The fastest/best way to learn japanese

[ANOTHER EDIT: Due to the small misunderstanding, I will tell you now that I’d like to hear opinions about this one from experienced people. Of course, if you are looking for some information here, feel free to do it.]

Hello people!

I’m pretty new to WaniKani and i was thinking that maybe i could post something there.

So, i’d like to hear other people thoughts about kanji/japanese. (If there’s a person, who has mastered it somehow, i’d like to ask you: how long does it take to be good at it? Yeah, i mean good, not perfect.)

What kind of schedule do you have? How many hours in day do you try to learn it? Of course we have many different ways to learn things, so i’d like to know your way: how do you learn it?

When you don’t have any lessons or reviews available in WaniKani, what do you in that time? (Yes, WaniKani has it’s own timing in SRS Stages, so you’ll have to wait until there will be a review available.) Do you for example use Anki instead? Or do you just take a break? Yeah, but if i really want to learn japanese fast somehow, perhaps i can do something meanwhile that time?

So, if we connect all of these questions into one thing, the real question would be: “what is the fastest/best way to learn japanese in your opinion?”

I can’t take too much stress and i need to focus. I’m not even sure is there any ‘fastest’ way to learn it. I’d like to know at least the best way to learn it. There is fluent, kanji, grammar etc.

I hope that i could get some answers. So, feel free to tell me your opinion.

EDIT: THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR THE ANSWERS I’VE GOTTEN SO FAR

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I think no one could answer your question, honestly.

If one try to answer this question it still depends on what is your goal in learning Japanese.

If you want the fastest way to be able to communicate in Japanese. There are courses for that and Wanikani is not gonna be a part of it. The course will teach you basic conversation to survive or enjoy a holiday or work as laborer jobs in Japan.

If you choose Wanikani route, you need to prepare a long and painful journey in learning Japanese. You will struggle hard. You will invest months or years in learning Japanese everyday and still not be able to enjoy Japanese medias. But it will surely payoff in the long term.

So what is your langauge goal?

If you want the first option I think there are many “Fluent in Japanese in 6 month!!” videos on youtube or paid courses. I think they are not scam.(But be careful though) You can achieve that goal in speaking and listening basic conversations within that time frame.

If you are looking for a marathon and prepare to study Japanese slowly for years. Refold could answer your question.

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Hi. Thanks for the fast replay.

My actual reason why I started to learn Japanese was to communicate with other Japanese people and read manga etc. I’ve been also thinking to move into Japan, but i can’t confirm anything like that yet. But, basically i’d like to learn everything what it takes to do things like that (speaking and reading/writing).

Of course it will be such a painful experience, but if I really want to do it, I just have to go through all of that. I’m not sure is Japanese still something like rocket science, so i’ll keep my mouth shut about it. But as you go through all of that, the results might be incredible.

This is also just a beginning for me, so it’s hard to say what is waiting for me ahead…

But, if i could ask you something, what order should i learn Japanese. Should i first try to learn kanji for at least the average level (N3) and then start to learn grammar and fluent? (Btw, thanks for the link, i’ll check it out.)

If you are looking for a slow start I suggest you learn basic Vocabs and Kanji first. After you know a handful of Kanji and basic vocab you could move to learn grammar. In this way you can solely focus grammar not trying to memorize new words and vocabs. Wanikani suggests you to start learning grammar around level 20, (If I remember correctly) but I think that’s too long. (Actually, they said level 10, sorry)

Along the way just enjoy Japanese anime, songs or dramas to get used to the langauge and it’s fun. Check the web I posted above. It explain step by step on how to do that.

You can learn everything simultaneously, but it will be seriously exhausting.

Good luck!!

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I don’t know you current Japanese proficiency, but for anyone starting out I’d suggest getting basic grammar, sentence structure, particles, verb conjugations etc in place while slowly learning kanji/vocab. Then when you think you have an adequate basis start reading some simple manga. You’ll probably struggle and be looking things up regularly, but the continued exposure and practice will start to pay off.

