Priorities in language learning

This video advocates setting priorities when learning a language (The part about priorities begins at 16:12). That means instead of doing equal amounts of speaking, listening, reading, writing, grammar and vocabulary all the time, you should pick 3 priorities to focus on for about 2 months at a time.

Apparently that boosts your learning speed by quite a lot.:running_woman:

So let’s make this a thread about our priorities in learning Japanese. You can post what your priorities will be and why, and after 2~3 months time, come back and tell us about your progress.

My priorities for the next 2 months will be, in order:

-Speaking because it still takes me way too long to come up with a proper response to anything
-Vocabulary because I know too many Kanji and not enough words and
-Grammar because I really want to finish GenkiⅡ.

See you then!


My focus has always been reading, followed by writing, as that’s complementary, then listening. Speaking is way down there, as something I will look at when much further along, for the most part.


I’m in the same boat. Even if I weren’t focusing on vocabulary and kanji there aren’t enough reasons for me to spend time working on speaking and listening.

My current roadmap is as follows:

Hit WK 38 (2 months). Re-evaluate position.
If unsatisfied with vocab/kanji, hit WK 45 (2-3 months) and repeat.
Otherwise, hit up the “intermediate” textbooks (AIATJ/Tobira, ~2 months depending on free time).
Then finish WK followed by a 50/50 blend of Anki and Imabi.

Aye. To be clear, (and I did not watch the video, so she probably touches on this), that’s my personal priorities. It’s important for learners to set their goals, realistically, although aim high.

I have no good reasons to speak Japanese beyond it being “cool”, right now. I would, however, like to be able to read it, as that opens up a lot of otherwise closed literature, websites, and so on. Secondary to that, being able to communicate with Japanese in writing is not only cool, but potentially quite useful. In fact, in a job I had a couple of years ago, it would have warranted a special position and an increase in pay, as it was a market they wanted but had limited access to, mostly due to lack of fluent speakers (and they mostly relied on email).

My priority for the last year (haha) has been reading JP, which is essentially why I started WK. This is still my priority, because manga isn’t going to read itself and I get rather sick of having to wait for scanlations.

In about 2-3 months I’d like to get to around level 50 at least, in WK. End of the year, I’m shooting for high 50’s-60 to work on burns.

My secondary goal is vocab building and listening comprehension, since I’m tossing around the idea of going to Japan in a few years and would like to not be completely lolwat while I’m there. I suppose speaking is kind of paired with that. Also, video games and anime, because nerd things.

Lastly, proper advanced grammar and annunciation. Japanese is very contextual and words can have very different meaning depending on how you pronounce them, so I’ve been told. Would like to work on this.


  1. Reading
  2. Listening comprehension/speaking
  3. Advanced grammar/annunciation
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Enunciation. :stuck_out_tongue:

It mostly comes down to understanding where the mora breaks are, and knowing your pitch (though the latter varies by region/dialect).

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It’s very rare that you’re in a situation where context wouldn’t tell you what it is. It’s more about long vowels and the sokuon are really what many people need to focus on.

Also people make a lot bigger deal about the variation in pitch accent, but the vast majority of Japanese people are going to speak 標準語 to you.


The video reflected what I’ve done recently with my own learning process. I started building a system about a month ago targeting the different aspects of japanese (which resulted in me joining wanikani). I’m really excited to add priorities to my system now. Makes so much sense. Here are my goals for Dec 9:

100ish day goal

  1. see 500 cards of anki 2k deck ( 5 new cards per day )
  2. wanikani level 15
  3. finish Dogen series
  4. reread Tae Kim’s grammar

My priorities are

  1. kanji
  2. vocab
  3. phonetics

After which, kanji and vocab will remain up there in addition to listening and speaking.

Yeah, that. And I’ve heard that. Like @Syphus said, I guess it’s more about pitch. That’s what I meant. At work, so trying to be sneaky and not thinking before typing >.>;

In any case. That. scuddles off again.

Priorities are an important point. Unfortunately, I just seem to be doing all of them…

Ok so in general I have to focus on speaking (and pitch accent!!!) now since I’m moving to Japan for 6 months soon. To speak, I need to learn more vocab and grammar, to learn more vocab and grammar, I try to read a lot. To make sure I understand others, I also try to practice listening. Since all of them are connected, I feel like there’s not really a good way to prioritize only 3 of them?


(Disclaimer: I didn’t watch the video.)

For Japanese, would you lump kanji in with either reading or writing, or give it it’s own additional category?

I’d probably put it in reading, but I’m curious what others think.

Grammar and vocab are a big focus for me… but I’m also doing a little listening and speaking too. Reading is lumped with vocab…

I dunno I’m also doing it all.

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(I didn’t watch it either… ^.^;)

I figured I would just leave it in reading. I don’t think it makes sense to separate them, since everything is cumulative. It’s easier to learn kanji in context anyway.

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I would say both, really. For recognizing kanji and knowing the readings it’s reading, but if you wanted to learn the stroke order and write them it would be writing.

So if you wanted to focus on being able to read them you likely wouldn’t invest a lot (if any) time on learning how to write them, but for writing you would (ofc when you’re typing you don’t need to know how to physically write the kanji but I’m assuming a focus on writing would include at least a bit of handwritten work).

The ones I listed aren’t the only priorities you can choose. You could focus on Kanji, or a single complex grammar point, or counting, or anything else you can think of.

For me reading is my highest pirority, with that you can learn grammar, speech more easily.
Reading and writing

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Reading is my highest priority, but only because it is the most interesting to me and in my view, the easiest to practice (yay wanikani). But, I have just moved to Japan and am working as an ALT, so speaking and listening would be the better priorities, maybe. But then, my vocab is so low as to render authentic speaking/listening way beyond my level.

I think I have been spending too much time on reading and writing the last 2 years, and what I really want is to improve my speaking. So I will make my focus on speaking, listening, and vocabulary over the next two months.

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Here to report after 2 months:

As a reminder: My priorities for the previous months were speaking, grammar and vocabulary.

My speaking improved the most. I am able to have ongoing conversations can reply without needing to construct the answer in my head first. Depending on the topic it even feels easy and natural.
Grammar has become a non-issue for now. If I don’t understand something, its almost never because of grammar.
Vocabulary still needs improvement

So for the next 3 months my priorities will be, in order

  1. listening - my comprehension is very slow at the moment. Natural conversation speed is almost impossible for me to understand.
  2. vocabulary
  3. speaking of course

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