New Learner, looking for some helpful hints

Hello WaniKani Clan persons! Newbie just starting out finally learning Japanese.

I’ve already found this glorious site so I think I’m one up the rest of the learning newbies around but I just was wondering what some of you more seasoned learners would suggest.

I started out with Duolingo with a friend and found it super fun and have since used tofugu and now WaniKani to supplement the shortcomings of Duolingo, but I would love suggests on other apps, or books, or even podcasts/youtube videos that could help get me a little closer to my goal of being fluent.

Thanks in advance :slight_smile:

Genki is a popular textbook for Japanese grammar, and you can pair it with its workbooks to get a lot of good basic grammar practice. If you want something that’s more WK-like for grammar, look into Bunpro (it is paid). If you prefer something free, Tae Kim’s grammar guide is very popular (though there are may other online sources that teach you most of the basic N5/N4 grammar). There’s also the YouTube channel 日本語の森 that’s great for grammar + reading and listening practice.

For vocab, lots of people use Anki or Memrise. Memrise has lots of user-made decks that have plenty of great Japanese vocabulary. Anki has this as well, though some people don’t like the UI and don’t care for the customization it may require. There’s also, which is paid, but has great example sentences and audio to accompany them, as I understand.


Here is a list of resources the community has compiled.

Having a path is the best way to go. First, set your goals. Why do you want to learn the language? Is it a short-term reason (“I need to pass at least N4 to be accepted at this job/school”, “I want to learn just the basics in case I plan to go to Japan”, etc.) or long-term (“I need at least N2 to have an edge in Japan”, “I am really passionate in learning the Japanese language and their culture”, “I want to be a Japanese. Lol”, etc.). If you’re aiming short-term, Wanikani, Duolingo, and Bunpro will suffice along with watching anime or dramas left and right, but if you want to go long-term then you have to supplement yourself with textbooks.

Going that way, you have to learn to read and write Hiragana and Katakana first for a about week, and then you can start with Genki as was suggested by our other community members, or Minna no Nihonggo I and II. Each volume has a Japanese Workbook and an English Guidebook. If you can’t afford having a personal tutor due to a busy schedule, you can self-study. For each lesson, read the Vocabulary section of the English book first, list them all on an app like Anki or Japanese so you can quiz them, proceed reading the Grammar guide, and then off to the Japanese workbook. Finishing a chapter might take a day or three and each volume is comprised of 25 lessons. After lesson 50, if you’re doing it with consistently with Wanikani for your Kanji comprehension, you can pass the N4 exam. The book has a CD for listening practice.

For N3, you have to pick a path again. I finished Tobira and its workbook and got a good vibe during the N3 exams last July. I started learning last June 2017.

To summarize:

Step 1: Learn Hiragana and Katakana
Step 2: Consistent Wanikani (and others if you wish so)
Step 3: 初級 (Beginner) textbook (Genki, Minna no Nihongo)
Step 4: Listening practices
Step 5: Improvise and always question.

and Enjoy! :slight_smile:

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Welcome. My first recommendation is to steel yourself – Japanese doesn’t joke around (no really, the kanji used for ‘joke’ 「冗談」 translate literally as ‘useless conversation’, no jokes allowed here), and you should be prepped to put in a bit of work most every day for the next couple years to get beyond a grade-schooler’s level of literacy (and even then the grade schoolers will probably know more grammar and vocab than you). If I haven’t scared you off yet, there are a lot of great products (like WaniKani) that strive to make Japanese accessible to us poor sods who are no longer grade-schoolers who can just absorb a language like a language sponge.

As for how to proceed . . . well, different things work for different people, but if I had to prescribe something:

  1. Learn your kana.
  2. Get started on figuring out grammar. Grammar is the engine of the language, without it you can’t do anything. You’ll have to shop around and decide what textbook works best for you.
  3. Learn your kanji, preferably yesterday. If grammar is the engine of our language, kanji are the wheels that let us move. WK is a pretty solid option, but other resources (Kodansha Learner’s Course, RTK) exist with their own strengths and weaknesses.
  4. I’ve listed grammar and kanji in sequential order, but really you should be learning these at the same time. If we wait to get our grammar/kanji perfect before starting anything else, we’ll never get anywhere. No, we’ll be driving our language along well before those are perfected (spoiler, they’ll never be perfected), and that means you need to have both in some sort of working order to get anywhere. You’ll keep building them up as you go along
  5. Vocab. If we’ve got our engine and our wheels, vocab is the body of our car. We look pretty when we’ve got good vocab. WK provides a pretty good foundation, and you can do a lot by acquiring the rest of your vocab organically through exposure/use/keeping track of new ones in Anki or HouHou.
  6. Consume Japanese media/use what you know – learn by doing. In my personal, non-professional opinion, textbooks are boring as hell. They definitely work for some people, but I glaze over almost immediately. If you’re like me, then once you’ve got a bit of grammar, kanji, and vocab in barely-functional order, you’re ready to hit the road! Kind of. Unfortunately your grasp of the language is tenuous at best, so you’ll have to start out with really simple things (e.g., NHK Easy), and even those will be frustrating. Soldier on, I believe in you. Don’t be afraid to crack open a dictionary (or just type it into an online E-J dictionary) for words you don’t know, and I know I said I hate textbooks, but sometimes they’re useful shudder a textbook for grammar reference if you can’t make heads or tails of what you’re seeing. And definitely look over a textbook before you start trying to consume media. Don’t skip Step 2. You don’t have to religiously pore over the textbook, but you need to pick up the basics from somewhere, or else your gonna have a bad time, I don’t care what immersionists say.
    The type of media/usage you should look for depends on what you aim to do with the language. Do things that let you practice the things you want to get good at. I personally have no intention of becoming fluent any time in the foreseeable future, so I don’t worry too much about picking up speaking or writing. I definitely want to be able to read, so I read the newspaper, and maybe I’ll want to watch an anime or a movie or two in the original language, so I work on my listening skills. Oh, don’t be afraid to admit that something’s too hard. Save it for later and work on something a little bit easier. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration, and you’ll probably learn faster to boot.
  7. Keep on keeping on. I’ll be the first to tell you that this language is a massive pain in the ass. Sometimes the unreasonableness (I’m looking at you, uncommon readings) will make you want to scream and curse at the heavens. Sometimes I think Japanese is proof that God exists because it’s impossible for such a language to have sprung into existence naturally. However, it’s also super rewarding when you make breakthroughs and see how much progress you’ve made, and, eventually, if you persevere through years of stuffing kanji and seemingly arcane grammar points into your brain you can proudly claim that you’ve surpassed the Japanese grade-schooler and become something more. A Japanese high-schooler or something.
    Dramatics aside, you’ll finally be able to access whatever inspired you to start learning in the first place in the original language (mostly, there will still plenty of new heights of mastery to be attained), and that’s pretty darn cool. If you take the proficiency tests, you can put those on your resume, and maybe you’ll even get a job out of it. Sky’s the limit.

Wow, that went a lot longer than I intended. I’m severely sleep-deprived, so forgive the flamboyance towards the end there. Best of luck to you, grasshopper, and good night.


Thanks! this is really helpful. I 'm definitely going to solidify my goals a little more so I can strive for it more clearly. My friend has Genki and I have some snippets from it that I will start using to see if the format works for me in the long run.

  1. That post was very helpful, the personality in it was great too, made the read a lot smoother and personable :slight_smile:

  2. Thank you, I will probably look at your list often to help keep myself on track and motivated, since I want to essentially be able to speak I may be more heavy handed in the anime department (not arguing against this either, I’ve been sorely lacking in my anime binge sessions) but I think picking up a newspaper might be really cool too!

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I mostly recommend NHK Easy because it’s written for kids by native speakers, and it’s free. Just a good place to rev your engine for the first time (and realize, gee willikers this is tough; like anything, you’ll get better with practice). If/when you do go the anime route, watch with Japanese subtitles. English subtitles can really inhibit your ability to learn from anime. This probably means starting out with children’s shows. Keep in mind that reading and listening are two different skills, so you need to practice both of them.

yeah, I’ve already hit a road block with the reading vs. listening stuff, definitely a whole different beast but I will learn, I have many aspirations surrounding Japanese. And I’m having a blast learning it too, even though I can see how it’s going to be a pain in the rear end :wink:

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