Reaching lvl 30 soon, I feel like I'm not where I can be in terms of learning Japanese. Where do I go from here?

Honestly feeling a bit discoruaged right now.

I feel like in Vocabulary/Kanji I have improved SOOO much. It feel soooo goood to walk around Little Tokyo in L.A and seeing random videos while recognizing the kanji.
Hack, I’m even doing the Afterlife: JLPT N1 and Jōyō Kanji and other Memrise courses because while the hell not… Doing WK, Anki and Memrise almost everyday makes me feel like after this darn pandemic I did something.

Where I do suck is speaking, it’s my fault. I’m just to shy to speak. I also suck in listening comprehension. I’m miles better at knowing the vocabulary but not the overall meaning of what’s said if at all, I don’t know where to start improving. Reading same problem, might know the words but don’t know what’s said.

As for Grammar, It’s fixable just gotta practice, although I feel like being at the Genki 2 seems like i should have been done with them by now. I will by the beginning of class in October and be a bit into Tobira if not more.

I’m sorry if this post comes off as whiny, I guess I need advice. I really want to do the JLPT 4 if it’s available in covid times to feel like I have grasp on it. Oh, and I’m sure as hell not quitting I still LOVE learning Japanese.


Hello Burnannator,

You need to get your brain to start linking thoughts with Japanese expressions and the muscles of speech. A safe place to start is shadowing native content (Youtube, Netflix J Programmes and the like), or repeating them. You could also start with short phrases and words for things to see or feel when you are alone, or if you are at N1, longer sentences.
Kemushi chan has a great (English) video on the use of an audio diary; I’m prioritising some other things right now, but that is a habit I’m going to start soon, may be one for you to try? Turns out there is a Tofugu guest blog from her - literally did not know that until writing this.



If speaking is the problem, go into a LIttle Tokyo restaurant, and do something simple like order in Japanese, or even start by saying thank you, it was a nice meal, good evening, and so on. Or go into a bar, have a drink (if you’re 21+) and strike up a conversation with a Japanese person.

Listening will only improve if you do more listening practice. Watch Japanese shows with Japanese subtitles (should not be too painful at level 30), and pause, rewind, relisten certain passages that catch your ear. There are also podcasts, but the visual component helps a lot. There are also listening apps from Minna no Nihongo at that level. They are ordered by Minna chapters, of course, with grammar increasing in difficulty. I was able to pass N4 by chapter 40, and N3 by the end of the book (and having been to quite a few more advanced classes).
book 1 (solid N5)
Book 2 (solid N4)

Grammar: it’s important to give proper attention to the basic grammar that Genki 1+2 offers. Don’t rush through it! Are you working at the pace of your class, or working ahead, or do you feel you’re behind? If a piece of grammar is giving you trouble, look it up online to get different input on it. But the most helpful thing will be to just start making sentences. quantity over quality.

When I was studying for N4, I would often just translate the Japanese sentences in the exercise book, leave them be for a couple days to a week, and then try to translate back to Japanese. That way I knew I was using the right kind of situation for the grammar structure, and I could check my work.


Due to Covid the restaunts are only open for to go or minimal contact oof. I think Italki is the way to go.

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Found the YT video re: audio diaries from Kemushi. Jump to 6.30. :durtle_megane:

Hmm the article realllyyy spoke to me. I most definitely do the personal project and sticky note things. It’s really nice.

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One thing I found helpful in gaining the confidence to speak a little and improve my listening was using VRchat. It’s free to download and you can jump into Japanese servers and listen to conversations. It’s a little less scary as it’s random people you’ll likely not meet again. You can even just sit in the corner listening in on people’s conversations. I sometimes do that essentially tabbed out with jisho to look up unknown words to stay with the topic.

Edit: this is also good during these covid times. I used to go to a IRL language exchange but this is almost better, it’s certainly cheaper.

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Also to improve my spoken Japanese I would listen to the Nihongo kon Tepei podcast and reply to Tepeis questions to myself like a mad man. If you really want to you could also record yourself doing this and critique your own spoken Japanese.


So you can play VRChat without actually having a VR-capable computer? I’ll have to try it out.

Nihongo con Teppei :slight_smile: Yeah, he’s great.


Yeah I think there are probably more people on there without VR than those who have it. It’s really good for listening to more natural spoken casual Japanese between friends.

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Imagine you make a bat. Following a detailed guide, you hew your own wood from the forest, take it home, strip the bark off, cut it down, shave it down to the right shape and size on a lathe, and polish it smooth. You wrap the handle in strips of cloth or foam rubber to make a grip.

Then you make your own mitt, cutting the leather, punching holes, sewing it together.

Finally, you make a ball, winding layer after layer of string and wrapping it in leather which is tightly sewed together.

That’s a lot of work.

So are you good at baseball yet?

Of course not. All you did was make the tools. You haven’t played.

Same for Japanese. You study vocabulary and grammar because just picking up the language from scratch, with no one to help you, outside the culture where the language is primarily used, would be damn near impossible. Building the right tools in your brain makes it possible, but at some point you have to actually get dirty.

At least, this is how I look at it. I’m still working on that bat, TBH. But I’ve done a lot of listening, a bit of speech practice and shadowing, and I don’t think there’s any substitute for actually consuming and using the language no matter how much you study.

You will screw up speaking. A lot. You will sound like a retarded caveman. You will stutter. You will misremember your words and accidentally talk about licking things instead of drinking them. People will laugh at you - or worse, patronize you. Accept this as a necessary and inevitable part of the process.

For listening… there’s a big variation in how listenable Japanese is, depending on what level of politeness is being used, how quickly and clearly the speaker is speaking, how much slang or obscure jargon they’re using, what their voice sounds like, etc. Teacher Japanese, intended to be understood by students, can be VERY listenable - you can find this sort of thing over at Nihongo no Mori or Japanese Ammo with Misa. Native speech can be damn near incomprehensible. Find something you can understand and start listening to it.

I don’t know if there’s a thread or guide for “graded” listening material, but you could search around a bit.


I usually end up reading things, instead of drinking them :joy:

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My bat sucks! But yes I do see what your saying.Listening from professors in college is super easy most of the time.

I’m sorta the type of guy that HATES embrassing moments, but I just have to accept that I won’t get anywhere without it. The biggest problem ain’t the language it’s me.

Hey there,

Back in April I was in a similar situation. I’ve been doing WK for years now and have pretty decent vocab, and I had just finished Genki I at university. I completely felt overwhelmed with speaking and listening and wasn’t sure what to do

2 recommendations from me:

  • listening to native audio podcasts. I started with just Nihongoconteppei for beginners. I would load episodes on my ipod shuffle and clip it to my t-shirt and anytime I wasn’t doing anything where I need to concentrate, I would pop an earbud in and listen. Walking somewhere, driving, cleaning, cooking, even going to the washroom are little parts of the day you can use to get listening practice in. After only about 4 months I can understand about 50-70% of his regular (intermediate level) podcast now and I’m also listening to one called Let’s learn Japanese using small talk. The more you listen to JP native audio, your brain will start to put things together for you naturally

  • italki tutor. In combination with the listening practice, I’ve been taking lessons on italki about once per week with different people. Prices range from about $10-30 depending on experience and what each person offers, but there is a teacher on there for everything. You can find some that teach you structured courses/grammer and even go through textbooks like a class, or you can just practice conversation. I went from March being able to barely understand native speech or anything outside of the Genki books, to being able to hold a decent conversation where I start to express myself more naturally. It’s tough if you are shy, but I think once you start to break down that wall little by little you will feel more confident.

Idk if any of this is helpful, but I think lots of listening input is the biggest factor in being able to comprehend and also start to output yourself. Also, using the grammar you learn in the books in conversation will help you cement them in your mind better

GL with your studies


Damn thank you.

