Problem Solving your way to Fluency

Problem Solving your way to Fluency

June 8, 2024 (1mo ago)

Learning Japanese (or any other language) can seem like a daunting task, but I'm here to show you a step-by-step guide on how to do it effectively via an immersion based approach. I'll break down all the common pitfalls learners face and give you strategies to overcome them.

But the best advice I can give you is to just start to form a habit. And then let your own judgement be your guide on which techniques work for you and which don't.

Why Learn Japanese via Immersion?

Learning Japanese via immersion allows you to experience the language as it is naturally used, which can make the process more enjoyable and efficient. You will develop a more intuitive understanding of the language, improve your listening skills, and become more comfortable with native speech patterns. The outcome is fluency that feels natural and effortless.


Many people struggle to learn Japanese despite their best efforts. Traditional methods often fall short because they don't emphasize real-world usage and immersion. This can lead to frustration and a lack of progress.

The Main Reason People Struggle: Lack of Immersion The primary reason many learners fail is due to a lack of immersion in native Japanese content. Here are some other common reasons:

Reason #1: Overreliance on Textbooks and Apps

Textbooks and language apps can be helpful, but they often focus on isolated vocabulary and grammar rules rather than the context and usage in real-life situations. This leads to a case where you might know a "lot" of patterns and things but stil struggle to understand native content. Flip it on it's head! Start with native content and then if there is a grammar pattern that emerges which you want to understand depeer then go to the textbooks.

If you first see a pattern 10 times then look it up in the textbook the explanation will "click" and likely it will stick in your long-term memory.

Reason #2: Lack of Consistency

Learning a language requires consistent practice and exposure. Many people start strong but lose momentum over time. You need to make it a habit to engage with the language daily. About 2 hours minimum is enough to start seeing real progress. Any less than that and there is a risk that you won't see enough progress to keep your motivation up with the habit.

Reason #3: Perfectionism

Some learners want to master the basics before moving on, but this can lead to stagnation and a reluctance to engage with more challenging material. You need to accept that you won't be anywhere close to perfect for a long time. And that is totally fine! You just need to make the 1% improvements every day, and you will get there.

Despite these challenges, there is hope! By following the steps below, you can overcome these obstacles and achieve fluency.

Step 1: Start an Immersion Habit

Why it’s Important: Immersion allows you to experience the language as it is naturally used, helping you develop a more intuitive understanding.

What to Do: Find a TV show on Japanese Netflix (use a VPN if necessary) that interests you. Watch it with Japanese subtitles only. At first, you will understand very little, but focus on enjoying the show and getting used to the sounds.

Example: A learner who started watching Japanese dramas with subtitles reported that within a few months, they could understand simple phrases and expressions, making the learning process more enjoyable and rewarding.

Step 2: Learn Hiragana and Katakana

Where Many Go Wrong: Many learners neglect to master these foundational scripts, which are crucial for reading and writing in Japanese.

What to Do: Start by learning Hiragana and Katakana. Use charts, flashcards, but don't worry about writing them by hand. Recognition is the most important at this step. Even after memorizing them, it will take time before you can read them at close to your English reading speed, but getting a jump-start is beneficial.

Example: Spend 10-15 minutes daily practicing these scripts. Use online resources like YouTube videos or apps specifically designed for this purpose.

Step 3: Build Your Vocabulary with Anki

Motivation: Building a strong vocabulary base is essential for understanding and communication.

What to Do: Start with one of the popular 1K most common word Anki decks. This will jump-start your learning. Pay particular attention to see if you can pick out some of these words while you are watching TV.

Example: An Anki deck user reported significant improvement in their comprehension and recall after consistently using the app for daily vocabulary practice.

Step 4: Study Kanji with Flashcards

Why it’s Important: Kanji are integral to the Japanese writing system, and understanding them will vastly improve your reading ability.

What to Do: Study the most common 1K kanji with flashcards and use the “Remembering the Kanji” approach. Create your own stories for each kanji to help with retention.

Example: A learner who used personalized stories for kanji found that they could remember and recognize characters much faster than through rote memorization alone.

Step 5: Create Sentence Flashcards

Where Many Go Wrong: Learners often fail to transition from isolated vocabulary to understanding sentences and phrases.

What to Do: Create your own sentence flashcards from the TV shows you are watching. Make cards every time there is a sentence with only one word you don’t know. Tools like Migaku can help streamline this process, but manual effort in making cards also aids retention.

Example: A learner who made sentence flashcards reported improved comprehension and the ability to form more natural sentences in conversation.

Step 6: Switch to a Japanese Dictionary

Motivation: Using a Japanese dictionary helps you think in Japanese and enhances your comprehension and vocabulary skills.

What to Do: Once you have about 3,000 sentence cards down, switch your dictionary to Japanese. Meikyou is recommended because its definitions are generally short and manageable for learners.

Example: Switching to a Japanese dictionary helped a learner transition from beginner to intermediate level, as it forced them to engage more deeply with the language.

Step 7: Maintain Consistent Practice

Why it’s Important: Consistency is key to language learning. Regular practice helps reinforce what you've learned and keeps you moving forward.

What to Do: Keep up the habit of watching Japanese content, practicing with flashcards, and engaging with the language daily. Over time, this consistent effort will lead to fluency.

Example: Learners who maintained daily immersion and practice reported steady progress and greater confidence in their language abilities.

By following these steps and immersing yourself in the language, you can overcome common challenges and achieve fluency in Japanese. Happy learning!