What have been your most effective self-study methods?

Hey all, I’ve been on this site for about nine months now, and while I’ve gotten rather good at recognizing and decoding kanji, obviously I haven’t learned much about grammar or written/spoken Japanese since this is not what this sight is for. Over the summer I tried to use Japanese for Everyone, but I had a lot of difficulty working through it and retaining it, as I tend to learn better in a group setting (ie, I don’t retain info unless I’m being forced to constantly spit it back out…aka WaniKani or a class where we constantly have homework sheets made up for us and/or have to talk to our classmates and teacher. And tests. I love formal tests because they force me to test my memory of stuff with absolutely no possibility of cheating. I am, quite possibly, the only person I know who gets excited about tests. Moving on).

My Fall semester is starting to wrap up, and I’d really like to establish some good study habits during winter break that I can hopefully continue into the busy Spring semester. For those of you who study alone because there’s no study groups or classes in your area, what sort of study habits/resources do you recommend? Is there a decently priced interactive online class I could use? Decent forums? Maybe even threads on this forum? Worksheet and test resources?

I’ve also been very curious about iTalki. Do they have actual classes on there? My understanding of it was you just paid someone to talk to you for an hour, which would’t be very effective at my level because I barely have enough Japanese to say “How are you…” and I don’t wanna pay $20 for an awkward staring session. But if it’s more of a class…that’d be really helpful.

Thanks for the tips!


I love italki. They have so many different teachers who specialize in different things. There are plenty of teachers and tutors who can get beginners started, and they are always great at keeping conversations going and never letting there be awkward silences. Plus there are lots of teachers who are cheaper than $20. Tell them what you want from the get go and they’ll tailor the lesson. I’ve have teachers prepare worksheets, give homework, work thru my textbook with me, or just discuss conversation topics or articles with me.


Have you ever had private 1 on 1 classes? It’s like that. You can just show up with your questions or you can follow a textbook with your teacher. There are a lot of different teachers. Read their profiles, spend some days thinking about it, message them even and tell them how you feel about your Japanese study so far, give them some background. Go for the one that feels right. Desperate because you’ll be nervous af during the first class. Jump like crazy after that same first class because you’ll be happy af (trust me, getting out of the comfort zone and realizing that you can actually go over the “how are you” barrier is awesome).

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I try to use as many resources as possible.


  • Genki 1, Genki 2
  • Tobira
  • Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar (Intermediate Edition as well)

YouTube / Patreon



  • LingoDeer
  • Anki with various decks

Doing an Anki routine including vocab and sentences from shows has been my most enjoyable routine as far a the last year of japanese learning.
The routine is this one

I first was using sentences from my shows to practice reading sentences with the words I knew… that way I could see conjugation of the verbs I knew and particles into use…
It was japanese sentence and english translation on the backside.
Like this:

After some months I’ve started using the same sentence, but this time as audio practice. So audio and then ONLY the japanese line in the back. This way I can use shows that don’t have english subs (most of Japanese Netflix)… they look like this:


So, overall. Using shows which I’m watching regularly has been the biggest self study routine that I’ve come across while learning japanese. Highly recommended!!!:sunglasses:


Like I happened to say earlier today in another thread, for grammar I used:

Maybe the anki drill will force you to actually remember?

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If I could do it over again i would:

Get a iTalki tutor to be my teacher and go through genki 1 & 2, one chapter a week.
I would copy, by hand, the dialogs and texts in the book.
I would write out the questions and my awnsers to the questions.
I would have my teacher check all of that written work for each chapter
I would have my teacher do the dialogs and speaking exercises with me
I would have my teacher engage me in dialogs using the vocab and grammar of the chapters ( or other speaking practice)

If you did something like that, it would approximate a classroom experience and afters 6 months you would have made a ton of progress.

After going through Genki (or similar) and getting the basics down, you can be alot more flexible about how you want to proceed. You have to get the basics tho…

the teachers on iTalki have alot of experience teaching new students. You don’t have to worry that its just gonna be you staring at someone for an hour. They can (and most advertise that they do) teach you from a textbook.

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I have a rather fixed routine by now to force myself to keep studying :slight_smile:

For kanji recognition of course I use Wanikani and Kaniwani (if you haven’t checked it out yet, please do, it’s surprisingly hard sometimes). To drill the kanji more into my head, I like to learn how to write them down. For that I use an app kalled Kanjitree. It can also be used to test recognition and reading, but I mostly use it for practicing writing on my phone.

To study vocabulary, I use iKnow.jp, which is not free, but in my opinion well worth the money, which is not a lot. Studying the vocabulary with it is so much fun you’ll never notice that it’s been hours - and it uses the SRS technique, like Wanikani does.

To practice grammar I use bunpro.jp, which is also not free but it has a very small fee, since it’s not completed yet. It also uses the SRS method. This has links to a lot of different sites under the readings of certain grammar, so it is a big source of study links as well.

And finally to sort of test everything out all in once I often read easy news with the help of an app called Tangoristo. This one collects news for you from japanese websites and categorizes them based on how difficult they are. It underlines the words, which makes it easier to understand, and if you get stuck, you can tap on a word and an english translation will appear. I suggest turning off the furigana to force yourself to read the kanji.

To practice speaking I am in a rather good situation, since I have a japanese friend since this summer, and we often skype to practice english and japanese. I am also attending a class, but that is going way slower, than I like to study - so I use that for the group feeling and listening to the japanese teacher’s talking :slight_smile:


Maybe just a thought for you to consider, since I see class, test, worksheets and similar words mentioned.
If you study japanese (or any other language I would asume) for a test, you’ll get really good at doing tests, and overall at studying… but that doesn’t go hand by hand with using the language… you’ll get a tangential benefit for speaking to other people in that language, to read some daily information aimed for speakers of japanese… watching shows… etc…

So whatever routine you see fits putting into your daily habit of studying should be ok, as long as you understand and constantly check how that is translating into you using the language

so overall I could say that I mean something like this:
see grammar/vocab> you go read … you practice listening… you go watch a show / podcast … etc… you shadow and practice pronunciation – you go talk to the next lady on hellotalk.

Slowly wean you off from study mode to doing things in japanese it’s both a pleasurable activity and a huge game changer regarding how far you can take this :+1:

Just an idea to have in mind before embarking into a heavy study routine blindly believing is the same as practical use of the language :ok_hand: … unless you’re into japanese for the study part of it … :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


I’d say that I made my fastest progress with Assimil Japanese With Ease (general language course for beginners), Glossika (speaking practice), and the Everyday Listening series (listening practice).

My worst progress was probably with two semesters in college.

EDIT: And for good language-learning forums, I’d recommend language-learners.org (and its predecessor, how-to-learn-any-language.com)

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My main source of learning Japanese besides WK is Rocket Japanese at Rocketlanguages.com. It includes lessons with conversations, vocabulary, grammar, culture, writing, and you can record yourself saying most of this. There are tons of reinforcement activities and tests. I have learned huge amounts of Japanese quickly from this site and it is FUN! It is a paid site, but they have sales several times during the year. I’d guess they will have one soon.

I also watch TV Japan and various Internet sites (one is NHK for School), read graded readers, do Genki 1, have flash cards (also in Rocket), listen to NHK Radio News, etc. I’m seriously considering iTalki.


I think that reading Japanese is a good sort of “test equivalent” for employing the knowledge you’ve gained during your grammar and vocab studies. You’re not physically writing things down (well, you could write in your book if you wanted to), but you’re parsing sentences and having to utilize the grammar and vocab you’ve learned along the way to make sense of the text. This ensures everything stays fresh in your mind while also exposing you to new words and grammatical structures. Just remember that it’s important to find the right type of reading material to do this effectively. If it’s too high-level, you won’t be able to learn from it as well because it’ll be 100% learning and likely overwhelming.


I would suggest the quint essential textbook: Genki. The textbook itself has a lot of exercises that ask you to practice what you learned and the workbook has tons of additional activities. I would highly recommend it if you feel being forced to do exercises is what works best for you. Plus there is some listening comprehension as well, which is nice.

Additionally, I really appreciate the Japanese graded readers. I think it really helps for you to actually READ something, putting your skills to the test and getting used to natural sentence patterns. Plus, it’s fun and gives a huge boost to your confidence. Since they’re designed for learners, if you start at level 0 you should have no problems reading it and the content is usually pretty interesting, too~


WaniKani, KaniWani, and Bunpro are my 3 main tools. When I have time, I read chapters of Human Japanese to get a different view of basic grammar points.

A few times a week I’ll look at Japanese sites based on my interests and just try to read. If I see some new grammar while reading, I’ll google it or look it up on Bunpro. I’ve found some very surprising grammar discussions (and arguments) on places like Stack Exchange and Reddit that have changed the way I think about certain grammar concepts.

If you’re not sure where to get started with Japanese interest sites, try Blogmura. It’s a Japanese blog ranking site with blogs on lots of different topics like pets, sports, food, etc.


What the heck are you watching on Netflix??? Since when does Netflix have porn?


I went the normal route of textbooks etc, but I must say that one thing that has really made a huge difference in my vocabulary learning pace has been to switch from memorizing vocab thru decks just consisting of the word/translation, e.g.

to run

To cards including full sentences PLUS cards with sole vocab words, e.g.

