Difficulty Getting Started

I started learning Japanese a month ago on my own. For the first three weeks, I mostly grinded through an RTK Anki deck and just listened to as much Japanese as I possibly could. I also learned hiragana and katakana. A week ago I found LingQ and began working on my reading skills, hoping that if I could improve my vocabulary and understanding of grammar I would be able to catch up on my hearing-understanding pretty quickly. However, after the first 22-23 stories (the beginner LingQ stories), the content has started to become very difficult to understand (not just the audio but also the text). In the beginning, I had no trouble looking up words and then understanding the text after a few minutes, but now remembering the readings of more difficult kanji/just understanding the text has gotten a lot harder for me. So, I was wondering how have others gotten past this obstacle in the past? Do you just re-read previous lessons until you remember every Kanji’s reading, or are there better lessons to start with besides the beginner stories? Maybe I’m the only one that has this issue, but if anyone has some advice for getting started, I would greatly appreciate it.

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The Mini Stories do get progressively more difficult. Don’t worry too much about not having perfect comprehension. Just keep moving and working your way through the mini stories. They will be added to your Playlist as you complete lessons which will mean you will be repeating the earlier lessons while also listening to the new lessons. This variation of new more difficult content with older easier content will help your comprehension improve.
You should definitely not expect 100% comprehension before moving on. 70 to 80 percent is fine. You will see many of the same vocabulary terms in future mini stories which will reinforce those terms some more. Then, periodically return to earlier mini stories to refresh your memory of the words you are trying to learn. It is just a process. Let your brain figure things out. Don’t put pressure on yourself to understand fully right away.


I’ve been listening to all my previous lessons (I’m on story 43 or something now) when I work, so I can definitely tell my comprehension of the first 20 stories is improving. As for the rest, I’ve been halfway ignoring sentences with 2+ new words in them and leaving them to come back to for when I know enough of the words to understand the rest of the sentence. Would you recommend actively studying grammar on the side to help me with understanding, or do you think that over time I will probably pick up on most things?

I don’t think it’s necessary to spend a lot of time/energy working on grammar, but it definitely is important, especially when you are just starting out, to have a good understanding of how Japanese is structured because the grammar is very different from English. I would recommend spending some time reading about Japanese grammar just to get a good overview of some things you can look out for when you’re reading in Japanese, but there’s no need to go crazy with grammar exercises. Otherwise, it seems like you are on the right track. Did you create the Anki deck yourself? Generally speaking, it will be easier for you to remember Anki cards you create yourself, rather than ones that already exist. I know that’s kind of annoying, but it’s worth mentioning. Practicing writing the characters on paper will help too, if you’re not already doing that.

It seems like you have made a lot of progress in one month, so just keep working at it and you’ll keep improving.


I second Aena’s point take a look at grammar explanations when you need them but grammar is learned through examples and lots of reading in a way the grammar is absorbed into you but yeah Japanese grammar is freaky so you might have to reference grammar a lot more than a normal language. Good Luck on your Japanese Adventures!

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If you mean you are not clicking on blue words if you see too many, I don’t think that’s a good approach. You should click on every blue word you don’t know, look it up and create a meaning. That word is now yellow and will reappear in future contexts if it matters where you can easily click on it to review it and refresh your memory. You should absolutely be creating too many LingQs to possibly learn them all by reviewing using our SRS system or exporting them to Anki. The review done in current and future lessons just by seeing and clicking on yellow words in new contexts is by far the most powerful review you will do.
Do SRS or Anki review if you like, it can help you get a toehold especially in a language like Japanese with the new characters to learn but, you will find that just by seeing the same common words in lesson after lesson you all of sudden will realize you can read them without ever having deliberately reviewed them.
As for the grammar, a little explanation is always helpful once you’ve had some exposure. Click through to our Grammar Guide in the profile menu for a concise grammar resource. But, for the most part it’s the reading and listening and vocabulary lookup that will gradually grow your comprehension. Your brain will learn if you feed it.

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I do make LingQs for every word I come across. I guess I should have explained a little more; I usually just don’t put effort into trying to understand a sentence that has a lot of words I don’t know in it. For the most part I don’t have to put effort into understanding the sentences from the first 15 or so stories, but the rest gets a little tricky sometimes. I’ll definitely have a look at the grammar site because some of this “had to buy” or “will have to pay” stuff is a bit confusing in the later lessons. I actually have been exporting some stuff to Anki especially with more obscure vocab that doesn’t reappear in later lessons. For the most part that’s going well too. Thanks for all the advice!

That’s good. One thing to also try is when you do find a new pattern ie “had to buy”, create a LingQ for the phrase containing that pattern, ie. 3 to 5 word phrase. Then, tag it with the name of that pattern. Then, you can review that tagged list at some point to reinforce that pattern. No problem coming back to older lessons. Every time I do, I get a little more out of them.


I learned Japanese in a classroom to start and after I had 4 semesters under my belt and then self studied with a bit of online tutoring. I was lucky to have a great teacher. I was unlucky because I didn’t appreciate the awesomeness of LingQ then. LingQ isn’t perfect and it’s a bit pricier than some other options. Anyway, I think had I realized that LingQ can add furigana to kanji I would have been all over this. It’s not always right and as a beginner that may drive you nuts but you can always double check it in a dictionary and having the furigana turned on will allow you turn get a good reading flow going. Without furigana I know I felt like I ran into a road block every time I couldn’t read a kanji. Do not feel like having furigana turned on is cheating and you won’t ever learn it until you turn it off. That’s nonsense. Japanese kids learn kanji from reading manga etc. with furigana. After you see a kanji with the furigana 20 times or maybe 100 times I don’t know you will just remember it. The problem is getting a good reading flow where you feel connected to the text.

A frustrating thing about learning vocabulary from extensive reading is that you really have little control over what you will remember. You might see a word or a lot of words and think it’s really useful but it won’t stick for several months maybe. Just go with it and have faith in the process. You can Anki vocabulary but you’ll probably find it also won’t stick in your long term memory until it’s good and ready to do so and you will keep failing it at intervals over a few days.

I totally recommend reading RTK and doing your best to remember all the parts that make up kanji. I also wouldn’t worry too much about forgetting most of the kanji you get from RTK and then slowly relearning them for real as you read a lot. Good luck.


I’ve read that to truly learn kanji you need to already have a good bit of Japanese under your belt, so just aiming for recognition your first time around with RTK is the goal. I’ve been working through an Anki deck with 1000 kanji + 250 radicals for about a month now and am over halfway done. I definitely think that the readings for kanji I have learned through RTK are easier to remember than the readings for kanji I’ve never seen before, but at the same time RTK is a lot of work. I probably won’t bother with the other 2000 something kanji until I feel like I know a lot more Japanese and really need to know those other kanji to top everything off.

今の日本政府は、日本語を大事にしていません。「GO TO 何とか」などという変な英語(?)を日本語の中に氾濫させています。


Don’t be discouraged, remember that in Japanese the difficulty of grammar lies at the beginning and it gets easier with time. This article shows it (it is a comparison with Chinese, but it doesn’t matter):

Many people like to use this grammar guide, perhaps it can help you:

Also, Misha and Organic Japanese with Cure Dolly are quite useful, they are both on Youtube for free.

So, in short, I think Japanese gets progressively easier (unlike other languages such as Chinese or English).

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I’ve heard this from others elsewhere too. I’ve been learning German for 3 years, and until a year ago figuring out what gender each noun was took me up until I could understand about 95% of anything I read or watched. I chose Japanese because I wanted something that wouldn’t have that kind of aspect to it like German that would make perfecting my language abilities a very gradual and often difficult process. Thanks for the links. I think I’ve actually stumbled upon two of those YouTube channels in the past month as well, so I’ll definitely give them another shot.


You’re welcome.

This is Cure Dolly’s course and in my opinion, it is outstanding:

It is worth watching from the beginning, even if you are already acquainted with the basics and you think you can skip some chapters, because things are presented in a quite different way than usual, and in my opinion, a more logical way; and it builds upon previous videos.

The problem is: the author did not want to display his/her own true voice, so the voice is heavily distorted and that makes it sometimes annoying (at least for me). However, I think it is worth the pain, because it went deeper and explained things in a more logical manner than the other courses / resources I have found.

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The stories do become difficult but I don’t think there is a need to change them. I do think there should be additional aid.

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We are in the same boat. I also started japanese with Anki and when discovered LingQ I had problems understanting some lessons and stories. its been almost 7 months now with Lingq and every time I face a text I don’t understand I just make the lingqs and go ahead. Every day I review some of my old lessons and what I found out is that every time my comprehension is increasing. My advice here is just “keep on moving, the magic will happen” :wink: