How content is organized


NativShark is a mastery-based system, meaning that you get to set the pace by choosing how much content you want to do in any given day.

First, let’s look at the big picture before we break down what an average study day might look like.

The 4 Phases

The path to fluency with NativShark is divided into 4 Phases.

Phase One

Nativshark phase one banner samesama swimming

Phase One is designed to get the foundations set and get you making complete Japanese sentences along with introducing you to must-know survival phrases. You’ll learn how people speak in different settings, almost every single conjugation in the language, and over 700 kanji.

It also exposes you to many of the verb conjugations you’ll need both now and in the future, and covers all JLPT N5 and many N4 grammar points.

It covers about 2 years worth of Japanese university in a course you can complete in about 3 months at a steady pace, not to mention that you’ll come out speaking much more natural Japanese and having a much more functional foundation than you would ever learn in a classroom setting.

It has 166 Units, which are complete packages of Japanese knowledge found in NativShark. We’ll talk more about these shortly.

Phase Two

Nativshark phase two banner samesama approaching dojo

Phase Two takes the foundations from Phase One and gets you speaking day-to-day Japanese right from the get-go.

All sentences in this Phase and onwards have context with them, which will help you not only learn the words easier, but also learn when they should be used to help you sound natural, and know what to expect to hear or read in any given situation.

This is also where we start taking more in-depth looks at all the levels of formality, from crude language to language you’d expect to hear at fancy shops and restaurants, or in speeches.

Dialects are introduced here, and all the normal-use kanji (and many beyond that) are taught here.

Around the beginning of Phase Two also marks where students begin to feel comfortable diving into native materials on their own, though it will take effort depending on the material. You’ll also be able to make friends with Japanese people who speak zero English.

It has 347 Units.

Phase Three

Nativshark phase three banner samesama enduring trials

Phase Three covers the slightly less common but still crucial aspects of the language, including hundreds of additional grammar patterns and thousands of additional vocab.

It’s where we really start digging deeper into nuance and expanding our knowledge of grammar and vocab.

At this level, it becomes possible to relax a bit while still enjoying Japanese materials like shows, manga, and video games, and you’ll be good enough to live and work in Japan with zero English, though there may a certain amount of effort required.

Phase Four

Nativshark phase three banner samesama reaching goal

Phase Four starts getting into the more obscure aspects of the language.

You'll be good enough at Japanese to live and work in Japan with zero English, translate professionally, and good enough to enjoy Japanese media with minimal effort.

After Phase Four, we get into the more niche aspects of the language. You can dive deep into topics that interest you, even if most Japanese people don't know much about them.

Getting to the higher phases takes a serious commitment. Luckily, the task is made easier thanks to…

+1 Iteration

Brand new students of Japanese start with some simple travel lessons. These give you a chance to learn useful Japanese from day 1 while also getting used to some of the language's unique features — how it is written and pronounced, for example.


Once you get a bit further into Phase One, you'll notice something about our content:

It builds upon itself.

For example, the second vocab flashcard you get assigned has only one word:


You encounter this word after you've already learned the kanji used to write it, 何:

Kanji what
何 - what

And you don't learn 何 what until you've learned the kanji it is "built" with:

Kanji hito
人 - person
Kanji ka
可 - passable

And you don't learn 可 until you've already learned:

Kanji kuchi
口 - mouth
Kanji chou
丁 - neighborhood

Using one piece of information at a time, we build up to much longer and more complex sentences, like the following, which shows up in Unit 140 of Phase One:


からだこわす is an idiom that is used to describe letting or making yourself become ill.

Before you see this idiom, you will have already learned the noun からだ (body) and the verb こわす (to break [something]). So it's not difficult to understand that when you break (こわす) (your body) (からだ), you make/let yourself become ill (からだこわす).

Furthermore, you'll have learned the kanji that appear not only in this idiom 体 and 壊 but also in the example sentence 無 and 理. You will have already learned the words あんまり ([not] too much) and 無理むり (impossible; [excessive] work/effort), as well, and you will know how the verb する shown in the sentence as しないで can attach to nouns like 無理むり to make them act like verbs.

You will already know that あんまり is common in speech, while あまり no ん has a stiffer feel to it. You will already know that the を in the phrase からだこわす can be left out in this kind of sentence.

You will already know that~しちゃう is an abbreviated form of ~てしまう, which is an ending used when talking about an action that is undesirable or unintended. You'll know why the particle よ is used at the end of the second half of the example. You'll know why the ~ないで conjugation is used here.

Talk about a lot of information, right?

But because it is introduced bit by bit as you progress through the phase, it doesn't feel overwhelming when you get to this sentence. We show it to you when you're ready for it.

An average "day" of studies

When you’re going through NativShark, you’ll encounter the following things in an average day:


Reviews are always the first thing to appear when you hit the Study Now button. They’re essential to make sure the knowledge you’ve gained does not fade away.

After reviews are completed, you can press Study Now again after returning to your main page to learn new Japanese, or you can take a break from there knowing that you have successfully maintained and solidified your current knowledge.

*A piece of advice: Go easy on yourself with reviews. You’ll be seeing all of these concepts again, and should be treated as refreshers and not quizzes. You cannot fail a review. You have succeeded just by seeing it again, because that concept is now fresher in your brain than it was previously.


A Unit is a complete package of Japanese knowledge.

It consists of:

Kana sets (first 18 units)

These are at the start only to introduce you to kana if you’re not familiar with them. You can skip the sets at the bottom if you are already familiar with them.


These are where grammar points, verb conjugations, cultural aspects, history, and more are explained.

They include example sentences written and spoken by native speakers, and explained with context so you know when you can use this language yourself.

*The beginning lessons cover some must-know travel Japanese and start to warm up your brain for the grammar, kanji, and other parts of the language a bit later down the line. These concepts slowly build up until you’ll be focusing on them fully from about Unit 50.

Vocab flashcards

Vocab flashcards are helpful for increasing the amount of Japanese you recognize.

They include the vocab focus word along with an example sentence, in addition to the formality level and context to help you understand when the sentences are used.

Kanji flashcards (starting from Unit 19)

Kanji flashcards show you kanji with the elements that make them up to help you remember them better.

An important thing to keep in mind is that kanji are best learned in context, hand-in-hand in a greater, wholistic system.

As such, we recommend that you do not spend too much time on these cards and encourage you to not worry if you can’t recognize something in isolation here, especially if you are indeed able to recognize it in a word or sentence.

Dialogues (Starting from Unit 2)

Dialgoues usually appear as the last piece of learning content in a lesson, and serve as a review of what you’ve learned so far.

Most of the Japanese found in them is likely to feel at least somewhat familiar, as new words are not often introduced in Dialogues.

Even though the Japanese might feel familiar, they’re still crucial because they help you get a grasp on when what Japanese is used in a given situation.

They help us get more of a feel of a full conversation, and can be fun to review in a review set when your interest is piqued for that.

Progression badges

Progression badges appear at set points and serve as markers to show your progress. They often show up at the end of a Unit.

Come share your progress in the community when you get one!


Milestones show up around every 15 to 25 Units done in NativShark and are there to help you more accurately gage your progress.

They go over the recent abilities you’ve gained, and are great to share in the NativShark Community^^

Content reinforcement


There is no way around it: To get to a high level of proficiency, we must learn a large number of vocabulary and grammar patterns.

We also need to expose ourselves to the language being used in thousands of unique settings.

This is indeed a monumental task — by no means "easy" — but it is made simple thanks to the way our content is structured.

With NativShark, new pieces of the language are introduced piece by piece, mostly in order of usefulness. This makes advancing and reviewing fluid, organic processes.

All you have to do is keep showing up and hitting that "Study Now" button.

Then one day, you'll find yourself talking to friends in Japanese, understanding television and video games, and feeling a bit in awe of how you managed to stuff all this information into your brain.

It's a surreal feeling, and we can't wait to share it with you.