What learning path should I take?

So I am 13 years old, self learning Japanese because I want to go to college in Japan.

The problem being is that I have absolutely no idea where should I go or what should I do. When should I do vocabulary, grammar, kanji etc. and what to do for writing. Basically it is difficult for me to learn anything without a path made out.

Would really appreciate if anyone could tell what path you are using, or for advanced learners, what worked best for you :slight_smile:


I watched anime and learned a bunch of vocabulary for like 7 years.

Then I went to a Japanese school, learned hiragana and katakana.

While we were going through the Minna no Nihongo books, I studied kanji here, until my kanji was way above the level I needed for school, so like 30.

Then I took a class for preparing for the N4, and passed it.

Before the N4 and after hiragana and katakana, studied fairly regularly, but not quickly, for 3 years.

When should you do every part?

First learn hiragana and katakana, then learn kanji and vocabulary (vocabulary is more important for grammar and stuff, but kanji is important for reading and a bit of writing) while advancing on your grammar, and then immerse in native content so you see the language actually being used and learn from that.

Lots of people say it’s never too early to read, if you already know basic vocabulary.


I would see if your parents can help you with enrolling in classes nearby or getting you an online tutor! I would really recommend using something like Preply (Special offer! Try your first lesson on Preply for less - referral link because it gives you a discount!) to set up a tutor that doesn’t cost too much to help you learn the basics.

After you have learned the basic alphabet (hiragana and katakana), you’ll have the building blocks to learn grammar and kanji and vocab! Generally, you’ll need to learn a little bit of each at a time because if you get to a point where you know a lot of vocab but no grammar… you won’t know how to make sentences! But it’s the same result if you know a grammar but no vocab.

In general, try out a bunch of things until you can figure out what style fits you best. Youtube videos, apps (there’s a bunch especially to learn the basic alphabet!), tutors, classes, textbooks etc.


Personally, I decided to use a Refold guide as a framework for language acquisition. Over the course of Stage 1, when I was looking for resources to learn the basics of Japanese phonetics and writing system I’ve detected the Tofugu. With its guides I’ve learned phonetics, hiragana, katakana, found out about WaniKani and started my kanji learning here. Around level 10 I’ve begun learning grammar with Genki (Tae Kim grammar guide was a bit too difficult to start with). Although I think level 15 at WaniKani is a better place to start with grammar in order not to slow down your progress due to lack of vocabulary and kanji knowledge too much.

After finishing Genki I I’ve started immersing with Graded Readers (level 0, 1) and then anime. However, I kept on studying with Genki II and now Tae Kim grammar guide.

Of course, this isn’t the most recommended path according to Refold, but I hate having to deal with too much language ambiguity, so I’ve decided to learn more grammar and vocabulary at first. After all, Refold is a framework and you can adapt it to your needs and preferences.

BTW, MattvsJapan (Refold creator, who achieved high level of fluency in Japanese) considers their JP1K Anki deck an alternative approach to learn basic kanji and vocabulary.


Definitely learn Hiragana first, but after that…

Grammar can be learnt without Kanji or Katakana foundation, by listening along. Textbook is a great way to start. Vocabularies might be remembered easily by audio => EN and EN => Kana. Hiragana will also be reinforced along the way by seeing Japanese sentences + audio.

There is no point waiting until Wanikani level 10, when so many people quit at around level 6. Also, there is no guarantee that you can progress near max speed in Wanikani, thereby wasting time by trying to go max efficiency. Nonetheless, I agree that Wanikani makes Kanji easy to approach.

A lot of vocabularies are only meaningful when you have at least some grammar down.

After that, I get used to Japanese writing by reading Tadoku readers from Level 0, focusing on extensiveness.


I think the best would be to see if you can attend language classes. Thanks to the pandemic there are way more options for online classes than before. I personally prefer offline classes because I tend to look up words or use deepl in online classes more so I feel like I’m improving less compared to offline classes.
In my country (Germany) most education centers (Volkshochschule) offer Japanese classes online and offline (so you don#t have to live in the same city or country). They really helped me to have a structure when it comes to learning. Attending classes regularly helps me to keep learning even on days when I’m not motivated.
The classes advance very slowly so I mostly use them for conversation practice or asking a native questions now.

Aside from that it really depends on the learning type you are. Depending on wether you are a visual, auditive or reading/writing or social learner I’d try to make a learning plan that makes sure to utilize your strengths.
For example if you are an auditive learner then starting with podcasts (like Nihongo con Teppei), watching Anime and using youtube videos (for example Japanese ammo with Misa) early is probably a good idea.

Edit: We also have a list of resources you can check out.


There a lot of different options out there and some great advice above.

My perspective is, “don’t be afraid to change” , if you’re not enjoying something, there’s probably a different way to learn.

Don’t like Anki decks, ditch them. Finding the textbook a bit stale, find another one.

Someone said something that really resonated with me, ‘as long as your studying Japanese and enjoying it, you’ll improve.’

Focus on enjoyment rather than efficiency.

What I’ve learnt is that everyone creates a custom learning routine for themselves - you will too, just give it a bit of time.


Japanese from Zero takes a nice, steady approach which might appeal to someone your age. Adults can use it too, but some say it’s better for teens.


I’d be glad to help you. The first thing you need to do when learning Japanese is learn the two writing systems, Hiragana and Katakana. You don’t need to learn how to write them yourself, just learn the pronunciations of each character. I recommend this website https://realkana.com/

What electronic devices do you have available to learn Japanese with? A pc would be ideal, but there are lots of resources you can still use with an iPad or phone.



I’ve been studying for 5 years.

The biggest mistake I made was not doing any listening at the beginning. I thought I needed to understand everything before listening would be useful.

The second mistake was memorizing long lists of vocabulary. What a waste of time!!

☆☆☆ Happy Japanese journey ☆☆


First of all welcome! You have just started a journey that will give you lots of joy and satisfaction.

First of all learn hiragana

You should also learn katakana, but honestly, you can easily get away with it for a few weeks.
Let’s keep things interesting.
(when you will feel like it:
Learn Katakana: The Ultimate Guide)

Next comes the INPUT. It can come under different forms.
Grammar study, podcast listening, youtube video, classes.

Learn Japanese with manga sensei (Podcast - 30 days challenge / then grammar lessons)

Organic Japanese with Cure Dolly (Youtube grammar lessons) (https://www.youtube.com/@organicjapanesewithcuredol49/videos)

Tae-Kim (Grammar book)

There is also an app on the play store, with the same content (edit: Tae Kim’s Learning Japanese)

I started studying grammar from this website. I then moved to books, but I still think it is an excellent free resource.
It’s also pretty guided with a roadmap laid out, so it might be suitable for you.

Podcasts. They are gold mines.
I know of:
Japanese Pod 101 (From what I know, the most recent lessons are free, and divided by level. so there might be entry level material there)

Nihongo con teppei for beginners (Although i would say beginner-intermediate)

You can find them on the web, spotify, apple store.

SO, if I was you:
Do the Manga Sensei 30 days challenge in (?) 90 days. Listen to the same grammar point 3 days in a row (If you have time also listen to previous ones). Learn the vocabulary list that comes with the daily lesson (its 20 words a day. 6-7 if you do it in 90 days). Then go read the detailed description of the grammar point in one of the guides (Tae Kim, Wasabi). This way you can have fun, learn consistently, hammer down the concepts, without having an heavy workload.
In the meantime also do the first three levels of Wanikani. I would suggest SLOWLY. After doing the reviews, read all the meanings and pronunciations from the summary page. Especially for the words you got wrong. If you have time re-read the mnemonics. Do reviews maximum 3 times a day. Waiting for the reviews to be ready and doing them as fast as possible is not that usefull.

Free material is already good enough to start. Once you do some progress, and showed commitment to your parents, then you can maybe add some paid material. Books, online lessons.

If you go this way, by the end of it you will have more or less a clear picture of what the resources out there are, and what is good for you.

The most important thing is consistency. Really try to stick with your routine. Even reviewing 5 minutes a day something old if you don’t have time to study anything new, makes a huge difference.

Good luck :slight_smile:
I will offer you some good sushi when you come to Japan


Follow what you like, because motivation is really a key driving point. I sure as hell didn’t have much at that age.

Build habits and make it sustainable. It’s something for the long run. That also means you sometimes have to adjust your pace to suit your needs. You’ll have to learn about how you learn along the way.

Make full use of cheap and free resources that is available online. Language learning is an investment. It can be both a time and moneysink, so you gotta weigh what’s more important whenever you’re faced with it.

Get informed on opportunities. Maybe your school has an exchange program or you have found a cool place to maybe study abroad.

And lastly know that many have travelled similar paths before. You’re not alone and there’s many people that can help/support you making this come true.

I hope these general tips are helpful, definitely check out more specifics from other users. You’re gonna make mistakes and hit walls, but that’s part of the process.


You basically need recourses for the following:

  1. Grammar
  2. Kanji
  3. Vocabulary
  4. Listening
  5. Speaking
  6. Writing (some will say this is not necessary. It is.)

Here are a few options that seem to work for different people.
a. Textbook: Genki, Mnn, Japanese from Zero, Tobira Beginner, 80/20 Japanese…
b. Bunpro
c. Lingodeer
d. Renshuu
e. Marumori. This is an all-in-one solution for Grammar, Kanji, reading comprehension, which is by the makers of Kitsun. Currently N5 content is available and N4 is being added progressively, By the looks of it, they are going all the way to N1. They are also adding lists (like one for Genki) and have a flashcard system in place.

You’re already here. Enough said.

Your textbook, in combination cards created in Kitsun would be enough to start. Once you have that down, picking up vocabulary from media you enjoy consuming (and, if you like, putting it in Kitsun) would probably be the most effective for retention. Alternatively, you could use JLPT lists (in combination with Kitsun).

Here are a few options that seem to work for different people.
a. Assimil Japanese. @Jonapedia recommends this and his recommendations are usually worth looking into, based on his extensive contributions on this forum. This is more than just a listening resource: it teaches you grammar as well. They have an app.
b. Pimsleur Japanese is well-regarded. They have an app.
c. Satori Reader has a large fan base and for good reason.
d. Japanese Pod 101 is appreciated by some. It’s a organized like slab of jelly run through a food processor and poured into a bottle of coke with a mentos thrown in, but a lot of the content is apparently of good quality.

This is not a focus of mine, so it’s hard to recommend, but:
a. Pimsleur Japanese: You shadow a lot in this resource and it gives you good pronunciation habits.
b. iTalki: I’ve used this for other languages. happy with the quality of the teachers.
c. Preply: I have heard it’s good.

a. Skritter: Unnecessairly expensive, but very nice,
b. Japanese Kanji Study. If you’re on Android, it’s really good. Does the same as Skritter, with SRS surrently being rolled out to users. Just like Skritter, it allows you to import Kanji from Wanikani and have the same level system. That way, you’re learning to write the Kanji on this app as you are learning them on WK.


  1. You can go the textbook route for Grammar. If you do, combine it with Bunpro.
  2. Alternatively, (if I were starting form scratch, I’d do this) I’d give Marumori a shot.
  3. Use Lingodeer only as a way to diversify your resources so you don’t get bored of your main ones.
  4. Kitsun is great for learning vocabulary, no matter where you get the vocabulary from.
  5. I’m personally going to look into Assimil and Pimsleur as they seem awesome.
  6. Satori Reader is probbaly best for later on in your journey.
  7. I wouldn’t bother with Skritter if you’re on Android since Kanji Study is way cheaper and provides a great experience.
  8. Lots of folks say to use free resources. I rarel trust free products. After all, people who make them don’t owe you anything. They do if you pay them. The quality gap between free and paid resources is larger than most proponents of free materials tend to be willing to admit. This doesn’t mean you can’t go far with free products as you definitely can, but rather that if you can afford a paid resource there is little reason not to invest in one after evaluating it first.
  9. I recognize that the list I have suggested is the equivalent of 6 Christmas shopping lists. I have given zero thought to cost as that is not the question posed. You would know what is reasonable more than anyone else would.

To sum up:
I see three paths, all of which seem fine to me:

  1. Assimil is supposed to set a really good foundation for you. So you could actually avoid textbooks altogether at the start and let Assimil give you a foundation. Simultaneously, use WK and Kanji Study.
  2. Use a textbook of your choice (I partcularly like 80/20 Japanese). Use this with Bunpro, WK, and Kanji Study. For listening, Pimsleur (and some speaking), JPod101, or any of many beginner Youtube resources should do.
  3. Try out Marumori and see if it works for you. PIck any other resources from above for any part of learning you feel you need to reinforce more.

In all cases, iTalki or Preply for Speaking should do the trick.

Above all, consume media you enjoy and pay attention to it. The more exposure you have to the language, while actively studying, the better.


Sorry to butt in this thread, but this is the first time I have heard of MaruMori. I have a lifetime-subscription to kitsun and am very pleased with it, so a tool from the same makers is interesting me. Since I am currently advancing to N4 material do you think I could still get some value out of it?


For now you can check out Crystal Hunters. They have free guides for each manga that has vocabulary lists and grammar explanations, so if your goal is to learn to read manga it’s worth checking out. There is Japanese and Natural Japanese, so make sure to read the Japanese version as that is the easier version and that is the version that gives you explanations on vocabulary too. The first volume is completely free while the rest of a couple of bucks. They are also a really good resource because the teach nuances which is something you will never learn in a Japanese language classroom at school and not something Japanese language learning apps teach either.

It’s pretty cool as when I listen to anime now and I actually hear those nuances and understand why you are saying things the way they say, so Crystal Hunters is very worth looking into.

I don’t know if you play video games or have a steam account, but I’d recommend wishlisting Nihongo Quest N5 and Shujinkou. Nihongo Quest N5 teaches N5 level kanji, vocabulary, and grammar. Shujinkou teaches from complete beginner as well all the way up to intermediate level.

I currently have the grammar app Bunpo, but definitely want to get Bunpro. Bunpro you can manually type in and search for grammar points so you can use it to learn along side whatever resource you are using. I plan on using it to help me learn along with the video games I just talked about when they come out.

As for WaniKani since you are at level 1 you can do every single lesson they give you, but after a few levels in I recommend not doing every single lesson all at once or else you are going to end up with hundreds to thousands of reviews.

If you pace yourself and just do one level a month then when you are 18 you will be at level 60. I’m suggesting a level a month because school work is probably going to take up a lot of your time along with other activities/responsibilities, so it’s good to form long term study habits now.

As for someone who has gone to a Japanese language learning class in college and has physically been in Japan you don’t need to learn how to write. Writing is also very very time consuming. So my advice to you is if you enjoy/like writing then go ahead and do that, but if you hate it then don’t do it. You can write for fun, but just know it’s not necessary for the learning process. (By the way the video game Shujinkou is going to have writing practice.)

In Japan you just need to be able to read, speak, and listen to get around. Writing really really slow downs the learning process. Hope this advice helps you. :smile_cat:


yeah. They finished putting up N5 so you can use it for revision. N4 should start rolling out within two weeks and be completed by Q2 of next year, I gather. They’re going to release the content in batches.


@neicul, could you elaborate on what MaruMori is about? Sounds intriguing, thanks.


Hmm :thinking: @neicul, seeing as these are Kitsun users (I believe @Aralakh is too), and since this is an unrelated thread, perhaps post about it on the Kitsun thread?


Starting from zero, I would suggest learning hiragana and katakana, then learning some basic grammar on your own (if you can get ahold of a basic grammar textbook like Genki I, that would be perfect), and then as soon as you can jump into some beginner reading material. Anything that you have interest in, really. Manga is a fantastic place to start, and IMO you really can’t start reading too early. Even if you feel completely out of your depth, it all comes with practice. Good luck!

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