Studying Japanese Roadmap and Supplemental Materials


I started WaniKani in the last week and have been finding it to be very helpful, thus far (albeit I just started level 2). However, I know that learning vocabulary and kanji, while needed, is far from everything you need to understand Japanese. I was wondering when I should start on the other aspects of learning Japanese like and if you have suggestions for the items on the bottom for beginners:

  • Grammar (I was thinking of using the Genki I and II books)
  • Speaking (I was thinking of using iTalki)
  • Listening Comprehension (I am to sure where to begin here)
  • Reading Comprehension (Or here)

I also was wondering if aiming to take (and pass) the JLPT N4 test in December is a realistic goal or if it is too ambitious?

Also, are there any idioms that English and Japanese share?

Finally, how do I type kana and kanji in the forums?

Thank you very much.


So I can’t speak much on grammar or speaking because I haven’t done much of either, but listening and reading comprehension is super easy to come by. Just about anything works if you go at it with study purposes. You can use anime or Japanese shows for listening, and you can even put on Japanese subtitles at the same time for a double whammy. Can’t speak on the accuracy of this statement, but I’ve heard that science supports that you actually learn more when you listen to a show in your target language with target language subtitles. The brain is a pattern recognizing machine, don’t underestimate it! In case you want some separate reading comprehension, there’s a few Japanese only topics here on the forums. You could also pick up some beginner books (I see yotsuba! recommended a lot) or you can go online and try to find some Japanese forums. Where you can find those, I have no idea. You can also change the language on your electronics (and games, if you play any) to Japanese if you’re willing to take that leap.

As for the JLPT goal, I think that’s perfectly reasonable if you’re willing to study hard. I mean at least a few hours a day devoted to studying. It can be pretty daunting for most, but if you’re motivated and have the time, go for it! Be warry of burn out though and take breaks if you need them.

I don’t know anything about idioms unfortunately, but I do know about kana and kanji input! You’re going to want to install an IME for your computer most likely. On windows, you can go settings > time and language > language. Under preferred languages, you can add another language. For that, you’ll want to pick Japanese and allow everything. After it’s installed on your computer, you’ll have an option in your taskbar to switch between English and Japanese. You’ll have an English A and a Hiragana A (あ)that symbolizes whether you’re in Japanese or English input. Simply click on it and you’ll go back and forth between inputs. All you have to do to type in Japanese is type according to romaji (i.e. to type か, you type ka.) It can be annoying sometimes though because you won’t be able to find the kanji you need. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to remedy that problem. I also don’t know the process on mac, so if you use mac, sorry. A simple search will yield results though.

As for a phone, it’s a lot simpler. Just go to the app store for your device and search Japanese keyboard. Follow the instructions it gives you if needed.

Much luck on your journey!!

Once you finish Genki I, and you’re working your way through Genki II, be sure to check out the Absolute Beginner Book Club.

Once you’re learned some grammar, you’re going to need to find a way to get better at recognizing it. This can be done via consumption (reading, listening) or production (writing, speaking). The ABBC is a great way to cement some grammar via reading, as you’re in an environment where you can read along with others and ask questions along the way.

I suppose it depends on how strictly you define “idiom”. An idiom is a collection of words that together have a meaning you can’t deduce from the words alone. For this reason, I imagine it’s very unlikely that any idioms would be shared by languages as different as English and Japanese. (But if anyone knows of any, it’d be interesting to find out!)


Grammar - I recommend Organic Japanese with Cure Dolly on youtube. Some people don’t like her voice but she has the best explanation of Japanese grammar I’ve encountered.

Speaking - I’ve also heard iTalki getting a lot of recommendations. I intend to try it myself when I do speaking practice. It’s not a priority for me so the only speaking practice I’ve done so far is talking to myself.

Listening Comprehension - I like to pull the audio of an anime I’ve watched and listen to that. Having watched it already gives context for everything you’re hearing. Conversation heavy anime are better for this, while action oriented anime aren’t.

Reading Comprehension - The book clubs on these forums are a great start. Even if you don’t join one the list of books that they’ve read give you an idea of what’s good for your level.

For any native study material try to choose something you enjoy. Don’t just choose something because it will be a challenge or has a lot of vocabulary you don’t know. The more you enjoy the material you’re immersing in. The better you will remember it and thus learn from it.


I learned an interesting idiom just the other day. Say your kids are picky eaters and you want them to eat their veggies or whatever. You can say


好ききらい doesn’t translate very well. It’s literally “like” and “dislike”. So taken literally, it would be, “Don’t like or dislike.” But it’s interpreted as something like, “Don’t be a picky eater.” Or “You must not act so picky with your food.”

As to suggestions for studying, I find that that the Genki textbooks work better when you are taking a class with others. I started and stopped several times trying to get going on Genki I on my own. For me, nothing replaces an actual teacher who can assign work, grade, and pace your learning. And having fellow students to practice with and share the pain keeps your spirits up. Find a nearby college that teaches. Not sure where you are located, but here are a couple on the East Coast. These days classes are being held online.

Couple Memrise with Genki to keep up on the vocab and the hard work in the classes will be all about grammar, because you are already a step ahead with the kanjis :slight_smile:

For speaking, there’s shadowing and reading outloud. Pimsleur is good for shadowing. For reading outloud, you can pick up a book like, “Japanese Stories for Language Learners” (ISBN-10 : 4805314680). It has both English and Japanese translations along with definitions. At my level it’s a slow slog, but every sentence, however hard fought, is worth it.

Genki is good for listening. You can just do the exercises in both the text and workbook. But without comprehension of the lesson in each unit you might get frustrated.

Reading comprehension too, Genki is good IMO.

Other resources I like are Miku Real Japanese on Youtube and JapanesePod101.

I’ve heard good things about animelon too. But if you are like me, you’ll pick up more resources than you have time to really dig into. My advice, is to do what you are doing. Pick a few and stick with them for a while. If you find another that you like go for it. It’s a long journey. Stay interested by doing what you feel is working and what you enjoy.


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people pass n3/n2 in year so it’s not impossible and not lofty but you’ll need to get a lot of non structed(not a textbook, something you care about) active(you look up things/someone fixes your mistakes, you’re attentive, it’s not background music) usage or study right. while the former is very hard at the beginning(after all you’ll understand almost 0% at first), the second one won’t help too much the first one(can be a waste of time in the grand scheme of things). but will passing the n4 have any real benefit for you? you’ll need “study” for it and that makes life generally harder.

is there any particular reason you’re learning japanese? just asking for open ended advice is a stairway to random opinionated methods. For example if you have to live in japan in year you’ll have different priorities/needs than someone who wants to watch anime w/o subtitles.


take all advice with a grain of salt, specially if it comes from beginners

to sum it up

Following some random guide made by some random person for their own personal preferences in the same vein as one would a textbook or tutor is going to become frustrating the moment it begins to diverge from your own intended trajectory and so I suggest taking on whatever personally helps you interface with the target media and rejecting everything that doesn’t, otherwise you’ll end up feeling like spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

Just chiming in that I’m currently learning Japanese with Genki textbook too, through a free online class done weekly with a native Japanese teacher/volunteer via Second Life, an old online virtual world.

At the moment, we just started Lesson 11 but I think most of it are still basic N5 grammar, so perhaps many newcomers could still catch up if they decide to join anytime soon.

Grammar I use BunPro and Genki.
You can also use a resource like Rocket Languages (surprisingly not bad, but not complete for the N1-N3 levels).

The nice thing about Rocket is it encourages shadowing, which will help you with talking in Japanese and getting the “sounds” of the language right.

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Thank you very much.

That helps a lot since, I wouldn’t know if it would frustrate me that I would know most of the vocabulary that is being used (other than cognates and the few vocab words that I have and recognize from here and gaming, etc.). I also wanted to make sure I didn’t get into bad habits either.

The JLPT goal is more of something for me to move towards as a medium term goal (as fluency is pretty vague and this is very cut and dry which makes for a solid goal). I am aiming for an hour or so a day of studying (here, grammar and reading when applicable) but that doesn’t include listening.

Unfortunately, I probably should have mentioned that I have a Mac and an iPhone.

Thanks again and best of luck on your journey as well!

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The N4 exam was more of a medium term goal (long term would be fluency) and something for me to aim for to show that I am making tangible progress.

I am learning Japanese for a bunch of reasons:

  1. I do play my share of video games (usually JRPGs), so it would open up more games for me as well as allowing me to play them earlier (I bought a copy of Trails of Cold Steel III in Japanese which I still need to play).
  2. I went to Japan (which was my first time east of Moscow and my first solo international trip) and had a great time. I loved the country (albeit I didn’t see a lot of it as there only is so much you can do in two weeks), but I learned I really couldn’t communicate well outside of the big cities. As I would love to go back a few times (hopefully this year depending on COVID), learning Japanese would be very helpful for both being able to effectively converse and explore outside of the major cities.
  3. I would like to be able to enhance my resume (especially if it is by doing something that will aid me with other things I like). While I know a N4 doesn’t mean anything for that purpose, hopefully this will lead me to getting a N2.
  4. I am also doing it now due to the pandemic as it will ensure that I do something productive.

Thanks and I will definitely look into that! If I were to start soon (in the next few weeks as I would need to get the textbook), how tough would it be to catch up?

Also, I meant to ask this yesterday, but what is the best way to try to be able to think in the subject-object-verb sentence order of Japanese as opposed to subject-verb-object of English?

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Thanks. Do Wanikani and Rocket synch up well in terms of vocab and kanji? How much vocab would I need to have in order to make good use of BunPro (and Genki for that matter)?

Thank you very much and I didn’t know about the cure dolly channel (though the voice will take some getting used to).

I didn’t even think of that with the anime, which makes a ton of sense.

Thank you very much.

So, the idiom I was thinking about (given the very limited kanji I have), would be “big mouth”, which means to repeat secrets (usually wantonly) to others.

Aside from COVID, one of the other issues with classes is that nothing kills any enjoyment on something you are learning like forced analysis, tests, essays, etc.

Thanks for the other resources as well!

WK and Rocket don’t really line up well in terms of kanji you learn, but you really only learn a minor amount of kanji with them; maybe 2-5 new kanji per lesson. You can turn on romaji (if you have to) and also enable kana as well.

BunPro is… well, you can’t say the kanji lines up, but if you head over there, you will find there is a place you can put a WK API key. It then hides furigana for the kanji you know but leaves it on for the kanji you haven’t learned yet. If you learn kanji outside of WK or just know them for some reason, you can also click the kanji in the sentence to disable the furigana.

Hope that helps!

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If you are using windows, to type in kana, you will need to do this

  1. Settings > Time & Language > Language .
  2. Under Preferred languages , select the language that contains the keyboard you want, and then select Options .
  3. Select Add a keyboard and choose the keyboard you want to add. If you don’t see the keyboard you want, you may have to add a new language to get additional options. If this is the case, go on to step 4.
  4. Return to the Language settings page, and select Add a language .
  5. Choose the language you want to use from the list, and then select Next .
  6. Review any language features you want to set up or install, and select Install .

Typing kana is then exactly the same as it is in the WK interface. To get kanji, you can select them using the spacebar or arrow keys. From what I’ve read online, you may experience some difficulties if you are using a British keyboard, but I don’t have any way to test these claims.

To switch from English to Japanese, it will probably be windows key + space. To select hiragana, it should be ctrl + caps lock, and to select katakana, it should be alt + caps lock.


taking these two points into consideration(the rest aren’t really about the Japanese language), you’re not going to have the luxury of delaying output. Whatever you decide to do, continue doing it until you feel it doesn’t help you anymore. The added benefit of a better method is more often than not less than the cost of jumping from one thing to the next.

I would suggest that you divide your time in two parts. one part for structured learning(textbooks, lesson, wanikani, core deck, flashcards whatever) and one part unstructured learning(reading, watching listening, talking to people with good Japanese). ideally you want to do mostly the second part because it creates immediate reasons to care about things you don’t understand yet like vocabulary, idomes, grammar or accent. while it’s a bit harder to do this with games that aren’t visual novels since it’s harder to replay audio and do dictionary lookup, it’s important to do what you would do in japanese if you had “mastered” Japanese. you’re going to need to see(or hear) words/structures/points more often than WK, genki/bunpro could humanly do to acquire speed(something you’ll need if you want to speak). Furthermore you need to see them mixed together with different contexts to get the nuances and usages. textbook exercises often have one focus to make teaching easier and there is nothing wrong with that but real language is messy and you shouldn’t get used to things having only one focus.

It doesn’t really matter what you use in the unstructured part as long as you can look things up at your own pace(pause video for example). most words that people say are uncommon are actually not that uncommon. People are really bad at guessing frequency lists. Most of the things we like to read are easily comprehensible by natives. you’re just selectively learning things you care more about sooner that whatever of the generic textbook thought you should learn it.

Structured that are unique to specific genres aren’t that frequent even in those genres so don’t really worry too much about it. It’s generally good to remember that some words are used in the context you’re seeing. if you’re watching a show about pirates you shouldn’t copy them word by word when talking to a normal person.

There’s a bunch guides that help you understand things(the first 3 are fast the second 2 are references). most of these are not really good at helping you speak/write.

  • japanese the manga way is a personal favorite. it was the book that taught a lot.
  • tae kim’s guide is really good if you skim through it, ignore the exercise and move on fast enough
  • sakubi’s guide, apparently more precises than tae kim but haven’t used it so i don’t really know.
  • dictionary of japanese grammar/ A Handbook of Japanese Grammar Patterns for Teachers and Learners, refrence book to look things up after you’re done with the guide
  • the grammar page on bunpro has a list of article for every point.
  • imabi if you feel textbooks are too short/ too easy

i would suggest reading one of the first tree really fast(or any guide that’s small, you can then go back to genki/minnan no nihongo for a more “in depth” guide) and then use it as a reference for while before moving on. after you read a guide you should start reading/listening/watching japanese things you care about(with subs if it apply) looking things up and trying to understand things. you’re starting from zero so don’t expect your understanding to be stellar, don’t get stuck on things you don’t understand. understand a few with, ask a few here and there and ignore the rest. overtime you’ll start understanding those things you have a hard time with. since you’re going to need to lookup every thing, don’t push yourself too hard, start small(easy material, short time) and slowly start ramping up the time until it fills half or more your Japanese time then start ramping up difficulty if you don’t see anything new.

Also since no one mentioned it(i didn’t see it), it’s probably worth the effort to learn a little about pitch accent as it’s something that takes time to learn and being aware of it’s existence can be helpful in the long term. dogen is nice but don’t worry too much about all of his rules.

Don’t burn yourself up,

the answer ended up being very long, apologies.

as a side note, if you can’t understand a phrase, you won’t be able to make that phrase. hence why input is more important than output in the beginning.

While you’re waiting for your textbook to arrive, feel free to drop by the class anyway to observe. That way you can also ask anything in English after class because mostly during lessons we speak only in Japanese as Yoshi Sensei doesn’t understand English that well.

However, another native Japanese and owner of Cypris Japan, Mystie-san, speaks fluent English and she’s usually there during class to also observe and she would be the translator when any one of us are stuck with questions or explanations.

Regarding sentence order, I would not know what is the best way because I’m a beginner myself, but for me, I find it comforting that in Japanese the Verb usually comes at the end of the sentence.

Japanese Ammo with Misa Sensei mentioned this in her video The Ultimate Guide to Japanese Verbs for Beginners and in her other ones too. I find her videos of Grammar Lessons for Absolute Beginners very helpful as a start and I would go back to them again when I need revisions. She also has a page called How To Build A Sentence In Japanese: The Ultimate Guide and I think this page can answer your question about sentence order. Hope these links could help.

They overlap in some respects. I started with Rocket and knew a good bit of the vocabulary when I started WK. They also have grammar, vocabulary, writing, speaking, and lots of reinforcement. They have just recently matched up Level 1 with JLPT 5 and Level 2 with JLPT 4 as far as vocabulary, Kanji, and grammar go. So it might be helpful for you.

I also like Japanese From Zero. The author has a website that goes along with the books and has videos for each lesson in the books.

There are probably more, but here’s the one I know! “killing two birds with one stone”
一石二鳥 (いっせきにちょう) (technically the order is reversed, but…)