I have ADHD, so getting things started is super difficult for me. Even more so if I am not 110% sure exactly what I need to do. (Think of ADHD as unwillingly procrastinating and having difficulty maintaining routines in this instance.)
School solves this problem; you show up, the teacher tells you what to do, profit.
For self-studying, I have to research all of the resources and find out what is essential to learn at what points in my journey etc etc.
This does not work for me, and since I am already a full-time student, I have neither the money nor the time for language school.
Is there any clearly laid out study plan that I can use?
People do from time to time lay out how and what they use to study, but are there any comprehensive guides out there?
That’s a great question and I’m also interested in what others have to say.
I’m not sure I understand your question: Are you talking about learning Japanese, in general, or learning Japanese grammar? For the latter, I think Bunpro does a great job on its own, especially with the references to other resources in case you need further information.
If it’s the former, I’m afraid that any “comprehensive guide” would be full of resources from which you would need to pick and choose so you would end up having the same problem (and maybe endlessly jumping from one resource to another). What I would do instead is pick some comprehensive reputable method that resonates with you and stick to it. For example, when I started studying Japanese, I used the free Marugoto Courses to self-study. They are more interactive and I found this more engaging than studying with a textbook like Genki on my own (although I also used Genki with a teacher later on). I also used this website when I was studying with Genki and it made my study experience much more engaging. This is just my experience, though, and what’s engaging for me, may not be engaging for you. Also, I don’t know what your goals are, which is very important in other to choose a method. There are many methods and guides for a reason: people are different and enjoy learning in different ways. Some people will swear by a method, while others will despise it.
Another thing to take into consideration is that people with ADHD tend to hyperfocus on a few tasks. Do you have that experience? If you do, what are those tasks? Is there any way you can use them to study or practice Japanese in any way? Just a thought
A study buddy may also help with procrastination; you could nudge each other in the right direction, and discuss what you want to accomplish and what you are actually doing to get there. Again, just a thought; I can see how this could feel as unsolicited advice since it’s not exactly what you are asking; I apologize if that’s the case.
I agree with @albcasahu, this is a good question for which I would also be interested to hear what others have to say.
I also have ADHD (inattentive type), and have the same issues you describe. For what it’s worth, the tools that have helped me most for studying Japanese have been:
- The Tofugu guides for learning hiragana and katakana, as well as the various tools they linked to, in particular one game-like kana learning tool that allowed me to learn (to recognize) both hiragana and katakana in the space of about 1 day each (of course, have to keep practicing to keep it, but at least I could start to pronounce written kana). Man that was a huge confidence boost that I was able to learn those – and I had tried previously using a book, and failed due to ADHD inattention.
- I tried using Anki (for kanji) for a while, and it does work, and it’s probably even better now than it was when I tried it, but because it was self-structured, I basically fell off that wagon, again due to ADHD largely. Instead, I …
- Ended up using WaniKani, which for my ADHD brain is just about perfect. One of the main things that WK has helped me with is developing a daily habit of doing something to learn some Japanese. From that daily habit, I have been able to ‘branch off’ or ‘hook into’ some other learning resources, which I have then also been able to build into the daily habit.
- BunPro, of course. This, in my mind, goes hand-in-hand with WaniKani. It’s a little less ADHD-friendly, as the grammar points require a bit more persistence and effort to really learn them, but in terms of having an external structure which guides my learning, it is top notch.
- Just before I started BunPro, I got the Genki I book, after doing a little research into recommendations for learning grammar. In fact, the reason I started BunPro was because I wanted something like WaniKani/Anki to help me have a daily routine for learning grammar, not just kanji. So, I was able to get through the Genki I book with BunPro alongside, providing a kind of ‘supplemental tool’ for practicing and retaining the grammar I was learning in Genki.
I have not tried it yet, but I intend to, at some point, try out the Tobira book for more advanced grammar. But I think I will only start that once I get more kanji under my belt, because AFAIA Tobira assumes you know some kanji. I’m currently level 28 in WaniKani, so I would probably be able to make some progress in Tobira around now, but I think I’ll wait till at least level 30. Just for like a nice round milestone of progress, I guess.
So, if I were to try to answer the OP – although I honestly don’t feel that confident in doing so – it would be to try something along the lines of what I did: Develop some sort of daily habit/routine, perhaps by using a nice gamified SRS system like WaniKani and/or BunPro, or perhaps even Anki or some other; then use that daily routine to fold-in some more-traditional resources like a textbook (e.g. Genki is generally highly regarded overall, though there are obviously others). That’s about the best answer I can give at this point, and I realize it’s not great.
What is your goal? What is your background and situation? Will you be going to Japan after X amount of time?
Study plans that aren’t tailored or built backwards from a specific goal almost always end up being too broad. Whether you are in a Japanese environment or is another important factor.
What is it that you want to do in Japanese?
This is what I was going to ask! If you can lay out a clear idea of what your goals are, what level you are currently, and what your preferred methods of study are (like physical textbook, SRS, immersion, etc.) are, it will be a lot easier to recommend some resources As someone who also have difficulty with developing routine and keeping focused on plans I set, etc., I might also be able to share some tricks that have worked for me as far as getting things to click. I’ve done a lot of game-ifying and setting rewards and stuff, many many tricks to get myself consistent. So I’d love to suggest some things if you can get a little more specific!
Hey all, thanks for taking the time to respond!
Sorry for not providing my learning journey details.
I have some of the basics down I would say.
I know basic stuff like numbers, telling the time, the easy pattern-following propositions, etc.
I’m 70% through the N5 grammar on Bunpro, but still don’t have a complete foundational grasp of the -te form, and know a few hundred words in terms of vocab. Close to 500 would be my guess.
I’ve previously been to Japan a few times, 16 months total, so I know a few everyday phrases and environmental context if you could call it that.
My goal would be to move to Japan for work someday, as I am currently studying tailoring.
When I learned English, I learned just enough to use google, and never went back to class after that. That is, looking stuff up in the dictionary and learning through immersion (Videos, movies, songs, reading.) I suppose that this is my favored way of learning, not actually studying but simply looking stuff up when needed.
This doesn’t help at my current level yet though, as I would be looking grammar and vocab rules up for hours each time I saw a new sentence.
I know that there are a lot of tools for watching anime and reading manga, but I’m not really into those so I haven’t tried those tools.
I’m the type of person that likes to fully understand a concept before I start using it. Not great in the beginning either, I know.
I was at a language school in Japan for a month back in '19, and we used Genki. They had a vocab section you had to study before class, then we used it during class, and you got some homework for the next day (in addition to new vocab).
This obviously hit all the posts as it included immersion; listening, speaking, etc. But I felt that it was very inefficient.
I’m more of a read grammar stuff for hours until it clicks kind of guy. And look up / learn vocab when needed (perhaps this is just based on my experience of those words sticking the best).
I tried Anki and got some 800 words in according to the stats, and some of them still stick, so it isn’t that it doesn’t work of course.
Currently, I use Bunpro and a bit of jpdb.io, but they both feel supplementary. Perhaps I’m looking for a book where I know that I’m at page 53 and tomorrow I have to read the next chapter, and once I’ve read the whole book I should have a good grasp of the language, either excluding or including vocab.
As I said, learning vocab on the fly is completely fine for me, as long as I know how to use it.
As for hyperfocus, which @albcasahu mentioned, once I get started and get into the zone I can go all day. I do this at the technical college where I am studying tailoring by using high-energy music. But sitting down and starting is the tough part.
On my current experience with Bunpro; I have reached a point where I can answer a question correctly on the first try, but I don’t know why it is the correct answer. I don’t remember the underlying grammar rule. This really bothers and demotivates me and it makes me feel like I haven’t learned it at all, despite it summing up my entire “understanding” of the English language.
What a rant. Hopefully, some of it might even be useful info. Thanks again.
In that case, you could just go through Genki more quickly (which is what I did, anyways), and use it almost like a more structured graded reader. You could also do the “going through it quickly” method with the Marugoto courses I mentioned before and skip the parts you think are inefficient.
Speaking of graded readers, you could get some and start using this method from the beginning. I know there are a lot of free resources online, but personally, when I started, nothing would work for me until I started with these (I specifically started at level 0). Sure, they are a little bit silly, but you feel proud of yourself when you finish and you actually learn. They are also short enough that you can read one story a day before bed (just to add some structure).
I’d say it takes just a little time to get used to the structure of Japanese and be able to know what to look up (vocabulary or grammar) when you are reading, and that’s what I like about textbooks at the beginning (who am I kidding, I love textbooks! So take this with a grain of salt), but you may already be at that level.
That said, if I could go back in time, this is what I would do: Marugoto courses (quickly) + graded readers (until I felt comfortable enough to jump to other sources that I like) + the Tango series for vocab (+ its Anki deck) + some conversation lessons using Italki or Cafetalk + writing in Japanese (maybe using the writing prompts from the courses) (use Bunpo-check to get some instant feedback) and getting real corrections on Journaly (or similar) or from a paid teacher (there are some teachers who offer this service on Cafetalk and it’s not expensive).
As I said, I love textbooks so I’d be happy to use them up to a very advanced level. In your case, I would add several check-in points throughout your path and be ready to leave the textbooks behind in favor of real immersion when you feel somewhat comfortable.
I forgot to mention another resource that, although expensive, might be worth a look. The resource in question is NativShark. Their lessons are short (which may be what you want), although the leveling is a bit weird, in my opinion. What’s more interesting to me is that they also use SRS for teaching vocabulary, grammar, and kanji within a sentence. They use recognition (reading and listening to a sentence and being able to recognize the meaning), as opposed to the active recall Bunpro requires. I use both and favorite one or the other depending on my objective at the time (I’m studying for the N3 at the moment, so I’m using Bunpro a lot more right now). That’s it. I hope it helps!
When it comes to being a bad student I am rarely challenged.
My method for keeping up with Japanese is as simple as it is complex.
Step 1. Maintain a routine for like a week, and get a feel for how hard things ‘feel’
Step 2. Miss a day
Step 3. Oh, $#!^ everything is 5x harder for like 3 days
Step 4. Never miss a day out of fear of repeating step 3
I tend to add new items by feel. If everything feels under control, push it a bit. If things are tough don’t.
And also, get to review pile 0 at least twice a day like 8 hours apart.
Getting a plan helps so much.
I’ll share two helpful ones.
First is Refold’s Roadmap. Really nice to just get a good outline of how to study a language. I’ve deviated from the plans in some ways, but it was really helpful for me to read both the Simple version and the Detailed version. Once you read it, there’s a Japanese-specific version that you can find in their Discord. https://refold.la/simplified
Another great one to glean info from is this one. Lots of great resources and links within.
There are others out there that have also been helpful to me, but these are the two biggest.
No, this is great information. The short answer is that the kind of book/information you’re looking for is more readily available in Japanese. Bunpro is likely the closest thing you’ll get to actual grammar explanations in English.
What have you tried reading?
It is possible to just power through Japanese text to learn the information you want but it may not have the efficiency you are looking for. Maybe if you’re comfortable with a free tool like https://www.japanese.io, which allows you to paste text directly in their reader, it can reduce the inefficiency to acceptable levels.
(Have not used Japanese io personally)
For this style of learning, I have two recommendations.
- Use jisho.org for looking up unfamiliar Japanese words and phrases. Not only use it, though, become skilled at its use in searching for different kinds of things: identifying Kanji, via the Radical Lookup feature; finding words/phrases that contain a specific kanji; example sentences; etc.
There is an “advanced search options documentation” which you can always find if you click on the dropdown box on the left side of the search-text box, and follow the link at the bottom of the popup. If you get good at using these options, you can puzzle out at least the word-meanings from most sentences, even if you don’t know the grammar yet. It’s also very useful for seeing how one radical ‘behaves’ in various kanji, or how one kanji ‘behaves’ in various words/constructions, so that you can get a better feel for how different language components fit together.
- In addition, it would be very helpful to also have a browser plugin like “YomiChan” or “10ten Reader”, both of which allow you to pretty-much-instantly do a lookup of words/short-phrases from Japanese text in a webpage to show their dictionary definitions, pronunciations, kanji/radical compositions, pitch tones, etc.
I say ‘in addition’ because I spent most of my time only using Jisho, and I got really good at it, but having that instant access to info from a plugin is just so convenient, it’s really worth it, IMO. But on the other hand, if I had only used a plugin (I happen to use 10ten Reader in Firefox, btw), then I would not have developed the ability to use Jisho’s very flexible search features, and I think I would have a more-disjointed understanding of how the various language components fit together. So, if you’re big on looking stuff up, I think it would be best to learn & use both.
[Although the above advice might seem like it is only focused on kanji and vocab, it is absolutely useful for learning grammar as well, if not simply for the fact that you will be able to take any sentence, parse out all the ‘vocab’ words, and see that whatever remains (including things like conjugations / parts-of-words) are the grammar parts. Knowing this, it becomes easier to identify the structural parts of sentences and not just see them as a bunch of ‘foreign’/unknown words]
I am very much like this as well. However, over the years, especially when I briefly worked as a tutor for students in math and science, I’ve come to realize a universal truth when it comes to learning: Our brains are literally learning machines, and while intellectually ‘understanding’ a concept can get one a good good general knowledge of a topic, it is no match for direct, concrete practice of the skills associated with the topic for getting a working knowledge of it. Whenever a student had trouble with something, IMO the most effective way for them to overcome that difficulty was to just practice it a few times (or several times, if they needed it). Pretty soon, their learning machine brains would just learn it. That’s what brains do!
So, relying entirely on ‘fully understanding a concept’ before you ever use can be, IMHO, a serious barrier to making progress. Best (again, IMHO) to just accept that ‘mistakes are inevitable’, and what’s more, ‘mistakes are fodder for your learning machine to learn from!’, so in fact, ‘mistakes are useful for learning!’ Thus, there should be no shame in trying out a concept before fully understanding it. Even if we mess up, it’s okay! Everyone makes mistakes, and indeed, one of the best ways to learn is to learn from one’s mistakes.
