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Somebody help me with Japanese

Hey, I'm a bit new here so I essentially have no idea what I'm doing. I started on hiragana with the basics, which I found pretty simple. I thought Duolingo would be perfect for me! ...Then I finished the basics. I'm now into the Intro part, and I'm totally lost. It's WAAAAYY harder than the first sections. There's all this writing in Japanese, wordbanks, new characters (too many for my little brain to comprehend), and complete sentences. Plus, what's worse, Duolingo doesn't give all of the right things in the wordbanks! If anyone has any advice, I'd really like it. Otherwise I might just have to find another way to learn Japanese. Thanks for reading this, even if you can't help.

March 27, 2018



My recommendation - try the app LingoDeer.

It has a similar approach to language learning as DuoLingo, but it is much more user friendly for new learners because it provides clear explaination of new concepts and vocabulary. It also teaches grammar, which is vital for properly understanding Japanese.

DuoLingo is a nice app, but the Japanese tree is still a long way from being finished, in my opinion. There are much better options available.


Alas, LingoDeer has no web option (which is how I use DuoLingo) so it's not an exact replacement.


I think you are right (that it's too hard on its own). I think it is worth using (a little a day) alongside other Japanese learning methods. For example bunpro (bunpro.jp) is an (also hard) site for learning grammar which duolingo really neglects.

Yes, duolingo can be really inconsistent and madly annoying, but each question has a forum. You can usually learn quite a bit from forum posts.

Also you can ditch the word bank and just type in Japanese. This is much much harder, but also makes you learn hiragana/katakana and kanji much faster than if you rely on a wordbank.

But really I recommend other learning sources as well, particularly ones with exercises (such as textbooks).

[deactivated user]

    Tae kim does a great grammar guide, two actually, both that will explain grammar to a late intermediate level. There is also Imabi which Goes to an advanced level in grammar, but is a bit less user friendly.

    It's not entirely free, but there's this great Kanji tool called Wanikani, it teaches you all the radicals, 2000+ kanji, and 6000+ words.


    I didn't start Japanese on Duolingo. I began my journey with Kana flashcards to learn Hiragana and Katakana (an essential first step, I'd do this before ever bothering with grammar or vocab). Write all of them by hand. Once you have them down try to write them all from memory, like you would the alphabet. Knowing these should be like breathing. It will save you a lot of frustration if you just know them when you are working through the lessons.

    If you enjoy memorization I would suggest finding a JLPT 5 Kanji list online and memorizing it by writing out the kanji and learning a couple readings for each. It is really important to get used to the radicals (the "pieces" of each character) because it will make memorizing the more complicated kanji a lot easier.

    Next I would find good Japanese audio. I used the free Japanese Audio Flashcard Lessons by Roger Lake. https://www.japaneseaudiolessons.com/ There's like 30 hours of them and they are structured as an English phrase followed by Japanese. It helps a lot for a beginner because you can actually follow the context from the beginning. The English portion provides literal translations of the Japanese. It's a lot easier to translate that way since you know what the Japanese literally means as well as knowing the English equivalent. JAFL also provides a transcript for the lessons and a grammar guide.

    After you've addressed the writing system and spent some time listening to audio I say you will be ready to work through a program like Duolingo's. Personally, I used the Genki course books which are a more traditional approach than an internet course but the organized nature of the books was very helpful for me.

    If you're really striving for fluency I recommend that you keep a list of things you wish you could express in Japanese. It will provide a better focus as you study. No one's journey is completely the same. It's better to learn words and phrases that you will actually use than spend too much time memorizing those that you will not.

    A word of warning. Avoid taking an English-first approach to studying. Don't try to translate what you would say in English to Japanese. Figure out what a Japanese person would say in a situation and how they would say it, depending on who they were talking to. That should save you some embarrassment down the line. The best way I can recommend doing this is watching Japanese television or youtube videos with the subtitles off. Definitely talk to real Japanese people and/or go to Japan sometime though:P That is the point of all this, right?

    I wish you luck in your endeavors がんばってね!


    I second Tae Kims Guide and japanesepod101. Great resources. Especially the Tae Kims Guide.

    Another fun way to get started is to watch the Yan San and the Japanese People series https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a5kYYcnEKw . It's old, but fun and very educational.

    Duolingo japanese part is still in the beta and it shows in the questions when compared to german for example, but I believe it should be a great supplementary resource.


    Honestly, when I was a total newbie and in the beginning tried studying with Tae Kim's Guide I just got confused. It's not good as something you should study with exclusively, but! Once you actually get the hang of the basic grammar from some other, more easily understood source, Tae Kim's Guide is a really handy and good grammar reference book, it's just not good at teaching it to a total newbie.


    At least that was my experience with it.


    You might be right. Come to think of it, I found it when I already had some grasp of the basics but at that point I found the approach extremely helpful. Perhaps first watch through the yan san series and do some genki series or japanese for busy people etc. and then pick up Tae Kim's while doing Japanesepod101 at the side.

    It doesn't really matter what you do as long as you find it interesting enough to stick with it. And variety always gives you more points of view to the subject helping you to learn.


    Note that Duolingo doesn't expect you to get things right the first time. Once you can recognize hiragana it gives super basic important words and phrases you should know. If it's feeling too difficult you're probably moving too fast onto new things before you master the previous lessons.

    For extra lessons that kind of force you to go a bit slower and really go in depth on each lesson I suggest JapanesePod101.com (also on youtube). Their absolute beginner course will take you through hiragana, katakana and basic survival phrases. When you sign up you get a one-week free trial that gives you access to grammar breakdowns, audio, flashcards and downloadable pdfs for each lesson. (After the one-week either pay membership or you'll only have access to their free youtube videos, so take advantage of it as much as you can)

    I personally started on Linguti.com which first gives you a few words and then progressively introduces grammar concepts with separate lessons for listening, reading, writing, etc. It also has a built-in japanese keyboard so you don't need to change your computer's language settings. It will show you words in hiragana, kanji and romaji so you can learn at your own pace. I started at romaji until I learned hiragana, then redid the lessons in that. Now I'm redoing the lessons with kanji.


    Tip one: use other sources than Duolingo too.

    Tip two: Flashcards are good for learning new words.

    Tip three: for learning Kanji, start from JPLT 5 (the easiest) up to JPLT 1(the hardest)

    Tip four: Writing with Japanese keyboard is harder than using wordbank, but you will improve your Japanese more efficiently and faster.

    Tip five: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/26710128

    additional note: Japanese course on Duolingo is in beta, so it is not a complete product, and they are going to fix "this and that".


    Why don't you try this, as a complement? (I think its very good)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsrakMT1h2g (The first of a long series of videos)



    Take it slow. Google yesjapan, make an account there, do the prelessons and the whole first course (it's free). George (the author) has made videos for each lesson up until course 4, in those he coherently explains every concept introduced in the lesson. Just get through the basics with this guy, he makes it really really easy, and he's pretty likeable too. The videos have way more quality than your average language learning youtube video. Check him out, I had attempted to start learning Japanese about 4 times before, but only after watching that guy's videos and going through all the lessons I finally felt like I actually understood the concepts.

    Learn Japanese in just 5 minutes a day. For free.