Hi there! My name is Adam Lucina and I am the creator of the JAPOBOXⓇ. Currently, I’m a student of psychology in my bachelor year. I’m mainly interested in the neuroscience of learning, specializing in language learning, language retention and recognition – I also collaborate on a cross-field research on this topic. In my free time, I work on devising effective frameworks for learning foreign languages. I created JAPOBOXⓇ to help people all around the world to learn Japanese in the most effective and user-friendly way possible.
Welcome to the guide section. Here you can find all additional information regarding JAPOBOX® including:
a) brief overview of a study plan optimized to achieve the best results
b) FAQ + master list of additional sources you may find helpful in your studies
c) study guide that, in great detail, explains how to study Japanese effectively
+ how to use JAPOBOX® to get the most value out of it
d) grammar guide explaining essential grammar topics in a concise manner.
Full 6-month study plan overview
*This is only an overview of the study plan. A detailed explanation can be found in the "Study guide" section.
I. During a 6 month period, you will progressively learn 1) 725 Kanji and its radicals (pictograms, from which the words are construed in Japanese), 2) Essential vocabulary, 3) Essential grammar topics.
II. After 12 initial weeks, you will have gained moderate beginners competence in those three areas and can leverage those in reading, writing and speaking practice while continuously improving your Kanji knowledge, vocabulary and grammar skills.
III. The study plan contains study weeks (for attaining known information) and review weeks (for strengthening learned information).
IV. The study plan is flexible, therefore, be extended by adding more review weeks without its value diminishing, however, switching the order of the material is not recommended.
Before you start:
1. Master Hiragana, Katakana and familiarize yourself with basic grammar topics
2. Familiarize yourself with Kanji radicals (no need to explicitly learn them all, you will do that naturally when you start to learn Kanji)
- Week 01 - Kanji 001-075 / Vocabulary 001-075
- Week 02 - Kanji 076-150 / Vocabulary 076-150
- Week 03 - Kanji 151-225 / Vocabulary 151-225
- Week 04 - Kanji 226-300 / Vocabulary 226-300
- Week 05 - Review week! (Kanji + Vocabulary)
- Week 06 - Kanji 301-375 / Vocabulary 301-375
- Week 07 - Review week! + Essential grammar topics (~5 topics)
- Week 08 - Kanji 376-450 / Vocabulary 376-450
- Week 09 - Review week! + Essential grammar topics (~5 topics)
- Week 10 - Review week! + Essential grammar topics (~5 topics)
- Week 11 - Review week! + Essential grammar topics (~5 topics)
- Week 12 - Kanji 451-525 / Vocabulary 451-525 / (START READING)
- Week 13 - Review week! / Reading + Essential grammar topics (~5 topics)
- Week 14 - Kanji 526-600 / Vocabulary 526-600 / Reading
- Week 15 - Review week! / Reading + Essential grammar topics (~5 topics)
- Week 16 - Kanji 601-675 / Vocabulary 601-675 / Reading
- Week 17 - Kanji 676-725 / Vocabulary 676-750 / Reading
- Week 18 - Review week! / Reading / (ALL 725 KANJI LEARNED)
- Week 19 - Kanji review / Vocabulary 751-825 / Reading
- Week 20 - Kanji review / Vocabulary 826-900 / Reading / (START WRITING)
- Week 21 - Kanji review / Vocabulary 901-975 / Reading and writing
- Week 22 - Review week! / Reading and writing
- Week 23 - Kanji review, Vocabulary 976-1050 / Reading and writing
- Week 24 - Kanji review, Vocabulary 1051-1125 / Reading and writing
- Week 25 - Kanji review, Vocabulary 1126-1225 / Reading and writing
- Week 26 - Review week! / Reading and writing / (LOOK FOR PROFICIENT SPEAKER)
- All done!
Masterlist of additional sources
Here are some study sources I found extremely useful when studying myself!
Hiragana and Katakana learning app
These two apps are literally called Hiragana and Katakana, and they are probably the best ones out there. They offer multiple modes of study and definitely help to master Hiragana and Katakana in a week (or use really any Hiragana and Katakana app, they are rather similar).
In my opinion the best online dictionary for Japanese. It can translate words, entire sentences and find the meaning of essentially any Kanji.
Tae Kim’s grammar guide (guidetojapanese.org)
Best succinct grammar guide I could find. This grammar guide is great (my own abridged grammar guide contains some parts of it), however, it’s not without its shortcomings e. g. the topics in it are not organized in a very intuitive manner often leaving new learners confused and overwhelmed but if you want to go deeper into the topics mentioned in my guide, give it a go.
NHK - Japanese news (nhk.or.jp/news/easy)
A very useful tool for practising reading. The texts might seins a little hard at first, but adopting habit or reading (even though it’s more like attempting) Japanese 3-4 months after you started to study it will definitely enhance your learning process. There are also mobile apps (such as NHK Easy Japanese News) that offer some more useful tools on top of the texts itself, such as quick translate and text-to-speech support.
Full study guide
This guide is about 10 pages long and takes approximately 30 minutes to read fully. It goes over detailed information on how to use this product. It also covers everything you should, in my opinion, know before starting to learn Japanese.
So, without further ado, I present you the full version of the guide and wish you the best of luck in your studies!
Preface - what to know before starting to learn?
What does it mean to learn a language?
To be aware of all its components while mastering its fundamentals
Think of „learning“ a language as the first step on your way to mastery of a language. Learning a language in the way that is proposed here helps you create a solid foundation. After being finished with this course, you only need to gradually improve your understanding of the fundamentals (kanji, grammar, vocabulary...) and gather practical experience (reading, writing, speaking) while slowly taking in more advanced topics.
How does Japanese work?
Japanese is like a giant puzzle. You have to master essentials in order to move onto the more difficult concepts (this is a common rule of thumb for almost any language, but it’s especially true for Japanese).
Here is the puzzle analogy in practice:
- In order to understand a you need to understand its grammatical structure and words that comprise it.
- In order to understand its , you have to understand Kanji (pictograms used to construct words in Japanese) that comprise it.
- In order to understand , you need to understand Kanji radicals (parts Kanji are made off) and 2 basic Japanese alphabets – in case you want to say the sentence (Hiragana and Katakana).
Is Japanese hard to learn?
No, Japanese is NOT hard to learn, it’s hard to master.
What do I need in order to learn Japanese?The idea is simple: you need a fair amount of time and proper resources, however, the hard part is the application of that idea into the real world. This is mainly due to 2 core issues that complicate the process of learning Japanese.
Each language is different, which means that each language has its own system and all the nuances that go along with it. Japanese which is infamous for its notoriously complicated writing system as well as, for the foreigner, unintuitive grammar system and hundreds of special expressions you need to learn that have no real equivalent in English or any other language. Here is a quick overview of what you need to know in order to LEARN vs MASTER Japanese language.To LEARN Japanese, you need to obtain an understanding of:
- ~700 basic kanji + ~200 kanji radicals
- ~1000 – 1500 basic words (this includes their written form spoken form and their meaning in English)
- ~30 basic grammatical structures and 50+ additional grammatical rules
- Being able to read/write simple sentences in Japanese
- Having foundation, to hold a simple conversation in Japanese
- This takes ~350 hours (with our method)
- ~2500 kanji
- ~10000+ words
- ~200+ basic grammatical structures and hundreds of additional grammatical rules
- Being able to hold a fluent conversation in various nuanced topics
- Being able to read/write essentially any sentence in Japanese
- This takes 3500-5000 hours (this benchmark was established by the US embassy and their years-long efforts to make their employees master Japanese efficiently)
As you can see, the difficulty of attaining new knowledge of Japanese (while still retaining knowledge of the previous topics) gets exponentially harder, but it does not mean that Japanese is hard to learn to a casual, conversational level if you have the right resources.
Many popular learning tools for Japanese fail to understand the main issue beginners are facing when starting with Japanese and, as a result, they devise frameworks that do not provide potential learners with a comprehensive approach to learning Japanese. They either teach users only one part of the skills they require or they skip over basics entirely leaving them in a state of utter confusion in regards to how they should progress in their studies after completing the course. To combat this issue, I decided to develop my own method that would provide people interested in learning Japanese a cohesive picture of its contents which will provide them with the information they can utilize afterwards.
JAPOBOX ® solves this by clearly defining what one should learn in order to master the essentials of Japanese and provides the best, most effective, empirical methods on how to learn those essentials. Many courses require 500-800 hours in order to teach you what JAPOBOX ® can teach you in mere 350-450 hours or 180 days. Start learning today and 6 months from now you will have attained knowledge required to read, write, understand and speak Japanese.
The most effective way to learn Japanese
Here is a quick rundown of what you should do when trying to learn Japanese from zero as effectively as possible
- (Need to know) Start with Hiragana and Katakana - if you haven’t learned them already, that’s the first thing you should start with, they are essential for basically anything you want to do in Japanese and not so hard to learn.
- (Week 0) Learn the most used Kanji radicals – quickly go over all the kanji radicals. You don’t need to remember them all, you just need to gain a general idea about its shapes to have an easier time learning Kanji.
- (Week 1) Start learning Kanji and vocabulary in a consistent manner - establish a daily routine and stick to it (people tend to overestimate what they can achieve in the short term and underestimate what they can achieve mid-long term through consistent improvement, so take advantage of that!).
- (~Week 8 – week 10) After getting used to the routine, add learning grammar – it should take about 2 months in total to get to this point. After 1 additional month (Week 12), you should be able to understand simple sentences and know more than 500 words and kanji. After 1 more month (Week 16) you should understand the essentials of grammar and ways how to implement them.
- (~Week 12) Start practicing reading – by now, you should have enough vocabulary and grammar knowledge to read and understand simple sentences. It’s crucial to start reading as soon as you are ready because it will drastically improve your learning speed.
- (~Week 20) Start practicing writing – next logical step from reading is writing. Learn to construct simple and moderately difficult sentences on your own. Don’t forget to revise and expand your knowledge of Kanji and vocabulary in a consistent manner.
- (~Week 24) Consider speaking to natives – at this point, you should have sufficient knowledge to attempt to hold a simple conversation. Don’t hesitate to find natives to talk online, it will be extremely beneficial in the long run.
- (Week 25+) Keep working on your vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing and speaking and put your newly learned skill in good use!
*Consider these benchmarks with a grain of salt. Individual learning speed, as well as the amount of time one is able to devote to Japanese daily, differs greatly from individual to individual. This plan assumes learning Japanese about 2 to 2,5hrs per day. More than that is ineffective, it has diminishing returns, because you can’t keep it up with it in the long run. Allocating less than 2 to 2,5hrs per day means that the process will take longer. For instance, it would take almost a year to complete this course when learning for about an hour a day.
Before you start: set up a routine
Divide the long-term goal of learning Japanese into easily digestible chunks of study, so you won’t get discouraged or overworked and set up a routine - being consistent is the key to achieving optimal study results!
Craft your routine in a personalized way – that way you are more likely to stick to it from start to finish.
As I said earlier, people tend to overestimate what they can achieve in short-term and underestimate what they can achieve mid to long-term. This tendency can be quite clearly present when one is trying to learn a foreign language. Learning foreign language is „information-heavy“ task which means that you have to sit down and gather a lot of new information to be successful in it - as opposed to „execution-heavy“ task such as cleaning dishes. You already know how to do your dishes, all that’s left is to get to the sink and start doing them. In contrast to that, you need to learn a vast amount of new information to “execute” speaking foreign language yo don’t know yet. Where am I going with this?
If the task you are trying to accomplish is enormous (like learning a new language from 0 to 100), you are likely to get discouraged and give up. This is where habit formation and setting up a routine before starting comes in handy. When you break down a long and complex task into manageable pieces, it suddenly becomes much easier, and it can be done more effectively. Learning a foreign language is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You don’t want to stop running because then it’s hard to pick up the pace again, nor you want to exhaust yourself in the first 10 minutes. Set up a language learning routine you can stick to, and results will come more easily and naturally
Specifics of the study plan
- Our study plan is divided into weekly sections. In each section, you should be able to learn 75 kanji and 75 new words, which means studying from two different sets at any given point in the study plan (Kanji + vocabulary).
- On each day (Monday – Friday) you should be able to go over 15 new Kanji and 15 news words (75+75 in total), then revise what you have learned on Saturday and Sunday and start with new 75+75 set next Monday.
- Of course, studying new material each week gets pretty tiring after a while, so there are a lot of revision weeks throughout this course during which your job is to go over the material you have already learned to improve your retention of it.
- Be flexible, adapt the learn/review ratio according to your needs but try to stick to the study plan – for instance on the weekends, you should have no trouble to thoroughly review 150 items you have learned the in the 5 days before that, but sometimes, it might take longer than you expected due to occasional difficulty spikes in the material. It’s not advisable to follow-up with the next week’s material before fully reviewed current material at least once. If you feel like you won‘t be able to do it, make the next week a revision week instead of a learning one and try to review as much current and past material as much as possible.
How much to study per day
- Divide your study habit into 2-3 study sessions throughout the day.
- One session should not be longer than 55-60 minutes – it’s ineffective because your attention on any given task starts slowly decreasing after 35-40 minutes of studying, therefore because you won’t recall the information learned in the new information learned in the 2nd half of session well.
- The plan is optimized for studying ~45 minutes, 2 or 3 sessions per day which would be 1h45m to 2h30m of learning Japanese per day (+extra grammar, reading and writing practice later on in the course).
- Of course, everyone is different, so different amounts of commitment work for different people, so your priority should be to personalize your plan - find out what works for you in such as way that allows you to be consistent with your studies.
When to study
Why does it matter
- I divided the study plan into 3 parts per day to leverage on a principle called „The compound effect“. It essentially means that when you study more frequently with sufficiently long breaks in between study sessions, you have much better long-term information retention because all the different times you studied the same material compound together giving you an additional edge when it comes to remembering the material in the long run.
- In other words, the time spent studying in multiple short chunks is much more valuable than the time spent studying in one huge chunk. You can think of it this way: studying for 3 hours continuously gives you about 1,5 hours of effective study (due to the fact that your motivation and attention plummets after 35-40 minutes) and I would argue that studying in three one hour chunks gives you somewhere between 2 and 2,5 hours of effective study.
There are two main reasons for this:
a) you are less likely to get distracted and worn out when you study for moderately long periods of time (under 1 hour)
b) your brain has enough time to unconsciously process the all new info you have just learned between the sessions
- When you learn a new piece of information, at first, it stays in your working memory (short-term memory), but after a couple of minutes, it goes into your long-term memory. When you stop actively thinking about it and decide to watch aTV for awhile, throughout that time, even though you are not actively thinking about it, your brain takes the information you have just learned and connects it with the information you already know. As a result of that, when you resume your studying couple hours later, you will probably already know some of the study material you went through, and you will have a much easier time going through it again.
Your main goal should be to maximize the effectiveness of your study sessions. Here are some useful guidelines that might help you:
- Don’t study the first hour after waking up or last hour before going to sleep because your attention is likely not very good.
- Have at least 2-3 hour breaks before study sessions, so that brain has time to unconsciously process the information you have learned
- Watch your energy levels throughout the day and adjust your study regime accordingly – one’s energy level varies throughout the day a lot. People generally have energy peaks in the morning (8:00-10:00), in the afternoon - about 2 hours after they had a lunch (14:00-15:00) and in also the evening (19:00-20:00) – if they haven’t had more exhausting day than usual. Observe yourself, identify your peaks and try to study when you are at the peak since actively learning new information uses up a lot of brainpower.
Example of my study routine
- 1. (8:00 – 9:00) – while on a bus on my way to school
- 2. (14:00 - 14:45) – this session is flexible and depends on how my classes are arranged, but I try to meet this time as closely as possible
- 3. (19:00 - 19:45) – after I arrive home and relax for at least 1 hour
This routine worked the best for me personally but don’t be afraid to experiment. If you are busy and can’t shoehorn 3 study sessions a day in, try it with 2 study sessions but extend their duration slightly even though you will have slightly worsened retention, however, the most important part is to set up routine that allows you to be consistent. Once you adopt consistent study habits, the progress will be much greater.
Oh, and there is one more very important thing: it's essential to make the 1st study session of the day 10-15 minutes longer and quickly go over the contents of the previous lesson, especially if you only had time to have 2 study session the day before. The quick explanation is that the brain processes and consolidates the information you have learned the previous day, therefore, you learn the best in the morning hours - the brain is fresh and "waste-free" plus you can further strengthen the information learned the previous day.
In this sub-chapter, I’ll briefly cover how should the format of one 45-minute study session look like, and I’ll go over some strategies you can use to take in new information more effectively.
- (before you start) Take out your materials, shut down all distractions (screens, notifications etc.) and prepare yourself to expend some mental energy.
- (0-15min) Deliberately focus on studying 15 Kanji cards for that day.
- (15-30 min) Deliberately focus on studying 15 vocabulary card for that day.
- (30-35 min) Review Kanji cards.
- (35-40 min) Review vocabulary cards.
- (40-45 min) Review Kanji and vocabulary cards together.
Kanji and vocabulary
Kanji (all 3 sessions)
- a) Briefly look at the one Kanji and try to „absorb“ its overall shape.
- b) Turn over the card, look at the meaning of the Kanji and its radicals.
- c) Turn over the card again and try to recall the meaning of the Kanji and what radicals is it composed of – mentally project those radicals onto the black Kanji at the front page of a flashcard (mouth, stroke with the hook, one).
- d) Create a mental image you can associate with the meaning, the shape of the kanji and name of its radicals (e.g. this Kanji means rain and reminds me of a window with drops of rain on it).
- e) Repeat the name of the Kanji, its radicals and recall your mental image (your cue) again– you can say it out loud if you find it easier that way.
- f) Pay close attention to the exact shape of the Kanji one last time - there is a lot of kanji that are fiendishly similar to one another, so it’s important to remember the kanji shape precisely.
- g) Move onto them next Kanji (try not to focus on more than one Kanji/word at the time unless you are already reviewing them!)
Vocabulary – 1st session of the day
- a) Look at the meaning of the word.
- b) Look at the spoken form of the word (or entire word if it’s katakana).
- c) Turn over or cover the card and say the spelling of the word (or out loud if you find it easier) and it’s meaning in your head 2-3 times (try to divide the word using Japanese phonemes for easier retention e. g. hi-ra-ga-na – that way you have to remember only 4 phonemes, not 8).
- d) Try to associate a mental image with that word and its spoken form (mother – o-ka-a-san – imagining a picture of the mom in the kitchen).
- e) Look at the word, and it’s spoken form one last time to double-check if you read/remembered it right.
Vocabulary – 2nd session of the day
- a) Look at the meaning of the word.
- b) Look at the written form of the word (or entire word if it’s katakana).
- c) Try to identify which Kanji the word consists of (if you are unsure or stuck, look it up to be sure) and retain the information.
- d) Try to associate a mental image or verbal cue with its written form (refrigerator = Kanji for cool + storehouse + warehouse).
- e) Look at the word, and its written form one last time to double-check if you read/remembered it right.
Vocabulary – 3rd session of the day
- a) Look at the meaning of the word, spoken and written form briefly.
- b) Try to recall its spoken form (what is the pronunciation of the word) and written form (what Kanji the word consists of) through your associations and mental /images created for that word.
- c) Check if you were correct. If you were correct, move onto the next word, if you weren’t, try to repeat the process of trying to recall verbal cue and mental image 2-3 more times than move onto the next word.
As far as the review (last 15 minutes of each session) goes, it’s basically the same except for the learning part. All you do is that you try to recall contents of the flashcard after only briefly looking at the Kanji character or meaning of the word itself (look at the Kanji character/word – recall the meaning of the Kanji+radicals/spoken and written form [it’s Kanji]).
It’s okay when you review material for the 3rdtime that day, and you only know 75-90% of it! Don’t waste your precious time on trying to brute-force learn that one word you just can’t remember or that one Kanji you find really difficult to memorize, there will be weekend reviews and entire revision weeks to help you remember the contents of the course. Going over 15+15 items on a particular day is only the first step.
When talking about effective reviewing
There are 15 special cards in each box called dividers. They help you to organize your study material and get a better idea of how far you are into it.. Its use is straightforward - to divide cards in the box according to the category they belong to.
Dividers I – X represent the number of times you went through that particular card. If you study on your very first day for 3 study sessions, then at the end of that day, put the cards you have used between divider III and IV, because you went through them 3 times. Then let’s say you review the material on the weekend just once – put the cards between IV and V. Once you reach X (going through that particular card 10 times) and you know you have already mastered the contents of the card, put it behind „Learned“ divider so you can focus on material you don’t know yet.
There are two additional types of cards called „To learn“ and „Difficult“. „To learn“ card simply serves the purpose of separating cards you have yet to learn from cards that are already in the process of being learned or cards you have already learned. „Difficult“ card is for the cards you’ve already revised 10 times but still can’t remember its contents. There are 3 „Difficult“ cards which allow you to divide problematic cards into smaller groups and tackle them head on more effectively.
- How your card organization in kanji box might look after 5 days of study:
- To learn (725), (I) 0, (II) 0, (III) 75,.... (X) 0, Learned (0), Difficult (0)
- And after 10 weeks of study:
- To learn (325), (I) 0, (II) 0, (III) 75,.... (X) 0, Learned (217), Difficult (23)
Additional skills: grammar, reading, writing and speaking
Japanese grammar is often unintuitive and hard to learn. Conventional methods of studying grammar do not yield particularly great results. At japobox.com/guide, we have a grammar guide that briefly covers the essential grammar topics (if you need a more detailed explanation you can check out additional sources I have included in the very last section of the guide).
When you first start with Japanese, download the grammar guide and go over the topics labelled as „basic“ – they will serve you as a good starting point. You shouldn’t really start studying essential grammar (the second section) earlier than 2 months after starting to study Japanese because it might be too much information to handle at once - just focus on essentials, kanji and vocabulary.
After 5-6 weeks of studying Japanese, you should start reviewing all the “essential topics”, which is about 25-30 topics. I suggest going over them in larger batches (5 topics or so) at the same time and revise them thoroughly. 4 months after the start of studying, you should be done with essentials topics.
From that point, you can move onto advanced topics, which are not that important in the first 6 months but definitely useful later on and worth checking out.
For reading practice use sentences on the back of "Vocabulary cards" and (later, when you are comfortable enough) Easy Japanese News webpage. Make sure to go over the sentences thoroughly and look up words and grammatical structures you don’t know. It’s also a good idea to try to tell sentences out loud (to replicate them) to get used to the way sentences are structured. One needs to get used to thinking in Japanese to be able to use it in the real world. It’s not advisable to start reading sooner than 3-4 months after starting to learn Japanese.
Even if you don’t rush the start, it’s really hard to get started. Don’t get discouraged and start in small steps (e. g. I’ll read and translate 3 sentences as apart of my reading practice).
The way I practice writing is that I take the sentences I’ve read somewhere and modify them slightly (swapping out 1-2 essential words or changing the tense it's in). This allows me to practice thinking in Japanese. Probably the easiest way how to practice is to take the sentences on the back of "Vocabulary cards" and modify them slightly. Again, it’s really hard at first, not advisable to attempt it until you know how to read simple/immediate sentences fairly well. Start with small steps and consistently increase your competence over time.
Speaking is sort of a final frontier. In order to start with it, you have to have a) sufficient knowledge to hold a simple conversation b) someone to converse with. The second requirement is hard, but they are numerous services you can try your luck on. Since you are only beginning, you shouldn’t worry about being able to speak yet. That is topic you should be considering only after 5-6 months of intense study.
Full grammar guide