Where to start? Roadblocks? Bad studying habits? (A noobs plea)

Hey all you lovely people of WaniKani! :smiley:

First of all I just wanna say that if there are any similar topics like this, you are free to shout and yell at me for posting this. I tried to look up if there were any, but couldn’t really find anything that goes in the same direction (But as I said, if so I apologize beforehand).

So I guess you could call this a noobs first steps in learning Japanese. I guess we have all been there right? No matter what your level is, we have all started at zero at some point. Sadly for me, that’s where I’m currently at :expressionless:.

As I soon will finish my final free level here on wanikani (I’m excited and a little scared), and join all you guys for real! I thought I could put this up to give me, and maybe some other beginners a push in the right direction from all of you veterans out there. As we all know, there are several aspects of learning a language, speaking, reading, grammar, listening, writing etc, etc. WaniKani “just” builds up a foundation that you can use in your other studies, correct? You will be familiar with Kanji and learn vocabulary, but you need to take this knowledge into other apsects of learning. This is what I’m planning to do once I finish my last free level here and upgrading my account. So I’m about to take my very first step out of my comfort zone, and start my journey into the unknown.

So I think (at least that’s how it is for me) that as a fresh student of any language, the most troublesome thing is to take those first few babysteps. Where do I start?, what will I focus on? How can I avoid wasting a lot of time before realizing that what I’m doing is a waste of time? How do I lift myself up when I faill into the devil’s den? It’s actually a really scary step to take.

So my question for all you veteran learners out there is, do you remember when you took your very first step into the world of learning Japanese? How was it? Were you like me, a bit scared to take that leap, and had trouble to find the right path in the large tree of crossroads?

I would love if you could share some insights on your journeys and what you did to overcome the obstacles that you faced. How you found the best way to start practicing when you have minimum knowledge about the language, and what you could have done better when you were just starting out. Maybe even share some pitfalls, or study failures that you wish you had never done (Once you realized it after getting much more experienced in the language).

I’m standing at the starting line, and what I see is a long and scary path to the end of finally grasping the Japanese language. What I need is a little bit of a push, and a little bit of guidance to start in the right path.

I would love to hear stories, helpful tips about Japanese and some of your ideas about the things I listed above (Maybe even share something entirely different). Maybe this sounds like (is) a selfish plea from a total noob, but I thought it would be interesting to discuss, and maybe more people than myself could find this very helpful.

I hope this fits the forum, and I would love to get into discussions revolving around all the problems that a total beginner faces, and things that can make the journey easier.

Sorry for the long post, and I hope people finds this interesting enough to give me a lovely motivational push!

Thank you guys, you rock!


I don’t have a lot to say on the subject, but here’s some of what I think…

Start with basic grammar. With some kind of basic grammar (textbook, website, or video series) will also come some lists of vocabulary words that go along with your lessons (and most of those won’t be covered for a while in WaniKani, if ever, since WK goes for more esoteric kanji-using words at times).

When I first started, I had a friend who grew up in Japan (until she was 12) and she was teaching me some (extremely basic) basics: hiragana, は, の as a possessive, and “This は that です” sentence structure, as well as some choice words she thought was important/easy to write with hiragana or a few I requested and found interesting. And then when she switched highschools and then we both went off to different Universities, I just stopped.
For a while.

And then I bought a grammar textbook. It was the wrong textbook. <— This was probably my biggest pitfall and roadblock.
See, at the time when I bought it (sometime towards the end of University, since the Japanese course was never offered while I was there/at a time that I could slot into my schedule, I had taken German instead…)… I wanted a very “textbook-y” textbook. So I had picked up “Japanese Step by Step”*. I liked it at first glance because it had some very mathematical-looking sentence structure “equations” and seemed to have a lesson plan that I could follow with grammar points and vocabulary lists in what seemed like a good progression.

What I didn’t realize, was that

  • a) it used a weird/different romaji spelling than what I had become accustomed to from countless fansubs (and I found that incredibly annoying)
  • b) the romaji didn’t seem to go away
  • c) (and probably my biggest annoyance with it) it only covers polite speech, as it is written by an old employee from Microsoft Japan so it’s really for conversing at work with other colleagues/business people, and that’s not the kind of Japanese that I want to learn (solely).
  • d) beyond the sentence-structure equations where you slot things in, it really doesn’t go into explanations about the grammar very much! So after the first few lessons/chapters/grammar points, it became very dense very fast.

… So I stopped studying Japanese, other than listening and shadowing anime and J-dramas like I always had. Until my sister found WaniKani, Jisho, and Genki.

So my biggest advice to you is: don’t stop.
My second piece of advice to take away from this is: find the right grammar textbook (or resource) for you. Know what you want from Japanese and what you want to learn it for… know your own learning style, and find the textbook that you like.

Other than Genki, some people seem to like Minna no Nihongo (I have not seen it myself). There are also some great videos by Nihongonomori (a youtube channel) - you’d want to start with the N5-N4 playlists, they’re the most basic if you go that route.

The closer to your own learning style/preferences you can find a grammar resource, the easier it will be for you to keep at your grammar lessons, be motivated, and feel more like learning is fun (and less like hard work). It’ll still be hard and frustrating, and things won’t stick all the time… but keep at it.

You can do it!

(And hah, I guess that was kind of long after all, just to say two things.)

I mean, if you look at my profile, I’ve basically been “learning Japanese” since '99/2000… and because of all those gaps and poor choice of resources… look at how far I’ve come?** I’ve learned way more in the last year and a half than I did in all the years beforehand put together. That majorly has to do with staying connected with everyone in this community here. (Also, post in the forums for help. Do it.)

* I bought mine somewhere between 2006 and 2008, also my copy is mainly red, so I believe I have the first edition. It was not $8-ish CDN like there on Amazon… it was more like $25-30… if not a whole $40 (before our ridiculous 13% sales tax).

**EDIT: I was probably level 13 at the time of posting this, with my Grammar studies around Genki I Ch 7.


When you learn something please put it on the wiki in the Pleasant section of the forums so that the next person doesn’t have to ask :ok_hand:

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Thanks a lot for your insightful post!

Yeah, finding the right tool as you mentioned is also a fear factor for me (man, I’m one scared wuss am I not?) But I usually have this image in my head where I search every corner of the web bookmarking everything I can find in order to find something that fits me (Just figuring that out can be a daunting task), and then at the end I will be swarmed with things that I have to go trough and my motivation will just drop like a rock.

When I found out about WaniKani and Anki, my motivation skyrocketed in just the few days that I sat down to learn Hiragana/Katakana with Anki along with some basic lessons from the very first lessons from Genki. After that I actually ordered both Genki 1 and Genki 2, and Im planning to dive into Genki once I hit level 4.

Once again I thank you for your story! It was really interesting to read, and the points you brought up will definetely help me out! Thank you!

Do you mean that I could post a reply there, In case I learn something useful that could be added to the wiki? For that matter I have gone through that post as well, and I think It’s really, really great! I just thought it would be interesting to discuss this a bit further, if people are up for it of course :slight_smile:

Oh, I’m really glad you think so. I’m really glad it was cohesive. I tend to go off on tangents and/or talk about things non-linearly at times (ie: quite often) so it’s a relief you found that helpful.
Also I hope you enjoy Genki. I find it so-so, myself, but I definitely prefer it over that other textbook (which I edited to now be linked…). I go back and forth between that and the videos at Nihongonomori.

Yeah, I think she did.

You might also want to check out the “What do I do now?” thread linked at the top of the Campfire section. It’s got plenty of resources in it. But if that’s all overwhelming for you, just stick with Genki for now. XD

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I wasn’t sure if this section of the forum was a great place to go more in-depth with the problems of just starting out as well. Maybe It’s mainly for asking specific questions surrounding the language and not too much going into sharing ideas or stories like this. I just felt that I would feel a lot more calmer if I could get some insight from people that has a lot more experience with the journey ahead :slight_smile:

I also found this just now after posting this thread, that I found really interesting: (That Koichi himself has made) Click me!

Not sure if this is already something that has been posted in the past, but I’m fairly sure It’s not available in the pleasent section? It was just something that aligned very well with a part of what I brought up in my original post. I will definetely make sure to look around even more on the forums and see if I can find some more guidance. I hope that people are willing to share some of their stories though and maybe that could help a bit for the wiki you were talking about as well!

Maybe I’m overthinking this though, and just have to start going like everyone else.

I actually meant that Metamorphosis can edit the wiki themselves and add whatever they think could be useful to a fellow guppy. It’s been over a week since I graduated from pleasant but when I left we were working on it pretty much daily, but everyone will leave eventually so It’s good if Meta adds it themselves rather than asking Alex or someone else to do it.

Ahhh… Makes sense. If Meta likes to edit wikis…

Im kind of noob too but i started one year ago but started to be lazy after 6 months. Im picking up again now. Anyway i learned something about learning this language. I suggest to learn kanji here, learn grammar like previous poster said youtube+books. Third thing is to take in some vocabulary using memrise wordlists and tube. Would be good to find someone to practice talking with at some point.

I suggest Japanese Tae Kim’s free Grammar Guide: Introduction – Learn Japanese Easier to read pdf: http://www.guidetojapanese.org/grammar_guide.pdf

You learn some kanji from there too and really get to understand how japanese language works. It is hard but has to be done. I liked these videos about verb grammar:

Maybe these too for some basic grammar: Going to a Destination - Japanese Lesson 4 - YouTube

Then some merise to tank up some vocabulary (free site if you haven’t tried it)

I recommend : Human Japanese Intro Vocabulary - by Rin_Asami - Memrise
You automatically learn some grammar too. Word of warning tho. If you start being lazy doing reviews, you will be in trouble. So commit to it and do it daily since it is hard to bounch back if you have hungreds reviws to do. It is hard to learn new words in that situation.

Shorter lists might help to avoid that problem because you can choose list you use: So maybe these if you tend to get lazy often:: Core 1000 (part 1) - by TL-Void - Memrise

There are plenty of lists for vocabulary and kanji too. Just don’t do memrises own japanese course. It really is quite bad.

Well thats about it. Tae Kim and this site will take you far without anything else. Sorry for never learnng to speak proper english :slight_smile:

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Not sure if I have the privilage of editing wikis either, and maybe it should go through a filter as well so I dont put up stuff that people wont agree with? In any case, if I get something that would fit I would be more than happy to add it :slight_smile:

Also, thanks a lot for directing me to the “what to do now?” thread. Just skimming it through I can already see that it will be insanely helpful in the future :slight_smile:

You’re welcome!
(I didn’t catch your previous reply… Reading it now…)

@Usagipot and @Metamorphosis - I don’t know how true this statement still is… but when I first started with WaniKani close to two years ago (August 2015), people would often argue over whether or not Tae Kim’s grammar guide was a good resource for grammar or not. Some people would say it has errors. Now, since that was so long ago, it could very well have been edited and re-edited to correct those errors, but I don’t know for sure. I can’t recall precisely who had said so at the time, but a few level 60s back then and other higher level people (40+) who seemed very knowledgeable in grammar (over me, certainly) didn’t seem to think it was the best resource. So be cautioned… in case no editing has been done to his guide and website.

To quote Syphus, one of the people who is known in our community to be knowledgeable about grammar (and quite helpful in that case as well):

(And a continuation of that conversation here.)

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Well i think it’s because it helps me to understand how japanese works. All the other books i tried, failed to do that. Tae Kim actually explains why his book is different from others. Im noob so i can’t really know how accurate it is. Main thing why i recommended it, is because it helped me to understand how japanese think. Only that alone makes it worth checking out imo. My language is very different from japanese so that really helped.

Fair enough. I didn’t realize there was that element to it.

I recall looking at Tae Kim’s stuff once (back then) and it was too wordy for me. I just want the bullet points.

Hi there, this is just my two cents on the matter so feel free to take it or leave it. Basically I want to say as great as srs systems are (wanikani, anki), make sure not to get bogged down too much with them. Sometime last year I found that I was spending much more time on wanikani and anki than I was with genki, and ultimately I think that grammar should actually be more of a priority. My issue was that I wanted to increase my vocab quickly, but this just meant I had so many reviews that I would tire myself out keeping up with the reviews and not spend enough or even any time with genki. Vocab is certainly important, but in the beginning you need to ground yourself with some basic grammar before you can even put that vocab to use. So if you find that you are spending more time on vocab reviews I encourage you to slow down on the lessons you take and prioritse genki, as you do this your reviews will go down and make it much easier to keep up with the reviews and to find time for genki.
Anyways, all the best in your studies, just take it step by step and you will surely make progress!
Edit: When I say ground yourself in basic grammar, I mean the grammar points covered by genki 1+2 only cover basics of the language.

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I believe that pretty much everyone is allowed to edit wikis ATM since the forums are so new, it will probably be restricted to members soon

Anyway, if you find something helpful someone else is bound to as well. The wiki isn’t there so that people can agree with it, it’s there to be a useful resource for the guppies. You might as well add it if it could help someone else.

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We miss you @Kumirei!! I’ll be leaving there shortly as well. We have a couple new people adding and discussing but could really use more. Please come join if you are under level 10!!

Don’t forget to leave a message on the prison wall :ok_hand:

Thanks for the reminder! I probably would have forgot.

I haven’t read all the comments so people here might have already said the same things as me but here i go.

How i wasted time:

  • Japanese for busy people - doesn’t actually help you apply the language properly, go for genki instead as it is more thorough on grammar points
  • Rosetta stone - waste of money and teaches bad grammar

What i wish i had done sooner:

  • Genki
  • Vocab apps like memrise, making these part of every day life. vocab really helps make everything else easier
  • test my grammar and recap my grammar, don’t just keep learning new stuff, recap the old stuff otherwise you will forget it

What i am doing that helps:

  • Vocab apps
  • wanikani
  • Satori reader (reading every day)
  • Grammar apps for recap
  • daily listening practise (as i suck at this) I have a listening textbook and cd
  • I have already completed both Genkis so now i am reviewing and will buy a new text book soon. I also have an exam coming up, i find exams are great to encourage revision and retention

What i will do next:

  • Speaking tutor
  • writing compositions in Japanese.
    Hope this helps :slight_smile:

It’s not a LOT of time earlier, but to be honest you could (should?) start with Genki right away.

Now, I haven’t used Genki, but I’ve used Minna No Nihongo (it’s my Sensei’s preferred text), and if they are at all alike (and I believe they are), you won’t need the extra kanji/vocabulary to understand it. You won’t need any kanji at all, in fact - my Sensei won’t let you get started on Kanji until you’re on Minna lesson 5 or 6 because he likes to have you know some vocabulary and proper kana before you start using Kanji willy-nilly.

Anyway, the point is: You don’t need to know any vocabulary to dive into a proper beginner textbook, and Genki is definitely one of those. You might want to delay it as a choice, but I just want you to be aware that there is no point in it, the sooner you start learning grammar the better.