I’m glad I’m not in the same boat. I already sighed up for Italki and plan on using Hellotalk when I go on my daily walks. It’s going to be nerve racking for sure. I guess the biggest part of learning Japanese is me -.-

Nice that will give you good avenues for practicing ouput
If you have time don’t forget the listening practice either - you won’t regret it!
and yeah, we are usually our own worst obstacles. Honestly though, just thinking about where we struggle and how to overcome it is a huge step

I felt the same way. In fact, I started to feel my kanji retention slipping. And then I started reading a lot more. I’m interesting in rock climbing, so I googled クライミング and found some interesting blogs that I read now. Same with listening, I popped that phrase into youtube and found some great channels.

Take what you’re interested in, and now do that in Japanese, it helps greatly. All that in conjunction with continuing with WK has drastically increased my reading ability and listening ability.

Just keep at it and find more ways to keep yourself interested. And remember that even a little bit of learning is better than none. Because that means you’re getting better, even just a small bit better than the day before, had you done nothing. Best of luck!

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You aren’t alone.

Adults hate embarassing themselves with mistakes, but the only way to improve is to make (and eventually correct) mistakes.

Find your inner child.

One reasons kids learn to speak even second or third languages so quickly and easily is they simply don’t care too much about mistakes. As long as each side sorta understands what the other is trying to say, they move on.

There’s an expression in go: “Lose your first 1000 games as quickly as possible.”

I think the same thing applies here. I suspect quantity is more important than quality.

I’d suggest not only accepting that you’ll make a lot of mistakes when speaking, but actively try to communicate even when you know what you’re saying is wrong. Congratulate yourself for making mistakes (at least you’re conversing).

With enough conversation quantity, you’ll eventually start to hear your own mistakes and begin to correct them.

From first-hand experience: it’s better to keep a conversation flowing even if you don’t understand every word or don’t know the right way to say something.

Lots of head nodding and non-sequiturs help with the former, and you can usually figure out some long-winded, roundabout way to say whatever you’re trying to say.


Speaking badly is a VASTLY more effective form of communication than not speaking at all. There’s a fair chance you can make yourself at least partly understood.

I spend part of my time at work doing inpatient phlebotomy. There’s a standard script you run through for this in order to let the patient know what’s going on and obtain consent, something like “Hi, my name is xplo, I’m from the lab, I need to draw some blood from you.”

Before I started studying Japanese again, I encountered an old Japanese woman with basically no English. Now, in theory, the hospital provides translation resources. But it involves calling people on the phone and is generally cumbersome and the kind of thing you use for making important medical decisions, not for doing a blood draw that normally takes a few minutes. Likewise, we don’t pull out a smartphone and start fiddling with it. With patients who are drugged, very sick, mentally incompetent, or non-English speaking, we just do our best. (The nurse can verify ID if necessary, but consent can be… hazy.)

I still remembered a bit from the first time I studied Japanese, 20 years ago, so I got her to say her name and birthday, for ID purposes, and to repeat her birthday when I didn’t catch it the first time (もう一度言いてください is a very handy phrase to know if you expect to speak Japanese when you’re pretty bad at it). But I didn’t really know how to tell her anything else. There are words for “hospital laboratory” (which is distinct from 研究室 which is a research lab, not a clinical testing lab) and “blood draw”, and I still don’t have them memorized.

But I like to run back that memory in my head. If I knew then what I know now, what might I have said? Right now, that script goes something like:


Is some of the grammar a bit off? I think so. Would she have understood when I meant by テーストすること研究室 or 血を引きます? I have no idea.

But this is the kind of stuff you need to do to improve after a certain point, I guess. Maybe better to do it with tutors or endlessly patient Japanese friends than with hospital patients… but my point is, just get some words out. Do your best. Give them some idea of what you’re trying to talk about. Maybe they’ll get it. Maybe they can meet you halfway: talk slower, use simpler language, explain more, code switch back and forth if they know a little English and there’s a word you just don’t know.

Also, if you’re talking to a Japanese native who doesn’t speak English, just a little bit of Japanese will stop them from doing that “oh god, I don’t know what they’re saying, I’ll just smile or pretend they don’t exist or something” bit. Even if your conversation is frustratingly awkward or unproductive, the fact that you can communicate at all will make them respond differently.

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Don’t have VR chat or can afford it but…I’ll keep this in mind for sure.