What have been your most effective self-study methods?

They… were not insinuating. They were pretty explicit. So is the toy at the bottom left of the image.

I read the text, and decided to just leave it at that. I assume (most) other people who read them did like me.


They do have JP subs for most stuff, don’t they?


Most do, though there’re still some shows that won’t have subs.

Then if looking for english subtitles also it gets harder and there’re only a few additions over the Netflix in my country.

Great practice it’s been watching western movies with JP dubts… Last weeks I did the whole LOTR trilogy… so I can relly on having watched the movie so many times before in order to fill for all the dialogues I missed.
Same is true for japanese shows I’ve watched before. A few months ago I watched Dragon Ball :sweat_smile: … The show it’s simple enough to get most of the dialogues… and if I missed something, having watched the show some 20 years ago also helped :sweat_smile:

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“Most do” is good enough to me :stuck_out_tongue: I might invest on Netflix then. I don’t wanna get too stuck on anime, even if it has a more normal dialogue. Mixing is better :v:

dubs or subs? xD Dubs seems like a crazy challenge :clap::hushed: gj! I see EN audio + JP subs being a good idea as well.

I’ve been wanting to try your methods for a while, but never did. I’ve started watching pretty much all JP media with JP subs and so far the only problem I have is with vocab. I don’t really need EN subs. So far, I’ve been just pausing, checking the vocab idk, see if it’s worth learning and adding it to Kitsun. Then, I learn those words the following day. I feel like exposure => SRS works quite better than the other way around.

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I meant dubs… That’s why I mentioned about been movies/shows you’re really familiar with.

I was doing japanese audio + JP subs initially… but it wasn’t only that my reading comprehension could be struggling most of the time… but specially the fact that I just can’t read very fast, so it turned to be more of a struggle than a pleasurable activity.

Nowdays I just whatch shows that meet the criteria of keeping myself entertain and be at a point where the “not getting” all the content is tolerable… lately It’s becoming much more like watching a show as I would do in my L1 or english and not so much feeling like “studying japanese”.

I think english it’s too much of a distraction wether eng subs or eng audio (in western shows). You get used to go into translation mode… specially if english ain’t your L1.

You can live without understading 100% most of the time…
I’m much more throughout regarding reading actually… but listening it’s a different beast altogether :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

Bottomline is that it’s just my opinion… but hey… you learned english too to a higher degree without that many tricks and language learning apps :man_shrugging: … so japanese might be not necessarily that different.


Yup. This. So much. Otherwise you’re just burning yourself up. It’s cool to say that in order to achieve the results we want, we need to do things we don’t want to do. To me, that’s kinda bs. There’s always a way to make things fun for us. And if we have fun, our learning is superior.

I agree :v:

Yeah, I’m fine with pausing every once in a while. I have to do it so take note of new vocab either way :grin:

I wonder if listening helped me with reading in English, since I never really went through that phase of reading stuff for children. The first books I ever read in EN were non-fiction adult level stuff. Japanese has the “disadvantage” of kanji, but if one can handle that…

Japanese has a sh*t ton of words though, at least books/anime stuff. While chatting with JP friends, I don’t have that much trouble with new vocab.


here’s my quick’n’dirty “10 steps to get you out of noob-land and into intermediate territory, so you can read real japanese for fun and learn without sitting down to study”.

these 10 steps are exactly that though, sitting down to study. they are not easy, but they are simple and they work. it’s a complete routine, proper curriculum for self-study from zero to intermediate. let’s go.

step 0:
go to memrise dot com and learn hiragana and katakana. don’t worry about any other course just yet - learn these two systems. when you can read hiragana fairly well (if you read this here, you probably can) , move on to step 1.

step 1:
do wk, every day, no slacking allowed. this is an ongoing thing and not the thing to finish before step 2. you do it simultaneously. learning japanese takes a while, so do not worry about speed. worry about work load. do small batches, give the system time to schedule all it’s slots. 2 weeks per level as beginner is a good pace. you can speed up later.

step 2:
grab one grammar program and stick to it. be it genki, minna no nihongo, tae kim, doesn’t matter. do it once from back to back, until you think you got it. don’t bother with “did i really remember/can i use grammar point X”. ignore. just read, maybe repeat for clarity, make notes when you don’t understand at all, move on. don’t bother with other alternatives just yet - we’ll get to that.

step 3:
get “a dictionary of (*) japanese grammar”. you exposed yourself to all kinds of basic grammar, this book is what you’re going to use from now on when doing extensive sessions - read on and you’ll understand what this means. it’s your bible, your reference for whatever grammar japanese throws at you. use it to understand, not to learn.

step 4:
get graded readers. whether they’re sorted by class or jlpt doesn’t matter, wk won’t follow such patterns anyway, and don’t worry. read. two ways to do this: extensive reading means no looking up anything. just reading, and if that means 10% comprehension, then so be it. intensive reading means looking a lot up (not stuff you think you understand from context). whether you understand or “understand” is not so important at the beginner stage.

step 5:
you got both an extensive and an intensive reading done, now it’s time to reflect. how often did you look up grammar points? if you looked up a lot of things you read once in your textbook, now’s the time to break it out and go directly to those chapters to do these lessons more thoroughly.

step 6:
start the next reader. do both extensive and intensive.

step 7:
grab textbook, do lessons for stuff you didn’t get.

step 8:
next reader, same routine. if at this point the same grammar still causes you headache, look around for other grammar resources. possible choices: genki, minna no nihongo, japanese for busy people, tae kim’s guide to japanese, imabi, japanese the manga way, making sense of japanese, michel thomas/japanesepod101 (both audio), assimil. all these cover a pretty wide spectrum and explain things differently. see if you can find samples or get them in a library, don’t buy blind.

step 9:
next reader, same routine

step 10:
the grammar resource of your choice is now your grammar guide during the study blocks.

this program is based on Stephen Krashen’s “comprehensible input theory” and does indeed work very well. it provides you with a proper order of things to do, the speed at which you do them is completely up to you. reading provides you with input, using graded readers makes sure you’re not going to jump into the cold water. extensive reading stimulates your brain to do pattern-finding, intensive reading is closer to what a class would call “homework” and acts as test. with slowly raising difficulty, your comprehension will be challenged, but not knocked out. things should always be a little bit too difficult. if you just keep going, you’ll arrive there naturally, no need to do any extra work outside this schedule.

at elementary school grade 3, you can then start on manga like よつばと, which will be pleasant, but still teach you new things. you’ll run into casual japanese now, which will probably new for you. don’t worry, just read. maybe look through the “beginner’s book club” threads here on the forums, yotsuba was on the menu once. the questions and answers there will help you.

you’re done. from here on, you don’t need graded readers anymore and your textbook can retire. only new manga and “a dictionary of (*) japanese grammar” are needed.

there’s 3 volumes. “a dictionary of beginner’s/intermediate/advanced japanese grammar”. you will want the first, maybe later on the second one. the third is nice if you’re ambitious, but that would be at a point that’s not in the scope of this newbie guide.

have fun


:clap::clap::clap: … lights out … drop the mic…:sunglasses:

My thoughts exactly… the specifics could be alter… some “furikake” (all the apps, SRS… heck, even my own sentence mining routine falls into the same category tbh) added to the routine … but overall… it’s basically how you had put it… then add the actual hours and I don’t think there’s much more to it…

your thoughts on listening and the curriculum on that? (as it is what I’m still elucidating) :sweat_smile:

Edit: though I prefer a lower dose of textbooks and the Handbook of Japanese Grammar Patterns for Teachers and Learners instead of the Dictionary of … Japanese Grammar trilogy for reference :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


Thanks for all the info! That’s really helpful. Do you have links to these books?


I really like iKnow as well. It’s great for vocabulary, and it gives you example sentences with different verb conjugations so you can get a feel for them. When I use it alone at home I shadow the sentences, and then try to same them along with the recordings to work on speaking speed. The program tells you what you need to learn, which makes everything easier. It’s also a lot more pleasant to work through. Personally, as much as I want to love it, I just can’t get into Anki. iKnow is a lot easier for me to stick with.


okay, listening comprehension is a beast on it’s own. it’s hard at the beginning, takes time and gets better slowly. unlike reading, which is an intellectual skill, listening comprehension is a physical activity, you’re training your ears to parse streams of sounds, find the beginning and ending of words, identify them, connect them to words you already know. now, listening goes with speaking, it’s the perfect thing to pair up with. both are their own ability, both need training (not study). while japanese pronunciation is straight forward, speaking is not. even if you can pronounce short things, just following the hiragana, you will be severely tongue tied and, at the beginning, stutter a lot. here’s how it’s done:

how you do listening depends a bit on what you have available. thankfully there’s youtube these days :slight_smile:

i’d start out with shadowing. the two videos i would recommend are these:

go through them once, slowly, pausing, reading, trying to understand. understanding what you say is crucial, you’re not a parrot. you don’t want to be able to mirror, you want to be able to connect some sentence with it’s sounds, and you want to be able to produce them yourself.

these two videos have the text on screen simultaneously, so you can speak while reading (or just following the lines with your eyes - reading speed will come by doing the program above, but this here is native speaking speed, it will be too fast for a while).

pause the video at the beginning at every sentence and repeat. do it slowly. then start to speed up until you think you can match the speed of the natives. when you’re close, start to shadow: speak with them, simultaneously. listen while speaking, look out for mismatches, but don’t worry about them. repetition will fix the problem in time. shadowing would be the single best way to identify problems with your own pronunciation and intonation. it also engages both listening and speaking, which saves you time.

treat shadowing like singing: just repeat and try to match the lines as closely as you can. especially the female speaker here goes about the pitch in a way i can’t quite match as a male - which would be a problem in a song. but that’s not a problem for speech, males do sound naturally different. you’ll find though that the pitch is indeed the same no matter who speaks it.

these videos are from NHK by the way, recorded by professionals. they contain casual japanese, go at full speed (you won’t learn from dumbed down, slow speech) and the added text helps a lot. they contain a lot of useful short phrases you will hear and use a lot yourself.

this video here is @koichi , talking about the topic

his guide there is a bit more thorough than what i wrote.

please remember that shadowing (or listening/speaking in particular) is something that comes when you’re already able to read manga pretty comfortably.

another great tool for reading practice and shadowing are vdual novels. there’s a good one for beginners called japanese school life (steam link) - this one is actually made for japanese learners and lets you read in english, japanese with furigana or without. clannad (steam link) is also excellent, i’d follow the first one up with this, because it’s casual and formal everyday japanese.

here’s a “let’s play” of japanese school life with english text, i’m pretty sure steam lets you switch the language for most VNs, but this in particular should have a language switch option in game:

one big thing viual novels have is the ability to click on some icon to repeat all the phrases, often in the log, which you can access somehow. (some have it right in the text field, some in the backlog). being able to go back and forth through the lines and search for special lines and repeat is very useful.

this here is an example of what it looks like… click on the line you want to listen to again:

when you’re done with all this, you shouldn’t need any real studies and training anymore. just watch stuff, read stuff, have fun and pick up new things from sources you enjoy.


Thanks!! That was a great explanation. Actually it validates the plan I was thinking about speeding up listening and speaking.

Indeed reading can be more easily tracked down in terms of progress. There’s enough graded material both for japanese learners and for japanese audiences to make a clear path to progressively increase the difficulty of the material.

As for listening, for me it’s much harder to grade the content I’m using.
Some shows I’ve watched so many times, used as sentence mining material, and overall make it to the point that I’m quite familiar with those so I can listen those same shows in my mp3 player like if they were my daily soundtrack.

I think I’ll give it a go to the Shadowing book, I have the first one, but never went through it. Same for these Listening Training course and Speaking / Pronunciation course… It was hard to practice listening and shadowing when there was such a clear progress in reading skils, and the path was quite straightforward. Now I’m moving to Japan in about 4 months, so I think the benefits of actively practice this will be quite palpable this time :muscle:

So… I’ll try to work over my listening as much as possible, and leave the speaking for when in Japan.

Thanks again!

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i think the book is kind of nice to grade yourself on. it goes in short units and you can see some progress. it’s definitely worth it in my opinion to get both the books, then rip the cds and make MP3s out of them, so you can listen to them anywhere.

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I have been self-studying for about 3.5 years in my spare time now. I’ve never studied at a school. Here are the resources I’ve found to be most useful in my experience, going from knowing nothing, to N5, N4, and now N3 preparation:


N5 to N4 level: For self-studying the fundamentals of grammar, I found reading https://www.amazon.com/English-Grammar-Students-Japanese-Learning/dp/0934034168 to be irreplaceable. It explained various foundational grammatical concepts better than A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar (whose explanations are often overly terse). It explained fundamental grammatical concepts that most other textbooks either forget to explain, or simply do not explain as well as this book. Despite the fact that it’s written in romaji, it has been tremendously helpful in giving me a good foundation in grammar.

N4 level and higher: I highly recommend 日本語文型辞典 英語版 ―A Handbook of Japanese Grammar Patterns for Teachers and Learners" as a great reference for self-studying grammar. It may take months, if not years, to read entirely and fully comprehend, but I think it’s totally worthwhile (or maybe I just like studying grammar too much). I wrote a lengthy review about it on its Amazon page at https://www.amazon.com/Handbook-Japanese-Patterns-Teachers-Learners/dp/4874246788 comparing it to the “A Dictionary of Basic/Intermediate/Advanced Japanese Grammar” books.

Although I also have copies of the “A Dictionary of Basic/Intermediate/Advanced Japanese Grammar” books, I feel that after mastering the majority of the “A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar” book, the 日本語文型辞典 英語版 book does a far better job of giving many, many, many examples and different forms of usage for a particular grammar point (especially for common, “basic” grammar points, that may actually have many different usages that are considered to be more advanced).

I also have found the Kanzen Master books to be great for self-study because they have answer keys and get straight the point of quizzing the reader on specific grammar points. Their grammar explanations are weak and unreliable though. I just use them to test myself and help me choose what to read next from the “A Handbook of Japanese Grammar Patterns for Teachers and Learners” book.

