Should I give up?

Just as a hopefully encouraging note on this specific point – I also don’t have a “visual” memory: I can’t call up in my mind a picture of an apple or a beach the way many other people apparently can. But I have been able to learn Japanese and to get to a point where I can read it smoothly. So there is nothing intrinsic to the writing system that makes it impossible to learn for people like us who don’t think in pictures.


Have you tried reading graded readers ?


look man, don’t call yourself a piece of shit! i don’t have much else to add, since everyone else kind of explained way better, so… remember, i believe in you, and so does a lot of other people! you got this! ^^


Rewatching/Replaying/Rereading things in Japanese that I loved in English has been really rewarding for me. I’ve been replaying final fantasy games that I loved as kid for the nostalgia kick but in Japanese to help with reading practice. When I was in Japan I picked up a copy of the first Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia books which I can now stumble through thanks to WK!

One nice thing about things translated from English (like HP) is that the character names are unchanged and written in katakana and thus stick out and are readily identifiable. Maybe it’s all in my head but the translated into Japanese text seems to use fewer idiomatic/common expressions than something originally written for a Japanese audience would.

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I listened to the HP audiobooks in Japanese and it was great! Even though many puns were translated too literally and lost their pun-ness ^^


is it possible that a structured textbook such as Genki or Quartet might help? It sounds like you’ve been doing a LOT of SRS learning, but maybe not reinforcing it with reading, writing or listening. I get demoralised all the time because I’m quite a slow learner, but I’ve found that following a textbook is hugely beneficial because they provide huge amounts of natural practice - read the question in Japanese, answer in Japanese, etc


You are most definitely not a piece of shit who cannot learn anything! I know how you feel, but it’s just motivation and difficulty in seeing the forest through the trees. As a whole, I can bet you have improved a lot! Maybe you need to take a step back to review what you need to improve to get your motivation back up? Whether that is some older kanji you can’t remember which you need to relearn, or perhaps it’s just the way you are approaching your studies. You can do it! Don’t give up!


Don’t be so harsh with yourself.
I’m struggling too. I’m at level 8 and I have currently over 1200 reviews and +40 lessons. So you can imagine I have not been practicing in a while.
I’m looking over the previous lessons before I do reviews as you can imagine I don’t remember most of them.
Sometimes I’m wondering what am I doing this for… But it’s just for fun…so I’ll try to keep going.
Your English seems to be pretty good. What was your method for learning English?

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Thanks everyone for the support. It helps.

Learning English was easy and fun. Or rather, it became easy and fun the day I decided to stop caring about the grammar and just consume as much English content as possible. I was in middle school back then and my teacher was scolding me because I couldn’t remember the irregular verbs. So I decided to screw it all. I bought plenty of books and DVD with English subtitles and I eat them up and I picked up the language without even thinking about it. But I still don’t know the irregular verbs.

My English sucks. I make mistakes all the time and my choice of words and sentence construction sounds unnatural to natives. But it’s good enough to understand and be understood and that’s all I need. Also, just as with French, I can’t write English without spellcheck because I can’t remember spelling. But I don’t care either, the days of pen and paper are over.

I thought I could do the same with Japanese. Work hard to reach the point where I can somewhat decipher it and then consume as much content as possible. But the curve is much much steeper. It’s also harder to find Japanese content that has text and pronunciation and translation.

Netflix might be a good option. I didn’t think about it. I never used any subscription service like that. But if it really has that much Japanese content with subtitles then I should give it a try.

And yes I’m not a visual learner. I was always terrible with everything visual, not just words, also maps, signs and even faces. I have a form of autism and that’s just part of the package. But that’s irrelevant. Japanese won’t start speaking English because I have autism. I need to find a way to remember the characters with zero visual memory.


It doesn’t! At least not your written English.

I have to constantly check words too, and my English is C2 according to Cambridge (I took an assessment) I’d say it’s probably C1 nowadays, but still, what I mean is it is normal to have to check words.

I’ve been studying for 6 months and I had studied for like 1,5 year before dropping it during the pandemic. I’m just beginning to pick up some stuff here and there when watching anime, but I cannot understand stuff when watching them without English subtitles. So it probably does take longer to get to this point where you have autonomy to learn by yourself, but you can get there. Probably by learning the most common words, learning N5 and N4 grammar (at least), etc.

I still think handwriting can help with that


You did not mention if you are studying grammar…

I’m going to add another voice to the “try writing things by hand” camp. I know some people find it pointless, I know it doesn’t help everyone, and I know that the ratio of time spent to results achieved is probably lower than other methods…but for me, it works.

When I was just starting, I learned hiragana and katakana by writing all of them over and over and over, until my hand hurt, until I was absolutely sick of them, until there was no chance I was going to confuse め and ぬ or ね and わ (or the notorious シツ and ソン pairs). I would write out the whole syllabaries when work was slow, or when I’d otherwise be doodling (like when half-watching TV). You might think, no, you need to concentrate on what you’re writing while you’re doing it! But actually I found the opposite to be true: I wanted these characters to become second nature, so I learned to make the shapes without even thinking about it. Over, and over, and over.

