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Things you should know
*Don't get lost or demotivated
Set up your goal.Not everybody wants to study japanase for the same reasons. Find some goals for that works for you.
Then set up smaller goals to keep track of progress.Learning a language is a long road. Divide it with some small goals. It will give you a sense a progression. When feeling demotivated, look back and see some of that road is already behind you.
Track your progress.
Don't compare yourself to others.You don't fail because others are going faster than you. You still going faster than anyone who didn't even try or gave up. Either way, nobody can study for you anyway. Focus on your progress.
*Terms that will be used in this guide.
FrequencyFrequency refers to how often something happenens over a delimited time. Usually how often do you see a word / kanji by episode or book...
A frequency list will make sure you focus on the most important words instead of learning vocabulary that will appear only once.
SRSSpace repetition system. Newly introduced and more difficult flashcards are shown more frequently, while older and less difficult flashcards are shown less frequently.
This way you can make your study sessions more efficient.
AnkiFree SRS software. Basically a flashcards software, but it can do so much more when you install addon, especially Morphman. Check the list of tutorials below. It's crucial you understand learning steps.
I+1Sentence with only one word that you don't know. Anki and morphman can reorganize sentences in that order, optimizing your time to study only material within your grasp.
*Solve some of your problem right now.
Web plugins to translate every words.Rikaichamp (mozilla) or Rikaikun (Chrome) are web plugins allowing you to have a pop up dictionnary by hovering over words or kanjis.
Don't forget that you can open any text file (like subtiltes) in a browser, making it easier to read japanese.
Jp * Eng dictionary.Jisho is the most commonly used. Take 2 minutes to read the instructions on the website. You can set up your searches in a lot of ways.
Website to translate whole sentences with conjugations.Instead of looking up words one by one, translate the whole sentence at once with ichi.moe. Every word will be given the kanji, kana, romaji, definition. Works with conjugation way better than jisho.
Frequency list from almost anythingJapanese Text Analysis. A bit old but still the best option to create frequency list on the fly. Otherwise, use Morphman's Analyzer.
*General Tips
Grammar or Kanji or voca or conjugation or ...At the start, try to mix them up. You'll remember a kanji better if it's used in a word. You'll learn vocabulary and grammar better in a context of a sentence.
You can focus more on a specific field, but don't put any of them on the side until you "finished" one.
Use the resssources tabs.I've compiled ressources on a tab that you can filter depending on what you want to focus and, and your level. The list is small. You can always search on reddit for more.
Search before you ask.If you're looking for something or have a question, chances are it's been asked and answered on reddit before. Just look for it before asking.
Step 1: Before you start
*Get an overview
Take 5 minutes to learn about the basicsCheck the introduction on Imgur taken from my grammar deck. I will give you an overview of how japanese works. Kana, conjugation, grammar, kanji. You don't have to learn, just get familiar with concepts.
Step 2: Kana
*First step
I don't want to lean japanese.Good, you can find any traveler book with set phrases depending on the situation. They'll be witten in romaji, so no need to learn kana or kanji. Problem solved.
I want to learn japanese.You first need to learn the kana, both hiragana and katakana. Check the resource tab for learning practice those. You don't need to know them by heart, but at least be comfortable to start reading words.
Because Katakana is less common, it usually takes longer to be comfortable.
Step 3: Kanji
*Which method ?
Which method is the best ?This is an endless debate. I consider there isn't a best one, so I'll give you pros and cons of the most popular ones. Of course I'm biased, but I try to be objective.
The end goal.Keep in mind that kanji are used to write words. The endgame is vocabulary. So unless you're studying kanji for the sake of it, learning kanji is a means to an end.
MnemonicsSince Kanji can be divided in smaller parts, the regular method is to associate a keyword to a kanji and use its smaller parts to create a story that will help remember that kanji.
This method let's you learn those smaller parts in a progressive manner, making the process easier.
ReadingsA kanji can have different meanings, some of them really rare. Learning Kanji can be frustrating because by the end of it, you still don't know how to read a single word.
It's usually recommended to learn readings by learning vocabulary directly. You'll be able to notice the patterns of the same kanji being read the same in various words through repetitive exposure.
* RTK * Production
What is it ?Heisig's Remembering the Kanji introduce the idea about breaking down kanji. The purpose is not really to recognize a Kanji but being able to write the kanji.
So his method is to be able to write the kanji from the Keyword. It's probably the most popular book, even though most use it the other way around. Remembering the keyword from the kanji.
GoodWriting by hand helps memorization. If you can write a kanji, you'll also be able to recognize it very well.
BadWriting is not as important in the digital age. It also takes longer to write a kanji than just recognize it. And the execution is flawed. See below.
*Problem with RTK Method
PbThe method is sound but in execution, RTK's lessons are flawed. The way he deconstructs kanji in his book (which is now in most anki decks) if full of errors.
He sometimes decompose kanji in order to fit his story instead of making the story based on the real components.
Since you're supposed to remember how to write a kanji based on that story, you might end up not writing the kanji properly. Defeating the whole purpose.
Example笑 (Laugh). Rtk gives the following components: Bamboo . . . heavens. (⺮) + (天), but the second part is actually 夭 (calamity). The top stroke is different.
It may sound trivial but if you're method is to write kanji, strokes and strokes order does matter.
He also give the same components different names, and some components that are not the same, share the same name...
When creating a Kanji deck, I used at least 3 different resources to make sure the mistake was indeed from RTK. So you can find the "correct" components in the Kanji tab. It's not perfect either, but it's better.
* RTK * Recognition
What is it ?To ease the writing method, most people doing RTK usually focus on recognition of the kanji, still using the same break down technique.
With this method, you quizz yourself from kanji to keyword.
GoodLearn kanji faster. Since you know those keywords, you can understand words even if you don't know how to read them. Ex: if you know 王 (king) + 子 (child) you can figure out 王子 (Prince) by context.
BadBy the end of it, you still don't know how to read any words, and since learning 2000 can take months, it slows down your progress.
Some learn readings with each kanji but that means at least doubling that time. And some kanji have various readings, some of them rarely used so...
* KKLC * Keyword
What is it ?Following RTK, Kondansha Learning Kanji Course improves on the execution.
GoodThe order for learning kanji is more strict with components order, so smoother transition, although there isn't much difference.
While instructing not to learn readings, you do have vocabulary examples, themselves only containing kanji you already saw.
It's debatable but the keywords are also better chose than RTK's with "smaller keywords" to help you see how it can be used with different words.
BadSame cons as RTK, 2200 keywords to learn takes time.
Also, you usually forget the english keywords, and just associate a kanji with a word or sound when further in your studies. Learning keywords can fell like an extra step.
What is it ?RRTK means Recognition RTK. It's the same method, it just only covers the most frequently used 1,000 kanji, plus 250 additional characters and primitives to bridge the gap between kanji.
*Context * Vocabulary based on KKLC order
What is it ?It follows KKLC order, but instead of learning kanji, you directly learn words that use the kanji. I narrowed it down to the most common vocab, contained in JLPT 5 and 4 lists.
I don't really recommend it, it's was poorly made. I think you're better off either doing KKLC or just RTK and then use the javascript files. Link.
*Bonus * Kanji Pop up Dictionary
What is it ?2 javascript files that you put in your collection.media folder for Anki. This make any kanji in any of your anki cards clickable.
Click on a kanji, and you will have a pop up window with all the information you need. RTK, KKLC, Stories from Koohii and Wanikani, examples, readings, animated gif... Fully customizable as well.
I don't think it fully replaces RTK or KKLC but it's always nice to have. See the tutorial for more details.
*Anki deck
What is it ?There are a lot of Anki Decks out there. I tried to make the best possible one, meaning with the most content, but also flexible depending on what method you choose.
It contains any content you may find elswhere in one deck, plus RTK's component corrected. You can easily choose your order between RTK, RRTK or KKLC.
Contains different card style for recognition / writing and memrise template. I gave instruction within the cards so you can easily modify them even if you don't know html or css.
Link to the deck.
Step 3: Grammar
*Prepare the ground work
Get an overviewBecause it's best to learn vocabulary in the context of a sentence, you'll need some basic grammar first.
As I said in the introduction, I recommend not necesseraly learning but at least reading grammar lessons to get used to some concepts like particles and the different conjugations.
It's easier to learn something specific if you're aware of something more general. I say get familiar with all the concepts by reading the content column. Then go back and actually study.
*I want to study with a textbook
I want the best or most popular one.The most popular textbook is Genki. Althought not perfect, it's probably the most solid. It will get you where you need to go. You can find a lot of ressources for studying, since it's the most popular.
I want something slow and easy.Japanese from zero is designed for young students or casual learners with a slow pace. If you thought Genki was too hard, you should try this one. You can also check out the youtube channel.
* I want to study with a free guide
NHK Easy JapaneseIt's free and deserve more recognition. Available in multiple languages. Crash course of 48 lessons, 10 min audio "podcast" for each.
Dialogue, skit, lesson, podcast, onomatopia, grammar. Free pdf and audio.
I need somehting more consistentImabi is the free resources for that, it goes in depth for each grammar point. Maybe a little too much, and can be overwhelming for beginners.
What about this tae kim guide?Popular because it's free, it's often recommended. However in the pursuit of being concise, the guide has mistakes, errors and wrong explanations. Check the ressource tabs for links on this issue.
Still useful but there are better resources that do the job just fine and are free as well.
*I want to study by looking up specific points
A dictionary of ...Basic, Intermediate, Advanced japanese grammar is the absolute reference. No need for a second choice. Online database here.
A databaseUse Bunpro. You can look up any grammar point for free. You can also suscribe (with a fee) and practice grammar with a built-in srs.
Good old google searchJust type "grammar point" and ... the grammar point, you'll find good results. Hi native and language stack exchange are great when it comes to nuances between points.
Search on reddit will sometimes give you great explanation by users.
*I commute a lot. Any apps ?
Anki.Anki counts as an app ? I've made a grammar deck. It regroups grammar points thematically, based on Bunpo. It also compiles Genki, NHK, the dictionary and others with their actual content in the deck.
LingodeerRecommended over Duolingo. It's made especially for Asian studies. Each lesson has an introduction for the grammar point. Then practice vocabulary, making sentence, with nice audio and visuals.
BunpoYou have to pay but there's a lot of content. From N5 to N1. Lessons are short, concise, with examples. Not great to practice I think, but amazing as a reference.
Step 3: Vocabulary
*I want to learn the most frequent words
The Core decks.A lot of people use one of the core2K decks. 2k means most 2000 frequent words. That frequency list was taken from newspaper wich doesn't really cover the most basic words a beginner needs.
I'd advise against it, as we have better option now.
*I want to learn with in a progressive order
Tango JLPT books.The tango decks follow the JLPT levels. They will cover the most common vocabulary. What's great about it is that sentences are ordered in a +1 order. Review of the books.
Contact Nukemarine (he's a mod on reddit) with proof of purchase from the books, and he'll send you the anki decks.
*I want to learn the vocabulary used in my textbook
Deck GeneratorIf you follow genki or minna no nihongo, you probably want to learn the vocab these book use. Use this website to create the anki deck you need. Or this one.
*I want to learn with anime only no boring textbook
Subs2srs DecksNext step is immersion then.
Some say you should use tango or genki first to reach a certain level. Either way, check the Immersion step below to see all the different ways you can do that.
Step 4: Immersion
*What's immersion ?
Use native contentWhy use formal sentences from textbook like tango or genki when you can use sentences from anime or movies you like with native audio ?
You can use hundreds of premade decks, and order them in I+1 order like tango with Morphamn, and use a frequency list to make sure you focus on the right words.
*What to choose ?
Find content that matches your knowledgeThe readability tab is there for that. Download the file, and follow the tutorial to find out what's accessible for you. More importantly, do something you'll enjoy.
*Which deck ?
Pick one or create yoursThe readability has most decks. You can find more on the original blog where they're posted.
If you can find the one you want, make it. Here's the tutorial for subs2srs decks.
*How do you chose wich words to focus on ?
Use a master frequency listIn Morphman's analyser you can use a master frequency list to filter words. The number you pick is not the frequency of the number but the line on which the word is when opening the file.

You can then use a frequency list to prioritze words. Simply analyse some text files, it will create a frequency list.
Morphman will use that frequency list, and reorder your cards so you can learn the words from that list first. Full detail with this video.
Step 5: Profit