If you could give 'Just starting Japanese' you one piece of advice, what would it be

If you could go back in time to when you first started studying Japanese and give yourself just one piece of advice, what would it be?

For me, it would be ‘Write the Kanji, don’t just make stories’. I had trouble for such a long time differentiating similar Kanji until I took the time to write them many times each. There is something to be said for the power of muscle memory.

What’s yours?


Learn plain form first, so you don’t go to Japan and try to make a load of friends by speaking to them in the same way you speak to your teacher.
I basically had to teach myself this, with next to no help in the classroom. It’s good that I was confident enough to get out there and make loads of mistakes every day, but not everyone feels that they can do that. Many people feel (and understandably so) that they need a solid backing in something before they try it out for real.


Yep very true! Learning how the different forms work is so much easier from plain form too. It kinda shows just how badly Japanese is taught in the west, that everybody thinks です、ます is the key to learning.


I would say, don’t be afraid to jump into consuming media too early, whether it’s reading or listening. Sure, you won’t understand all/most of it, but the earlier you start training your brain to get used to consuming large amounts of Japanese, the less work you have to put into it in the future.


Definitely! Even if you are only understanding 10%, you’re becoming proficient in that 10%, which will then become a building block for other things.


Don’t neglect grammar and pretty much waste the first years of your “studies” achieving nothing :joy:


I would argue that, up to a certain point, you can do okay armed with a beginner textbook in regards to grammar. But it does require some level of study at some point, for sure. Doesn’t help that you tend to see a lot of “grammar doesn’t need to be studied, you’ll just get it!” opinions floating around.


While this is true. I don’t think anybody has ever become fluent in Japanese without thinking ‘man my first textbook was such a waste of time’. Maybe they are a necessary evil as a starting point hahha


I didn’t dislike my textbook. :frowning: Granted, I’m not fluent, so maybe it doesn’t count. I was just happy to have what was essentially an all-in-one for a young self-learner.


I spent too much time looking at conjugation tables and trying to understand grammar logically and master it. Using Tae Kim I should have just read through it, get to listening and reading and then come back to reference it later. So probably: “You don’t have to master the basics”. You probably even can’t at that point. Also it was probably the reason I got so bored and quit studying for a long time. Listening to podcasts really changed my game as I started enjoying it.


Mine would be: Don’t be afraid to read! (Doesn’t matter how much you understand, just read)
I really put reading for later and later… probably I was afraid of something… (years wasted…)
The irony is that I started to learn Japanese so that I can read manga & light novels.

Initially I though to write “Make learning Japanese a daily habit”. But I think people evolve over time and probably I would have learned that skill / ability at some point in life.


I would also say, that just studying grammar and writing is not good either to a point. When I started, all I did was grammar and hardly any vocabulary and kanji! he he


If I had to pick one thing to ‘start’ with, apart from obviously at least being the かな I would choose very basic grammar. You are right though. So many people put off reading as being impossible until they are almost fluent.


“Start learning while you are still young” :slight_smile:
“Start learning grammar together with kanji” :joy:
Then maybe by now I’d be speaking japanese already, rather than still trying to learn it.


Definitely this! I wish I jumped more into media consumption earlier.

My other main advice would be to USE my knowledge sooner. For so long I was afraid to make my own sentences or try to speak, thinking I needed to know more first, but I think it’s totally okay to start early. Even if the sentences are super simple, just saying them out loud to get me thinking would’ve been great. Things like HelloTalk and Italki earlier would’ve been awesome earlier too, get chatting with native speakers ^^


I think I would rather jump to about one year before I started my first attempt at learning Japanese (which didn’t really go anywhere). I’d give myself an Anki deck and tell me to do what the app wants every morning and every evening and just not question my wisdom. If it was 2020 I’d just buy a wanikani membership instead and stick a note to my laptop that says it’s a drunk purchase and I have to use it now.

Seriously though, starting early with media consumption would be my main piece of advice too.


Something that I wish I started doing earlier (not necessarily from the very beginning) regards to when I would make note of new words. Whilst watching Terrace House for some time I would write a list of words on my Notes app on my phone.

After some time I started to think of ways to make it easier to record new words so I made a spreadsheet and would start to include the English translation, word type (noun, adverb, etc…) and context sentence.

Including sentences with the word in context made an absolutely huge difference to my learning in terms of retention and understanding of how the word is used.

Seeing the sentence in which a certain word was used would remind me of that scene in my head. When I see スイカ割り I can remember the moment when the housemates were having fun playing this game on the beach.

In many cases, knowing who said what and being able to remember the context makes a huge difference. Knowing the gender, age, personality, accent and so on of all the housemates I began to understand which words are appropriate to use. I could relate more to the guys who were closer to my age who had similar personalities to find ways of expressing myself that feel more natural.

This might not seem like much help to absolute beginners but you may come back to these sentences in a few years time with a better understanding of the vocab and grammar.


grammar first, waifu second :neutral_face:


Too real, too real :joy::joy:


Don’t do it! You don’t know what you’re getting into!