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They recommend starting grammar by level 10, but lots of people disagree with that

EDIT: Disagree as in, the best time to start learning grammar is immediately

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Learning any language, especially one that is very different from the other ones you know takes time. There are tricks like mnemonics, srs, etc but in the end, your level of mastery is somewhat proportional to the time you put in. The most important thing is not to burn out, sometimes it’s okay to go all out and spend all the time learning. But if you feel that you need a break or life gets in the way then resting for a bit is definitely the way to go (it’s still a good idea to never let reviews pile up though). Wanikani is great for learning kanji but you will have to find other ways to learn grammar and vocab. In fact vocab and grammar is more important, especially at the early stages. If you don’t know where to start, Genki is a great textbook for begginers, and cure dolly videos explain basic grammar in a very clear way. After you’re done with basic stuff, immersion is key to improve. Someone already recommended Refold, I also think this is the way to go.

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Oops level 10 then.

I think level 10 is about right. If you leveling at nearly maximum speed on Wanikani.

I’m on the side that agree with Wanikani though. But I don’t mean the others are wrong or Wanikani is right. It’s up to whatever suit the learner best.

I’ve also heard that Tae Kim’s Japanese Grammar Guide is good too, but it feels like Cure Dolly’s videos are more detailed, as you say.

This question is something you can answer yourself. Because it depends how hard you want to work for it. For example Wanikani teaches you a good amount of kanjis in addition of 6000 words. Ofc it starts slow since you have to pile up reviews in the srs system. I recommend to read the help section of the original website where you do your reviews (scroll down). If you allways do your lessons and reviews on time, you will end up getting like 400 reviews a day after 2 months. and thats not the limit. So you see WaniKani can become a massive time involving tool if you want to. Depends on your effort. When you finished going through the help section, you should (really) take your time and scroll through this wanikani guide. It will advance your WK experiance alot. Also you will be able to understand how it works and how you can controll it by yourself.

Enough for WK so far. Lets talk about other recources. Ther are so many of them. You already got the kanjis with WK so whats left for you? Its allways nice to do everything at the same time. Means Grammar, Vokab, Kanji and speaking. Try to fill these gaps as good as you can. For example a language course will help you with speaking and some grammar. Vokab… hmm depends how much you wanna do for now. Its also hard work also if you combine it with WK. For more grammar i use the yt channel “japanese from zero”. Its a great teacher who goes through his books (which you dont need for that) entirely with his guidline. more then 100 vids of grammar content well explained. You should check him out.
As i said there are many recources out there and you can pick whatever suits you most. But for now i hope i got you the starting information you needed :smiley:

Have fun

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I spend most of my time outside of WK with immersion. Anime, manga, novels, vtubers, random Japanese stuff. It’s been working so far. What method works for you really depends on your goals.

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Sorry, I edited my post as you were replying, and was probably a bit too brief.

I agree with you that there’s no right or wrong, and everyone will learn differently. I think it is good to bear in mind that everything in learning Japanese will reinforce everything else, though, so neglecting one part might be making things more difficult for yourself. You might also have to try a bunch of different resources to find the one that works for you (eg I bounced off Tae Kim but got on better with Genki; I bounced off RTK before Wanikani). But maybe it is better to motor through the earliest levels to give yourself a foundation in kanji, then ease off a bit, I dunno

(I should also probably admit here that haven’t studied any grammar in about a month and I’m feeling guilty about it :sob:)

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The other people have said it before, and I really agree: I think the One Right Way ™ to learn Japanese doesn’t exist. I’m still pretty new to learning it myself (I started about 3-4 months ago), but here’s how I’ve been going about it so far:

Ultimately, I started with Tofugu’s “How to learn Japanese” Guide and used their Mnemonic Tutorials to learn Hiragana & Katakana. That’s also how I found WaniKani, and I started using that afterwards on a daily basis.

When I got to around level 5, I felt the urge to start forming sentences with the many words WaniKani was teaching me already! I started learning grammar with Japanese Ammo with Misa on YT. I think her Beginner Series playlist is a really good way to start, since she explains the grammatical concepts in detail and gives lots of helpful examples.

After a while (maybe around level 8 or so) I got the Marogoto A1 Rikai & Katsudoo books. I wasn’t sure whether to get Genki or this one, but decided to buy Marugoto since they have lots of online material. They also have the audio recordings on their website, and I didn’t feel like getting a CD player for Genki lol.

Anyways, up to now I have been using WaniKani for maybe about 70 % of my study time, Misa’s Channel for about 20 % and Marugoto for 10 %. I put in around 20 minutes to 2 hours a day, depending on how much time I have and how motivated I’m feeling. Lately, I have started reading the free graded beginner material on the Tadoku website, and I think I’ll be doing that more in the future to get a stronger foundation for reading so I’ll be able to immerse myself in native material more easily.

I hope this helps! :slight_smile: There are lots of helpful threads on the WK forum as some other people already mentioned. Good luck with your Japanese journey!

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The fastest way will inevitably be to spend as much time as you can on it.

As others said, make sure your are diversifying your studies, learning grammar elsewhere (and I would vocabulary as well).

As for some nice resources to be using:

Textbooks

  • Genki 1+2 - Generally the most common textbook people recommend for independent studying.

  • Minna no Nihongo 1+2 - Beginner textbooks you would most likely use at a language school in Japan. They are okay.

  • Marugoto series - Interestingly is based on the CEFR language scale. It seems like like “trendier” places are using it. These are fine.

  • Irodori - New and (legally free to use) textbooks. I can’t yet vouch for any quality.

  • Tobira - The main recommended intermediate textbook

  • Authentic Japanese - If you still want to use a textbook after Tobira, this is it I guess

There are also like a trillion other textbooks, but the above ones are the ones you usually hear mentioned in 2021 at least. If you want to go the textbook route, choose one of the first 4 options, then you can move onto Tobira then Authentic Japanese if you want.

Other good written sources :

  • Dictionary of Japanese Grammar series - Often has better English grammar explanations than you can find on the English web. It covers a lot, and has lots of examples. Tends to be very lacking on conversational grammar patterns though.

  • A Handbook of Grammar Patterns for Speakers and Learners - Has both an English and a Japanese version, and is more concise than the DoJG series, and covers a lot of stuff the series does not (particularly more conversational stuff, though still not the more slangy ones). However, it tends to cover the theory of the topics in less detail than DoJG.

Broad array of websites other than WaniKani :

  • Anki - Main free general use flashcard tool

  • Kitsun - Like Anki, but payed, and with active developers than can add new requested features

  • Weblio - An online Japanese dictionary that has both a Japanese version and an English version. The Japanese one pulls from several Japanese dictionaries, and the English one pulls from several English-Japanese dictionaries.

  • Jisho - Also an online English-Japanese dictionary (its database is also pulled by the English version of Weblio). I mainly recommend it here for because it has a nice kanji lookup system that can use kanji components or handwriting

  • Japanese Stack Exchange- Usually a good source for finding/asking questions about nuance or specific grammar usage (usually you want to stay the heck away from reddit). Make sure the question hasn’t been asked before though and is generalizable

  • Hinative - Like Japanese Stack Exchange, though generally less detailed in my experience. Still very useful, particularly if your question is more a specific “I don’t understand this”

  • italki - This is pretty much a direct substitute for a Japanese language class if you don’t have one in your area. You can also pay more for 1 on 1 and such. You can also shop around for teachers that mesh well with you.

  • Primsleur - If you want something you can work through focused on listening, this is what you have.

Online grammar sources :

  • Wasabi’s Grammar Guide - If you just want to get the basics down to be able to approach some of the other sources or start diving into Japanese media, this is the guide to do it with.

  • Bunpro - Gives a nice order for learning JLPT grammar points, with links to various sources on them. It also has a payed SRS system to practice the grammar points.

  • Imabi - Probably the most “comprehensive” internet source, though its probably less so than both written grammar dictionaries previously mentioned. Still, it covers things those don’t cover.

  • Maggie Sensei - Probably the best online English language source for explaining a lot of informal Japanese

  • Pomax’s Introduction to Japanese - I wouldn’t recommend reading this to learn the grammar points for the first time, as it is explained better elsewhere. I’m recommending this because it gives a bunch of etymology behind many grammar points and conjugation stuff, which makes Japanese make a lot more sense.

Other things

  • よつばと - This is often used as a “learner’s first manga” sort of thing because the language is very simple. It obviously doesn’t have to be yours (read whatever you want), but if you are explicitly looking for something easy to read to ease yourself into learning Japanese, this is it.

  • 日本語の森 - A popular Japanese YouTube education channel that is entirely in Japanese, which has a wide variety of content. Its basically strictly intermediate and onwards.

Personally, I like Bunpro + WK + Kitsun, slowly addinh Japanese media consumption into the mix, until you exclusively focus on that. And when you do, the Japanese Grammar dictionaries/handbook along with various grammar websites, are helpful. But others have other things that work for them.

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I reached roughly N3 in seven months with a very busy schedule (28-30h of university classes/week not related to Japanese, unless you count Chinese + the work associated with those classes). That’s not all that fast, I’ll admit, since some people get to N2 within that time, and I’m honestly not very proud of how long I took, but I’ll give myself a pass since I had so many other things to do and say it was a decent rate of progress for the amount of time I was able to invest.

One caveat: I’m a native Chinese speaker with English as his main language, so kanji were never a problem for me. I certainly have opinions on how to learn kanji faster, but I don’t know if they’ll help you. Anyway, here’s what I did:

  • Assimil’s Japanese with Ease, which is supposed to bring you up to B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for languages. (In truth, it probably only gets you to the threshold of B2, which is perhaps N3 moving towards N2, but that’s very good compared to most other beginners’ courses on the market)
    (Note: based on your comma placement and grammar, I suspect that your native language is German, and so if you want to get this textbook in German – I really recommend it, but you might not like the short grammatical explanations – then you need to look for “Japanisch ohne Mühe” and make sure you get books 1 and 2=“Band 1” and “Band 2”.)
  • Watch Konosuba Season 1 and Season 2 on repeat the entire time – I found it amusing – and look up words I didn’t know when I could catch them
  • Check the dictionary a lot when talking to my friend in order to find out how to say things that I couldn’t yet express in Japanese, and attempt to use the words I had learnt to communicate with him (practice helps with memorisation)

That’s what I did to get to a rough N3 level, and it took about seven months. I could have gone faster, but I had other things to do.

After that, to continue onwards towards N2/N1 (I think I’m at N2 + 50% of N1 right now):

  • Tobira up to chapter 12 (I got bored around chapter 13, but I guess I should still try to absorb what’s in the remaining chapters)
  • Watch various other anime, especially The Rising of the Shield Hero, while looking up new words that I heard or that I found in transcriptions on Anicobin
  • Read lots of random articles in Japanese about Japanese grammar and usage, including studies from Japanese universities, sometimes with the help of a dictionary
  • Read dictionary definitions from both EN-JP and JP-JP dictionaries, especially those from JP-JP dictionaries

All this is, in my opinion, approximately the fastest way, provided you have regular study sessions. That should help you avoid spending nearly another 2 years or so (like me) crawling to N2/N1 – I’ve only studied on and off while using anime and dictionary checking to maintain my level – because of a busy schedule outside of Japanese and a general lack of motivation in life. If you have a lot of grammar knowledge, kanji knowledge – or at least very good kanji learning skills – and tons of motivation, Tobira can theoretically be finished within 15 days, at the rate of one day per chapter, provided you skip all the class activities like comprehension questions, preliminary questions and pair/group work. (To anyone who thinks I’m just boasting, it is possible: I literally did one chapter a day over the summer, and might have gone faster if I hadn’t been running around with friends.) If you have less grammar knowledge, less kanji knowledge or less familiarity with learning new kanji on your own, then at the quickest, you’ll probably need at least 1-2 months to finish Tobira, because thinking through and absorbing all the new kanji and grammar will probably require a lot more effort. The reason I was able to go at the rate of one chapter per day is that I skipped a lot of the exercises that I couldn’t do as a self-learner and that I knew almost all the grammar points already from watching anime and checking the dictionary over and over (so yes, you can learn grammar through anime). Finishing Tobira should bring you to about a mid-N2 level.