And even now, when I’m having trouble with kanji leeches and one or two characters are giving me trouble, getting out my notebook, putting on some chill music, and just filling a page with that character helps a ton.


I now think of grammar as observations and getting corrections, rather than rules or “ungrammatical” or The Way to thread along with.

Still, in some ways, knowing more grammar points in advance does help with comprehension.


I’ve been watching anime with JP subtitles for a while now and can attest to that helping quite a bit. But I also read Shonen Jump in Japanese and have been for months now. That has furigana so it’s a bit easier to read than subtitles aimed at Japanese people. On the flipside, you can get too used to furigana and struggle switching over to material without those training wheels. So at some point you kinda just have to accept you’re not going to “get” everything and jump in.

I also struggle with grammar in a lot of ways. English isn’t my first language, and I pretty much learned it as you did. By diving deep into native material. It helped that as a kid, everything on TV was English with Dutch subtitles. And to this day, videogames generally are not translated to Dutch. So it was a sink or swim situation.

These days I spend a lot of time with JP media and talking to natives, pretty much never in cultural exchange situations, they don’t know, and aren’t trying to learn English, so I have to fully rely on my limited Japanese. Which is a good way to constantly feel how vast the language is and how shallow your understanding.

In the meantime, I have no idea what anyone on these forums is talking about when they discuss grammar. Especially in English terms. Everyone knows the systems so well and I kinda just… I guess I have it internalized more than I could ever vocalize how any of it works? Same as English, really.

I might be more confident if I went the full study route without any of the prolonged native immersion approach. But I also think my actual level might have been lower by now that way too.


Duolingo isn’t the best resource to use for learning Japanese so that’s probably you’re issue to be honest. Drop Duolingo and try MaruMori. MaruMori has clear grammar explanation blogs and they have grammar SRS.

If you aren’t recognizing the kanji you are learning then stop doing new lessons and only do reviews and also review your burned items too. When studying you should try to apply multiple senses (sight, sound, feel, etc) that should help you help better.

Also not sure if you watch anime, but there is a website called Immersion kit where you can search a word and see how it’s used in anime. Game Gengo is a youtuber that teaches Japanese through video games. Crystal Hunters is a manga that teaches Japanese. You read their guide first and then the volume. Hope this helps.


MadWatch, I wonder what worked for you in learning how to use your mother tongue? And what worked for you in learning English?

Some of those strategies might help here.

And just because I’m curious, what are your goals for learning Japanese?

There’s tonnes of Japanese language content on Netflix - I’ve been watching Rick & Morty in Japanese and it’s great. Rick’s voice & language are better then the original 「その通りだ!」

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@MadWatch have you tried I was doing my lessons there after a long break and I think it helps retain things better…

I know what you mean I can feel the same way. I’ve been trying to learn Japanese on and off for years with little success mostly through text books (which I find incredibly dull and I get bored and give up very quickly) and podcasts (which are either way beyond my level or way below it). Then I completely by chance heard someone in a playthrough of Chrono Trigger of all things mention Wanikani.

Well I’ve been at it for a good while now and I guess my progress is mixed. I have a pretty terrible memory but somehow I’m now able to read some manga without too much trouble. It very much depends on what it is, I know not to attempt things which are too plot or folklore heavy. My level seems to be Maison Ikkoku, which has no furigana so no temptation to read that instead, but it also is light enough not to go heavy on the big kanji. And it’s a great manga too, which helps.

I recently discovered Language Reactor and Lingopie, which are very similar in concept in that they allow you to watch Netflix with JP subs and mark words you don’t know. (and there are a LOT of them for me, Japanese has a massive vocabulary and I have a list of hundreds of words already which aren’t on Wanikani). Lingopie then flash cards you on them afterwards, Language Reactor has a sort of sentance creator thing which includes some of the words you want to learn. It’s also pretty rough around the edges as a service, but it gives you access to all of Netflix. Lingopie by comparison has a very curated selection which unfortunately (for Japanese at least) is absolutely microscopic.

I find that hearing words I know from Wanikani spoken at high speed in actual TV shows makes them difficult to spot, but I’m enjoying the practice, and learning them via real TV shows and not just stale example sentences in a text book is a lot more entertaining. I would say give that a go, but don’t go in expecting to understand everything, as real JP content doesn’t take any prisoners.

I’ve also started playing some RPGs in Japanese,retro stuff mostly and so far I’m understanding most, but certainly not everything I’m seeing.

you can (and should) do exactly the same thing in japanese. the trick is you need to slowly step up the complexity of content instead of just diving straight into the deep end and drowning.

start with the tadoku learners, nhk easy, and something of interest (check natively to find level-appropriate material)

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