Frustration is taking over …


I have seen already some similar posts talking about this, but I wanna share my personal experience and I wish to get a bit of support or encouragement from veterans or people in the same situation as me.

I have been studying now for around 1 year, but probably seriously study 8 months (2 to 4 or even more hours every day!), trying to never skip a day, one review daily and a new grammar point (halfway through N4), WK everyday level 13 (I start to slow down recently because WK tries to suck the life out of me), Kitsun for words (mostly keep tracking of what I know and learn + a few new words daily).
Lingq, tried to read all the basic stuff I can find, a minimum 2 short stories every day.
I will add to this my Japanese girlfriend who is a good supporter, but bad at explaining why sentences follow that structure and not another :joy: (not surprised, I can’t explain as well in my own language).
Also, I lived and have been in Japan for around 6 months, but I am always exposed to Japanese even in London (not the same But I had a chance to talk with my Japanese friends often).

So everything looks like a good schedule right? a lot of effort and time on my side to try to take the max out of it.
But… I can’t even understand simple N4 sentences on Bumpro sometimes, or when people talk to me I still don’t understand, keep forgetting words I know very well, or not be able to catch them in a conversation.
Sometimes I can’t read kids’ books, I have to spend 30 min on a page reading over and over, or translating them at the end and just after they sound familiar.

But I got to the point when I started to feel frustrated… It is normal? I’m asking too much in a very short time? It takes years to get to the point where I can open a kid’s book in the library and read it without having trouble?
I know every expect of this language looks like a challenge (reading, speaking, kanji, grammar) and obviously, I don’t expect anything to happen like magic, I work in the art field and it took me my entire life and study to be a professional in my field, and I see this is as an equivalent challenge, so I do understand the marathon thing but obviously life is just one :grimacing:

This is already to long so… I will stop here, but experience or advice to share are really appreciated.

Thanks for the attention :slight_smile:


Yeap, this is totally normal. Don’t sweat about it.

The thing you have to realize is that even N4 is a basic level of Japanese. The first two JLPT levels are just providing the groundwork for you to then start to get an understanding of the basics. N3 is really where you start to learn Japanese. Heck, I would even venture to say that N1 is really when you start, if you consider slang and expressions that are not taught in textbooks, nor in the JLPT tests courses, but I digress.

That said, one aspect of the language that’s really gonna boost your comprehension is Kanji. Don’t get me wrong, Words and Grammar are super important too. But the understanding of Kanji that you can acquire through something like WaniKani will open up so many doors, in the sense that it will make it easier to learn vocabulary and grammar. Once you know the meanings and readings of a Kanji, you can even read and understand words you’ve never seen before, which is a great feeling. Sometimes this doesn’t work, but it does for the most part. And given that a lot of grammar points use words, the Kanji used in them (which most of them have) will help you understand the meanings of those as well. IMO, Kanji knowledge is key!

Anyway, just keep studying as you have thus far. Once you get to around level 30 on WaniKani, you’ll be able to read ~80% of the content you find online, which is not bad at all. It’ll hopefully boost your confidence.

P.S. My advice to you is to not ask your Japanese gf about grammar stuff. Not only will she not be able to explain them to you, but it might make you both frustrated. Get a Japanese teacher instead and maybe try communicating with your gf in Japanese about everyday simple stuff. That way you can practice speaking.

Good luck!


In the grand scope of things, you really haven’t been studying very long! Getting over the discomfort of not understanding everything is a tough, but necessary battle to hold out for the long run. If you are halfway through N4, it’s totally understandable that you wouldn’t understand everything. You are still learning the very fundamentals of the language. I also wouldn’t stress about not understanding some of the bunpro sentences.

I am averaging around N3 grammar wise, with a handful of N2 grammar (finished Tobira). There’s definitely a decent proportion of sentences that I don’t bother to try understanding. Generally, I focus on the grammar point in question and the general meaning that it provides, rather than getting hung up on other aspects of the sentence that aren’t important.

I think it might be helpful to look at getting a greater variety of immersion material. Kids books can be tricky for a multitude of reasons. For one, I actually find them more difficult to read due the omission of kanji, as well as excessively imaginative and metaphorical language, that frankly isn’t easy when I’m just trying to understand literal meaning. The Little Prince was like this for me and was actually a bit challenging/slow at the time due to the amount of metaphors and figurative language and imaginative scenarios. Genuinely, sometimes it can be nice to just read some NHK Easy News articles to recenter yourself with literal, factual, straightforward language.


haha. This is completely normal my friend. It will take time but you need to adopt a different mindset to it-Japanese kids take years to learn all the words you are (not to mention they known most of them by ear when it comes time to read lol). Be happy about your progress-you’ve come a long way since nothing!

If I could reccomend a few things:
I did 6 grammar points a day up until I finished n3. I’m not saying you should do 6 but perhaps do around 3 instead of 1 a day (you will notice a bunch of progress this way compared to 1 a day). You won’t understand them 3 you’ve learnt for the day until you’ve reviewed them time and time again but eventually it’ll click!

Also don’t worry about the difficulty of grammar since n3, n2 and n1 {especially n2 and n1] are pretty much just vocabulary items, the toughest points are n5 and n4 as they form the foundation for the language.

Also on the children book topic, dont worry! They are incredibly hard to read for beginners and it also took me tons of time to slog through a page before my speed increased.

The most progress you will have will be when it comes down to starting to read material you like instead of grammar and vocab study.
here is an example video that shows the use of a browser extension called ‘yomichan’ that allows you to get hover over definitions on any word in a webpage you are viewing as well as the ability to add it to your anki SRS in a click if you set it up properly.
In this video, the guy is playing a visual novel with a setup that allows him to read without having to slog through a physical dictionary. Textractor extracts the games text and then he uses yomichan to make anki cards for unknown words. Its my main method of studying Japanese and very very fun to read VNs all day xD. (You don’t have to add images and sound to your anki cards if you dont wanna, you can just add the words with a click).
Learning Japanese with VNs - TheMoeWay Here’s some more info on it.

Oh, and yomichan is a great help for reading news articles or web novels with a simple hover over definition (not just playing VNs lol)

Also, -this site allows you to learn vocab in your favourite anime, VNs, novels etc and sort them by diffifuclty and words that you know! It’s a great tool you should take use of for sure.

Perhaps you should check out after you finish n4 as well. Word definitions at a click within the site’s multiple stories with detailed grammar explanations with a click too.

IF you have any more questions feel free to ask me here or DM me, I’m happy to help anytime!


Thanks, that makes complete sense, and yes is a bit annoying to know that even after finish
N4 (which tbh, in my opinion, is quite challenging) at least some point like てくる or ていくfor example impossible make them stick into my mind, or understand when to use it, know that the real Japanese start is just at the beginning :sweat_smile:

Completely agree with kanji, I was surprised reading how much people hate them, for me is the key to read and understand many thing. Also in Japan they are key for understand many signs and locations. So I keep study kanji everyday, and happy to know that at level 30 I will be able to read a lot :stuck_out_tongue:

That’s exactly what we do, just daily conversation, but sometimes happen a doubt or a quick answer.

Also did you really advice about having a teacher?
I never thought about it because of the many exposure I got from the language everyday and with my own schedule I thought a teacher will be just for conversation. But I really don’t need I ear and speak everyday (bad) but I do :joy:


True, I can’t complain about the progress I made in this short run and not looking to understand everything. But I would expect at least to understand the core of a basic sentence, but sometimes not even that 🥲

You are probably right, I should stop get into the kids section (this sound bad😂) and and try to read books just because they support to be easy.
Some kinds book use very unique world and yes I feel very very bad after after 😮‍💨
Also agree kids book without kanji are tricky.
I will try to focus more on the everyday reading.


Ahaha thanks, some of your words really help my feelings a lot :blush:
And thanks for all the advice!

I have done 3 points every day from the beginning of n5 but after getting into n4 the situation was getting wild and I had to stop. Now before moving forward I’m waiting for the ghost review to be under 20 so for example I stop for an entire week.
Also, I was thinking of reviewing again all n5 with another textbox I had (never opened) it is worth it or I should just go straight without looking behind ?

This a very good news I will say, also probably my vocabulary and kanji knowledge are far forward than my grammar, so probably some stuff will be not completely new :slight_smile:

Also about the tools and website you have mentioned:

  • Yomichan - I already use it :slight_smile: I will not say every day just because I prefer to stay on my phone than a PC.
  • Anki - I have (also the paid version on Ios) but I didn’t really enjoy it, I will probably reuse it when I feel like I can be freer with my deck choice, for now, I stick to the standard deck and try to learn as much I can (I use kitsune which is anki but I can type and do other stuff)
  • jpbd - never used I will have a look :slight_smile:
  • Satori reader is too advanced for me at the moment, I use lingq similar but without original story, but I’m planning to switch after n4 :slight_smile:

If you don’t feel satisfied with your ability to understand a casual conversation spoken in Japanese, I would suggest that you maybe don’t focus too much on kanji and reading. Instead, try to immerse yourself more in conversation drills to hone your listening skills.


I just don’t feel satisfied with my progress in general, 🥲, unfortunately/fortunately I talk every day and of course, there is small progress, but still, that’s my level, not much I can do about it.
But I know I need to start somewhere.

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Mate, slow down! Wow, that is quite impressive. It may be a good idea to slow down for a few days eg - 30 or 40 minutes of “learning”. Let you mind relax for a bit and have time to process things. N4 and N5 are like the foundation. Things will start to click into place, don’t worry. I think that you are nearly there, already.

Some ideas:

  • After learning a grammar point in Bunpo - try to write a few simple sentences with words that you already know and get them checked. If the sentences make sence, move on. This is more for you to see if you get the grammar point, not about lenghty explanations how to make better sentences.
    Even better if you try to write small essays with minimal dictionary checking / looking words up eg what you did during the weekend.
  • (A bit weird suggestion) Try NOT to translate things too much. Japanese and English are very different. Initially I feel like “just accept it as it is” is good enough even though its hard to let go and not have 1 to 1 for everything…
  • Edit(another wierd suggestion): Something that really helped me is to make notes on grammar points way ahead of actually studying them. Like I re-wrote Genki 1 a month before classes started. This way I kinda got a holistic view of different grammar points and time for my brain to start comprehending them. In class, I would make extra notes if needed for the grammar point.
  • Have periods where one aspect gets more love. Eg for one week study more grammar points, one week do more kanji learning, more reading. ie find ways to reduce the monotony of learning…
  • Experiment with different learning methodologies to see what is enjoyable / usefull. Eg shadowing. Even if its not enjoyable (for me), it helps some people.

Its natural to feel frustrated, it shows that you want to progress and get better. Maybe because Japanese is very different (eg Kanji, different sentence structure), it takes quite a bit more effort to get over the initial hill compared to other languages like English, French, Spanish.


Yes! Hire a Japanese teacher.

They will help you understand troubled grammar points, as well as the different nuances between them. For example, you mentioned not really understanding when to use てくる and ていく. Well, that’s what a good Japanese teacher will help you with. By the way, those two grammar points have like 5 different interpretations based on context, lol. They’re not easy to grasp at first.

Even though BunPro sometimes has info boxes that give you extra knowledge related to the grammar being studied, it’s not the same as having someone explain and answer your questions directly. There’s really no substitute for that.

Trust me, get on iTalki and find a teacher. They’re cheap and convenient, since you can do lessons online from the comfort of your home. Do 1hr lessons a week, where all you do is go through grammar points that you didn’t understand that week (write them down before hand, of course). They can also help you go through a book, or a method, you want to study. Japanese has a TON of nuances that you’re missing by studying with just BunPro. Especially the N4 grammar points, which is probably the hardest JLPT level. N3 was kinda hard too, due to all the seaming similar grammar points (at least for me).

After you’re confident with your knowledge of these basic levels, N2 and N1 will be relatively easy. They are just the same grammar points that you’ve studied thus far, but using different (sometimes archaic) words to say the same things you would know by this point. They’re mostly literary and “official” (for lack of a better term) expressions.

At least give it a shot. I don’t think you’ll regret it though.


I have been studying Japanese for 3 years and am still at N4. It’s totally normal, don’t rush it. Some people take ten years to be able to express themselves easily in Japanese. It’s a hard language. Don’t tire yourself too much, you are on this for the long run. Pace yourself and enjoy it every day while keeping a schedule. Gambatte!


Just a small PSA, the Yomichan project has been shut down by the creator, with the open source fork called Yomitan being the officially recommended replacement. Having used both, they’re essentially completely identical, with Yomitan being under active development. Just so you don’t get confused if you suddenly can’t find Yomichan in the extension store anymore.


