Am I wasting my time learning Japanese?

Learn Japanese - How do I start?

Japanese is easy - you just need some diligence. 🤯

You just need to know where to start and study regularly.

In summary, I have the following recommendations for you: 👨‍🏫

  1. Start with hiragana, then learn katakana
  2. Understand basic grammar
  3. Timpani diligently vocabulary and kanji
  4. Repeat often, but neglect what is useless
  5. Use Japanese

A Japanese course as a book or in a school can take you by the hand, but it is not enough to speak Japanese successfully. You will still have to learn characters and vocabulary at home and practice a lot. A course cannot replace that.

Start with hiragana, then learn katakana

Scripture helps you

Three different types of characters with a total of more than 2000 "important" characters sounds overwhelming at first. But it's not as bad as it sounds.

First of all, only Hiragana and Katakana with 50 characters each are a must. These characters are comparable to our alphabet and can be created in a short time.

But if you want to build up a large vocabulary, then you also need Kanji. Many words sound very similar and only differ in their spelling. Especially in the first few months I had more problems telling words apart without Kanji than with learning Kanji.

A great advantage of Kanji is that you will automatically understand a lot of vocabulary without ever having learned them. Often you can tell the meaning of a word from the Kanji meaning.

Avoid Romaji

Attention! There are many books that explain Japanese using "our" alphabet. So introduce hiragana gradually. I think this is a big mistake that creates wrong connections in your head and only slows you down.

Why You Should Learn Hiragana First

Material for learning hiragana and katakana

On this website:

Book recommendations:

Understand basic grammar

Get a grammar book

Japanese grammar is completely different from what you know from European languages. But once you understand the core ideas, you will learn the rest much faster.

Regardless of whether you study independently or attend a course, the grammar is usually much too short and unstructured. Looking up is often difficult too.

That is why I recommend that you read a grammar at the same time as a course (book).

Grammar books for self-study or course

I recommend combining books from different authors. Everyone explains something differently, and no matter how good the books are - sometimes you just need 2 explanations before it clicks.

Course books for self-study

In the case of a course, the books will hopefully be given to you. 😋 Otherwise, here is my recommendation for your self-study.

  • Japanese writing by step (Link to Amazon): If you like small daily snacks to learn, this book is the best choice for you. I only wish I would work with Hiragana instead of Romaji in the first chapter.
  • Japanese from Zero! (Link to Amazon): Although this series of books is English, it is still very popular. If that doesn't bother you, then a clear recommendation.

Timpani diligently vocabulary and kanji

Vocabulary lists

For starters, there are lists on this page such as 100 important adjectives or verbs.

Just look in the vocabulary section to see if there is something suitable for you.

Websites / apps

There are some good apps and sites that I find very helpful as a supplement.

  • German-Japanese dictionary.
  • Practice Kanji trainer with German vocabulary for reading and writing.
  • Wanikani: Very good, well-known, but also not cheap Kanji trainer for learning (English)
  • Duolingo: Course-like trainer with Kanji, vocabulary and grammar - although grammar explanations are a bit short (English)

Repeat often, but neglect what is useless

Passive understanding: quantity instead of quality

A large vocabulary is important so that you can understand normal Japanese in movies, games, and conversations.

It is better to know 80% of 2000 words than 100% of 500. Do not waste your time here on super precise meanings or difficult words, but study en masse - a lot still sticks around.

Focus on words that you see often and want to understand. You should simply leave out vocabulary that you are not interested in or that are difficult.

💡 Tip: Use vocabulary lists: The vocabulary lists on this page are a good starting point to build up your passive vocabulary. There are also lists for the individual JLPT levels.

Active use: learn with pictures and sentences

You should learn your active vocabulary - words that you use yourself - purposefully and thoroughly. The words should come out of your mouth automatically. The best way to do this is by learning with pictures and sentences.

So instead of writing "table" on an index card, you should use a picture of a table. After all, your head should see a table and come up with the Japanese word and not translate it first.

Sentences have a similar effect and help you link Japanese words better together so that you can remember them more easily at the right moment. At the same time, you will learn how to use it correctly.

Use Japanese

No matter how much you already know and understand, always try to use your Japanese. 👨‍🏫

Watch movies, youtube videos. Play video games in Japanese. Find chat, Skype or email friends. Read manga in Japanese.

All of this will be very bumpy in the beginning, but do it anyway. For example, you may only understand 5% of movies. But the joy and the learning effect is huge when you recognize a previously learned word in the film. You won't forget it anytime soon!

I made a short YouTube video on the subject of games. Since it's my first Youtube video, the quality is still terrible 🤣, but maybe it will help you anyway: Zelda in Japanese. Which is also a good transition to the next point:

Don't be afraid of mistakes. You learn much better from your own mistakes than from books. The more embarrassing the mistake, the more you will remember this event and learn from it.

Have fun learning now! 🎉


Last updated: December 26th, 2020