Self learner fears

Hello! I’m a little concerned ;_;
A friend of mine told me it’s almost impossible to get fluent in Japanese if you never be in Japan. I totally expect it to be very difficult to get fluent without enough practice, so do you think it’s unrealistic to hope? I want to learn enough words and grammar so I can one day build sentences and have easy conversations in internet. Does someone made experiences with these difficulties? And do you say it’s necessary to live in Japan to have a realistic chance to learn the language naturally? Did someone of you self learned japanese so far without university or living experience and made it to a somewhat fluent level? I’m sorry to ask, just would love to hear different meanings so I can prepare for what I can expect from my self learning goals ;;


Nowadays with the internet you can totally immerse yourself in Japanese if you really want to. There’s so many ways of simulating the environment. Just think about Hellotalk, it allows you to talk to Japanese people and eventually voice chat with them if both sides are willing.

I think anything is possible with the right mindset, don’t let nay-sayers influence you from achieving what you want to achieve. It might take a long time, but that is completely fine.


I say not. Its about immersion into the language. If you watching tv and movies. playing games and talking to people in japanese then you have immersion aspect.

I believe it be alot easier to learn in japan as you surrounded, more work- but i personally believe its definitely attainable.


What’s your definition of fluent?
Sounding like Japanese is your first language, or being able to hold conversations with minimal ‘mistakes’?

If it’s the first, good luck. The second, totally doable self taught.


I’ve never been to Japan and I would consider myself fluent to some degree.
I’ve been studying for four years, and I immerse myself pretty fully. I watch/read a couple hours of Japanese media a day (YouTube, anime, news, novels, etc.), and I have 6 hours of speaking practice a week, but I only had 1 hour a week for a while and that was more than enough. Immersion is definitely the key, and find yourself a conversation partner if you can. (Italki?)


I think it depends more on how much you use the language in everyday life. For example, we were taught English at school, two hours a week. Thats not enough to be fluent. But there were some students who were better, why?. Because they were the ones who played games and watched alot of movies in English. Basically, they spent more time on it. I think its the same with Japanese…


[Like for everything else] It always boils down to how strong your motivation is in learning the language. If it isn’t strong enough you will only go that far, even if you are in Japan. I was going through some topics on Reddit and I have been amazed by how many people (currently leaving in Japan apparently) say that they have just given up at the idea of getting better at Japanese. They are happy with their current level (which could be any) and just get by speaking the least possible. That’s just to say that everybody is driven by different goals and only over time you will discover what your potential is given how much you care about Japanese. That said, it is 100% true that studying any language in the place where it’s used / spoken will always speed up your learning process and boost your chances of learning better / quicker. Luckily there are many tools you can use as a self learner.


If you use a language you will learn it. It’s like with everything.

For example, my japanese Zen teacher recently told me she could use a brush up on her Kanji. In times of the computer, she types and the Kanji pops up, so she started to forget them. I want to highlight she was raised in Japan and she came here in her late twenties.

I have learned english at school, but it didn’t use it, so my english was crap. Then I needed it for work and made some friends. Now my english might not be brilliant, but I am so fluent that I express myself almost freely and even give presentations without any issues.

I was told that I would never be able to learn computer programming, since I was bad at math. Now guess what? Still sucking at math, but coding software since 1998.

What others said: as long as you use your japanese it will get better. If you stop, it won’t. Probably it will take a few years, but who cares?


As others have said, if you immerse yourself as much as possible, by doing the hard work of reading, and listening to Japanese, along with grammar and kanji study, you’ll get a lot of the way there, though for most people it takes quite a while (though that depends on your inborn facility as well as your self-discipline).

And the other equally important part if you want to achieve verbal fluency is actually learning how to speak. This part is more difficult (but certainly not impossible) outside Japan. First step is probably doing a lot of shadowing (where you listen and repeat audio by a native speaker).

Second step is to find a native speaker to converse with, and that could be a person on the internet or preferably a real live person, preferably a real live language teacher.

Even with all your immersion and language shadowing, it can still be daunting to compose sentences on the fly. That’s why you need to talk with someone who can get you to converse and correct your mistakes. Good luck!

(As for myself, I’m fluent in a very minimal way, in that I can say a lot of very basic sentences quite easily, but I also easily reach the limits of my ability. I hope to expand those limits over the next couple of years. I’ve been learning Japanese long enough not to expect miracles, but I’m trying.)


