On and off with Japanese

Hi there!

Not sure what I’m expecting by putting this out there but I want to share where I am on Japanese language learning journey and my frustrations. Here it goes!

I have been trying to learn Japanese on and off for around 6-8 years now. I haven’t been very successful at this. I study dedicatedly for 2-4 months and then something happens and I lose touch with learning Japanese for 5-6 months. Each time I pick up japanese again I feel guilty. My inner gremlin voice says “Oh what’s the point, you’ll just try again and then give up like the previous x number of times”. Each time I get overwhelmed by the sheer number of resources and things to do. I never know what to dedicate my energy to – making flashcards? Working through a textbook? 1 on 1 speaking sessions with a native speaker? Grammar? Vocabulary? Kanji? Graded readers? Immersing myself in culture and media? It is overwhelming.

Now, I know that everyone has that gremling voice and that you must do your best to not let it get to you. So I continue pushing ahead and start studying again. Each time I pick up my studies, I end up a bit further than where I was. But of course, I have been moving very slowly and am still quite the beginner. Boy this is frustrating :sweat_smile:

So. Here I am again, picking up where I have left off. I have scheduled 1 on 1 lessons with an instructor on Verbling.com and have re-started my WaniKani daily reviews. It has been 4 months since I last looked at anything written in japanese. I really hope to end this cycle of on and off studying and stick to it this time.

I would love to hear if anyone has had similar experiences and what works for you to keep you going forward in learning Japanese. Thanks for reading :slight_smile:


I’ve been in a similar situation and got back to studying just recently. I’ve reset my WK level a few times and now I have started over from the beginning.

Maybe making a study log will keep you studying on, as it’s not only for logging what you studied but also to reflect on your own progress.

Anyhow, keep up the good work. I’ll be rooting for you


Been there, done it. And I keep doing the same thing. Although this is my first time on wanikani I have had the same problems with other learning platforms. My take on this is that there’s nothing I can do, I just stay around as long as I can and stay away from thoughts of imminent burnout.


By the way @rkuk it’s okay to take a break sometimes. Don’t force it, just enjoy the process :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

1 Like

Maybe finding something that will keep you motivated might help? Of course that goes without saying but anime has really helped me when it came to committing myself.

Find something you want to enjoy in Japanese or maybe a specific goal you want to achieve and use that to keep yourself wanting to learn more. Since this is a long term commitment, you’ll need to like what you’re doing :wink:

And of course since motivation doesn’t always stay, following a routine keeps you in check. Just know that as you keep going you’ll understand how to go about it better so it’s okay if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just keep trying new things and ditch whatever doesn’t help.


Hi fellow level five. I have decided to do wanikani till I feel confident to get out there and look at other things. I can manage what I am asked to do to make progress. So every day after lunch do my reviews and another lesson. Then in the evening I look at my reviews again,might do some of them. What is Verbling. com would like to know?


I haven’t been on and off with Japanese but with French and now entirely given up French.

For me, I found having a good teacher helps. It made it a commitment for me that after each lesson, I said to my teacher see you next week. That keeps me going. Also, I started writing diary in Japanese (just a few sentences each day) and each week read to my teacher and she will correct me. It is something she said she looks forward to hearing each week. So that keeps me going too.

Another thing I do is to think 10, 15, or 20 years ahead if I continue or not with learning, where I would be. If you are a visual person, print or draw out what you wanna be in the future and look at it regularly.

BTW, I was on vacation mode here for over 1 year as I found it overwhelming and wasn’t helping me. I think whenever things getting too much, take a break. Now I am not doing new lessons and focusing on getting my Guru numbers down first.

A bit too long apologise.


Haha yes, sometimes a break just makes things easier to learn in the future. Thanks for the reminder and the support! :slight_smile:

I guess it’s easy to fall into the trap where you feel like you need to keep on doing more – which leads to feeling bad when you can’t keep up with each and every new resource thrown your way. Thanks for reminding me that it’s ok to ditch some things :sweat_smile:

Hmm in terms of motivation, manga and anime are definitely in the books but I really picked up japanese to be able to learn more about a different culture and just enjoy the different viewpoints and perspectives. Honestly I would love to dive deeper in japanese storytelling but the ability to do so seems so far away!

1 Like

Hello fellow five! thanks for sharing your routine. :smiley:
Verbling.com is essentially a platform where you can book one on one classes with language teachers. There are tons of teachers on it and it’s great because you get to book the dates and times that work for you.

This sounds like a fantastic idea! I’ll definitely be giving it a shot. I also completely agree on the teacher thing. Trying to do everything on my own seems very overwhelming. Coincidently before I read your message I sent my teacher a message saying that I would like to discuss how I’m approaching learning the language in the next class. I’m tempted to ask him to work through some simple Doraemon stories with me instead of just discussing grammar points. I love reading stories so hopefully he finds that amenable!


I’m a big fan of slow but steady. Pressure and time…you can accomplish anything.
If you do just a little everyday you are more likely to remember and progress than if you do a ton of studying and then take long periods off where you will regress. Try not to get overwhelmed by too many resources either. Pick a few good one like this site and Genki grammar and just do a little at a time…Just my two cents…I also think the tutor is a good idea, will hold you accountable and hopefully give good advice about best direction for you. Good luck!


I am for slow but steady. I think I worked my way too quickly during N5 and found I am still getting the basics wrong and not remembering vocabs that I have learned at N5. I am going to ‘reset’ my level and consolidate my N5 knowledge before I go further with my N4 book.


I’m seconding slow and steady! I’ve had pretty good success with focusing on just a few resources at a time that I can work on daily. Right now, I’m doing WK (and Kaniwani, though that is tied to my WK progress) and am working through the textbook Minna no Nihongo. MNN is teaching me vocab alongside grammar, and I’m not doing any other flashcards or grammar exercises outside of what I’m learning in the textbook. I’m going pretty slowly through it, because I’m waiting until I’ve learned the vocab before I even start trying to read the lesson, but it’s nice to see steady progress with a workload that isn’t overwhelming (I do use Anki to learn the textbook vocab, but most days, it takes me less than five minutes to run through my Anki deck).

My big recommendation would be to establish a daily routine with WK that doesn’t interfere with the rest of your life (I recommend doing a set amount of lessons every day so that the workload stays roughly the same on a daily basis), then after you’ve fallen into a good rhythm with WK, pick one other resource to supply grammar and try to make that one a daily habit as well. I prefer using a textbook for this because it teaches both vocab and grammar bundled together (as well as giving me some listening practice, reading practice, writing practice, etc.). It can be difficult to motivate yourself to work through a textbook, but if you’re meeting with an instructor, that person could help keep you accountable. I think the danger comes from having to build your own study schedule and giving yourself way too much to work on (I don’t know how some people can manage WK, a grammar SRS, and a third SRS for additional vocab, all at the same time!).

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of options available, maybe going more traditional and trying a textbook would be a good idea? Textbooks structure your learning for you so you don’t have to worry about finding different resources for grammar, vocab, etc. You can eventually supplement with native material, but a textbook can give you a solid foundation to work with (and will teach you about multiple aspects of the language all at once). Tofugu has an article with a bunch of textbook recommendations. I’d look at this and see if anything on there speaks to you.

Some people on this forum hate textbooks and recommend immersing yourself in native materials as soon as possible as a primary way of learning, but I’ve found that immersion is way more effective for me if I combine it with more structured learning, so I’m not planning on trying to read manga or graded readers or anything until after I’ve at least completed the first book of MNN (which’ll put me about at N5 level, grammar wise). The truth is, there’s not really one perfect way of learning that works for everyone. Some people have used textbooks and learned Japanese really effectively. Other people had a terrible time with textbooks and found success through other methods. I think focusing too much on what is the most “efficient” or “effective” method often leaves us paralyzed by indecision. The most effective method is whatever you are able to keep up with!

What are some of the things you’ve tried in the past? If you tried immersion and found it too frustrating, then maybe you’d have better luck working through a textbook. If you tried a textbook and couldn’t motivate yourself to study, then maybe you’d have better luck trying to read native materials and looking up grammar as you go. If you tried balancing a bunch of SRS all at the same time and got overwhelmed, then maybe you’d be better off sticking with just WK (possibly going at a slower pace), and learning vocab and/or grammar without using flash cards.

It’s okay to focus on just a few areas of the language at a time, like learning kanji and getting good at reading, or focusing on speaking and communicating with other people. I think as long as you’re moving toward actually using the language in some way, whether that’s engaging with native materials or communicating with other people in it, you’re going to progress towards fluency. You can always work on certain aspects (like learning to write kanji by hand, for example) after you’ve gained a comfortable level of understanding in others. I think it’s a good idea to learn multiple aspects of the language at the same time so that you can work toward actually using the language in some form (like kanji and vocab and grammar, for example, because that will allow you to read), but I don’t think you should feel obligated to work on absolutely everything at once!


I don’t have any fresh words of encouragement for you; there will be lots of lovely people chiming in here with those. I’ll just share my story, and I think you’ll find it familiar. :slight_smile:

I recently found the receipt from when I bought Genki 1 … in 2012. (Actually, it looks like it’s the receipt for the workbook answer key. So, I’m sure I bought the book a bunch earlier than that.) Just yesterday, I started reading Lesson 12, the last one in the volume.

Once upon a time, I thought, “You know, that Murakami book looks really interesting, but wouldn’t it be cool if I waited, and read it in Japanese?” Ten years later, I can stumble my way through a Level 3 graded reader. So, I figure I’ll manage that novel in … oh, about eighty or ninety more years… :slight_smile:

Right now, I’m challenging myself to get through Genki by the end of the year. That included getting through Genki I by the end of June, which I’m not quite going to make that, and that’s fine. Having the goal is helping keep me motivated, but I know it’s an arbitrary deadline, so I don’t really care about hitting it exactly.

As long as I’m making progress, and enjoying the journey, that’s enough for me.


I think your problem is that you’re trying to juggle too many things at once. Multitasking is just an illusion of feeling busy but being mediocre at each task. I think you should rethink your real reasons for studying the language and focus on it. Also, discovering for yourself the learning style that works for you will immensely help.

I would assume that you’re just a beginner since you’re still at the stage where you need a foundational knowledge from grammar textbooks. I suggest that you focus on being consistent on finishing a grammar book’s chapter and reading an article or graded book that is appropriate to your level. Just focus on building a routine that will eventually form into a habit so that you’ll not need “motivation” to continue studying. If you feel that you can consistently do more, then you can add more to your regimen.

Frankly, you’ll lose more by taking a total break compared to learning a few words or re-reading your favorite book/article since you’ll eventually be forgetting the words/grammar points that you just learned. It’s better to slow down your pace than to totally stop and restart.

Lastly, find something enjoyable to do with the language and don’t use each interaction with the language as “study”. Whether it’s writing haiku’s, reading an easy but interesting article/book/manga, anything that sparks that interest in the language. You need to give your brain enough time to absorb what you learned so that you’ll eventually understand things subconsciously.


Trust me I felt the exact same way. There were so many videos to watch, books to learn from and Kanji to learn…? But yeah I just learnt to prioritise what I needed the most and not try to absorb everything I find.

It’s a long way and that’s the best part. It means there’s that many interesting things to learn about!!


I’m throwing the grammar mostly out of the window, along with the textbook. It’s tedious and boring, I will go back to grammar once I need it, I got the fundamentals down. What I’m doing is going with anki (the jlpt1-5) with audio and full sentences (with kanji), wanikani ofcourse, pimsleur (because it’s something to do while playing games) and the rest is immersion, movies, anime, music, podcasts etc (whatever I really enjoy doing). Doing things that you despise will make you burn out. Also there is no point in talking, you’ll most likely develop bad habits, what are you really going to talk about? How hot the weather is? Nah, wait with the talking until you feel ready. The key is to make it fun and blend in some needed hard work.

I agree with all the suggestions of trying to make good daily study habits and setting smaller, more obtainable goals other than just the final ‘Learn Japanese’. I was very much in the same boat as you, I think I spent about 3 years going through Genki I and two years going through Genki II because I would study for a while and then burn out for a few months, try to pick it back up again for a while and rinse and repeat. Each time only getting a bit further and every time getting really frustrated at myself.

I can’t really speak for what changed, I am still going slow but I have now managed to study for over a year without burning out. I picked things up again when covid started and there was just some mindset in me that wanted to make the most use out of the WFH situation as I was saving 2 hours a day on transport. I do know that whenever I start feeling a bit overwhelmed, I try to really focus on my short-term goal, which is right now the N3 in December. I only have one SRS going (Wanikani) and then each week I set myself reasonable goals for what I want to do each day in my textbook. I do think my current textbook (Tobira) really helped me with motivation too though. I really love working with it, and it really makes me feel motivated. I picked up the pace in Genki II when I was almost done because I was excited to start Tobira and that still hasn’t slowed down. Used to feel like I wasn’t getting anywhere and I wasn’t able to do much. Going into a textbook that is primarily in Japanese and just kind of getting out of that absolute beginner phase really helped my motivation leaps and bounds because I felt like I was finally getting somewhere.
I think if you’ve stuck with it for so many years, I’m sure you will get there eventually. And I hope that you can also make a breakthrough with a technique that works for you. I’m still afraid my study schedule will break completely when I start having to commute to the office again, but I am hoping the habits I’ve gotten into my system will be strong enough to stick.


I’d say my situation is similar. I think classes are a good idea. The only time I studied consistently was when I was in college. Be careful not to burn yourself out though. If you need an easy week, it’s better to lower your expectations for that week and increase your study load when you’re feeling up to it than to push through and burn out.