What do you wish you'd been taught at the beginning?

When I first started learning Japanese, I was a confused mess, but eventually I figured some stuff out. I try hard to find patterns in things, and I found that there are some patterns - but they are not obvious and not taught to beginners. Things such as rendaku, the importance of onyomi (though I think WK is a really good resource for this), voiced and unvoiced consonants and when they’re used… what is something that you wish you’d learned at the beginning, or conversely, think that it would be good for a beginner to know that isn’t often taught to beginners?

I know I felt really cheated when I discovered the word “大丈夫” - it seems like one of the very first words one should learn, but alas, it’s not.


I was not told that kanji actually makes reading easier. I studied Japanese over a year before I started WaniKani, and I have become so much more fluent in reading since then. I try to watch anime with Japanese subtitles, and I can now understand many words that I have not learned yet because I can read part of the word while the pictures and tonality hints at the meaning. Before this I knew about 2000 words, but I had a hard time to keep them apart, especially of they were conjugated. I know anime and manga is not the best learning tools, but the fact that I understand more every day makes me so mutch more motivated to study hard.




I’m not sure if that’s a genius or sad answer. How did you intend it?

i’d teach a beginner to not be scared of the dictionary form.
many books start teaching the masu-form, and that’s fine (a newbie can’t speak anyway, and someone who can barely string 3 words together would have to actively try to be rude), but the dictionary form makes conjugations easier to learn, which then speeds up the whole process.


Almost relevant to the recent discourse, but radicals and how they’re used to build kanji. When I started, a huge chunk of my peers were Chinese or otherwise fluent in Chinese, which meant they were already super familiar with writing and recognizing kanji. I eventually just picked up the pattern myself, but I spent a lot of time hearing them talk about certain kanji by the parts they were made of or the parts they shared with other characters and felt a little out of the loop.


this I could not understand conjugated verbs and i-adjectived at all until I began to learn the dictionary form. The books I used was so hard on politeness that the dictionary form appeared after about 400 pages in.


That’s been my experience as well. I actually prefer kanji and think it really makes the language easier. You’d be surprised how many people look at me funny when I say that.

I’m actually starting to realize this. I don’t really like Wanikani’s radicals for that purpose (mostly), but I think it would be beneficial if I learned the 部首.


I agree on this point, but that’s just based on where I am with learning the language. I’ll do the WK way for the lesson, then set all of their synonyms to “radical” so I can just…skip them. The major reason being that I already know the 部首, and the minor reason being that I don’t use the mnemonics for anything :man_shrugging:

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Surely you already know all of the kanji you’ve seen in the first 5 levels anyway (and presumably most of the kanji throughout all 60 levels).

I think even if I didn’t, the WK mnemonics might not be the best for me. Some of them are pretty funny, but I’ve never been great at utilizing longer mnemonics. I’ve heard the mnemonic for remembering the order of the planets and the one for the quadratic formula throughout my whole life and I still can’t recite either one of them properly (I do know both things; I just can’t remember the mnemonic).

For the readings, I do find the mnemonics useful, but in a different way. I’m supposed to remember a story. But instead, I just take the salient points. “Sheep. Yogurt. You.” I don’t even remember what the story was. And then eventually I don’t even need those because the readings are cemented in my head.

But they do help for a small bit of time, and that’s still useful enough to me to spring for a lifetime…


I always had trouble with those too. The stories were just too long for me to focus on to begin with, let alone remember.

I’ve personally found phonetic components to be the most helpful for remembering readings. I used the mnemonics on occasion for readings, but only when I was desperate.

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Hmm. Phonetic components. I’ll have to look into that.


I respect the two Japanese language teachers I had in high school (both were native speakers) and I wish they weren’t coy about the fact that textbook Japanese does not accurately reflect natural Japanese spoken by natives. I feel like there is a huge disparity between textbook Japanese and real Japanese, as opposed to textbook English, which seems to be much closer to how it’s actually spoken.

Also yeah I wish I was taught dictionary form as opposed to masu form early on. I remember in classes when you’d get shunned for NOT using masu form, which imo is a terrible way to prepare students to use it. It obviously is important for speaking to seniors, but this discouraged students from understanding more casual Japanese.


probably i wish i had known about wanikani or tofugu in general. kanji overwhelmed me so much at the beginning i avoided it for 9 months. i don’t even remember what i did in those months but with just kana, probably not much.


I wish at the beginning I had learn that sentences in Japanese basically just need one main verb including implied state of being(not counting slang/colloquial speech)

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I wish I knew about Wanikani earlier. I had taken Japanese at university for two years before I started using it. I liked this learning method far better than what I was doing in school and basically had to restart learning kanji.


I’ve heard about this… How do I learn this “actual” Japanese?


Ditch あなた、どうぞよろしくお願いします、君、and the other outlandish pretenses textbooks provide you. And you’re off on the road to speaking it. Good luck!

Side note, I have never heard a Japanese person say ではありません outside of the high school classroom. Ever.