Back in high school Japanese language class near the end of the 1990’s, I can’t recall (even considering my memory always having been bad) that we ever really had any useful learning of grammar. Even back then, I loved English grammar very much, so I can’t imagine I would forget learning grammar in Japanese class, besides all the ways to “conjugate ます”.
Fast forward a decade and a half, and I tried using some guides (such as Tae Kim), but nothing really “worked” for me to “get” the grammar. Then one December, I noticed that ごちうさ (which I’d seen the first season of on DVD) had a manga, and it was only available in Japanese.
I decided that that would be what I use to formally start to actually learn grammar from. I would read through it, look up every kanji, every vocabulary word, and (most importantly) every bit of grammar I encountered.
I was essentially going in blind. I had a meager but fair understanding of a handful of particles, but I lacked a lot in everything else (except that I carried with me a vocabulary of around 2,000 words). Spoiler: The Venn diagram of words I knew and words in the volume did not overlap nearly as much as I had expected them to.
For the most part, I went through one four-panel strip per day, with 200 four-panel strips in the volume. Some days I spent half an hour looking up kanji, transcribing, looking up words, and looking up grammar. Other days I spent upwards of two hours. Early on, I was also writing up blog posts to help me absorb the grammar and vocabulary.
- I learned a lot of grammar along the way.
- I picked up new vocabulary.
- I spent way too much time looking up kanji.
- I forgot most of the new vocabulary I learned, even though I did daily Anki reviews for over a year.
- I learned zero new kanji.
The following year, I joined WK, and joined the book club for Shirokuma Cafe, at which point I felt like I was starting from scratch on grammar. Yes, I’d learned and retained things from learning alongside reading ごちうさ, but I lacked enough exposure to really know them.
Thus, for anyone starting out on reading, I highly recommend holding off on ごちうさ. Instead, pick an Absolute Beginner Book Club manga to begin with, and build up your grammar from there. (Alongside any formal method you’re using, such as Genki.)
With the exception of maybe Chi’s Sweet Home, you can make just as much grammar progress from an Absolute Beginner Book Club as with ごちうさ, and you’ll have a support system built in to provide answers to any questions you may have, and to provide supplemental details and information.
Regardless, whatever you read early on, you should only expect marginal progress on learning and understanding grammar. It takes time seeing the same grammar over and over in different scenarios to really get to know it.
As for me, I plan to re-start GochiUsa volume two once I finish up WaniKani level 30 minimum. Based on volume one’s kanji, I figure that’ll put at having had exposure to about 90% of the kanji in it. (Whether I remember all the kanji I’ve learned from WK…)