If this is your goal, then it’s very attainable. I know people who live have lived in Japan 10+ years and couldn’t pass JLPT N5 if their life depended on it because they only speak their native language all day.

Fluency is more of a scale anyway. I’m no where near native level fluency but I can hold conversations on a variety of topics quite easily because I’m good with the little I know. If you become good in even basic Japanese you would have reached a level of fluency.


I would say that if you’re motivated, self-study can be more efficient. For instance you can:

  • Spend as much time you want, not be limited to a certain amount each week.
  • Study using any method you like
  • Focus on whatever you find most interesting/helpful/motivating

And of course you don’t need to live in or even go to Japan. I practice conversation with community tutors on italki, and if your goal is to be able to construct everyday sentences, then I would certainly say that I was able to achieve this before I visited Japan for the first time this spring.

In general, don’t believe people who for whatever reason claim that Japanese is in any way impossible to learn, it most certainly is not! It merely requires more time than a language more closely related to the one(s) you already know (but you knew this already! :slight_smile: )


Only you can decide on that. if you want to get fluent in Japanese, no one can stop you.


I’m completely self-taught but live in Japan, I see it and listen to it everyday, sometimes I use it lol. In my experience, the vast majority of people I’ve met who are good at Japanese have at some point paid to learn it and lived in Japan. That doesn’t mean you can’t reach a high level without living here or studying here, but its going to be a big hindrance to understanding natural Japanese in formal and informal settings if you can’t experience how Japanese is actually used in reality. Then again there are people who lived here 10 years + and cant read hiragana. It’s entirely down to how much hard work you put it in.

I would say if you have the time, like spending 1-2 years learning Japanese before you go to Japan, getting to N1 level will be much more straightforward than getting to N1 while working here or something. Weird as that might sound, but N1 is just testing how much you memorised more than anything.



I’ve never had a proper lesson in my life and whilst I’m still a beginner, certain aspects of my Japanese are “better” than people I know who take lessons. One of the best things I ever did was get some language exchange friends to message, exchange voice messages and, when you’re ready, actually have telephone conversations with. It will help your listening, pronunciation and teach you how to speak more naturally and be aware of colloquialisms (which you can then use to impress your other exchange friends :grin:).

It’s also helped me bed in things like grammar and which word from a group of synonyms is more appropriate in a given situation. I’d say try to get quite a few people because 1. life gets in the way and you won’t always be able to chat to one person, 2. different people speak differently (different levels of formality, accents, dialect etc) and 3. it’s nice to have different perspectives on Japanese language and culture.

There are a few great (free) sites out there so get looking! I’ve met some amazing friends through and


I don’t know anything about the OP. If they are some 18 year old with bags of free time, they have a ton opportunity to study Japanese. People living in Japan who aren’t studying are more than like dealing with the pressure of living here, like working and trying to make social connections rather than spending all their time inside memorising vocab lists and reading NHK all day and night for N1. Someone without any pressure to actually come and live and work in Japan can study at their leisure. That’s my point.

i completely agree with you.

A bit off the topic, but how did you begin with italki tutor-conversations? Just curious to hear a little about your experience, since I want to get a casual conversation tutor on italki as well, but I keep procrastinating (shyness). At the moment I consume a nice portion of Japanese media daily, but it’s all passive. I want to pay a tutor to not worry about the give-and-take of language exchange between friends.


Depending on your native tongue japanese is just incredibly difficult lol so it costs a lot more effort to get to ‘fluent’ than when learning german or something when your native tongue is english

I think I was kinda in the same boat, but the mindset that made it easier for me to start was to just book the lesson(s) and then let future-me suffer the consequences! Just pretend you’re booking them for someone else or something :stuck_out_tongue:

I looked for community tutors since they were cheaper and I knew I just wanted free conversation anyway. Then I looked at their presentation videos to find people I thought looked like they might be nice to talk to. Really nothing more to it than that…

It was pretty scary the first few times, I won’t lie :slight_smile: But after a while you get more used to expressing yourself (and more used to the fact that it’s not gonna be perfect!).

Also, the tutors are generally pretty good at giving you a topic if you both just fall quiet, so you shouldn’t have to fear awkward silences too much.