Learning Japanese is so frustrating, just can't understand it. Any advice?

I have been going in and out of Japanese studies interspersed with my other languages and have recently been trying to go back at it. Despite the fact that I have been going at Japanese for a long time I just don’t ever seem to be getting any closer to understanding it.

I Studied Japanese for many, many months from a traditional textbook before getting to lingq, and was surprised to find out that I really didn’t have much vocabulary.

I have read through the beginner material 1000 times and still have trouble making sense of what is trying to be said even for easy lessons. As soon as a sentence is more than just a simple, one concept thing, I am lost.

Grammatical explanations are useless because I will read examples and explanations… but actual material never seems to be remotely that simple in conversation or text. Particles, endings, sentences orders… are everywhere and anywhere in any given phrase and I have such trouble tracking down explanations or translations for specific structures I get stuck on. This is of course exacerbated by the fact that due to the spacing, telling where one word ends and the other begins… what is a particle or an ending… Or sometimes what is actually an error in lingq or a new particle or structure I Haven’t learned…

I am finding it really, really difficult not to succumb to discouragement with Japanese, as opposed to other languages which seem to come together if you just power through the tough stretches. Even Russian which is supposed to be really difficult. I feel like I am FAR further along in Russian even having studied it for a fraction of the time I have on Japanese.

I just can’t seem to battle past the frustration of understanding it… The only language I have a hard convincing myself I will ever be able to actually understand it. But I keep going at it and keep trying it in an endless cycle of personal torture because I really want to learn this language but It just doesn’t seem to helping.

I am doing something wrong? Do i need to go back to the textbook and really meticulously study the grammar structures to have any chance, or is my brain for some reason just not made out to get a hang of this language.

Any tips, similar frustrations, or motivating success stories would be greatly appreciated.

I can’t speak to Japanese, but Korean is very difficult for me. When I had first begun using LingQ I could only really understand the very simple sentences. Things like “I like bicycles”. If it said “I like riding bicycles” I’d be so totally confused. Just about every sentence which had more than just subject, object and verb was like a word salad to me.

And this was reading - my listening was of course limited to only simple sentences made from words I was really really familiar with.

At around 30 000 words read I started understanding some of the simpler sentences which had conjunctions in them and certain simple grammatical structures. At this time I was (and still am) keeping a self-made easy-reference in google docs where I detailed the myriad of conjugations the language uses. I was at that time up to 50 on that list. It has now surpassed 80 different conjugations!

Then at around 50 000 words read I was finally able to read a sentence from left to right (without cross-referencing) and understand something like: “When I was young we lived near Seoul”. At this time I was able to read some paragraphs with that kind of complexity and get the gist of what was being said.

I’d say my big breakthrough was during that time - my mind managed to ‘unlock’ a number of grammatical patterns and suddenly many sentences which had been utterly confusing began to make sense.

My listening, of course, has lagged but is now catching up to where my reading was a few months ago.

So I don’t know how much you’ve studied, nor how you’ve studied, nor how hard Japanese is, nor what quality of resources there are for it! Clearly I am very much still a beginner, but I’m gonna just put it out there that:

It took me 10’s of thousands of words read to break into being a solid ‘beginner’ rather than ‘dont know anything’ for Korean. The amount of exposure I needed to even get where I am now has been a lot more than I ever thought, and for the longest time I really had my doubts as to whether it would work. But so far it has been, just at a very slow pace.



日本語と韓国語は似ているところがあるという話をよく聞きます。私は、韓国語を学習したことがないので正確なことはわからないのですが、トルコ語などとともに、膠着語(agglutinative language)に分類されています。これは勝手な想像ですが、共通するむつかしさがあるとしたら、母語が屈折語(inflectional language)の学習者にとって膠着語が理解しにくいということかもしれません。(中国語やベトナム語は孤立語(isolating language)に分類されています。)

韓国語は現在はすべてがハングル文字で表記され、本来の韓国語ではない漢字起源のことばも、漢字では表記されなくなったのでしょうか。日本語は、依然として「漢字かな交じり文」として表記されます。「やま」(a mountain)は、本来の日本語ですが、通常は、漢字で「山」と表記されます。そして、「山村」(a mountain village)は、「さんそん」と読みます。この場合、「山」が「さん」と発音されます。つまり、一つの漢字が、訓として「やま」、音として「さん」と発音されます。漢字とその読み方を覚えるのは大変ですが、同音異義語に悩まされることは韓国語の場合よりも少ないのだろうと思います。

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Shouldn’t it be むずかしさ in the first sentence? :stuck_out_tongue:

むつかしい = むずかしい


First off, Do Not go back to the textbook and do anything “meticulously.”

In my first months of learning Japanese, I decided it was not worth trying to figure out the difference between “ga” and “wa,” “ni” and “e”, and all that… :slight_smile:

If you are going through courses like “Who is She” in Japanese right now, then stop and move on to more difficult content. :stuck_out_tongue: Why? Because super-beginner courses like those are extremely structure based and those sentences sometimes become crude repetitive sentences with the same grammar replaced with different vocab. The sentences often also sound unnatural or they don’t link to each other naturally. Since your 500 or so words show you know the most basic vocabulary, I recommend Steve’s Podcasts (if you’re doing that already then amazing). :smiley: They’re much more enjoyable but more importantly, they don’t mirror grammar drilling and the speakers still naturally use a lot of the typical Japanese language structure (verbs final, particles always come AFTER what they modify) and you’ll get used to the feel of the language. Aside from that, this sounds counter intuitive, but don’t be afraid to try harder content when the beginner content gets too “hard.” It’s just because the beginner stuff is too grammatically “rigidly repetitive” and gets you into the trap of trying to understand every single grammatical aspect of a sentence.

Also, slightly harder courses gets you exposed to more vocabulary. Lingq everything you can. Japanese sentence structure is very “opposite” to English and I still have trouble piecing things together especially when they add all that “kamoshirenai janai kanaa” but when reading, try to understand the general idea of a sentence and not caught up on the grammar.



Both are right.

Thank you. Also, going out to find native speakers didn’t help. I went to the sushi restaurant at the shopping mall food court and tried ordering in japanese but all of the sushi chefs were only speaking Cantonese.


After reading your post, I recommend you save yourself a lot of frustration and just give it up. In addition, I see you are beginning 5 languages at the same time (assuming your lingQ info reflects your true level), so I would recommend you drop all but one of those and bring it to at least an upper intermediate level before adding another one back.

yes- those who chase many rabbits catch none (and go hungry). Focus on learning one language to a reasonable fluent level.



I’m not actually, actively learning all those languages. When I first got to lingq I was just sampling the different languages. Great saying though.

My advice to you is stop doing the traditional way, focus on input. Because Japanese has so many facts to learn (kanji) its better to focus on knowing more words without thinking too much about grammar.
If you are not getting better with easier material, you are plateauing. You have to tackle harder native material to learn, this is precisely what lingq allows you to do. Look for novels that interest you and read them in lingq, you will learn that way, I promise you. Breaking in to an interesting context makes things easier to understand and more memorable.

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