3 months of learning Japanese

3 months of learning Japanese
Photo by mos design / Unsplash

So I have been learning Japanese for a while. But not seriously.

I have a 1700 day Duolingo streak, but I am certainly not learning a language with it.

At this point, Duoling is something little I do every single day as a habit. No matter how bad my life gets, or how great – I always spend a lil time doing it.

Problem is: I just kinda repeat the same lessons over and over again. I switch languages a lot. Hawaiian, Klingon, Spanish, French etc.... It's not always Japanese, and it's always the easy stuff I already know.

So 1700 days is a lot, but really I have not learnt anything.

For me, I have really only been learning Japanese for 3 months. Since December of 2023.

This blog post is about my progress, my metholodgies and my plans. It's also a guide for younger me who was looking up resources.


Ok so my technique is AJATT / MIA / Refold / Migaku / Fluent Forever / blah blah blah

They all do the same thing, really.

The premise is basically this:

  1. Learn a core set of words

Every language has maybe 1000, 1500 words that come up in nearly every sentence.

Just brute force them.

  1. Learn basic grammr

Maybe read a textbook, watch Youtube or something.

Note: This is controversial for AJATT followers but those people are typical neckbeard anime lovers who refuse to shower because it takes time away from anime so you can safely ignore them.

Average AJATT cult member
  1. Immerse

Read, watch, and game as much as you physically can.

Ok so let's actually go into these.

Learn the core words

Zipf's law states that ... ok gonna be honest the actual definition is kinda boring.

Basically Zipf's law states that around 80% of all words used in a language are the same 20% of words (similar to Pareto. Yes I have dumbed this down).

So if you just learn the core 20% of words, you'll make massive gains.

For Japanese, if you know 200 Kanji you can read about 50% of Kanji in any given text.

So the whole point of this is to bash through the core words to read maybe 50% of words in text, which gives you a massive headstart and lets you immerse easier.

In Japanese the current best deck to use is Kaishi 1.5k:

GitHub - donkuri/Kaishi: Kaishi 1.5k is a modern, modular Japanese Anki deck made for beginners who want to learn basic vocabulary.
Kaishi 1.5k is a modern, modular Japanese Anki deck made for beginners who want to learn basic vocabulary. - donkuri/Kaishi

This title of "best deck to use" changes a lot, and I believe Migaku will have a pretty good deck once it's released.

Others include:

Pretty much everyone uses Anki, so you should use it too. There isn't really any alterantives as good. I suppose if you absolutely hated Anki you could use Wanikani or JPDB or something.

I use Anki because it's not that hard and I can customise every apsect of my learnign experience to suit me.

Also... Anki is a spaced repition system.

Humans forget things, a lot.

Anki's job is to try and guess when you'll forget something and show you the flashcard right before then, combating the forgetting curve.

If you use Anki, use FSRS.

fsrs4anki/docs/tutorial.md at main · open-spaced-repetition/fsrs4anki
A modern Anki custom scheduling based on free spaced repetition scheduler algorithm - open-spaced-repetition/fsrs4anki

It's the best spaced repition algorithm in the world

This means that:

  • It shows you the least amount of flashcards per day so it doesn't overwhelm you


  • It optimises them in such a way so you likely never forget them

Doing Anki kinda sucks.

I would suggest doing 5 new cards a day just to make it into a habit.

After 30 days, increase new cards gradually until you're comfortable.

Use the Heatmapp addon too which shows you your current streak among other things.

And that's kinda it for this stage....

Just do cards everyday and you should learn Japanese!

If you find Kanji hard, you can actually just study them individually.

Many people in this metholdogy cry "No don't do it! {guy who hasn't showered in 6 months} says not to do it!!11"

The thing is, if you actually read what earlier verions of them wrote / did they kinda did study individual kanji.

They say "I never studied individual Kanji", then you watch a youtube video from 10 years ago and they very clearly have an Anki deck for individual kanji.

A lot of these people say things like "Don't study kanji, buy this anki deck I made and you'll learn them naturally ;)"

There is some truth to this....

I noticed now I am kinda recgonising Kanji by just seeing it in vocab a lot.

However, if by learning 200 Kanji you learn about 50% of the most frequently used ones – does it not make senes to study them individually at least a little?

Learn grammar

Another thing some hardcore AJATTers say is "don't learn grammar". What are you, stupid?

Sure, you can naturally absorb grammar with thousands of hours.

Or you could read an intro grammar guide, learn 50% of the grammar that's used everyday in just a few days and move on??

I suggest Tae Kim's guide.

Personally I went through it and sentence mined the examples into Anki so I can remember them.

The front is the sentence with words I know.

So If I know what the sentence says, I'll pass it. Else I'll learn the grammar in the card again.

No need to spend weeks and weeks learning grammar to be honest.

Grammar is weird. Look at this English sentence:

"Are you alright love like?"

We call things which modify a sentence a grammar particle. I bet most of you read "Like" and wondered why it's there.

It's because it's a grammar particle from the North of England.

You did not need to know this to read the sentence, and now you've learnt something new too.

Same with Japanese. There will always be weird grammar particles that even natives don't know. Why bother learning everything about grammar?

Learn enough to read sentences, and then build up a mental model of these weirder, lesser-used grammar particles.


Now we've reached the fun part! Immersion!

Unlike some who believe (AjATTers...) you do not have to immerse 24/7.

Please, if your house is on fire you can skip trying to speak Japanese to the 911 operator.

It's important you understand that there are some right weirdos in this community.

If their nan fell down the stairs and needed urgent help they would scream at her until she tried to speak Japanese to them to keep the immersion clock ticking.

This is not fun immersion.

You know what is fun? Playing Stardew Valley in Japanese. Watching your favourite animes in Japanese. Flexing on your friends that you're immersing in Japanese on BeReal.

My learning routine is basically "relive my incredibly weeby 14 year old past by watching anime all day" and I love it, because now instead of saying:

"I spent all night watching anime"

I can say:

"I spent all night studying japanese"

BUT for it to be studying... you need to do some things broski.

You can just watch anime, but there's some things you can here to really help future you.

Now, you've been using Anki for both vocabulary and grammar.

What if you just... continued using that to remember your immersion?

We call this the loop.

  1. You do your Anki reviews
  2. You immerse (read, game, watch)
  3. You look up unknown words / grammar
  4. You need new words / grammar to Anki
  5. Go back to (1).

You do for this a few years... you're fluent.

Taken from https://morg.systems/58465ab9

How do I mine vocabuary / grammar into Anki?

Ok so previously you downloaded someone elses vocab cards.

Now here's the scary part. You'll have to make your own cards.

Not to worry, there are a lot of guides online that promise to get you up and running in 5 mins ᵂᶦᵗʰ ʲᵘˢᵗ ³ ʷᵉᵉᵏˢ ᵒᶠ ⁿᵒⁿ⁻ˢᵗᵒᵖ ᵈᵉᵇᵘᵍᵍᶦⁿᵍ

Instead of crying and trying your hardest to get some weird Yomitan setup you could just use Migaku.

Sure it costs money, but you can do everything you can in a Yomitan setup and more for just £8 a month. And you don't have to spend weeks of your life setting it up / fixing it when it breaks.

Trust me. I'm a gigachad 100x engineer.

If I wanted to, I could not only set this stuff up (I have) but contribute code to make these tools better.

I could do this. You could do this.

Or you could instead pay a small fee of £8 per month and use that time to instead immerse and learn the language.

Something I see a lot in my job is junior coders thinking they can just code a solution to any problem. You can, but would your time be worth it?

If it takes you say 1 day a month to maintain Yomitan, and your time is worth £50 per day – a tool like Migaku which is worth £8 a month is obviously worth it.

You can use Yomitan if you like. Or you can become a gigachad and just pay someone else to handle the tooling while you actually learn the language.

I use Migaku with Anki. You can use Migaku's flashcard system if you want. I choose Anki becasue I'm your average autistic trans coder girl who although doesn't want to go 100% autism mode on tooling does want to go 30% autism mode.

what i'd do if i started over again

ok so heres what i'd do to become an gigachad top dawg

  1. learn hiragana and katakana - idc how and neither should u. just bruteforce it until u get maybe 80% of it right. i still get katakana wrong to this day lmao.
  2. pay for migaku and do the migaku memory course on Japanese. This teaches you grammar AND words at the same time.
    1. i personally would also do kaishi at the same time but that might be hardcore u know
  3. read tadoku level 1
2024 updated Free Tadoku Graded Reader PDFs 2,681 total pages for reading
by u/Ser_Moo in LearnJapanese

☝️ i put this through mokuro so i could mine it too

  1. read some of level 2. at some point you will feel ok.
  2. read su & taichan, its so easy and funny and i love it.
  3. after u read this, read the authors next work "chii's sweet home" which is harder but also more heart breaking
  4. read yotsuba

You basucally want to do this:

ok from here u know what to do. read more watch more mine more anki more.

my progress so far

ok so its been 5 months!

i forgot to write this for 2 months! so now i've been learning for 3!

i have spent around 200 hours learning japanese so far:

in my mining deck i have:

573 words i know

but between this and kaishi...

and migaku memory....

I probably know more like 800 words?

As for grammar who knows. I think I read at an N4 level, but not super fluently. I look up a lot of words but its more like

Hmmm.. This word means play, this grammar means not playing, this particle means "in" and this word i dont know.. so they are not playing in somewhere?

Like, I can't translate sentences into English, I just get the general feel of the sentence and theres a lot of words I don't know, you know?

On top of this I'm reading Yotsuba right now, which has so much slang!

I do not feel like I know 800 words. If I had to guess I'd maybe only know 10 😂

But also when I have tested my English it says I know around 16,000 words. I do not feel like I know that many words, that's so many! I feel like I know maybe 1000, 2000 words.

Language is so weird.

I am sitting N5 in 3 months, but yet when I look at the questions I do not really know them so well. I guess the language in JLPT is lower frequency than what I'm learning, so I don't know it too well.

Time will tell 🤷‍♀️

What I can say is I am having so much fun reading manga, watching anime, and reading the occasional comment on Youtube / Twitter.

my goals

My main goals are:

  • Read japanese books in japanese
  • Watch anime in japanese (this is everyones goal, lol)
  • Read manga in japanese
  • understand japanese well enough to read 2chan, the original 4chan 😂

i dont really care about JLPT scores, but I might as well do them to benchmark myself.


if you want to follow along with a more in-depth study log, I have one here!

👻 Autumn’s High Tech Study Log ✨ Learning Japanese at the speed of light with tech 🫨
Maybe my last post on here for a week… I am super busy lately and with my holiday next week I am putting WK on vacation mode 🙂 I will still be reading manga though and doing anki ✅