Learning Japanese: The Top 10 of What Not To Do

Learning Japanese has never been easy. From memorizing vocabulary and new alphabets to studying different grammar structures, it’s like a long and difficult journey where there are so many struggles and challenges that we all have to face and have to figure out the best approach to tackle the obstacles by ourselves. 

It’s perfectly fine to make mistakes when learning Japanese or any new language because that is how we learn and improve our skills.

However, there are some common pitfalls in your study routine that can be avoided. Here are 10 common Japanese learning mistakes to be careful of.

Don’t have a goal or set the goal too high

Sometimes we want to learn a new language just because it looks interesting or cool. On the other hand, a lot of people have their own reasons to study Japanese, for example, they might want to understand their favorite anime completely without subtitles.

Either way, having no clear goal or setting a goal way too high can affect your learning experience. Japanese is not an easy language and you can feel like giving up when it gets to the point where it’s getting too hard or it’s not reaching where you aim to be.

Tip: It’s good to set a goal as a motivation to keep learning Japanese. When it comes to a goal, it doesn’t have to be something big like passing JLPT N1.

A goal should be something enjoyable and achievable. When I started learning Japanese, my goal was to be able to communicate in the restaurant. I wanted to order food, request any utensils and ask for the bill completely in Japanese by myself.

After you reach your goal, you can set a harder goal and so on to keep going with Japanese learning.

Read more: How long does it take to learn Japanese?

Learning Japanese too much and too fast

It’s always good when you set up your mind to learn the language and decide you will be fluent in Japanese as fast as you can. You study every day and try to learn as much as you can.

However, doing something in extreme can lead to the point where you become stressed and unmotivated especially when you don’t get the good result you expected.

Tip: The best way to avoid being overwhelmed in learning Japanese is to take things in a moderate way. It’s good to make a study plan to balance the study.

You can study one chapter a day or focus on different skills on each day. In this case, you don’t have to memorize too much vocabulary or kanji in one day and become stressed when you immediately forget the next day.

Me, I only study a chapter of a grammar book or a set of vocabulary or kanji per day. I also don’t study every day and set some cheat days to recharge myself.

Not being consistent in learning Japanese

Contrary to the previous point, you don’t have to study too hard but you shouldn’t study too little as well. Learning only a few hours a week won’t help much because you will completely forget what you have studied many days ago because you don’t really review it regularly enough.

If you find an excuse not to study today, you will find one tomorrow, and so on. When the motivation is gone, it’s really hard to get your head back into studying.

Tip: If you really don’t have time to study, just try your best to at least learn something. You can learn Japanese on a mobile app when you are on a train or listen to a podcast while cleaning the house. It’s better to study only 5 minutes a day and keep your motivation rolling than study nothing at all! 

Putting your eggs in one basket

There are so many resources to learn Japanese out there and it can be overwhelming. It’s good to read some reviews and decide which book series to study or what app to use. However, sticking with one resource or following what other people say might not be ideal. Some resources only focus on a particular skill and don’t teach much about others.

For example, apps like WaniKani are good to memorize vocabulary and kanji, but it doesn’t help with speaking or reading. You might be an auditory learner and like to listen to podcasts, but you’ll lack in reading skills if you only rely on audio learning.

It can be disheartening when you know so many kanji but can’t really speak well. On the other hand, some resources match someone’s learning style but not yours and you can easily lose interest because the book looks boring to read or too complicated to understand.

Tip: The best resources are the ones you pick by yourself! It’s always good to read any reviews to see how the books or the apps are. However, it’s better to check them by yourself.

You can go to the bookstore, check the online version or download the app to see whether they suit your style. It will be extremely discouraging if you have to give up on a book after a few pages because you can’t really stand it.

Learning from anime

Anime is fun and it can be a good inspiration to learn Japanese. You can also learn so many interesting words you don’t find in any textbook.

Why? Because you don’t really use those kinds of words in real life! As Japanese have a level of politeness, most Japanese in anime are quite casual and full of slang so it might not be suitable to use as a sole resource, especially for beginners.

Tip: It’s absolutely okay to use your favorite anime as one of the resources to learn Japanese. It makes learning Japanese fun, but don’t completely rely on it.

There are so many ways you can learn from anime such as watching it with subtitles to learn new kanji, then rewatching it without subtitles to practice listening or writing down some unknown vocabulary.

It’s also safe to check if the language used in the anime is appropriate for daily life, or how people actually use these words in real life before actually using them.

Focusing only on particular skills

Many people think that because they don’t really use Japanese in a professional environment, it’s okay to focus on speaking in daily life but don’t put any effort into reading or writing.

On the other hand, some people rely so much on textbooks and know so much grammar and kanji but don’t really go out there and actually speak it.

Learning a new language is all about balancing all the skills. You can be very good at one particular skill but if you don’t know the rest, it’s hard to say that you are actually able to communicate in every aspect.

Tip: It’s perfectly fine if you aren’t good at everything, no one is! Instead of focusing only on particular skills, you can find your weak point and put a little more effort into it so this skill becomes at a similar level as others.

Try using different resources that focus on different skills so you can practice and enjoy them at the same time. For example, you can read textbooks for grammar, use an app for kanji and vocabulary and follow some YouTubers for listening skills.

Don’t care about the pronunciation

A lot of people don’t care much about pronunciation because they are more worried about the other aspects of the language such as kanji reading, grammar structure, or a level of politeness.

You shouldn’t worry about it too much because it’s not the most important thing but it shouldn’t be completely neglected as well. There are things like long vowels and double consonants that are important in communiction.

A wrong pronunciation can create a misunderstanding as Japanese has many words with the same sound but different intonations as well as words with very similar sounds.

I had an experience when I said “there are a lot of houses (uchi) in this area.” However, I couldn’t pronounce “ch” and “sh” correctly so everyone ended up confused why there are so many cows (ushi) instead. (We have more wacky Japanese language mistakes here)!

Tip: It’s actually hard to learn the pronunciation by ourselves. However you can try to practice by yourself by listening to podcasts, videos or even talking to the native speakers to understand and be familiar with Japanese pronunciation.

There is also another learning technique called shadowing which you can listen to someone speaking and you repeat it back out loud at the same time.

Moreover, if you have a chance to learn a new vocabulary, you can take note of the different intonation such as HAshi means chopsticks and haSHI means bridge.

Translating everything into your native language

When you speak, read or listen to your second (or third) language, it’s normal that you want to compare it with your native language to make it easier to memorize or understand.

However, every language has different word choices, grammar structures or even how to form the sentences.

For example, in my native language, we use “eat” medicine, while “take” and “drink” are used in English and Japanese respectively so it can become unnatural or even completely wrong if you try to make sentences in Japanese while thinking from your native language’s perspective. 

Tip: Try to understand the language as it is. It’s good to learn vocabulary or grammar and how to use them by memorizing examples in Japanese, rather than comparing and memorizing them with your native language.

There are many examples that are hard to translate into other languages such as 雨が降られた (ame ga furareta)。It might sound weird in English to say “you have been rained on” but it’s just a Japanese way to state the negative nuance.

Don’t really use Japanese

The best way to learn any language is by using it in real life. If you know grammar and vocabulary by heart but you don’t really use it, it’s really hard to become fluent in the language.

Many people are afraid to speak because they feel embarrassed to make mistakes. However, making mistakes is how we learn and improve our skills.

Tip: Find a chance to use Japanese! You can try to meet Japanese people in language exchange, use some apps or join Japanese classes.

Even though you aren’t in an environment where you have to speak Japanese everyday, it’s still great to speak whenever you have a chance like in a conbini, restaurant or train station.

Besides speaking, you can practice other skills like reading easy news, listening to podcasts or writing diaries in Japanese. 

Read more: 10 Best Apps for Japanese Language Exchange

Compare yourself with others

Everyone learns in a different way, style and pace. Someone can learn a new language really fast while others might not be able to do so.

Sometimes you meet other foreigners and notice that they are better. However, you don’t really know their learning process because they might have been learning it for a long time or they have more time to study than you.

Comparing yourself to others can be very disencouraging and make you want to stop learning because you feel like you can’t keep up or you aren’t good or smart enough to learn a new language.

Tip: Don’t compare yourself with others! It’s easier said than done because it’s what we normally do. If you want to compare yourself with anyone, compare your current self with your previous self.

Everytime you feel disheartened, try to look back and see how far you have been from the day you started learning Japanese. 


In conclusion, it’s not easy to learn Japanese or any new language and we are prone to make mistakes along the way. However it’s best to avoid some common mistakes that will make your learning experience even harder than it should be.

The most important thing, however, it’s never giving up! If somehow you become stressed or unmotivated, just give yourself a little break and come back whenever you are ready again.

You might also want to consider guidance from a qualified teacher and learn Japanese in a structured and supportive environment. With Coto Academy’s immersive approach, you’ll not only learn the language but also gain valuable insights into the culture and society of Japan.

If you’re ready to start a new language journey, enroll in a course at Coto Academy today and take the first step towards mastering Japanese!

By offering intensive, part-time, JLPT-focused, and online classes, you are sure to find the option that fits you the best!

Start learning Japanese at Coto Academy today! Contact us for free level check and consultation.

What are the common mistakes people make when learning Japanese?

Some common Japanese learning mistakes people make when learning Japanese include not practicing speaking and listening enough, relying too heavily on textbooks and grammar rules, and neglecting to learn Kanji characters. To avoid these mistakes, it’s important to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible, practice regularly with native speakers, and focus on building a well-rounded set of language skills.

How can I avoid relying too heavily on Romaji when learning Japanese?

To avoid relying too heavily on Romaji (the Romanized version of Japanese), it’s important to start learning Hiragana and Katakana characters as soon as possible. These characters represent the basic sounds of Japanese and are used in combination with Kanji characters to write Japanese words and phrases

What are some common errors to avoid when using Japanese particles?

Common errors to avoid when using Japanese particles include using the wrong particle, using particles incorrectly in sentences, and failing to use particles at all when necessary.

How important is proper pronunciation in Japanese, and what are some common errors to avoid?

Proper pronunciation is essential for effective communication in Japanese. Common errors to avoid include failing to distinguish between similar sounds like “shi” and “chi,” mispronouncing long vowels, and pronouncing words too distinctly.

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