Writing Kanji

The Kanji Study app on Android is by far the best app for this. It’s simply one of the most feature-filled and well-designed Android apps I have on my phone. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mindtwisted.kanjistudy I import kanji lists from WaniKani by level and practice writing them each many, many, many times, while I’m sitting on the bus. I’m probably doing a bad job of explaining how good this app is. I refuse to buy an iPhone because this app is not available on iOS (amongst other reasons for not owning an iPhone).

General textbooks

N5-N4 level: I found the 80/20 Japanese (Kana and Kanji Edition) book to be really helpful for self-study when I was around the N5 level. It explains things from scratch, is written well, with good explanations, and good exercises (without having unnecessary cruft). I much preferred this book over the Genki books. It is also written by a nice Australian guy, who studied Japanese himself, passed N1, and works in Japan (as opposed to being written by a native Japanese professor), so he understands exactly the confusions or problems a native English-speaking learner might have, and provides crisp, useful explanations to address them, in a way that resembles a first-year university calculus class (i.e. always starting with the core concepts concisely explained or enumerated in a tidy table format, then elaborated on, with examples and exercises to follow).

Things that I have found to be NOT useful for self-study, despite other people’s raving reviews:

  • Genki books
  • Minna no Nihongo books
  • Japanese for Busy People books
  • Assimil books
  • Elementary Japanese books

Hiragana and Katakana

At the N5 level, for writing and reading hiragana and katakana (after you’ve tried all of the various tricks to try and learn them quickly, that ultimately failed to work for me because I never internalized them that way), I found that writing out the words in the book “Reading Japanese” - https://www.amazon.com/Reading-Japanese-Yale-Language-English/dp/0300019130 to be most effective.

This book assumes you know absolutely nothing, and then incrementally only adds more characters, and never shows you any characters unless you’ve previously already been introduced to it.

For remembering the correct hiragana and katakana stroke orders, I found these PDFs from NHK to be really useful:

Self-assessing Reading Level

https://www.amazon.com/Japanese-Reader-Lessons-Mastering-Language/dp/0804816476 – This book is legendary in terms of its range of difficulty (from ultra simple to ultra advanced).

It’s one of those books that I keep around, knowing that it’ll take me years to fully comprehend.

It contains graded reading passages from the pre-N5 level (i.e. passages containing simple sequences of kana, just to check if you can even recognize individual hiragana and katakana), N5-level passages, N4-level passages, N3-level passages, N2-level passages, N1-level passages, N1+ native adult level fiction (chapters from books by Japanese authors) and N1+ native adult level non-fiction (e.g. essays on capitalism, texts about foreign trade and financial terminology).

I highly recommend at least browsing the preview of it on Amazon. It’s a unique book, for sure. I have not encountered a book like it, amongst the ~300 books on Japanese that I’ve at least flipped through.


I have not found a good method for this, for self-study while being outside of Japan. The best method for speaking practice that I’ve found so far has been making friends with Japanese natives who don’t speak much English and chatting with them. (I guess that’s kinda obvious though…)

I have not found italki to be useful (but I haven’t used it that much).


Thanks a lot for this tip on the intensive/extensive reading. I’ve been trying that for the last few days since I’ve read your post and it’s helped a lot. Just reading through something the first time, either sentence by sentence, or the whole lot, grasping what I can without worrying about understand every word. I kindof get the gist of things, and then when I go back and read it looking up the words, the rest of the meaning falls into place, or I see what I was lacking. So it’s been a great help so far and I hope to take this forward.

I also plan to take on your advice and pick up the Dictionary of Japanese Grammar early in the new year (it seems cheaper for me to buy it from Japanese Amazon than my local one…) and also research into these graded readers. I’ve seen them mentioned a bunch so am sure that more searching through these forums I can find some more info and recommendations on them.



glad it was helpful. if you run into any trouble along the way, don’t worry. readers are not aligned with wanikani, but it shouldn’t be a big problem. maybe it’s even nice training, for when you’re 60 and the odd one not on wk pops up :slight_smile:

You can get the graded readers from Amazon. I love them and it is good practice. Also the books are fun and entertaining. They are for kids, but I am really enjoying them. The pictures are colorful and really relate to the text.

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I did some shadowing today and it is a lot of fun! Although occasionally harder than I expected. I’d go through like two or three entries fairly easily and then hit one that was just like :no_mouth:

I got really tripped up on お先に失礼しました. How are there so many consonants so close together??

EDIT: Oh and I also always feel like I’m yelling a bit when I’m shadowing Japanese, or at least speaking very loudly and enthusiastically…is that normal?


no worries, you won’t yell when speaking freely :wink: