current distribution of time invested all in all (Nov 2022 - February 2023; including):

Will be here for another recap in a few weeks.

Happy learning.



As someone who started taking in person 1-on-1 speaking classes after ~2 years of literally grinding Japanese alone, what I can say is

This is the way

As a very personal take I would recommend heavily prioritizing speaking or doing it in parallel to other things. Leaving it for much later is a Bad Idea ™


Yeah, I agree that outputting and practicing speaking is absolutely vital. I see a ton of progress from it.

I can imagine 3h/day in person speaking will help a ton, but tbh I don’t think it’s necessary. I currently do 2 hours of conversation practice per week. Probably going to up it to 3 hours per week. I do a bunch of shadowing as well, which helps a ton. Shadowing around 1.5 hours a day.

1 Like

I don’t really agree, but if you do this, you need to put a ton of effort into pronunciation and listen a ton (which you should do a lot in the beginning anyway). Otherwise it will super hard to fix your pronunciation later. Only by listening and mimicking will you develop good patterns and pronunciation. That’s why I think generally it’s recommended to wait output until you have developed some sense of how the language works and sounds. You can’t really now how something is said until you have heard and understood it first.

Personally I found that speaking came quite quickly having a solid base in listening and reading. I don’t really want anyone to feel pressured to do it early.

1 Like

When just starting out, of course speaking practice should be done under supervision otherwise one develops bad habits and honestly if most of the input is anime, there is a reasonable chance of that happening.

Yeah. Often that just unfortunately isn’t the case especially in class where the teacher can’t really focus on all the students talking to eachother. And even then pronunciation is not really a big focus in the classroom. So hiring a full time tutor the moment you start is rarely the case.

I don’t think those habits are that lasting, honestly :sweat_smile:. More funny than anything, and will fix themselves with more “real” content. Better than nothing, really.


なんだと!? キサマ :durtle_stabby: