Need help with learning japanese in general

I’m very much a beginner at japanese. I wouldn’t even say that I’m a beginner, I’m less than that.
The very beginning was quite fun, honestly. I learned to read hiragana in two days, then I started learning katakana but that was a bit slower because my resources weren’t as good as for hiragana.

Then I was advised to start learning some basic kanji early on so that getting through the intermediate wall would be easier later, so I started using WaniKani. The radicals were a breeze, they sticked with me immediately. When the actual kanji came up, I could only remember the meanings. I get 20-30% of the readings correct on the first try, the rest I struggle with even after seeing the reading three times in the last minute. I’ve read people on these forums saying that the first 30 kanji are a breeze, then it gets a bit more difficult. For me, the first 3 kanji were a breeze, then it got impossible. I don’t remember the readings no matter what. If I’m lucky, one reading sticks with me per day.

I’m natively finnish speaking, so pronounciation is quite easy and I have no problems there.

I also tried looking into some very basic grammar. Some other finnish people have told me that grammar is quite easy because it isn’t massively far off from finnish, so I thought I’d look into it just so that when I actually start grammar, it’d be a bit easier. I just don’t manage to wrap my head around how one word can have like 10 different meanings depending on the context, how the whole sentence’s meaning can change with just one particle etc. All I could understand was that the “ka” (I don’t have a japanese keyboard on my PC) particle in the end of a sentence makes it a question.

Long story short, I didn’t understand basically anything. Even if given every single word and particle, their meanings etc. I can’t form even the most basic sentence. I read the theory part over and over again, try forming a sentence, I get it wrong. I’m not that surprised because I’ve been learning japanese for about a week now, but I didn’t think that it wouldn’t be this impossible.

The only actual progress I’ve made is that now I can read (not kanji) and I can understand a very small amount of single words in anime.

So yeah, I’d just like to know how y’all managed to actually learn something and how long it took you. For me, this just doesn’t seem to work and I’m not learning really anything. With this pace, I’ll be 80 before I can reach fluency. I’m still very motivated to learn, but I just don’t know how to.

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Just a quick reply as I’m limited on time (I expect you’ll get a lot of great replies before I’m off work for the day):

You’re at the choice paralysis stage. You have so many things you can do from here, and you’re looking to figure where to go next. This is normal in the very beginning.

I made little to no progress for two decades, then starting making minimal progress for a few years, then started making somewhat fast progress in my area of interest (reading) in the last year and a half. Once you know what your goals are (reading, listening, writing, speaking, watching anime, reading novels, living in Japan, translating Japanese video games), you’ll be able to zero in on where to go next in learning, each step of the way.

Consider the following sentences in English:

  • Please put the milk carton in the refrigerator.
  • Please put the milk carton on the refrigerator.

Not the best example, but after a few days, you’ll find very different results.


Thanks for your reply, it cleared out some things.
I don’t know what my short term goals are, but in the long term I’d want to be able to understand spoken and written japanese. Typing comes after that, and I don’t really have interest in being able to write by hand but if everything else works fine, I might eventually learn that too.
Your example about particles in english helped, but it still feels weird in japanese because of the different word order. I have difficulties with figuring out what the whole sentence means even if I know the meaning of every word and particle. All the languages I know follow the SVO word order, while japanese is SOV so it feels quite confusing, because I can’t use other languages for reference or to help me understand, because translations don’t work out very well. I guess it’s just a question of time then, and I’ll just have to reorient my brain and way of thinking, but that could be quite difficult.
Thanks a lot for your reply!

The readings get easier over time, as you will start to notice patterns, and may even recognize vocab from elsewhere and already have an idea how things should sound.


Word order doesn’t matter, only particles.

(Image from a CureDolly video.)


Word order and the general flow of ideas will fall into place over time. I wouldn’t recommend trying to make too much logical sense of things in the beginning - just accept them as they are and move on. It will click eventually, I promise :slight_smile:


Start from a skimple integrated course. I started with Lingodeer and I think it was an amazing starting point. After I finished the fundamentals I started doing WK and was looking up grammar online. At around lvl 15 I got into italki and started regular classes with a tutor. About 2 years after I got into Japanese I passed JLPT N3. Hope to do N2 this year if it’s not cancelled.


I agree with what @anon1067447 said. Knowing the theory is not enough. You also need to get used to how it works. It takes times. Keep working and eventually these things will fall into place.


When your doing kanji lesson are you using the mnemonics? I know a lot of them seem silly but they really do help to remember the readings, which are my problem point for kanji too. I like to draw a picture of the reading mnemonic when doing kanji lessons. It helps keep the reading in my mind, especially when you get a few levels down and you keep building up on the same mnemonic, like Kouichi. His stick figure is very distinct.


I do my best to memorize the mnemonics. Most of them don’t really stick with me, but some do after a while. The mnemonics for meanings are much easier than for the readings.

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When this happens to me I try to come up with my own mnemonics. Mnemonics work differently on different people. Perhaps the ones that are supplied just don’t suit you. There is a note space in the item page where you can record your own mnemonics if you want to.


I know some people recommend it otherwise, but I think Wanikani should not necessarily be the first step in learning Japanese.

I think learning some basic words and structures without Kanji (or with full Furigana like in many textbooks) can really help.

It feels good already knowing words and seeing “ah that’s how they’re written in Kanji”.


This early on I would focus more on learning and shadowing finished sentences/phrases. Once you’ve learned your first sentences and gotten more acquainted to the actual feel of the language, the grammar and ”theory” will be easier to understand. You’ll have more to relate it all to. So, more focus on acquiring the language at this point rather than learning it, theoretically. Otherwise you might get too stuck thinking about the sentence patterns etc, which can become an obstacle of actually using and practicing the feel of the language. Good luck! You’ll get there sooner than you think! :muscle:

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Today looks like a slow day, as I thought there’d be more activity here by the time I got off of work!


I agree completely with @d-hermit on starting with an integrated course. I can’t suggest any, but I’ve heard good things about the one d-hermit mentioned, LingoDeer. There’s also Tae Kim’s free good, and various textbook courses such as Genki.

Once you have the basics down, you can start to grasp basic written sentences, and you can work up from there. The next step on the grammar path is learning how to look up unknown grammar you encounter when reading.


I recommend finding a flash card SRS program/service that you like and finding a “core” deck to do SRS reviews on. There are decks like the “core 2K” which has 2,000 of the most common Japanese words, or the “core 6K” and “core 10K” which have even more words.

The more words you learn from one of these decks, the closer you get to a point of diminishing returns. The earliest words are the most common, and they get less and less common the longer you go. For this reason, I recommend focusing on learning the the first 1,000 words. That’s really not a whole lot, but it’ll give you a big boost in being able to recognize words.

From there, you can continue with a core deck, or focus on learning words in native material you read. There are a lot of completed book clubs here on the WaniKani forums that have vocabulary lists that could be used for further SRS material, allowing you to learn words targeted to a specific book or comic to read.


Once you know at least basic grammar and vocabulary, the only way to make real progress is to start reading. The aforementioned book clubs provide a lot of discussion that you can benefit from if you decide you’d like to read a comic such as よつばと! or ARIA.


I haven’t gone down the listening path yet, but I know that even knowing all the words and grammar used won’t be enough, due to the difference between how something is written and how it is pronounced. For example, if someone says (in English), “Could you hand me that computer part?” it may come out sounding like “Coulju hanme that compuder part?” (Just today, I had an anime playing in the background, and when a character said 「おまえら!」, it came out sounding as 「おめえら!」)

I imagine this is the same for reading: the more you read (listen), the better you get are recognizing patterns. Eventually you’ll recognize them without even thinking (but that takes a long time and a lot of exposure).


Actually that’s exactly how it would be spelled in writing. The character used a masculine slang version.

I’d say Japanese is pretty straightforward when it comes to mapping written sounds to spoken sounds. You just need a period to adjust to the language phonetics.

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I never expected anyone to give such a detailed reply, so massive thanks to you!

I looked into Tae Kim’s japanese guide, more specifically basic grammar, and I found it very helpful with how it’s laid out, with good examples and clear explanations and all that. I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it, at least somewhat.
I haven’t yet tried LingoDeer but I’ll definitely look into it!

Thanks for all the other recommendations too, I’ll definitely look into all of them.
Again, massive thanks for taking time out of your day!

Thank you to everyone else too, all of you have really helped me!


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