Balancing vocabulary and grammar learning

Hi everyone !

As the title says, I’m currently struggling with how to do both of those things. I’m learning vocab here on WaniKani and am currently trying Bunpo and Bunpro to learn grammar but, since I’m working during the day, I don’t really find the time to do both.

I’ve been essentially focusing on WK so far, so I’m barely getting any progress done on the grammar side and I would like to know how you guys go around it. Should I try to do something like one day vocab/one day grammar, even if it means bigger reviews?

Worth to note that I’m getting closer to the end of the free trial on all three of those, and while I plan to at least subscribe to WK, I don’t plan to subscribe to Bunpro if I don’t have a way to make the time to use it. I could buy the lifetime for Bunpo since it’s affordable enough, but it won’t really solve my study time issue.

Thanks for the help and have a wonderful 日。

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I didn’t really do much besides WK either. Though plenty of people on here somehow manage to keep up with BunPro, Torii, and Kaniwani, I have no idea how they do that.

I think that while it’s important to start learning grammar basics early on, it’s not necessary to use an SRS to do so. So, maybe just read an overview of that particles is about and about conjugation? Just to let those concepts and ideas sink in.

Then I’d focus on doing my WK reviews and from time to time do some immersion rather than adding any more SRS-apps on top of things.

As you’ve gotten a stronger routine for WK in several more levels, you can reevalue how to best make use of your free time: use BunPro? Just watch Cure Dolly videos on YouTube? But a textbook to read about grammar?

There are plenty of options that might suit your needs better!

Good luck! ^>^

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I think balancing grammar, vocab and on top of that WaniKani is no easy fit. I’m actually clocking my study activities with Clockify and constantly trying to adjust how much time I spend on what, but even that is not a perfect solution.

Regarding WaniKani, I would recommend building out your pace from slower to faster. A lot of us go very very fast first and then slow down only when things get kind of out of hand :sweat_smile: . Start with 5-10 lessons a day, keep that up for a couple of weeks and only increase if you’re really comfortable with it. You can also initially start a little faster if the vocab and kanji is too easy for you :slight_smile: .

Depending on how much time daily you can devote to studying, try to split it in a way that vocab and kanji come before grammar and for instance use Bunpro to study grammar during “dead time” (toilet, commuting, etc.). I prioritized grammar and am now behind on vocab, but enough ahead with kanji to pick up new vocab more easily.

We also don’t know what’s your starting point. Are you new to Japanese or have you studied it in the past already?

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I would recommend slowing your WK pace so that you have time to fit in grammar/vocab study and eventually immersion. For the first few levels, it’s probably fine for you to focus exclusively on WK, but once you reach levels 5-10, you’ll know enough kanji to give you a foundation, and it’s probably good to at least start looking at grammar then, even if you’re not trying to read native materials yet.

I definitely understand the struggle with trying to do multiple SRS, though! I currently have WK, Kaniwani, and Anki going, though WK and KW have the same content, and my Anki deck currently only has the vocab for whatever lesson of Minna no Nihongo I’m working on at the moment, and I’m not going particularly fast through the lessons. There’s absolutely no way I could handle a grammar SRS on top of that, and honestly I don’t think I like SRS-ing grammar. I prefer just practicing grammar by drilling with textbook exercises and then reinforcing the concepts by reading and listening to Japanese. If you have very limited time, a textbook might be a better grammar resource for you because you could build your own schedule for it rather than getting locked into another SRS.

The pace I’ve settled into is roughly two weeks to finish a level in WK, and roughly two weeks to finish a lesson in Minna no Nihongo. It’s a slower pace than many folks here like to do, but it works for me because it allows for steady progress in kanji, vocab, and grammar, all at the same time. My goal is to complete WK and the MNN beginner series within the next two years, and then shift my focus to reading manga and other materials at that point because I should be at a low intermediate level.

How much time do you have each day to put into studying Japanese? If you only have an hour or so, I would definitely watch how much time you put into WK, because it can easily devour a lot of your time if you go too fast, and you don’t want to burn out!

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I think you should focus on WK and learn a bit of grammar. Then, add vocab once you get to where you wanted (in terms of JLPT level). Aim to clear N5 at first.

Here’s what I did. I did Bunpro first. Speed run it through N3. I didn’t need to know the vocab. I memorized the grammar points as they are only in hiragana. I now got to the point where I can read the whole sentences when my vocab caught up. At first, my review count was huge. But it is now manageable and only needs a couple of minutes to do the reviews. Now, I have more time to build vocab.

I wouldn’t recommend Bunpo. The exercises don’t test you enough. If you don’t have much time, try only doing BunPro besides WK; add 3 or fewer lessons per day. It should only take a couple of minutes.

Vocab building is another thing that would consume most of your time besides WK. For vocab, I use iKnow as it can easily be sync to WK level iKnow sorted by WK level. You can also download the core 6k deck if you use Anki.

I think because we do WK slow. WK has a terrible tendency to pile up reviews really fast due to punishing SRS-stage design compared to other SRS apps, not to mention annoying leeches added up to the pile. I do WK, iKnow, Bunpro, Anki, Clozemaster, a bit LingoDeer, and even Duolingo every day. On top of that, I still manage to do immersion. Can’t do any other thing if I do WK fast as it would consume most of my time.

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I’ve hade the same struggle, still struggling a bit with this. My current method is going slow with WK. After all I am learning new vocab every day so no need to rush.

For grammar I use the Genki books, trying to fit in study sessions here and there during the week. I have also used the app LingoDeer before (the free, basic version) which I liked very much but don’t really have time for right now. I’ll return to it after Genki to refresh my memory though, I think!

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Everyone’s already provided suggestions for dealing with basic grammar, and I think they all sound pretty good. In essence, you can work with SRSes (Bunpro, for example), online resources (Maggie Sensei, Japanese Ammo with Misa, Real Japanese with Miku, Cure Dolly, Tae Kim’s Guide) or textbooks (Genki, Minna no Nihongo).

What I wanted to suggest is that once you’ve moved beyond the basics, or even as you’re learning them, you could try to do some light immersion in order to go further, especially since a lot of more advanced grammar (perhaps N3 onwards?) is really just set expressions and more complicated forms of lower-level grammar. I literally learnt almost all of N2 grammar just by watching anime and looking up what I heard. Even if you don’t understand everything you hear, looking out for words you know is good listening practice, and taking note of interesting new words that stand out can help you expand your vocabulary and improve your grammar. Plus, since you’ll be hearing these words in a meaningful context, you’ll likely better understand how to use them than you would learning out of a textbook or grammar guide.

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Thanks for all the help, everyone. To answer your questions:

I’m a pure beginner in Japanese, though you could say I did train my ear by watching anime/playing j-games with English subtitles.

For reference, my first language is French. While I had some English taught at school, I pretty much learned the language by myself through English mangas and novels by putting everything in google Translations until the vocabulary started to sink in, and the grammar started to make sense. Pretty brutal approach, but it did get me some nice results. So while a beginner in Japanese, I do have that experience of learning another language.

I’m learning Japanese for pretty much the same goal: I want to read, understand and type in jp to get access to stuff currently unreachable for me, like jp web novels sites, forums, animes and so on.

As for the time I have, it varies. I’m working in a hospital, so I only finish my day when I’m through with my last patient. That being said, other than when I have irl stuff to do, I should be able to get 1-2 hours in easily enough.

By the way, when I said vocabulary I was thinking of WK stuff, but it looks like you guys thought I was talking about even more vocab added on top, is that a common practice here?

Considering what you guys said, I think I will indeed slow down WK, which for now means ‘guru-ing’ the free levels before tackling on anything else and do grammar on the side once I found a nice pace. Likewise, I will also test non-SRS resources.

Of course, I will try to do some immersion once I’ve got the basics down, especially since it’s my main objective. Besides, once I reach a level similar to my English level from back then, I know how much I can learn through reading stuff, even when using a translator/dictionary for 3 words out of 4.

Once again, thanks for all the input! I’ll be sure to put what you said to good use.

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learning language through immersion works very well, especially when you have the basics,

The problem with the Japanese… and Chinese also- is that you are basically illiterate when you don’t know nuff characters. This is why I think for these languages srs programs are necessary evils in the beginning stages. I tried to do immersion through jp subs but 90% of the time I’m spending on learning new kanjis, and it’s not an easy process for me because I’m quite lazy in creating mnemonics. So for me- learning new kanji characters through srs> more effective than through immersion at the current moment.

As for the grammar- you just need basics ( n5-n4) it’s covered by tokiniandy ( Genki 1-2 grammar youtube- highly reccomended to use after 12-15 lvl wk.), cury dolly 93 lessons youtube Japanese course, or tae Kim grammar guide. All of them cover pretty much the same material, just pick the one you like.

