What am I even doing? Help

It’s entirely appropriate for ABBC discussion threads. I’ll understand if you don’t want to ask about every single line, but maybe ask about a few of the shorter ones. You can even drop some sentences onto your study log and @ me and I can go over them with you.

This is understandable and expected until you start to recognize the grammar and know enough vocabulary.

This is the area you’ll want to address first. I can expand on this later when I have some time.


@crmsnprincess89, how would you rate your familiarity on each of the following? For example: “know this really well”, “kind of know this”, “don’t really know this”, “never heard of this before”.

  1. Types of sentences:
    • noun sentence
    • adjective sentence
    • verb sentence
  2. Particles:
    (These are just partial lists.)
    1. Case-marking particles:
      • が、の、を、に、へ、と、から、より、で、や
    2. Conjunctive particles:
      • ば、と、て、ので、から、ても、のに
    3. Adverbial particles:
      • は、も、でも、だって、しか、まで、だけ、ばかり
    4. Sentence-ending particles:
      • か、の、な、ね、よ、わ、ぞ
  3. Ichidan vs godan verbs:
    • The forms of godan verbs
  4. Helper verbs and adjectives:
    • せる、れる、ない、たい、た
    • そうだ、ようだ、らしい
    • ます、だ、です

Have you read the Sailormoon comics in English (not the 90’s official translation, but one of the latter two official translations)? Do you have the first volume in both English and Japanese? While you may not be ready to tackle the whole first volume yet, it may be possible to integrate it into your studies (depending on how much time and effort you want to put into utilizing it).

Are you understanding the grammar you’re learning? How Japanese sentences work, and how the grammar points fit into them?

I’m kind of curious about this. What good habits did you get from Heisig? How come you’re doing Wanikani if Heisig and Anki is the best option? (sorry OP for derailing the thread a bit)

The absolute beginner book club still assume some grammar knowledge, they mention about end of Genki 1 for a good starting point. How far are you into Genki ?

Pre-genki 1, I think the only reading possible are graded readers level 0 and level 1 here:

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When I’m not learning Japanese, I’m actually a college professor. I’m going to give you the number-one advice that I give to each and every one of my students whenever they want to learn any skill: give yourself permission to suck.

When you’re having trouble, just tell yourself, “That sucked, but I’m going to do it again.” Then you do it again. And again. And again. Then one day you wake up and a friend tags you in some total stranger’s post and asks, “@crmsnprincess89, you’re good at this. What do you think?” Then you say to yourself, “I’m good at this? Are… are you sure?!”

I’ve been having a heck of a time with WaniKani and Bunpro (and my own Anki deck) too. I’ve been getting a lot of wrong answers. But I’m doing great at all the words that I couldn’t get to save my life a week ago.

On a neurological level, learning hurts. The learning that doesn’t hurt is ephemeral or already acquired. This isn’t a platitude; it’s real neuroscience: when you’re frustrated, you’re learning!

That’s absolutely normal. I took five schoolyears of Japanese and even I start with broken English before I try to weave it together in an English-sounding sentence. I know Tae Kim’s caught some flack for having mistakes in his lessons, but that’s one thing he does right.

You’ll discover as you get further that literal translations aren’t necessary or desirable. If you’ve ever played a video game with an overly-literal translation (like Illusion of Gaia or the Zero no Kiseki fan-translation), you’ll notice it sounds choppy and unnatural in English. Don’t worry about flow for now.

In fact, don’t even worry about translating full sentences. See how much of the gist you can get and see if your intuition can fill in the rest. Don’t be afraid to use Google Translate to get you by for now. If a sentence totally stumps you, move on to the next sentence and let context fill in the blanks. It’ll take a long time but it’ll happen.


I confess, I’ve mostly used the forums to quickly find things and haven’t engaged a whole lot, so I don’t know if my experience is common, BUT
Learning to write kanji immeasurably improved my ability to read and understand it.
I really recommend you throw this userscript from Looki and Kumirei on (or, if you find userscripts intimidating or intrusive, you can use jisho.org and search #kanji followed by the reading) and write out each kanji however many times you think is useful when you learn it, and each time you review it.
This will make reviews considerably more time consuming, but I, for one, have seen enormous benefits in my ability to distinguish similar kanji and skillfully pick out the radicals.
Also, as I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, we all suck at this. I’ve been studying on and off for more years than I care to admit, I lived in Japan for almost two years a long time ago, and I have a Japanese wife. I passed N4 in 2019 with the assistance of a considerable amount of luck.
Just enjoy it and don’t give up! Good luck.


Although others have said it, I will add that you are being too hard on yourself. Japanese is rated as one of the most difficult languages to learn for native English speakers (I would guess the same for those who speak something similar like Spanish or German). Unless you are extremely gifted at languages it will be a hard, long journey.

After three and a half years of self study my reading comprehension skills are pretty poor and I still can’t understand anime (without the Japanese subtitles and the remote control to keep pausing!)

I put far, far less effort into learning Spanish for much better results. But Spanish is just so much easier for an English speaker.

Still I am proud of my limited achievements. I went to Japan for the first time on business many years back and I wouldn’t have believed at that time that at some point in the future I would be able to have conversations in Japanese and even read modern Japanese literature (albeit glued to my dictionary!!)

If you keep going it will eventually get better. There is lots of advice on here on how to study more effectively (and links to a plethora of virtual and real resources).

If nothing else learning Japanese has given me an excuse to watch lots of anime :wink:


Have you considered taking a formal online class at a community college or something like that? Might be helpful to get a little more structure if you feel overwhelmed. That way you can get specific feedback on textbook assignments from your teacher.

Writing kanji and formal learning is what finally did it for me. Depends on the person, the only way is to try out different methods.

Or even better, DeepL.


