What's your favorite way to study Japanese?

Soon I’ll be going to Japan again, during which time I intend to pass N1, though I expect it’ll take a few years’ more study before I’m quite there. In the meanwhile, I want to delve into Japanese study as fully as possible-- which, naturally, means a lot of socialising, as well as traditional book study.

I’ve read many Tofugu articles on the subject, but I was wondering what everyone here uses!
My favorite way of studying is listening to Japanese pop songs (though I don’t really know many of them)! I grew up listening to Morning Musume and AmiYumi, though my current favorite singer is Yui!

Video games with Japanese text and dialogue \o/


Watching anime and translating song lyrics.

That is to say, I don’t really study, I “study.”

Don’t be me.


My language exchange is both my favourite and most frustrating way to study. I love getting the speaking practice in and we often have a lot of fun laughing and chatting. However, conversation is also where I most keenly feel the gap between what I can say and what I want to say.

I’m also a big reader so I love reading anything I can understand. That’s why Tobira was the best textbook for me. I’m slowly graduating from books for younger kids to ones for teens and even some for adults. I even enjoy reading the texts in my Kanzen Master book. They’re tough for me, but a lot of them have actually kind of interesting ideas in them.

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Probably my favourite Japanese learning exercise (outside Japan) is going to the Japanese cultural centre in my city once a week for 日本語喋る. It’s a mix of English and Japanese native speakers just getting together and talking about Japanese culture, experiences, language learning resources and techniques and the like. As a member of the cultural centre, I can also borrow books and language resources from their library. I’ve been really struggling to stay on track with my Japanese lately, but this is really helping to turn things around.

  • Memrise
  • watching Japanese TV while looking up and saving words in Tangorin (or writing them down in my Japanese study notebook)
  • drawing kanji on a dry erase board several times each while reviewing a Sou Matome book

Those are the things I’ve been doing the most lately! I want to use lang-8 again, but I need to find a list of topics or something to keep up with consistent entries.

Speaking! And playing video games! Sometimes playing in Japanese can get frusterating, though. Especially if you’ve never played the game before and want to enjoy the story. Right now I’ve managed to combine the two by playing MMO Final Fantasy 14 on a Japanese server, so I get to use Japanese in my Free Company (guild).

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Translating song lyrics is great, though. You pick up things you wouldn’t get from sources like Genki. It’s good stuff.

Hey riccyjay, I love reading too, but I’m not there yet (just completing Genki I), but could you elaborate on that? I’ve already been considering Tobira for my continued grammar after Genki II, but I know there are others out there (and/or just Dictionary of Basic + Intermediate Japanese Grammar, potentially)…

If you don’t think this is the best place (and kind of off topic) anywhere you feel is appropriate and just @ me is fine. ^^


Oh, that sounds really cool! There’s a cultural centre up here… but it’s actually pretty far away (by transit, kinda on the outskirts out in the subburbs). I performed at an event their once, lovely building. Wonder if they have a library like that for members… been trying to find things at my local library sometimes.

Tobira’s method is basically to give you a long reading passage - usually about two full pages - followed by a shorter reading passage - about one page - and some long conversations. I’ve seen people say they didn’t like these, but personally I found a lot of the topics very interesting and genuinely enjoyed reading about them. The reading is then followed up with a grammar section in which points used in the readings / conversations are briefly explained in English and each is provided with several example sentences.

It’s definitely tough to get into since there are no translations at all for the readings, conversations or example sentences (although there are word lists), but it gave me a lot of confidence to find I was able to read whole pages of fairly dense text and really encouraged me to think I could go out and read things in the real world. A lot of people find it difficult to get started and I’d definitely recommend having a look at a chapter or two before buying but I think it’s a great book for people who like reading due to the volume of material it has.

Alternative is Integrated Approach. It follows a similar approach and I found to be easier but not as interesting. Also, while it covers roughly similar ground to Tobira, it covers less of it.

Hope that helps, and if you have any more specific questions, ask away.

(If you do go for it, you might find this thread useful.)


Hmm… so no explanations in Japanese (yet)? And only “brief” explanation of grammar points… Hmm… medium explanations about the tougher grammar points I’d appreciate… as well as the translations (of the longer passages especially), even if way in the back in an appendix (so you can’t cheat as easily, or accidentally while reading). Hmm… Good to know, though! I guess I’ll have to see how well I feel I understand things after Genki II, and give both texts a look. Great to know it covers more, though! : D

I’ve tried every method out there until I found one that really gets me results, and that’s essentially:

  • Mining sentences as I encounter them in the “wild” (actually by reading books, watching anime/drama with Japanese subtitles, videogames…).
  • Adding the sentences to Anki.
  • Looking up the grammar used in the sentences if it’s unknown to me.
  • Finish reading/watching/playing the thing where I got the sentences from.
  • Review the cards.
  • Repeat.

To me, it’s the best method for learning vocabulary and kanji, since you see them in context, Anki helps to keep the retention high, and getting the sentences from things I enjoy doing (instead of plodding through unending grammar points beforehand) keeps me motivated as well.

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