Personal development

how long does it take to learn Japanese?

how long does it take to learn Japanese?

People keep asking me, how long does it take to learn Japanese? So I figured I could write a post about how you can become fluent in Japanese and how long it took me. 

I started studying Japanese late 2015. So the quick answer to your question how long does it take to learn Japanese? Would be, about 4 years. Assuming you do the exact thing I did in the exact same order. What you could do instead of that is learn from my mistakes and use my experience  to speed up the process and become fluent faster. I bet you can become a fluent Japanese speaker in less than 2 years. 

You came here to know how long does it take to learn Japanese. And if that’s the only thing you wanted to know then you may leave now. If you would stick around and finish reading this post then  I will show you HOW to start learning. And what to do to become fluent. I will start by sharing my journey into the Japanese language. Then share some tips and resources so that you can get started today. 

My language learning journey

I never asked myself how long does it take to learn Japanese. I rather thought about how to learn and especially how to keep learning fun. Knowing myself, I would quit and give up on learning as soon as it got boring and exhausting. I started like most people would through buying Genki 1 (and a bunch of other books on Japanese grammar that I wouldn’t recommend). But I soon found out that studying grammar is not enough to have a conversation

After studying grammar for hours and hours everyday for about 6 months. I still didn’t understand anything people were saying to me and my response to questions and speaking was very clunky. It felt as if I spent these 6 months for nothing. At that point I was questioning how long does it take to learn Japanese. Being asked very basic questions felt overwhelming. I didn’t know how to get past this point because no matter how much I studied it didn’t make me feel any more confident.

The paradigm shift 

At one point I completely gave up on studying. I had spent so much time trying to learn the grammar and the Kanji but I still felt like I had gotten no progress at all. I couldn’t even have a very basic conversation even though I studied so much. Instead of studying I started speaking to people. I would spend a lot of time listening and I would ask a lot of questions and try to understand as much as I could. 

I started watching TV-shows a lot. And I don’t mean watching Anime on Crunchyroll, I mean real TV-shows with people so I could mimic their speaking. I was watching without subtitles or with Japanese subtitles. Since I spent a lot of time watching Anime with English subtitles before without getting any results. I thought that I had to try something different. If you want new results you have to change the way you are doing things. You can’t expect new results while doing the same thing over and over again. 

Though difficult at first, I learnt a lot from this new way of studying. It was a lot more fun and I sometimes found myself binging these TV-shows for weeks and weeks. It was a way of studying that suited me, it was even addicting. So rather than asking how long does it take to learn Japanese? Ask how can you make learning fun enough for you to get addicted to the process? 

The process

When you want to get good at anything there are a couple different ways of doing it. You can be results oriented and use your discipline to learn something even though it’s boring and exhausting. This method works well and if you can maintain the discipline required you might get results faster. 

The other way is the one I prefer and you also might if you try it out. It’s focusing on the process rather than the goal or results. If you enjoy the process of studying you can do it for hours everyday. Learning can become your hobby or even your passion. Can you imagine waking up in the morning feeling an urge to learn? If you focus on making the process as fun as possible you might have that feeling.


I’ll share some recourses with you that won’t make you ask how long does it take to learn Japanese? anymore. Resources that will rather let you enjoy the learning process as much as possible. All these being either free or very cost efficient.

AJATT is one of my favourite resources for learning Japanese. Its aim is to make you fluent and help you seem very natural when speaking. If I could only give you one resource, this would be my choice. 

Viki or Netflix

When it comes to watching TV-shows, if you don’t have Netflix or if the supply of Japanese shows is limited in your country. Then try which also has a very interesting learning mode. This allows you to translate the Kanji as you are watching the show by hovering over the subtitles. It’s a very useful resource. If you already have a account, that might be more useful for you.

Jisho is a wonderful dictionary that will let you search for Kanjis in many different ways. And also provide you with most information you could ask for. Use this rather than google translate or dictionary apps if you have the opportunity.


This might be the best way to learn Kanjis if your goal is nailing the JLPT this might be your go-to resource. 

Tae Kim

A pretty solid free grammar guide online, you can use this to study grammar rather than buying a book


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