I joined the ABBC about a year ago, and my first thought was “what have I done?!”.

Roughly a year later - my current “what have I done?” is reading コンビニ人間, meanwhile I’m reading the 10 minute biographies with the ABBC for a bit of light relief! It’s funny how you can feel you’re not making progress - but then you look back at where you were previously.

I actually don’t think 75% is bad - if you’re getting >90% you’re not being challenged. My review percentage is terrible a lot of the time, especially with burn reviews, but I think I’m still making progress.

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There are two crucial steps here.

  1. r e l a x

  2. Remember to bring your towel.

Everyone else here has given better material advice than I possibly could, so I’ll just try to offer some psychological advice.

I also began learning Japanese very recently and a few days ago was also feeling completely overwhelmed by the challenge ahead of me. Since Kanji are prerequisite to reading, I’m trying so hard to be patient and not dive into the grammar and vocabulary until I get at least 10 WK levels under my belt, more if I can restrain myself, simply because I know (as you’ve now seen) that Kanji are a massive obstacle while you still don’t know the majority of them.

So I’m in the same boat. There’s a lot of Japanese YouTube content I really enjoy, and only tiny portions of it even get translated at all. Instead of festering in the dreadful reality of realizing how long it will take to fully enjoy it, I focus on listening for the words I do recognize. Bizarrely, I’ve actually already noticed a massive increase in how often that happens. Comparing your current understanding against the standard of total fluency will be maddening. Try measuring your progress based on that, your progress. Compare your current understanding to that of a week or month ago, and imagine projecting that much progress forward another month. This is the only way I can stay sane and keep one foot in front of the other.


Yeah +1. Actually writing the Kanji seems to be brilliant. That script is a banger. Writing them during WK reviews is interesting though. I prefer to write them out in 3rd party recollection reviews, and not for the WK recognition reviews. Interrupting the reading review process that much by practicing a an entirely different skill feels counterproductive when I could be rapid fire reviewing a whole slough of Kanji and words to train the reading aspect more intensely.


I haven’t seen anybody mention BishBashBosh. It seems to help me. The program “connects” to WaniKani and will let you practice the brand new words you just learned as well as your recently missed words.

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Been at this for four years, and I live in Japan and I still suck. So don’t worry about it too much. Just do what you can, however you can. Slow down and reevaluate your weaknesses.

Level 8 with little-to-no-grammar probably is too early for a book club, I should know, that’s where I am. Try picking up something grammar-y, and keep trucking with the WaniKani. Don’t be ashamed to slow down if you stop “picking it up” and need to work on one set of apprentice items for a while, just don’t stop doing the reviews and reading the grammar things with the example sentences. Your brain knows how to learn, it just doesn’t always learn at the same speed or feel like it’s at the same difficulty level all the time.

Start with baby-level grammar. So serious. Taking a break to guarantee you will understand the sentences for a day before you determine to something above your level is a major confidence boost.

Also also, start tracking your progress, or regularly revisiting things that don’t make sense to you, otherwise, you might continue to feel like you aren’t making progress because you won’t actually see it.


I’m replying to you but it’s also kinda to everybody.

Thanks EVERYONE for all the support and advice. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in struggling with this language. I have read all the posts and plan to implement writing kanji I’m struggling with - I have been wanting to try it for awhile but now I think I’ll actually start.

I do think I’ll keep going with book club, if it’s ok for me to @ you sometimes. I’m a bit behind but I’ll try and catch up. I’m glad to know it’s ok for me to be struggling as much as I am. I hope I can learn stuff from book club. I’m only on chapter 3 of Genki - read it so I understand verb conjugations a bit but I haven’t done the exercises. I think I’ll review that again today and maybe try the exercises even though they’ve been making me incredibly anxious for some reason.

I appreciate all the suggestions and will be coming back to them multiple times I’m sure. You guys are amazing. I appreciate you all!


Try to read from Genki every day. Turn that into a system. Even if you just read one paragraph, let that be a daily minimum requirement. So long as you read one paragraph per day, you’ll continue to make progress. You may even decided on some days that, since you already have the book out and have read one paragraph, you may as well read another one, or two, or three paragraphs.

From there, there are two approaches you can use to Genki:

  1. Intensive: Put the time and effort into understanding everything as you make your way through it. (This can include doing exercises per chapter.) In the short run, this gives you a stronger, deeper understanding of a smaller, lesser amount of grammar. In the long run, you’ll learn more grammar.

  2. Extensive: Focus on reading through the whole book, even if you don’t understand everything very well. In the short run, this gives you a weaker, shallower understanding of a larger, greater amount of grammar. In the long run, you’ll learn more about the grammar.

The approach you choose depends on your learning style. If you don’t know which will work for you, try one, and if it isn’t working, don’t hesitate to back up a few chapters and try the other method.

Personally, I did better with the second approach. I gained a shallow understanding of a lot of grammar, and filled out my understanding by looking it up as I started reading manga. It’s that shallow knowledge of a lot of grammar that helped me know what to look up (but asking for help can point you in the right direction as well).

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turns out that the only way i can learn vocabulary is with kanji readings and the only way i can learn kanji readings is through vocabulary. im here for the vocabulary. in that way, heisig lays a proper soft foundation in this wanikani prison by taking care of the kanji meanings for you, and reassuring you with the knowledge that there is good in this world, that the soft embrace of heisig is still with you.

it sounds really stupid, but using anki with heisigs radical system was like peeking into the inner workings of my brain, like i could feel every neuron connecting to other neurons and i could feel the srs algorithm work in tandem with me, it was almost surreal, 20 kanji a day was nothing, could write them and everything. im not sure if its a good habit or just a whole new insight into how to do things properly that wanikani just cant do, because its a box, and you sit in the box and thats all

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