Things I learned through self studying

Hi :slight_smile: I have a few things I want to teach Japanese learners that I learned through self-studying. Please feel free to add more, or if you have any corrections to my tips

-There are a few types of adjectives, な-adjectives and い-adjectives. Both are conjugated differently, so be careful of that, and check which adjectives are which so you know for the future.
-Also, not everything in English is an adjective in Japanese, so look out for that

-Yike. Ok, so there are 4 types of verbs, ichidan, godan, する, and special cases. Each one is conjugated differently as well, but knowing which type a verb falls under is literally life-saving when you start learning how to conjugate verbs. This person can help with that Free Japanese Course | Marshall's Site
-Transitive and Intransitive verbs. This is not seen as often in the English language. You will use transitive verbs when talking about something you did, and intransitive is something that happens on its own. I can’t really explain it too well, but this Youtuber can Transitive vs Intransitive Verbs┃I'm Breaking vs It's Broken - YouTube That’s also why you will see in wanikani " to mix", and “to be mixed”
-There are a lot more conjugations for Japanese verbs than in English so be prepared
-I feel its best to learn dictionary form first, on Wani Kani you are taught dictionary form, but in a lot of textbooks, they start with formal form (ます), which while it is easier and can build up your confidence, starting with dictionary form/root form allows you to learn that, and conjugate verbs from there.

On’yomi and kun’yomi

  • the two ways Japanese kanji are pronounced.
    -I mean a kanji can have more than one on’yomi or kun’yomi, but it just depends on the kanji
    -In wanikani, you will learn the on’yomi when you are first introduced to the kanji, the on’yomi is the sound the kanji will make when it’s paired up with another kanji
    -In WaniKani, you will learn the kun’yomi of a kanji when it appears as a vocab term. That is what it sounds like when there is no kanji next to it, or hiragana is next to it.
    -Also, some on’yomi might be taught as a vocabulary term on wanikani due to the absence of a kun’yomi for that specific kanji

The writing systems
-There are 3 writing systems, each used for different things, Kanji for words, katakana for foreign words that they don’t have a kanji for, or may just sound better to them, or other reasons (there are more uses for katakana than I am lisiting), and hiragana is used for native words, because not all words have a kanji for them, or they are added onto words to conjugate them, or other things
-Japanese does not have spacing between words, so that’s why all 3 are important
-Even though you could get away with writing in hiragana, it can make things really really long, or you can’t tell what a word is anymore without the kanji

-It is a test that some Japanese learners may take to see how far they are in Japanese, it also looks good on a resúme if you are getting a translating job or something else involving Japanese
-There are 5 levels, the 5th is the more for beginners, 1st is the hardest one
-These tests cost money to take, and can only be taken in certain places, so most people will wait until their level is JPLT 3-1
-There are websites and books where you can study for the test, while it doesn’t teach you everything about the Japanese language, it can help you find out what you should study, or give you a place to start

-Studying the culture and learning more about Japan can really help with learning, it can help you to understand why they say certain things or act in a certain way, it doesn’t have to be intensely, but it’s good to know
-Not everything is the same as in English, for example, the word for I is わたし, we use this word and other pronouns a lot in English, but in Japanese, it’s used a lot less. As well as how are you, they only say it if they haven’t seen someone for a while, but in English, we say it a lot
-Tofugu is a good site to learn a lot about the culture and language tips and other stuff, they are the same company that run wanikani as well so that’s nice
-Depending on who you are talking to, your politeness in your speech will vary greatly compared to English. It changes depending on if you are talking to a friend, a coworker, your boss, someone older than you, age, social status, economic status… :confused:
-Ack also pitch pronunciation, since some words are spelled the same, it can be vital to understand that a person is talking about a river and not skin, so try and mimic the pitch that the speaker in wanikani is doing, it helps a lot in the long run

-Whenever you see grammar or something you want to remember, write it down. Why? Writing it down makes you look more closely at a sentence to copy it down. It’s good to keep a journal and highlight stuff. Such as highlight things you want to remember about conjugation in pink, or stuff about the way a word is used in blue, since you may learn more about a certain thing and it may end up in random pages

That’s all I have for now, I will edit this post when I get more tips. If I knew a lot of this as a beginner, then I might be farther ahead in Japanese, despite learning it for two years now. So, yeah


What about rise vs. raise? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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That’s true

Wouldn’t する count towards the “special cases”? There’s only three of them in total, anyway.

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I don’t think so, but there would be 3 without special cases (since they are just normal verbs that become special cases in certain situations)

I think there’s a reason most classes/textbooks start with ます/です form, and that’s to have you talking politely first and foremost. I remember in my first trip to Japan in grade 11 if I tried speaking something to a local they’d say “oh your Japanese is very good” (it wasn’t), which was for 2 reasons:

  1. They were being polite.
  2. They noticed I was using ます/です form all the time, aka speaking politely/with respect.

So I think ます/です form is good for starting out in that sense, since even if you say something wrong you still sound like you’re trying to be polite.

It’s worth remembering that the intransitive verbs are not actually passive tense. Usually the transitive and intransitive verbs are the same word in English, and WK uses the passive tense in those cases.

Pitch accent is not actually important for understanding, it just makes you sound weird if get it wrong :wink:

On balance I’m with @GenoMerc on this one, it’s much easier to understand the underlying structure with the casual form since that’s the base everything is built on :slight_smile:


Thank you, that makes a lot of sense. Also, in classrooms, you will most likely be talking to the teacher, so they teach you the form you would talk to your teacher in.

Not sure if you’ve tried studying other languages, but Japanese verbs are very easy compared to romance languages, and I suspect they’re easier than English too. (hard to say as a native English speaker, but yeah). Japanese verbs don’t conjugate for number, person, or gender - they only conjugate for tense. No need to worry about “he runs” vs “they run” or he/she differences that you might find in e.g. Spanish or something. English has a lot of exceptions in how verbs are conjugated, whereas Japanese only has a handful of exception words. (Walk → walked, but run → ran, etc.) There’s only 2 real verb classes plus a handful of exceptions. With する verbs, there’s no extra memorization involved because you just stick する on the end and conjugate する the same way every time. Even with exception verbs, the endings are basically always the same and it’s only stem changes and voiced endings that you have to memorize. (For example, past/perfect tense always ends with た or だ, unlike in romance languages where the endings are different depending on the verb class, gender, person, number, etc.)

I guess this is technically true, but that’s mostly because English uses a lot of auxiliary verbs to show different tense (“had/has”, “do/does”, “will/would/should/could”, etc.) Though to be fair, many verb endings that we consider conjugations in Japanese are considered to be auxiliary verbs by native speakers. (ている is formed by appending the auxiliary verb いる to the て form, た is technically an auxiliary verb and so on)

Idk like, I’ve also mostly learned through self study and personally I found verbs to be easy compared to other languages I had to take in school. It made getting to a level where I could read and understand sentences smoothly so much easier because I didn’t have to constantly be thinking “what tense/person/gender/number does this verb ending indicate.” It’s mostly the kanji and very different grammar that I’ve found intimidating at times. Maybe it’s just the way my own brain works or maybe I found the relatively low number of conjugations to be similar to English in a comforting way.


Just for the sake of clarity, the passive is not a tense, but belongs to the grammatical category of voice. English verbs can be used in the passive in all tenses and aspects (the students were suspended, the students will be suspended, the students are being suspended etc.).

Like @UInt2048 pointed out, English has a few verb pairs like rise/raise, but transitivity is a grammatical category in English just like it is in Japanese, it’s just not encoded in different verb pairs and therefore less visible. A verb like fall is still inherently intransitive because it only takes one argument (the subject), i.e. we can’t use fall with a direct object: *I fell the stairs. On the other hand, a verb like watch is inherently transitive because it requires two arguments.


Don’t forget about あたし、わたくし、わし、おれ、ぼく…

This isn’t entirely accurate. You learn the more common reading, which is usually but not always the onyomi.

I don’t know if this is wrong, but I can’t think of any examples… either way, I don’t think it’s the best way to think about it. If you learn the onyomi as a vocab word, that’s just how the word is pronounced.


It’s already been pointed out about the different forms of I, but just in case here’s a great Tofugu article that lays them all out pretty understandably. Also yeah, Japanese doesn’t use a lot of pronouns because so much is context-based (which I actually find rather nice - it shortens sentences a bit).


What about劇? It doesn’t even have a kun and it’s only Level 17

Ah, ok! There are a couple of those then. :slight_smile: I just don’t think it’s accurate to say that Wanikani teaches the onyomi as the vocabulary because the kunyomi doesn’t exist.

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Right - that would be like saying WK only teaches kun in kanji because the 音読み doesn’t exist, with WaniKani / Kanji / 畑 as an example.

In this case, if the onyomi is being taught as vocabulary, that’s how it actually is in the language.

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@darkness_rising I have a counterexample from Level 28 which shows a vocab word where WK teaches 音読み (the correct reading for that word) but a 訓読み reading for the kanji exists and is used:妙

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Ah, I remember studying french for 3 years, I don’t remember a single conjugation. Also, I guess it’s just, more tenses to remember, or at least more than I am used to. And, it is nice without gender and stuff to think about. What languages do you know?

It sure is a good thing you chose stairs and not, say, a tree for this example. :grin:


I felled a tree in one fell swoop. :wink:

To be fair through, that’s from fell and not fall. Isn’t English grand? :joy:

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I can never work out whether talking about tense/aspect/mood/voice etc is more clear because they’re well defined technical terms, or just calling everything tense is better because it’s the only one most people have heard :sweat_smile: