How do I learn Japanese?

This question has haunted many of us.

We had this dream of learning the language, and we put everything into it. We bought the books. We took the classes. We dropped everything and went to immerse ourselves in the culture.

And it didn't work. We felt like we were running underwater.

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NativShark is divided into Milestones and Units.

Milestones represent your growing language abilities. We start by establishing a framework for thinking about Japanese — how it's arranged, how it sounds, how Japanese speakers form and express thoughts — and we build up to understanding everything an adult native speaker should.

There are subtleties and nuance packed into even the simplest of speech. The sound or intonation of a word. The way a sentence is phrased. The situation in which it would be natural to use.

Along the way to "understanding everything an adult native speaker should," milestones mark a functional development of your ability. When you complete a Milestone, you're awarded with a Milestone Badge to show your accomplishment and congratulate you on your achievement.

Our goal is to help you build your own intuitive sense for how things are expressed in Japanese, rather than a singular focus on the total amount of vocabulary, kanji or grammar points learned. We do teach you everything you'll need — tens of thousands of vocabulary, hundreds of grammar points and thousands of kanji — but what really matters is your internal barometer for "what is natural Japanese." This is what makes one attain exceptional ability.

In-depth learning


Here we cover a specific grammar point, cultural nuance, or anything that requires a deeper look. Every lesson on NativShark is written by a native speaker of Japanese along with a non-native speaker who reached an advanced level of fluency as an adult. This allows us to ensure that we are teaching natural Japanese while framing concepts in a way that a student is likely to understand and appreciate.

The top of each lesson contains the key phrases or the grammatical construction that is about to be learned, so you can see what the lesson is about at a glance.

In addition to male and female audio recordings for each sentence, you'll find that our intricate system of highlights and callouts makes concepts much easier to learn.

Screenshot of nativshark in useScreenshot of nativshark in useLesson summary for Phase 1 Unit 1: How to say "excuse me” - すみません is used when you want to say “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry.” It is a highly useful word to know when traveling or living in Japan.
Language you can use

Vocabulary & Kanji

Kanji — the Chinese-derived characters of Japanese — is an area that many students find intimidating during their studies. However, it needn't be this way.

The primary goal of how Kanji are taught in NativShark is to get familiar with the "idea" portrayed by the Kanji, instead of focusing on whatever its "exact" meaning might be. Kanji are first shown in isolation with a break down of the individual parts so that you may use a pictorial or verbal mnemonic to help you remember the essence of the Kanji.

However, the real internalization of new Kanji comes through seeing them used again and again in various vocabulary words throughout the platform.

Vocabulary is always taught in context with a sentence and includes natural male & female audio recordings to help you acquire an intuitive understanding of how the words are used. Additionally, you will have already learned all of the kanji in a new vocabulary word before it is introduced. The vocabulary learned are then used in later lessons and dialogues to reinforce their meaning.

edge; end; point
Vocab flashcard for the word 半端 [はんぱ] meaning leftover pieces; remnants used in the sentence この半端も後で使うので捨てないでください。the kanji for edge overlaid on a picture of the edge of a stairway looking into the fog
Putting it all together


At the end of each study unit, a dialogue between two or more speakers is introduced which uses only words, phrases, and grammar that have already been learned.

One of the more elusive aspects of the Japanese language is figuring out natural ways of phrasing things. You can "know" the meaning of a word without really knowing how a native speaker would be likely to use it. Dialogues help with this.

They also aid in improving pronunciation and in figuring out how speech differs depending on who you're talking to.

Dialogue box asking フォークは一本で大丈夫ですか? Would you like one fork?
Screenshot of nativshark in use
Guiding your journey


Learning a language like Japanese takes time. It won't happen overnight. But it will happen. The most important thing is to become consistent. Along the way, you'll earn progression badges which mark little moments to celebrate how much you've learned.

NativShark is built by fellow language learners. As you work through the platform, you'll find helpful notes from the team which provide unique insight on the process to help you create an undefeatable mindset and reach your study goals.

Vocab flashcard for the word 半端 [はんぱ] meaning leftover pieces; remnants used in the sentence この半端も後で使うので捨てないでください。Vocab flashcard for the word 半端 [はんぱ] meaning leftover pieces; remnants used in the sentence この半端も後で使うので捨てないでください。Vocab flashcard for the word 半端 [はんぱ] meaning leftover pieces; remnants used in the sentence この半端も後で使うので捨てないでください。the kanji for edge overlaid on a picture of the edge of a stairway looking into the fogthe kanji for edge overlaid on a picture of the edge of a stairway looking into the fogthe kanji for edge overlaid on a picture of the edge of a stairway looking into the fog
a decorative design element portraying a wonderful purple wave which signifies all that you'll learn in NativShark


The goal of NativShark is to get you to a "functional" level of Japanese efficiently.

We want to see you able to use and understand everyday Japanese, as soon as possible, by focusing on building your foundations.

A considerable chunk of time is spent analyzing the underlying structure of all Japanese sentences, including the shortened casual phrases that on the surface appear to have little or no structure at all.

We explore the way Japanese people talk, especially in casual language (which can be learned much faster than formal language).

"The way Japanese people talk" also includes the way they sound. We learn how to verbally react to information in the way that Japanese people do, which is a crucial cultural skill. We practice mimicking the rhythm and tones of natural spoken Japanese.

Over the first 100 or so Units we learn roughly 90% of the verb and adjective conjugations that exist in the entire language, including ones that are traditionally reserved for "intermediate" students, which is part of becoming highly "functional" in Japanese. Even if you don't know all of the vocabulary, you will have the tools to breakdown the language into its components and understand what is going on.

All of this comes together as you use and experience Japanese in your daily life to reinforce what you've learned through context and immersion.

A closer look
Contextual Iterative Immersion
The method by which we limit the amount of new information that is exposed to the student at a given time.

If you see a new example sentence, it will never have more than 1 word in it that you don't know. The piece of new information might be a single new vocabulary word, or a new kanji, or a recently introduced grammatical construction.
Natural Human Audio
We never used robotically generated audio, or "classroom" style speech. All of the audio in our platform is recorded by real native speakers of Japanese, at natural speeds.

We make sure that the native speakers who write our example sentences provide notes for voice actors regarding the context, type of speech that should be used, etc.
a diagram depicting a 'traditional' study path taken by a student that does not lead them to their goal


How does NativShark compare to other study methods?

In our core study path, we cover more concepts than you'll find in the first 3 years of university language study (in fact, as a result, there are now several universities using us alongside their curriculums). This means we've got more content than both Genki 1, Genki 2 and the first half of the Tobira book. In our extended content library, we cover every single grammar point that's in the JLPT exams from N5 - N1, in addition to a library of 34,000 vocabulary words with full sentences written by real humans. Around 18,000 of the sentences in our sentence library have male and female audio. In addition to this we teach all the Jouyou kanji and many of the Jinmeiyou kanji as well. We publish new Core Units every week.

Naturally this implies that we cover far more content than what is found in other popular learning apps such as Duolingo, LingoDeer, Busuu and learning tools such as Bunpro and WaniKani. That said, some tools such as Kanji Garden, WaniKani, Satori Reader and Migaku can be helpful for some students to use alongside NativShark. We also offer integrations with some of these other platforms so that students can take advantage of what they've learned in NativShark as well as avoid re-learning the same things.

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Frequently asked questions

Does NativShark teach me everything I need to learn Japanese?

Will NativShark prepare me for the JLPT?

Is there an app?

Can I cancel or pause a subscription?

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What if I need a break or take a vacation?