All that being said, I am still very much in the habit of trying to fully understand something before I use it. I’m just saying that I consider this more of a personal barrier I would like to (continue to) try to overcome.
Thank you for your thorough recommendation. I’ll definitely try it out.
I already tried the graded readers here on Bunpro and they were pretty good, but they are kind of hidden away and the computer is always a possible source of distraction, so physical books might be worth a try.
I’ll check out Marugoto and Tango!
Sadly I always lose all motivation when there is a massive backlog.
And I’m horrible at adding new stuff.
I think Anki adds it automatically though.
As for your described interest/desires for learning grammar, I don’t have a perfect recommendation, but I do have one that might be (quite) useful for you (if you can put aside some slight aesthetic considerations for the sake of gaining some good intuitions around grammar), which is the Cure Dolly channel on YouTube (sadly the author has passed away, but the videos are still good of course):
Personally, I have gained a lot of insight into grammar through Cure Dolly’s explanations. She’s quirky, she’s opinionated, some people find her gratingly annoying, but I look past all that because IMO she has some really great insights that help learning Japanese grammar make more logical sense.
Hey, thanks for the response.
I’ve tried the graded readers, which went fine, so I might pick those up again. And I have tried some “easy” / younger age mangas.
The problem, in the beginning, is knowing what is a word and what is grammar. Not knowing where to chop the sentence into words, particles, conjugations, etc. makes it a bit difficult.
But the reason why it takes a long time for me is that I don’t just accept the translation and move on, I want to understand the specific conjugations.
This is why I like the approach when studying vocab because you can still keep a flow going if you already know the grammar.
Japanese.io looks very useful. Thanks
Yeah I already use Jisho, but I could definately get better at using it. I’ll try out the plugins!
I already know that practice is what really progresses your ability. It is simply one of those things I keep forgetting. I’ll try to remember it next time and cut myself some slack.
I’ll check out Cure Dolly, I’ve seen it mentioned on here before but it was about a fairly high level grammar point.
As for things like conjugations, I would recommend this super-duper-handy pdf:
[Originally from: http://cghq.net/japanese/ (can also find a Japanese Counting chart there). Also shared to Wikimedia, and referenced on the page for Japanese verb conjugations.]
Studying this one 2-page PDF helped jump-start me from ‘muddled’ to ‘pretty confident’ pretty quickly. Now I use BunPro as practice to keep me constantly using different conjugations, and indeed more complicated word combinations.
Check out her channel, and specifically look into her playlists section, as I believe she has at least one playlist that starts out at the basics and builds up. Of course she also deals with more-advanced grammar, especially when they happen to be tripping-up points for a lot of Japanese learners.
Excellent post, encapsulates a lot of the main dilemmas when it comes to how to approach learning Japanese grammar as a foreigner.
On the slightly tangential topic of 文節 in English: I think that there are multiple things to consider for why English doesn’t quite have this concept. Firstly, English words tend to not obviously belong to a specific class just from the way it is written or said (in Japanese it is pretty obvious what word class a word is just from looking at it most of the time). Second, English nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs are “open classes”, meaning that new words can be added to these classes at any time, so classifying words can get a bit tricky, especially out of context (Japanese has far fewer open classes and so it is, again, far easier to categorise a “word”). Third, English has spaces which, on a “word” level, makes parsing relatively trivial. Fourth, the concept of “noun phrases” etc of course exists in English grammar (although maybe you don’t learn about this in school depending on where you are raised). Fifth, due to much of English grammar (and not just semantics or style) relying on word order, any grammatical analysis of an English sentence will heavily involve an analysis of word order rather than a grammatically “atomic” chunk like you might find in Japanese. Sixth, English also, of course, has the grammatical idea of clauses, dependent clauses, etc as well. (I probably should have put words, phrases, and clauses together in one point.)
I teach English to Japanese people and, honestly, it is very difficult to convey a coherent sense of English grammar from the Japanese “文節 perspective”. That also partly has to do with the fact that Japanese has case marking particles as well. As someone who teaches English and is learning Japanese I find the whole topic fascinating.
Wow, that’s awesome! I’m going to have to spend some time absorbing this.
As for me, I feel like there’s more resources to explain Japanese concepts than I’ll ever need, but very few resources to let me actually drill anything. The entire learning-Japanese-in-English scene is overwhelmingly all about SRS.
When there’s a grammar point I struggle with, I really just want a printable PDF worksheet with hundreds of exercises I can just sit down and grind through until I couldn’t forget it even if I tried. I did use Genki Study Resources for a while and it’s brilliant, but the UI isn’t nearly as nice as Bunpro. Anyway, I’m new on Bunpro and it seems like I’ll be trying to use the Cram feature sometimes.