To get to a solid full N2, and then head for N1 and beyond… you’ll probably have to read lots of newspapers and consume lots of native entertainment, or get an advanced textbook that will load you with new words at a very high rate. Immersion is much more important to reach this level, but the truth is that a good textbook can still accelerate your learning by gathering large amounts of new information in one place. For examples of textbooks that do this, look here:

I’d recommend these two^. The second is probably more accessible to someone starting it after Tobira, and is what I have. For me, every single sentence of the first chapter reading passage contains about 3 new words, so I know it’ll teach me a lot.

I guess that based on all that, you have a timeline for reaching N1 in about 1-1.5 years:
7 months for beginners’ content
2 months for Tobira and crossing the intermediate plateau
3 months (or much more) for finishing N2-N1 textbook (with very consistent study, otherwise it’ll take a much longer time)

I’m saying that this should be theoretically possible. I’m not saying that it will be easy or that everyone can do this. It will take a lot of effort. I think a more realistic timeline for reaching N1, especially if you have a lot to do aside from Japanese, is 2 years at the least. I don’t know where exactly you should put WK on this timeline, but I think that your kanji knowledge should be at least around Level 45 when you start N2-N1. (I’ll let someone else who actually uses the SRS confirm this, because I just run on my Chinese knowledge for almost everything.) I think you should be doing WK at the same time as you study grammar and learn new words, not separately, but that’s up to you. I personally think that it’s faster to learn everything at once because related knowledge will reinforce other new information, but some people find it hard to handle everything at one go. In summary, my strategy is this:

  • Use textbooks to structure and accelerate your learning, because they gather lots of essential information in one place.
  • Use good dictionaries to help you understand what you learn and what you come across when consuming native content, and read example sentences if you have the time in order to learn how a word is actually used (and not just a translation that might not explain everything).
  • Move from an EN-JP dictionary to a JP-JP dictionary as soon as possible. Even if you can’t read all definitions in Japanese, just making the effort to read and understand a few once in a while will benefit you.
  • Immerse yourself in native content all the time as early as possible. You don’t need to understand everything, but you should aim to understand more and more over time. Do this with content that you enjoy (in my case, anime) and look for transcriptions if they exist so you can search new words more easily.
  • (For the higher levels, if you’re sufficiently motivated) look for really complex things like newspaper articles related to areas that interest you, look up every single word you don’t know and learn how to use each one. This will help you advance faster and reach native-level fluency as quickly as possible.

Ultimately, keep this in mind: this is what I think is fastest for me. It might not be the fastest way for you, and that’s why it’s important that you always consider whether or not a given strategy is suitable for you. All this is just one really long suggestion, but how you apply it is up to you.

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I agree with others that there is no ‘one best way’ to go about learning - it will heavily depend on your goals. So the below is very much just me sharing my experience as someone who is most motivated to be able to read and watch native content. I am also only probs like high beginner/low intermediate level now so it’s much more like a ‘here are the things that have worked for me so far and the things that havent’.

what I did do
I started learning Japanese Oct last year, like many people bumbled around with Duolingo etc for a bit, then discovered the tofugu guide to learning Japanese and from there WK etc. Things that I have used (this isn’t even an exhaustive list hahaha) :

top reccomendations
Jalup: if I was starting over from scratch I would start with Jalup (if I could get the discount I managed to get on it cos the standard price is a bit high). The beginner deck gives you pretty much all the grammar you need to start reading any easier manga (certainly something like よつばと), and can be got through in a couple of months. Later decks focus on teaching vocab and grammar in Japanese and are a great stepping stone to things like 日本語の森 and monolingual dictionaries (disclaimer: I’m currently only half way through intermediate so can only speak to that far). There is also a kanji deck that is kind of RTK style - I’ve kept with WK but I know one person who likes it for kanji too.
Read something you really want to read/watch something you really want to watch when I was maybe about 2 months into learning Japanese, the WK beginner book club started reading ハイキュー. I love the anime and reading the manga was a goal…but there was no way that I was ready yet given that I was only about half way through N5 grammar (using lingodeer at that point) I also didn’t know much kanji or vocab but at least for me, grammar is what makes the biggest difference in being able to read. I told myself I should wait…and then joined in anyway! It was way above my skill level, but I wanted to read it enough that I pushed through and learned a lot from the process and from others in the book club.
WK: this one is obvious given the forum we are on! I think that WK is great for learning kanji - less so for vocab as it’s out of context (which is fine given that the vocab is there to reinforce the kanji). I do wish there was maybe a bit more flexibility in ordering but I’ve yet to find any other method that works better for me for kanji. Tbh this might be in the section below as I do have a few issues with it - but there are also the WK book clubs which are amazing.
italki I do an iTalki lesson every week and that has been great! More affordable than local classes and 1-1 teaching :slight_smile:
日本語の森I’ve just started this in the last month or so but finding it amazing for grammar so far. Both Jalup and doing italki lessons primarily all in Japanese helped to prepare me.
Nihongo con Teppei podcasts I started with beginners then moved on to his intermediate one. When I started listening to the beginner podcast I’d have to relisten maybe 5+ times to understand most of what was being said but listening most days helped build my listening skills a lot.

