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How to learn this language

I started Japanese, and thin it's really hard. I just want to learn it, to understand anime.

January 14, 2018



As to using Duolingo as part of your learning process:

If you haven't learned Hiragana yet, learn it somewhere else (I'm sure others will turn up with suggestions if relevant). Get through the hiragana skills; there shouldn't be much left for you to learn.

Then get on to the part of the tree (i.e. Duolingo course) where there is normal content (i.e. not just hiragana): do the lessons (and reviews) a whole bunch of times. At level 4, you've barely stuck your pinkie toe in, much less gotten your foot wet, so don't worry if things aren't sticking yet.

The set-ups for the app and desktop versions differ, and they both have advantages. The app lets you hear individual words. Click them extra times (i.e. move them back and forth from the answer area to the bottom of the screen) to hear them more. Selecting the word boxes also helps you concentrate on the patterns you need to construct Japanese sentences, super important stuff.

On the desktop version, you can turn off the speakers in settings, but then use the speaker icon for an individual sentence to hear it. What does this get you? It gives you an opportunity to actually read the sentence without having heard it immediately prior. This is hard, of course, but worth the while. I find it much easier to retain the vocab when I've gone to this trouble. And of course it makes it easier to recognize the words when they're not spoken. How do you know when you've got a reasonable grasp on a unit? You should be able to get reasonable marks in timed practice (call it 16+ for starters; you can tweak) with minimal use of hints.

Good luck!

  • On Desktop you can write with keyboard instead of "word bank". This is harder, but much more effective


No doubt. Hopefully with the coming introduction of skill levels (albeit likely to take even longer for Japanese than other languages), this won't be a wee flourish at the end of a for a 20-question review but something that can actually be worked on consistently.

It's an excellent point about writing. Merely the process of entering the words in a flashcard app can be an extremely productive form of learning.


Lots of practice is needed (YEARS), but balancing study methods can help immensely! Generally, you'll mostly use your hearing and sight to memorize a language on this website, but it's very efficient to spend time handwriting the language. And whether or not you have a study buddy, you should spend time speaking Japanese yourself. That way, your memorizing the language in four ways (hearing, visually, writing, and speaking).

Good advice for learning any language is to link the word to an image, instead of an English equivalent (or whatever your native language is). So, for example, think of a cat when memorizing "猫" instead of the word "cat". In the end, it will be less information for your brain to process, which will lead to better understanding.

Don't cram study. Instead, study in intervals (1 hour sessions every 3 hours, ect.) Gradual repetition is the best method of memorizing information. Cram studying is less efficient, and you're more likely to memorize things incorrectly, which will force you to study more in the long run.

As for choosing what to study each day, the method that works well for me is: 50% new material, 40% material learned in the last few days, 10% older material. Also, to make studying more fun, you may want to pick vocab related to your interests (gaming, sports, fashion, makeup, ect.)

Even if you don't feel like studying, at least open the website/book containing your learning material. You're much more likely to study with your materials already prepared.

When you build a decent amount of vocabulary, try actively listening to Japanese music and Japanese vlogs and try to imitate their way of speaking.

And I think the most important advice is for you to not become fixated on people who learn faster than you. It's not a race, and the time you spend worrying about being a slow learner can be spent memorizing material!

Sorry for a long reply, but I think that's most of the good advice I can give. Good luck and do your best!


Those are really good tips, thanks very much!


After you memorize the writing systems and basic grammar, Japanese will be MUCH easier.

Don't give up!


I been learning japanese for a while now, also watching anime with subs in english, i can identify some words cant make frases on my own for now, but watching anime and identifying the sound helps, and triying to read what ever words in japanese they put, i can read hiragana and katakana, no kanji yet, for me it helps to do the duolingo lessons and writing in a paper the word in japanese and what it means, you learn how to read, write and the meaning... thats me, hope it helps! PD: http://www.japanesewordswriting.com/list/Kana-Table.pdf this may helps learn hiragana and katakana more easly! :D


Japanese can be very daunting at times. Just wanting to learn it to understand anime was my primary goal but it blossomed into something much greater. Now my reason for learning Japanese is to be able to communicate with another group of people.


Japanese is a very hard language to learn. If you only want to learn it so you can understand anime, I suggest that you just watch it with subtitles. Learning Japanese will take thousands of hours of work and these days there are plenty of subtitled versions of everything shortly after they air. The other users in this thread have good suggestions for learning Japanese, but I don't think it's worth it just for watching anime.


can somebody tell me why there can be two letters for the same sounds? I'm learning time two right now and i have hard time understanding grammar.


Do they look like things on this chart? Japanese has two "alphabets" (the "letters" really represent things closer to syllables than English letters), one (hiragana, it looks curvier) is used for originally-Japanese words, and the other (katakana, it looks more stick-like) is used for borrowed words (many from English), company names, animal noises.


Japanese has 3 systems of writing: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Hiragana is the basic way to write Japanese, there is a character for every syllable possible in Japanese. Katakana has a counterpart character for every Hiragana character, and is used to write foreign words, such as konpyuta. Kanji is Chinese characters, and there are thousands of them and they're a bit complicated: two Kanji characters can make the same sound (but when they're different it probably means the meaning is different), and I'm sure there's also kanji characters that make two different sounds based on the context. But I don't know Kanji, so somebody who knows better can feel to correct me if I got something wrong.

So that's how there could be two letters for the same sound. It could be hiragana vs katakana, or you might be seeing hiragana vs kanji.


I recommend trying to use the memrise website Japanese courses on top of duolingo


Make several long-term goals with short-term check points so you don't fall too far behind. I try to learn at least 4 lessons per week, get 100 pts/day, and I use timed practice to improve my speed. My goal is to finish the tree by the end of May and keep it gold all summer.


I am convinced that Japanese is for people born in Japan. I am not going to lose any sleep over it. I will concentrate on Spanish and French. I do the same lessons over and over perhaps I will get it one day.


It's very different from most other languages. Aside from the three writing systems (hiragana, katakana, and kanji) themselves, it also has a different sentence structure. On top of that, some things get even more complex once you get into the details, like how kanji can have different readings in different contexts, or there are different counting words depending on the shape of the object. I studied Japanese and lived in Japan ~20 years ago, so I'm finding Duolingo a good basic refresher, but pretty sure you'll need to use other resources if you really want to get to a higher level.


Japanese is not going to be quick. Get ready to spend four times the time to learn versus Spanish, French or German. The grammar is very logical though, once you get your brain used to it. It's the politeness levels and kanji readings that become the major barriers. If you do not know kanji you can't read interesting content and will be subject to awful boring textbooks like Genki (It is not your fault; you are a textbook after all). Get to the level where you can at least read NHK Easy or something similar. Then it gets a lot more enjoyable.

If you want to get to what I will call a A2 level in Japanese (which does not exist) follow this formula.

Physical flashcards (yes, spend the time writing your flashcards, it will help you remember the characters) -Learn Hiragana and Katakana (either order) I'd do Hiragana first. You can go as fast or slow as you'd like. Maybe add 5 hiragana every other day and review daily until done. -Then the first 500 joyo kanji.

Use memrise or iknow.jp and learn the first 2000 most common words.

All this time just listen to children's shows like The Moomins or Anpanman (Yes, you're a child right now and listening to complex material will do nothing for you). NO SUBTITLES!! THEY DO NOT HELP!! You are not listening to understand; you are listening just to sounds. Get used to the rhythm and sound of the language. At first you will get a headache in a short time, but overtime you'll work your way up to hours.

Once you know 2000 words and 500 kanji fairly well give NHK Easy a try. Try to learn the remaining kanji by reading a lot of content.

Once you can understand 90-95% of what you hear in Moomin or something of equal level try Japanese dramas or anime.

Try to avoid grammar lessons like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lg8_a2McFl4 (This is kind of how I learned Japanese decades ago and it is not efficient) Better to let your brain figure it out through exposure. If your brain figures it out then you own it. If you study grammar you will think in grammar.

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