Frustration is taking over …

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.


seems like you are doing well enough. I’ve been studying for two years and consistently say things wrong as well despite talking in japanese literally every day. it’s going to take a while to fully understand things.
Some advice I have, and something I use up and through this day is to write down the grammar points in an explanitory way. Like explain them to people, maybe on italki blog about how to use a grammar point, similar to bunpro’s explaination. Of course, no plagairism, but putting it in your own words-summarization- is how to really cement a point into your head.
As for asking your gf for advice, to counter my friend up there, once you have sufficient kowledge in n4/n5 generally the others translate into something similar. so if you understand a more basic point or word, she should be able to help. ofcourse, do not ask 50 questions in a row or anything. she ain’t your tutor.

Another thing, I find childrens books harder than real books. I’m currently reading through 恐怖コレクター and it’s really good with n4 knowledge. I also find english translated books, like harry potter or CS lewis’s Lion witch and wardrobe series to be realtively easy reads as well, compared to children’s books.


Also my biggest advice is to not compare yourself to anyone. Everyone learns at different rates and has different experiences with foreign languages which contributes to their learning speed. You’re going to hear a lot of “You should be doing X by now…”, “At your level you should understand X…”, “I got to N2 in a single summer…” etc.

Just practice. It doesn’t matter how far along anyone else is. It doesn’t matter how quickly they learned. Just practice. Practice everyday.


Though I occasionally get frustrated, I personally don’t see how my enjoyment for learning Japanese could ever be overtaken by frustration. Therefore, my advice, Senpai, is to adapt your study methods to be more enjoyable. This might entail setting more reasonable expectations for your progress as others above have mentioned, so that you can appreciate that you are getting a satisfactory reward for your efforts.


Wow, thanks guys this is a really great community, a lot of good advice and nice vibes from everyone :slight_smile:

Don’t get me wrong, of course, I see my results day by day, and I love studying every day it keeps me motivated and alive (I always enjoy studying new stuff on the side and if wasn’t Japanese it would be something else).
I’m happy when random people talk with me in Isakaya and I am able to communicate with them despite all of the mistakes and a couple of hiboru :joy:
I go around Tokyo trying to use as much I can of my knowledge, reading signs, memorising stops, asking for informations, and talking in cafes all in the best way I can.
Also, my goal is just to bring all of my skills (listening, kanji, speaking, reading) to the same level without prioritising any in particular.

I’m just thinking probably my frustration comes from not being able to read or acquire information in a more passive way as people do when they become comfortable in a certain language. Probably I expected after 1 or 2 years to be able to struggle less and just learn on the way.
But yeah I know people who are very fluent and they live here just say, they start to really speak after 3/4 y of living and studying, but I didn’t want to believe them 🫠
But as everybody confirms is normal, and I should just follow the flow and not overthink too much.


I know this should be just an indicator, I never take it into consideration too much because I thought was more related to the JLPT test than just studying, but if I take a look into it I already know 500 kanji and more than 2500, + more stuff I get from involuntary source, but I’m still on n4 grammar stuck :sweat_smile: that means I’m leaving grammar behind my study?


2500 words is around n4 level as well. the kanji there is around n3 level. you should be fine overall. that’s far better balance than you would see on wanikani forums. lol


N4 has some points that even now after weeks I been studying, continuously making mistakes and reading over and over the same description, still make no sense of how to use it, and this is what made me write this post 🫠 also I got confuse because they are super similar to each other.

About Cure Dolly I watched the first 10 videos after I saw people’s advice in your post (happy to know n3 feels easier :rofl:) but I probably missed something…because first I found it extremely difficult to listen to her without watching the video and be focused on it, sounds like she’s eating oranges while talking, and than I got it some stuff like “が” always present in a sentence, do make sense and make it easier to understand some sentence structure, but I wasn’t able to apply to anything atm.
But I’m planning to finish at least the base series :slight_smile:


Nihongo mori is also a pretty good grammar resource. It’s in Japanese and usually has subtitles to help with listening comprehension.


Have you tried using the cram feature? You can specifically practice the grammar points you have trouble with.

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Ahahah what do you mean better than the WK forum?
I wrote here because I feel like people here have a bigger view of studying Japanese, I often see posts on the WK forum where people share crazy ideas, like “I wanna just watch anime so I just listen every day” (which doesn’t work, I have been watching anime for 20 years in Japanese and I never acquired anything🤣) or “I wanna study all kanji first in one year” and I don’t feel that kind of strict thinking get along with my own way of study.


Yes I use it often when I really can’t stick it into my mind and it helps a lot, but after the srs go forward I will keep forgetting after a while.
I know I don’t need to master everything some stuff will just get natural in my mind at the right time.
Just wonder when this will happen 🥲

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so when it comes to that, what I notice is just studying it a bit beforehand, finding it randomly in nature, and then looking it up again typically gets my vocab or grammar really cemented.

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