okay
Lingodeer: I did maybe 60% of the first course. It was good although the exercises are fairly limited - Jalup ended up working better for me.
pimsleurI started out with this and it did a lot for my speaking confidence. Dropped it recently as it is very focused on formal/business speech.
HelloTalk you can write things in Japanese and get corrections from native speakers, you can also message people and do voice and video calls. I’ve not had the confidence to make full use of this yet but it’s a great resource that you can get a lot out of without paying anything.

haven’t worked for me
Minna no Nihongo 1&2: I have these books as my italki teacher reccomended them…but they are mainly just paperweights for me as I’m bad at textbook learning.
too much SRS at various times I’ve tried Bunpro, learning vocab via anki/torii/kamesame…etc etc etc. I’ve learned that for me, I really don’t want to be spending more than an hour absolute max on SRS if I don’t want to burn out. For me this means that I really can’t add anything else in until I’m done with WK and Jalup, and it also means that I really pace myself with those. This means that I have time to use Japanese for things that I find enjoyable (ie. reading a whole bunch of manga) which works best for me. ofc, ymmv but I do think that there’s real benefit in making space for using the language for something that you want to do (whether that be reading, speaking with people, watching Japanese shows) as early as you can so that you are getting context to what you are learning (and also cos it’s fun!)

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As mentioned before, everyone’s got their own ideas and it’s great to get a feel for what people think, but I want to make an important point just for your consideration while digesting all the info in this thread. I might get some negative response to this, but:

Keep in mind that you are asking a very large scale question about methodology to a community who’s vast majority are still beginners and (by selection bias) probably very much prefer WKs method of teaching kanji. In addition to the responses here, I would also recommend looking at opinions of people who went about learning a different way and opinions of people who are actually really good at the language. We have a few of those people here on wk, but there’s plenty more to be found on the internet. Matt vs Japan (refold) is one example that has already been brought up in this thread.

Not the answer to your question, but nonetheless an important thing to keep in mind in your search for it.

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Yeah, I understand. Thank you for your concern.

One thing I’d mention:
Like with the tortoise and the hare, regardless of what’s fastest in theory, the fastest method in practice is going to be whatever you stick with for a long period of time.

For me, I treated learning the language as a hobby, and just structured it in ways I enjoyed. That means that I have huge gaps around activities I don’t enjoy as much (I can read far far better than I can speak), but it means I’ve never really had even an inkling of burning out - I just like it too much for it to be a problem.
Whereas if I thought I had to form as powerful and efficient a study plan as possible before I could start, I never would have gotten off the ground at all, and if I did I would have fizzled out at some point before I got to where I am and felt guilty about it.

That’s not to say “do what I did” (my circumstances are unusual) – I just mean it as another thing to keep in mind amid the barrage of possible advice!
Good luck!

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usually takes a lot of time, there is no fast way

english is not my native language. I remember back in 2005, I felt bad for knowing almost nothing on how to translate a sentence. I remember trying to play final fantasy VII because the movie advent children would release that year so I knew nothing about the story.

As soon as I began studying it, I remember I felt confidence only in 2010 to read something, watch a movie/tv shows without subtitles.

And that is because here we are bombarded by english culture in south america, so almost by osmosis we learn something

for japanese, my only contact is youtube and nhk. So I guess it will be even slower than english.

But what I have learned in almost 6 months straight via WK has been great and it is helping me a lot.

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