I’ve been studying Japanese for ages, and am just beginning to work my way to understanding n3 text. I spent a long time doing brute force memorization of kanji and vocabulary, trying to quickly establish a basic understanding using memorized x=y facts. That way doesn’t work well for gluing meaning together into high level comprehension, even though you know all the basic word definitions and kanji readings.

I would suggest avoiding mental stress injury at all costs. For me, experiencing that kind of burnout meant giving up and regressing. Make sure you find things that are fun to do in Japanese. For example, watch your favorite shows near your level on Netflix with both English and Japanese subtitles using the language reactor plugin. Reading the English first helps you understand the Japanese meaning.

Reading sentences for each vocabulary word/kanji I learned turned out to be the thing that helped me to break out of my memorization dungeon.

My most beneficial aids are (has games, crosswords, sentences, pitch quizzes, grammar). It’s like a pocket knife study aid. Bunpro for a deeper understanding of vocabulary and grammar. for easily managing sets of flash cards with built in kanji and sentence context. Jitaku 字宅 and kanji garden are both excellent iOS apps for learning kanji in context. I’ve got more suggestions if you’re interested.

Another suggestion is to try to use as many learning sources as possible and try to cross-pollinate your understanding. Reading, writing, listening, and speaking help reinforce your learning. Learn all the definitions for common words. In English, running a program is a different meaning than running in the park. In Japanese, I ran into that a lot and didn’t understand the sentence until I learned the extra definitions.

Just as a side note, I really don’t like the Wanikani rote memorization style of learning. It uses too much brute force and not enough application of context.

Graded readers are theoretically a good resource. They restrict vocabulary and grammar to specific jlpt levels and repeat words and phrases in case you miss the meaning the first time around. However, these are pretty scarce.

Ganbatte, ne. Eventually it starts clicking and it’s pretty cool.


For me, I think that this kind of feeling is very normal.

Early on in learning - everythings new, learning 30 new words expands your vocab by 10%, and it’s really noticeable that you’ve improved.

Words/Grammar/Sentences will completely pass you by, but you kinda don’t notice it, if you understand 1 sentence in 10, you get a big thrill.

As you get slightly more experienced, then you start noticing you faults a lot more.
you mix up grammar rules, you forget what particles to use,
you start noticing when you don’t immediately recall a word you know, etc. etc.

All these things you were doing earlier on, just now you’re starting to catch youself doing them.

Sometimes when it feels a bit of an uphill struggle, I try thinking along the lines of:
Today I just read/listened to/talked about/… X , in a completely foreign language, something that just 1 year ago would have been totally incomprehensible to me.

In terms of recommendations, I think when you’re a bit frustrated, backing off the ‘book’ learning and spending a bit more time just consuming things is nice. (Not entirely, just shifting balance a bit).

Maybe watching
without trying too hard to catch everything that is going on, could be a nice thing to add into the mix.


You say you learn “a few new words daily”. Thats what i think you should focus the most on probably. lets say youve been learning 5 words a day for about 400 days. Thats roughly 2000 words. I think that is a pretty good starter for reading and understanding(even while using a dictionary). I found that just cranking through anki/whatever srs you use is best for improving understanding.

Once you get basic grammar down (n4ish), there will be nothing better you can do than improving vocab size. Some people have success just immersing a lot, i find grinding new anki words works a lot better for me.

The first season of demon slayer has about 4000 unique words, death note about 6000 unique words, and the only way you will ever understand these shows is if you improve your vocab size.


First point is probably that in the grand scheme of things you still haven’t studied that much. It sounds ridiculous but Japanese just takes a lot of time. Here are some time estimations for passing the JLPT:

I personally have found the second one (with shorter times) more accurate assuming the hours are only high quality and mostly focused on comprehensible input. The first one is more accurate if you include all the extra time I’ve spent messing around or just low quality hours. Basically your progress is probably as expected, especially as currently it sounds like you spend most your study time doing SRS.

Second point is that passing a certain JLPT level does not mean you can genuinely easily understand or use the grammar and vocabulary at that level. I somewhat believe in the idea of order of acquisition (some things are acquired later and in pretty much the same order by all people). For example, passive and causitive structures are taught at N4 but I don’t think anyone is comfortable using them (I mean without thought in conversation, not doing exercises or SRS) until they’re already working on N1. Just because you’ve studied something or it’s in your SRS it doesn’t mean you’ve acquired it well enough to understand it or use it. Anything in your SRS should be treated more as something you should recognise but not necessarily know well. You need to get more input to actually learn words and grammar and kanji.

Third point, conversation is difficult and N4 is quite a low level. As already mentioned in this thread, even N1 is lower than it may appear from a beginner perspective. There could probably comfortably be another two or three N-levels above N1. Here is a comparison table of the J-test (another Japanese test for foreigners) compared with the JLPT and CEFR levels where you can clearly see the limitations of the JLPT:

My advice would be to temper your expectations to match the work that you’re actually doing, so change your goals to be more realistic, or to improve the quality of the work you’re putting in and even increase the hours. There are no shortcuts here and it is as simple as “quality x hours = results”. Good luck and keep pushing!


Time-wise, you are on normal pace, and the further you go, the slower it gets. However, if you are not recognizing any improvements, or feel getting worse, you probably need a change of approach. Different things are efficient in different stages of the journey, it’s prudent to check if these 2-4 daily hours are being allocated on what makes the most overall difference for you.

Most people gave a few pointers, these are some things I have to say/recommend:

  • When I was at the N4, a huge breakthrough for me was Cure Dolly. Her explanations and grammar model makes a lot of sense, and makes acquiring new grammar structures and understand old ones way easier, despite a few wild claims. She has dedicated videos on most of the most confusing points, including N3+, for example ところ、こと、だって、なんて、まだ、もう、てしまう etc.

  • I also recommend going at 3-5 grammar points a day, but recognizing what you said before, only go at it when you are not feeling overwhelmed. I also had to slow dramatically on N4, and I was taken a back when N3 was very easier in comparison, I even made a thread on the topic: Is N3 Grammar easier than N4 Grammar?. Just keep in mind that you don’t need to know every point perfectly, knowing 100 grammar points with 100% confidence is worse than knowing 300 with 70%, and that will unlock a lot of japanese for you.

  • After Learning a grammar point, read its description again at least once! It may be on the same day, or the day after. Reading twice is even better! This made a giant difference for me, reviewing (outside of the SRS type) is very important. Also, any point that is particularly confusing and Bunpro explanation didn’t cut it, read the linked additional resources as well, and check Youtube for other explanations.

  • Learn more vocab instead of Kanji. Kanji are pretty overrated, specially if “WK tries to suck the life out of” you, it may be better to give it a little breather. Even if you knew 2k kanji, reading a children’s book would still be challenging, in comparison to learning what words the book actually uses.

  • You can find good books according to your level on Learn Natively. It’s also worth noticing, learning vocabulary related to what you are actually interested in reading, instead of sparse random words, is also more efficient and will bring you better results overall. Read this blog post, it will give you great insight: Optimal Reading Immersion - Narrow Reading - Morg Systems. This goes great with jpdb, as it is very simple to create a deck with the contents of a book instantly, and you can also use Prebuilt decks – jpdb.


Perfect answer! I was also thinking of sending the same image from the Coto blog.

From my perspective, one issue with Japanese is that it’s often a second language for learners. After your experience studying English, French, German, etc., in school or university, you tend to project your experience and expectations onto language study. While it might take you 1-2 years (or even less) to reach a decent intermediate level in European languages, it’s a completely different story with Japanese.
And After 1-2 years have passed without achieving the expected results, frustration sets in.
I’ve experienced this a lot myself. :slight_smile:


Everyone else has given some really good ideas for improving your study routine but I’d recommend just thinking about first, what are the moments that make you really feel happy with your progress? I’d imagine something like being able to keep up some casual conversation with your girlfriend or Japanese friends right?
In which case I’d put frustrating reading immersion on the backburner until your lack of grammar and kanji don’t slow you down and try to focus on listening immersion for casual spoken Japanese. I live in Japan and as soon as I finished N4 I started listening to a podcast called Nihongo Con Teppei every day and the progress I felt in my listening comprehension and confidence when mimicking a particular sentence structure in my conversations was amazing.
Japanese is a such a monster of a language its just not realistic to be trying to achieve proficiency in 1 year but you can at least prioritize what you want to get out of it in the short term.