Advice to beginners in self-studying

Four years ago…

I first started learning Japanese about 4 years ago. I was in the final year of my engineering course and I just couldn’t bear the fact that my classmate knew more Japanese than me. She showed me notebooks on which she practiced Hiragana and Katakana and I thought it was cool.

And so, my long-term relationship with Japanese began. I would attend classes the entire day and then spend the evening preparing for GRE. Following that, I would learn 5 Hiragana characters everyday finishing them all off in about two weeks and then move on to Katakana. I had a lot on my plate, but I loved every minute of it.

What really helped me with the kana was Hiragana Times. For those who aren’t aware of it, this website posts news written entirely in Hiragana and Katakana. There’s no Kanji to mess with your mind. One good way to master reading and writing Japanese is to read, read and read even if it’s for 15 minutes a day. By doing so, your eyes get used to seeing the characters and thus reading them becomes second nature. This is a good way to start out when self-studying Japanese.

The hard part – Kanji, vocabulary and grammar.

I still haven’t come up with a good routine to study the rest of Japanese. I first started out making lists of all the new words I hard learnt through my readings. I would make lists everyday and review them regularly. But it wasn’t fun because I kept forgetting them the very next day.

I have given up a lot of times on Japanese. Well, not entirely, because I kept coming back. I would put off studying whenever it seemed like a chore or when it didn’t seem like I was progressing. I’ve made lists and lists of Kanji and vocabulary, totally ignoring grammar and they haven’t helped me much.

It’s only now that I realise that what I needed the most was a guideline, a structured course. Self-studying haphazardly will get you nowhere. I wasted about 3 years that way. One way to find that structure is by following the course set for each JLPT levels.

Studying for JLPT has given me a guideline to follow. Each level tells me what I need to study with clear examples. There are lists of Kanji and grammar points that clearly help me check what I know and what I need to know. There’s no confusion and I can gladly concentrate on the topics at hand. I think I have progressed more in the past few months than I had in the past four years. And it feels good.

So, moral of the story, find some structure people!

Moving on, this is my progress for today.

Here are a list of words that I’ve learnt today. In order to remember them I have grouped them based on common patterns.

急激 きゅうげき Sudden, radical
急速 きゅうそく Rapid progress
休息 きゅうそく Rest, relax
吸収 きゅうしゅう Absorption
救助 きゅうじょ Relief, aid
援助 えんじょ Assistance, aid
給料 きゅうりょう Salary
供給 きょうきゅう Provision, Supply
教科書 きょうかしょ Textbook
教授 きょうじゅ Professor
教師 きょうし Teacher
技師 ぎし Engineer
共通 きょうつう Mutual
共同 きょうどう Co-operation
協力 きょうりょく Co-operation
強力 きょうりょく Powerful
きん、かね Gold, money
ぎん Silver


Today I learnt to use わけ in all its glorious forms. It was so much fun! (not)

Anyway, let’s get on with it.

わけ or 訳: Reason, Meaning, (when coming to a ) conclusion

It can be used in the following forms

〜わけ: Reason, Meaning

〜わけはない: A is easy, not difficult

〜わけだ/ というわけだ: It means….. Also used like はずだ or when coming to a conclusion

〜わけがない: It’s impossible, There is no reason as to why

〜わけではない: It does not mean/ A may be the case, but it’s not.

〜わけにはいかない: Formal expression that says something must not be done

〜ないわけにはいかない: Because there is a reason to do A, you must do it.

It’s a little difficult to wrap one’s head around all these formations. But I think it should come naturally after reading a few examples.


2 thoughts on “Advice to beginners in self-studying

  1. I’m really impressed with how much Japanese you know! I have been taking classes on Japanese since 7th grade and now I’m taking it in college as well. I have never seen some of those grammar points before. It is making me realize how slow I am actually learning. Based off of how much you seem to be learning on your own I think that I should consider self-studying more diligently. I have sort of been self-studying but not much in a structured way. Maybe I would benefit from buying a JLPT book. I think that if I would want to get myself to the same level as you in N3 it would be really helpful.
    Thank you for inspiring me to work harder!

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