So I know that jiko shoukai is self-introduction. And benkyou is study. So I took a guess and figured that self-study is jiko benkyou. The context of this is if someone asks "how did/do you study Japanese?" And the reply is "I studied by myself." or just "Self-study.". So just to make sure I took a quick look at Google Translate and it gave me these options:

  • jishuu
  • dokugaku
  • dokushuu

But didn't give jiko benkyou. So what would be the proper word to use for this response?

  • 3
    Personally, I would use 独学{dokugaku}. There's also 自学{jigaku}. My feeling is that the ones ending in 学{gaku} have a connotation of "studying over a long time span", whereas the ones ending in 習{shuu} are likely to be "one instance of studying", like "I was studying by myself this afternoon", similar to 予習{yoshuu}, 復習{fukushuu} etc
    – dainichi
    Jan 31, 2014 at 3:36
  • @dainichi Is there a difference between 独学 and 自学?
    – dotnetN00b
    Jan 31, 2014 at 15:20

5 Answers 5


To "How did/do you study Japanese?" you'd respond


(not [自習]{じしゅう}です, [自己勉強]{じこべんきょう}しました or [独習]{どくしゅう}です.)

I think the word [自習]{じしゅう}(する) refers to "(to) seatwork" or "study hall".

  • 3
    To clarify, there are times in Japanese schools where teachers aren't present and the kids have a 自習 or 自学 period where they do work by themselves. It's similar to the idea of study hall, as Chocolate mentions!
    – ssb
    Jan 31, 2014 at 8:24
  • Is there a difference between 独学 and 自学?
    – dotnetN00b
    Jan 31, 2014 at 15:20
  • 5
    Never heard the word 自学 in school myself; It was always 自習 when the teacher was absent. (And the word for "learn without a teacher" is 独学 nearly 100% of the time among native speakers.)
    – user4032
    Feb 2, 2014 at 23:29

I believe the most proper wording is the one in the other answers [独学]{dokugaku}. This word means (at least to me as a non-native speaker/learner of Japanese) self-study as in to learn something substantial by oneself.

I think another phrase that one can use is [自分]{じぶん}で[勉強]{べんきょう}しました. This phrase also literally means "I studied it by myself." I would take this one to be less formal in use and meaning. But I could be wrong on this point (and I'm sure I'll get downvoted if that's the case).

While [自己]{じこ} does mean self (actually each half of it means self in a different sense in both Japanese and Chinese), it doesn't mean self as in "by oneself" so it cannot produce a compound that would mean study by oneself. Cf. [自己紹介]{じこしょうかい} = to introduce oneself. So [自己勉強]{jikobenkyou} would mean the study of the self. The word [自我]{じが} also means self but refers to something like the ego in psychology -- not the self of self-study. (Here's the Japanese wikiepdia on it)

Consequently, the newly added answer [自己]{じこ}で[勉強]{べんきょう}する is one that sounds extremely unnatural.


The proper word for self-study would be 独学。


Another option is the word 独得(どくとく). It means learning by oneself according to the app Imiwa?. Denshi Jisho lists the same meaning and says it's a common word. I've used it in conversation and wasn't corrected but that doesn't mean much.

  • 1
    Are you sure it's not 独特 listed as common?
    – ssb
    Mar 10, 2014 at 7:07
  • 1
    Probably referring to this: 2 (独得)その人だけが会得していて、他の人には及ぶことができないこと。また、そのさま。 「自家―の曲乗のままで」〈漱石・自転車日記〉 (dictionary.goo.ne.jp/leaf/jn2/158226/m0u) Yeah... not a common usage lol.
    – Robin
    Mar 10, 2014 at 9:15
  • This question came up in conversation over the weekend. All my Japanese friends agreed that 独学 is the best way to refer to studying something by yourself.
    – user4863
    Mar 17, 2014 at 3:06
  • I have a new way to say learning by oneself: here in Miyazaki, the prefectural board of education calls it : みずからまなぶ 自ら学ぶ. The difference appears to be gakutoku is studying alone verses mizukaramanabu is learning by yourself. The difference is learning. Gakutoku doesn't imply you're learning, just studying.
    – user4863
    Apr 24, 2014 at 2:41

The most proper word for self-study is 独学

自己で勉強する <=> Study by my-self.

  • So is 自分で勉強する the same or similar?
    – dotnetN00b
    Jan 31, 2014 at 15:17
  • 5
    No one would say 「自己で勉強する」.
    – user4032
    Feb 2, 2014 at 23:21
  • Yes you're right. The proper one is 自分で勉強する。 Thanks!
    – Quân Lê
    Feb 3, 2014 at 0:24

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