First set:
An old friend passed away the day before yesterday.

Second set:
To pass away; to die (polite)

This allows me to simultaneously learn the word as well as how it is used in context. When I first started out learning Japanese, I can’t tell you how many hours I wasted learning random words with no context, and I found I had an extremely hard time actually using them in sentences because of that. I’ve been using core2k to learn vocab since I came back to Japan this summer and it’s made a massive difference already. I’d highly recommend core2k or another similar sentence deck (also have heard Nayr’s core5k is good) for these reasons.


The system that worked for taking me through N3 last year, and up to N2 this year (we’ll see whether I actually pass, but I’ve been getting 70-80 percent on practice tests, so I’m around that level at any rate), was just having a set list of items to get to once a day. They usually included:

  • Two JLPT Nihongo Sou-matome books (it divides its line into five books per level; I did one section in two at a time each day); replace with your preferred line of books
  • Clearing out Wanikani’s review queue
  • Clearing out iKnow’s review queue and trying to start ten new words on it unless I was feeling like that was too much.
  • While going through the grammar and vocab books, and for anything else I encountered that seemed useful while reading/being out in the world in Japan, I entered it into a running Word Document so that I could search for them later and use it for review. I wound up with a ~40-page document during N3 prep and ~75 for N2. I still add to it when reviewing or reading. This sounds like a lot, but it’s hardly any extra work to take notes like this as part of grammar or vocab study time.

And that’s it. That system helped keep my study regular and upped my comprehension dramatically. As I finish off test-prep books, I replace that time with mock quizzes and tests, and have been building in more and more reading and listening time (comics, novels, TV shows, and grammar videos). For the last couple of months as I approach N2, I’ve shifted all entertainment time over into Japanese–I’ll mix English back in when the need to up my fluency is less urgent. I’ve made other small changes too like switching my phone to Japanese, etc. For context, I live in the country.

But you don’t need to do all that stuff at the bottom. The point is this: Have a list of things you’ll do once a day, every day. Guilt yourself about them if you haven’t gotten to them by the time you go to bed. The routine will stick. And as you transfer off of dedicated study material and into just consuming things in Japanese for fun, keep the same promises to yourself: Before the end of the day, I must watch at least one ________. I must read at least _________ pages. Have a routine you don’t have to think about, have a place to take notes (I like having a running Word Doc especially since I can cntrl+f and find my own explanations), and stick to it.

For resources, searching for translations from English into Japanese by native speakers via https://ejje.weblio.jp, reading Japanese grammar sites online, and Nihongo no Mori videos have all been big helps for clarifying small points outside of regular study.

I prefer iKnow to Anki because if I had to do all the maintenance Anki requires of its users, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get into a good vocab routine outside of the JLPT books. I’m paying instead, but to me the ease of planning is worth it. iKnow and WK are a pretty potent combo together. Anki’s totally fine if you’re okay being more active in setting up your own content though.

Edit – I also sometimes journal in Japanese, and in general daily life requires me to use it to regularly express my own thoughts (my speaking still lags faaaar behind my comprehension though, which I want to fix). If you’re not in Japan I would definitely try to build in either a writing or interaction resource of your own though (classes, a language exchange program, etc.). Vocab and grammar drilling are never going to stick anything half as well as actually having to use the item in context.

Edit edit – Oh, you’re just delving into resources other than WK. Get an elementary textbook (like … Genki, I guess; I recently asked if there were something better, but it’ll work), the corresponding workbook, and just apply the advice above about making it a set thing every day + take notes.


:stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: … you caught me!!! I was expecting someone to notice that it wasn’t yet another cutsie Madoka anime show :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

Actually the image it’s from a show over Japanese Netflix

Professionals of Adult Industry | Netflix


is somewhat of a night show where former JAV actresses and some other people in the business comment about their experiences during their careers.
Way to go Netflix!! A lot of vocab not found anywhere else is comming from this show to my sentence cards :smirk: … besides I think it’s quite rare to see this level of honesty while talking about sex on any other show.


I have to admit that does sound interesting.
I have to assume that I was the only one that read the kanji on your screenshots lol


I assume the same… The lines on that card were somewhat insinuating :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: … I would have been surprised if nobody droped a line regarding that…

Actually, my complains about watching shows in japanese and the difficulty to find anything but anime and dramas (which was my first impression when aiming for shows to watch) are totally over now that I’ve done a more in depth search over Japanese Netflix.

EDIT: @spurofthemoment : Japanese Netflix (via a VPN if not in Japan) is probably one of the best resources you can get your hands on as a self study method… if you get to binge watching stuff over there… you’ll be hook into an unhealthy yet highly efficient method to develop your japanese. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: