Your tips on a healthy complete Japanese journey?

Alright, so I’m not entirely new to Japanese, having worked through Genki I in a course – which I passed – buuut I was somewhat lazy when it came to learning the Kanji so I don’t feel comfortable with paying for another course to work through Genki II, just yet. (And don’t tell me “you can just work through the book on your own”, because I’ll most definitely not do that. In fact, I had taken the course for Genki I to force myself to keep pace with the class and finally get something done. :sweat_smile: )

Which is where WaniKani comes in.
Only just learned about the service and I thought it couldn’t hurt to give it a try.

Now WaniKani focusses on Japanese → English, which is the exact opposite way of how I like to do things (English → Japanese, with the other direction following naturaly as you read / use the language).

Fortunately, there’s KaniWani. I assume reviewing stuff on there is in addition to the reviews done on WaniKani.

Yet Kanji / Vocab alone is hardly useful, so I’d like to mix in Grammar so I can actually string the words together to form a sentence.

I overheard people mentioning Bunpro and if it holds what it promises, I may even be able to skip Genki II in favour of a WaniKani - KaniMani - Bunpro approach (though I may still read through the grammar sections of the book), which might even end up netting me faster results.

But as you can see, that’s three services to learn stuff on instead of one.

One thing I’ve heard people throw around when they talk about WaniKani was to keep the Apprentice count below 100. Advice I most definitely intend to take to heart.

So with the WaniKani side of things dealt with, what’s your advice on how best to integrate the other two services into my routine?

I just wanted to mention something about this briefly. I’m not entirely sure what your goal is with Japanese, if you want to be able to speak it, just understand it, etc. but I was talking with my Aunt, who teaches Portuguese to people with the goal of becoming fluent (and speaking it at a native level). I brought up English->Japanese studying, and she recommended against it. The reason why is because she said there really isn’t any point. The best way to getting good recall is by speaking and listening (and reading). According to her, it typically takes around 1000 sentences to be able to naturally use a word in a conversation, but keep in mind these have to be different sentences. A person can’t just go and repeat the same sentence 1000 times and expect to be able to use it whenever they want after. So, sure, using KaniWani will help. But, honestly, in my opinion, based on the information I received it would just be a waste of time since listening to native content would be a lot more beneficial.

However, she also recommends against speaking until later on in a person’s study, since pronunciation can be very difficult to fix, and bad habits are bound to happen early on when trying to speak. So she recommended spending a lot of time listening to native content instead of practicing speaking. In the end, it’s up to the person learning and what their goals are.

Anyways, I know that really wasn’t what you were looking for, but I just wanted to comment on that.


You should try Cure Dolly.

She teaches Japanese grammar without making the Japanese fit English or English fit Japanese.

That’s the trouble with learning in your preferred way because languages aren’t always equatable and even less so with English and Japanese.


Well, thank you for your insights. :slight_smile:
I’m not a language teacher, but I kind of disagree with your aunt…

The best way to getting good recall is by speaking and listening (and reading).

Yes, but I don’t want “recall” per se (not just, anyhow), I want to be able to talk to people without - uh - having to - uh - pa-u-se - uh - after - uh - every word - uh - or so.

Having a solid concept-to-language memory kind of is a prerequisite for that, and I’m not convinced listening and reading alone will give you that.

Speaking (or writing, I suppose) would because it forces you to translate your thought process into the target language, requires you to apply the grammar you’ve learned, and encourages you to combine concepts learned separately from each other in order to build a coherent sentence.

But here your aunt claims:

However, she also recommends against speaking until later on in a person’s study

Which I personally just find astonishing.
Speaking words out loud as you learn helps memorise and helps build an understanding for the pronunciations. Forming sentences helps get a feeling for the flow of the language (especially if you are corrected by a teacher).
“Don’t try because you’ll get it wrong” is NOT an advice I want a language teacher (or any teacher, really) to give. Ever. :sweat_smile:

But I guess she’s the teacher, so I assume she knows what she’s doing better than I like her style. :man_shrugging:

As for

I’m not entirely sure what your goal is with Japanese

Well, i have a sister who is studying Japanology and who is intending to move to a Japan for a couple years.
I want to be able to converse with people when I visit her. :upside_down_face:
That and I want to be able to read because on that, at least, I agree with your aunt: reading is crucial to learning a language.

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Output is only useful once you have the fundamentals in place.

It’s like building a house without digging a foundation.

That’s why speaking is encouraged by language teachers once you have part of the language in place.

So in a language class you’ll learn a topic and then learn how to talk about that topic. So you have the input first and then the output second. Always.

That way your teacher will be able to concentrate on your pronunciation and only make minor adjustments to your grammar and vocabulary.

You’ll still make mistakes but you’ll be more understandable.


This response is all from my memory of the conversation I had with her, so I’ll most likely have left some things out. Also, just to give some credibility: she’s been teaching Portuguese for quite some time now, and lived in Brazil for 35+ years.

Yes, I realize that. And of course, that comes with reading, listening, and most importantly speaking - not with KaniWani. It’ll help, but it’s a waste of time when compared with those three things. But, like I said, she recommends waiting to speak.

Keep in mind, she doesn’t teach at a university or anything. People came to Brazil and she would teach them so that when they finish the program they would be able to converse with people fluently, so their program is unlike a University’s. So, their program is a lot faster than a University’s because they have their students a lot of time in the language, listening, and learning words (only through listening, it’s complicated how they do it though so I won’t go into depth). But, having them focus solely on listening and not speaking they build a strong idea of how words are said, and you can start to create some sort of intuition of how words are said when you do begin to speak (and ultimately you don’t build bad pronunciation habits).

Speaking from my opinion here and what I’ve learned: this is only really true (learning how to pronounce) when you have a native speaker by your side helping your pronunciation. We can mirror a word, but we can still end up saying it wrong. However, if we don’t have a native speaker - Dogen (pretty popular phonetic teacher online) recommends recording yourself and matching up your recording with the word you are saying that way you can actually hear it from “someone else’s perspective” and compare it with how it’s supposed to be said.

This isn’t what she is saying either. No matter what, we’re going to make mistakes. But holding off on speaking will make it so you don’t create bad habits that will be very hard to fix down the road. Pronunciation is very difficult to fix when you’ve been speaking something that way for 2+ years. That’s why listening is recommended instead, and then slowly adding in speaking. Also, keep in mind that this isn’t just her way of teaching. There are a lot of people who back this way of learning - Mass Immersion Approach and DJAT for Japanese.

Also, I don’t want to make you more confused here… But she also recommended not reading. However, because Portuguese is so much different than Japanese it’s pretty much impossible not to read. The reason why she recommends against reading early on is because you create your own pronunciation of words while you’re reading. However, since it’s crucial to read to help learn kanji, reading is really important. But, I’ve talked to people who are involved in certain learning methods (DJAT, MIA - both methods that advise against speaking early on) and they say that as long as you’re getting an adequate listening then reading is perfectly fine. She was only saying this for a person with the goal of trying to become native in the language. So most of the information she provided was with my goal in mind, which is to be able to speak “natively”. But, I had already gone down the path of holding off from speaking until I’m about 2 years in, in which I plan to probably go to Japan and study and begin to speak.

Anyways, there are many different learning styles and whatever you feel best, go for it. Just keep in mind that if you do use speaking early on, make sure you’re paying really close attention to phonetics and how you’re saying things. She said that they knew someone who came to Brazil to learn, and he learned through speaking (with native speakers) and came out speaking the language perfectly. So, it really comes down to how you do it.

Once again, I’m only repeating what I learned from her, and there’s a lot more I could go into depth about. But, it’s very difficult to explain it all over just typing and from my memory. I’m probably leaving out some important details, but it’s very difficult to explain, especially over a topic like this.


The idea that input reigns supreme and must be prioritized at all cost is somehow very prolific among learners of Japanese and I’m surprised how often I encounter it on here as well. I’m going to use a quote from Ortega (2013, p. 59-63), who wrote one of the most accessible introductions to the study of second language (L2) acquisition, explaining a bit about how research has shown that input alone is not sufficient.

It’s a couple of paragraphs long, but it should be interesting to anyone who is curious about the importance of the combination of input, interaction, and output from an empirical perspective rather than an anecdotal one.

According to Krashen, the single most important source of L2 learning is comprehensible input, or language which learners process for meaning and which contains something to be learned, that is, linguistic data slightly above their current level. […]

The strong claim that comprehensible input is both necessary and sufficient for L2 learning proved to be untenable in light of findings gleaned by Schmidt (1983) and by many others, who documented minimal grammatical development despite ample meaningful opportunities to use the language, even with young L2 learners […]. Input is undoubtedly necessary, but it cannot be sufficient.

In addition, the expectation that more comprehension necessarily brings about more acquisition has not been borne out by the empirical evidence. Several researchers have noted that comprehension and acquisition are two distinct processes (e.g. Sharwood Smith, 1986), and some studies (e.g. Doughty, 1991; Loschky, 1994) have shown that learners can comprehend more than they acquire and can acquire more than they comprehend. […]

In the early 1980s, Michael Long proposed the Interaction Hypothesis (best explained and updated in Long, 1996). […] He departed from the strong input orientation of the times by focusing on interaction and proposing that the best kind of comprehensible input learners can hope to obtain is input that has been interactionally modified, in other words, adjusted after receiving some signal that the interlocutor needs some help in order to fully understand the message. […]

Where there is interaction, learners engage by necessity not only in comprehending and negotiating messages but also in making meaning and producing messages, that is, in output. By the mid-1980s, it was becoming apparent to SLA researchers that positive attitudes and plentiful input and interaction, while important, were not sufficient to guarantee successful grammatical acquisition. It was at this juncture that Canadian researcher Merrill Swain (1985) at the University of Toronto formulated her Pushed Output Hypothesis. She did so drawing on results of large-scale assessment of the linguistic outcomes of French immersion schools in Ontario, an English-speaking province of Canada. […]

Comprehension does not usually demand the full processing of forms. During comprehension […] it is possible to get the gist of messages by relying on key content words aided by knowledge of the world, contextual clues, and guessing. For example, in yesterday I walked three miles, we may hear ‘yesterday’ and not even need to hear the morpheme –ed in order to know our interlocutor is telling us about something that happened in the past. By the same token, reliance on this kind of lexical processing is less possible during production, because the psycholinguistic demands of composing messages force speakers to use syntactic processing to a much greater extent. […]

Optimal L2 learning must include opportunities for language use that is slightly beyond what the learner currently can handle in speaking or writing, and production which is meaningful and whose demands exceed the learner’s current abilities is the kind of language use most likely to destabilize internal interlanguage representations. […]

Ortega, L. (2013). Understanding Second Language Acquisition. New York, NY: Routledge.


So I don’t have any background in teaching a language, nor do I have any friends/family I can refer to for reference like the other people in this thread (which has been a very cool read btw, I’m always interested to read literature on a new topic). I can just refer to my own experiences in learning Japanese.

Keeping the Apprentice count to under 100 seems a little low for me, personally (mine hovers around 200ish), but if you try it and it fits with your routine then by all means keep that up. Also I’m glad that you recognize the importance of joint grammar studying and not just using WK - too many people fall into this trap and pay for it later!

As to the English->Japanese learning style, I would mildly recommend against that, like others in this thread. When you get better at a language, what happens is you start to not have to ‘translate’ it in your head. You can look at a sentence like 日本に行くことがある and understand the meaning without parsing it to “I have been to Japan” in English before comprehending. I’m not doing a very good job of explaining it, but my main point is learning something from J->E helps you get the idea/meaning/concept behind a word or phrase - especially important for things that don’t translate or have no solid equivalent in English (looking at you, ~に対する). It’s more difficult, but I think it results in a deeper learning of the word/phrase/grammar. I don’t think you’ll hamper yourself too much if you go E->J, but I think that the results are better if you work with J->E, especially right out of the gate. (That’s not to say you should do exclusively one or the other, but I would recommend J->E input styles.)

I’m also going to throw out there that after you have basic grammar from Genki I, you should also try to find a way to have conversations with people. I’m personally very lucky in that I’m in an immersive environment, but others on this site have highly recommended iTalki in helping them practice speaking+listening. It’s going to be horrible at first until you just work through the embarrassment, but I can’t stress enough the importance of having conversation practice with a native speaker. It’ll help with all other areas of the language as well. In the down time, have Japanese material for input, even if it’s not active listening practice - listen to Japanese music, watch anime (even with subtitles at first), etc. - just to work on recognizing the ‘sound’ of the language. That’ll help a lot, or at least it did for me.

No matter what you decide to do, I’m wishing you the best of luck on your Japanese journey! がんばって!


The title of your post and the content of it aren’t entirely the same.

I’ll start with the title.

  1. Have some clear and tangible goals and milestones
  2. Accept that this will be a slow-and-steady process, there really aren’t shortcuts, and long term consistency is key
  3. Be flexible in your approach and as you learn what does and doesn’t work for you

I’d be leery of SRS overload. WaniKani, KaniWani, Bunpro, Anki, whatever else… believe me, WaniKani can be a lot on its own sometimes.

Using the language and developing your memory to actively bring up vocabulary and grammar is definitely essential. But there are other avenues other than more and more SRS. You could for example practice regular writing in Japanese, be it on this forum or something like HelloTalk. The benefit of the latter being that you can get near-instant feedback from native speakers who will correct mistakes, suggest more natural ways of saying things, etc.

In any event, one way or another you will probably change your learning methods as you go, and as you find what does and doesn’t work for you and your learning objectives. So I wouldn’t be too locked in on one set of services or another. Just start somewhere, take some steps, and adjust as you go.

As an aside, IMO the whole “input vs. output” debate is IMO a bit silly or missing the point.

The way you get better at anything is through some closed loop process, i.e. output, feedback loop, input, output, feedback loop, etc. Could be being coached when playing sports and watching game tape after to fix mistakes. Could be learning calculus, taking an exam, going to office hours after and getting a better understanding of what you missed. Or the same applies for learning a foreign language.

Output-only, you run the risk of developing bad habits and non-natural use of the language. Input-only will help recognition but you aren’t practicing the active use and instant recall of the language. Those are open loop approaches. Need to have something where you’re getting input, you’re practicing output, and some of that output is being corrected and fed back into the input.


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