What guidance do you have for when to start "immersion?"

Before folks jump to “NEVER TOO SOON!” … I get that, but time is a precious commodity and its limited and strategy and advice from experienced folks can be invaluable.

I’m interested to know, for those folks who have been at this for a fair bit of time, when immersive activities like beginner podcasts, watching shows with and without Japanese subtitles, reading LEVEL 0 graded readers, etc, felt like actually worthwhile activities. That is to say, how much grammar and vocab/WK did you have under your belt when you started readers, or understanding enough of these resources to consider them a worthwhile use of your time? Or, if you think what you did could maybe have been done better, what advice would you give early beginner students for introducing these activities?

I ask because I opened up a level 0 graded reader and it said “don’t look anything up” and I was like “but…i don’t understand 95% of what I’m looking at??” So l read over it and highlighted the single words and particles i recognized and shed a quiet tear.

Likewise, I listened to Nihongo con Teppei and god bless him, he was slow and deliberate and he was obviously speaking as clearly as one could hope for and my dumbass understood like one section and maybe a word here or there I almost felt like crying when I realized even the basic stuff is clearly beyond my ability to comprehend.

Yes, I cry a lot, what about it?

Anyway, I could sit there and look up every word in a reader, find transcripts and pour over them, but I’m not sure that’s the most efficient use of my time, when that time could be spent maybe cramming enough grammar and vocab that maybe 30-50% minimum would be comprehensible on first pass…but I’m open to being wrong!


I would say it depends on what kind of learner you are.

If I would do it again, I’d probably knock out N5 as fast as possible and then start with the easy guided stuff (easy comprehensible Japanese, graded readers etc.). At level N4 I’d slowly start trying easy manga (Takagi san etc.) and working on that. Around N3 you should definitely try to up your immersion.

But it really depends on the person. Some people need it early as motivation. Others are fine to grind to around N3 with just guided learning material before jumping in.
Either way listening to Japanese early, even with English subtitles can be really beneficial for your pronunciation and listening comprehension. Learning the words without hearing them makes it way harder in my book and it’s important to get used to the speaking cadence.
So when just learning with guided material, I would definitely try to get something that has at least some listening exposure. I think most books come with audio for the reading passages and something like Satori reader or NHK news web easy can read the text for you as well, so I would use that a lot.

Enough of my ramblings.
TLDR: If you feel it’s not for you, it is okay to delay it for a little while.


To get good at immersion, is to do much immersion. There is no way around it.


I know you like to answer people with the snarkily obvious, but if you re-read my first paragraph, you’ll see my question references efficiency.


I think you just answered your own question. If you don’t think it’s worthwhile, it probably isn’t.

Some people find grinding through dictionaries more rewarding than shuffling through yet another set of flashcards. Some people don’t.

For me, it goes in cycles. Sometimes, reading – however slowly – is what I came here to do, and reviewing is about as appealing as oral surgery. And sometimes reading is so frustrating that I go crawling back to my reviews.

As far as levels go, WK Level 5 is pretty early, especially if you’re just starting, as opposed to coming to WK after trying other tools. Probably 15 or so would be a better place to be before you start on beginner-level native materials. At least that’s about where I was before I felt I was actually reading rather than practicing my dictionary skills.


I’m gonna say a good start is more around having at least an N5 to N4 level of grammar and vocab,
from there i would recommend animelon (which has japanese subs, and can pause to translate) starting much earlier than that, and you won’t really have too much of an idea of what to actually be trying to hear for with listening practice


I see alot of that aswell. My answer still stands. People want to find the optimal way and try to find some magic way to make it less painful. But in the end, the pain is the way.

You can either study or prepare in all eternity for the perfect opportunity.


I think you’re dead on with the listening… I’m working my way though Genki and Bunpro but you’re right, I think I need to turn on audio options bc without hearing it, it’s not going into my brain as a “language,” but more like…idk a math problem or something.


Again, not looking to avoid pain. Life is pain. I’m trying to be efficient.

Looks like you could use some practice with English reading comprehension, bud


Yep probably! But then, I don’t spend my days on language forums trying to make beginners feel bad about asking questions, so I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.


I’m not trying to make beginners feel bad, I’m trying to make them start to learn instead of trying to hack the system.


Just to clarify N5/N4 = Genki 1/2, yeah?

And thanks for the recs!

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It’s not really a podcast, since it’s got a visual element
but Comprehensible Japanese is arguably even simpler than Nihongo con Teppei and intergrates drawings, pictures and sometimes TPR and to help with understanding
(It feels a little childish to go through such simple topics as ‘what colour is this’ but it helps to get a foothold and she also made more advanced ‘beginner’ and ‘intermediate’ videos if you want to try moving beyond)

(edit: forgot to link www)


I personally haven’t used Genki, i’ve just been following the lesson order from BunPro and using The Complete JLPT N5 Grammar Video(Game) Textbook - YouTube as listening material while on drives to hammer in grammar


This is amazing, i was just wishing there was more resources like this!


In my opinion podcasts are pretty useless for a beginner if you want to get a little listening practice better watch japanese tv, movies, anime pretty much any visual media in japanese. The visual clues will help you understand it. I listened for over hundred hours to podcasts and never actually learned anything from it.


Oooooh this looks great for bbs like me, thank you!!


This was the feeling I was getting so thank you for verifying! Was there a WK/JLPT level where you felt audio-only input started to be valuable?

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Yeah, it’s especially good because the Youtube videos have optional captions and the website has a free transcript (and even an English translation, but most of these videos are so simple to me, just a transcript is fine)

It’s understandable most podcasts have transcripts for patreons only, and you definitely need to not over rely on them, lest listening practice become more reading practice
But it’s nice to have the option to double check something you heard


If you stick with Japanese long enough, you’ll discover that things like audio-only input become valuable after you’ve spent time struggling through audio-only input.

I read manga in Japanese every day. Have done so for a few years now. I can read quite a bit with relative ease. But if I’m listening to Japanese audio, I’m often lucky if I can pick out more than a few words here and there.

The difference is that I spent a lot of time reading manga to reach a point where I was able to (comfortably) read manga. But I haven’t put in the hours listening to Japanese to get good at listening Japanese.

Here’s the why:

The brain is a pattern recognition machine. Learning grammar and vocabulary in isolation (just as an example) doesn’t get a person very far because the brain doesn’t have enough to build up a pattern.

When I started reading, I was constantly looking up unknown grammar and vocabulary words. Over time, the most common grammar and vocabulary came up so often that my brain started recognizing patterns. Certain expressions said in specific scenarios. Common word patterns. Eventually, I reached a point where sometimes I could tell what someone would say in advance.

But I’m still no good at listening.

A person can technically complete 60 levels of WK and learn all the JLPT vocabulary and grammar and still not be able to understand any audio content.

My recommendation for beginners who want to make the best use of their time is do a few things to get their feet wet with the language:

  1. Learn to read ひらがな and カタカナ.
  2. Learn a handful of the most common words.
  3. Learn basic grammar, even if superficially to begin with.

From there, you’re prepared to:

  1. Start immersing in written content (which can optionally be audio content with Japanese subtitles or a transcript).
  2. Look up unknown grammar and vocabulary along the way. This is where you slowly get to know the grammar and vocabulary, as you see them in various contexts.
  3. Feel like it’s not working, but keep going because more experienced people found success doing this.

Will this method work for everyone who wants to learn Japanese?


Most people trying to learn Japanese want to learn Japanese, but haven’t decided to learn Japanese, and they will likely fail at this.

Will this method work for everyone who decides they are going to learn Japanese?

I don’t know.

The hard part is that when you first start immersing, it doesn’t feel like you’re reading/understanding the content. You’re deciphering your way through it. And that just feels like you’re doing it wrong. You have to keep going before you can see that progress. So, if the process isn’t working for you, initially it may be indistinguishable from those it is working for.

This is why I often recommend that new learners (who’ve learned the basics of basic grammar and some common vocabulary) check out the Absolute Beginner Book Club. You can join the active club or read something from a past club, and you have discussion threads filled with questions and answers. You can even ask questions that never came up in an old thread and still get answers.

This allows more guided learning because you don’t have to blindly look things up as you go and hope you understand them correctly. You can get input from more experienced readers to help shape your learning.