For the last- yh its highly recommended to use a separate app for vocabulary as a supplementation. The reason being- wanikani main goal to teach kanji, and not all of their vocabulary in the begging stages are high frequency. Lots of n5-n4 words you will encounter only on wk lvls 16-33. Even from lvl 50+

I reccommend torii.srs app. Its great because you can exclude wankani vocabulary and learn new words only with kanjis you allready covered in wanikani.

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WK’s vocabulary is not very useful for the real world; you’ll read many users here complaining about them all the time, not to mention building vocab in WK is way slower compared to if you learned it elsewhere. Even when you reach level 60, the vocabulary won’t be enough. Sadly, there is no way to add your own words to WK’s system, so you must use another SRS app to do it.

I think immersion would only be beneficial if you have reached a certain level and when your vocabulary has grown a lot more. For some structure on immersion, you might want to look at Refold. It gives you the best content to use for immersion, depending on your level.

There’s really no one way. If you’re an absolute beginner, I would recommend a beginner text. Genki if you can afford it, Tae Kim if you need free stuff. Once you’ve been through something beginner, try to start reading. If you’re not confident, there’s a bunch of graded readers you can get for free from Tadoku. Once you’re putting your kanji/vocab into practice, you’ll come across grammar you don’t know, so you can just look it up. Yes, it’s probably less efficient than a text, but if your main goal is, say, to watch anime without subtitles, there’s formal/literary-only grammar that you might not need to know, so there’s no point learning it early on.

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it looks like WK recommends grammar on lvl 10 forward

I agree, now only around lvl 20’s I see I need to learn more grammar, waiting until december for sale in bunpro and start it :sweat_smile:

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That’s not entirely true. Most of WaniKani’s vocab consists of extremely common words. What people often have a problem with is the following:

  • WaniKani using too much kanji for words which are usually written in kana (the infamous 河豚 crisis or 台詞)
  • baseball terms a lot of people don’t care about, because they’re not into baseball (unlike Japan which loves 野球 :smiley: )
  • words you typically find in books, but won’t use in a regular conversation (里心, 幼年時代)

Overall, however, yes, people do supplement WaniKani with Anki or other means for vocab.

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I would actually recommend sticking to WK and building the habit first. I don’t think you can gauge your progress/pace on WK until you start seeing the potential burn items. When you get the burns wrong, they end up back in the Guru pile which can be a bit demotivating. For most people going full speed, this is roughly around lvl 20, which is where a lot of abstract concepts start to appear too. At around this point, you can pick out quite a few words when listening to anime/tv and understand the bits and pieces that you do read.

Picking up Genki after lvl 20 is much easier since you know most of the words already. At this point, you’ll learn new vocabulary and grammar points while refreshing what you already know and using them to form sentences you can actually use irl. The alternative approach is learning Grammar earlier(as suggest by WK, around 10) and slowing down the pace for WK. I would suggest this route, though personally I have trouble trying to do too much at once(WK, Genki, and Anki). I am currently going to Genki II and I find it much easier to focus on grammar when I don’t also have to learn new words.

Ultimately, there is no easy way to learn Japanese without putting in the work. It’ll take time to figure out what works for you, but that’s okay. Also, try your best to stick to one thing for a while and see if it works. Otherwise, you’ll end up in the beginner stages forever. :sweat_smile:

Good luck with the journey, the balancing act of Japanese is only beginning for you. :wink:

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I did some other studies before begining WK.
When I’ve discovered WK, I choose to go all in with it and did it in a bit less than one year. Since then I’ve progressively began my other studies again.

My observations:

  • I suck with the kana only vocabulary, even basic one (いつも、さえ、etc).
  • The grammar (n5 & n4 for now) feels a lot easier.
  • I can infer the meaning of a sentence much better, especially if it is writen with their kanji, even if I did not knew the word before. It helps a lot with grammar too.

Would I recommand / do it again? I am not sure, as:

  • 1 year is a long time to take without doing anything else
  • 1 year is pretty short and means a huge investment in WK, ~2h+ everyday, for a whole year. As I couldn’t realistically cut my job (even though it had impact on it fo sure), I had to sometimes cut social activities.

I think I would do a mix. Invest heavily on WK for the first 20 to 25 level, than go to a more leisurely pass and once the number of daily review decrease reintegrate other studies.

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There will be more users coming complaining about the vocab. But, ironically, the WK team wouldn’t do anything about it. Just add a feature to hide or suspend them would easily solve the problem.

The most disturbing fact for me is the acquisition speed. For speed comparison, I’ve burned 429 on WK and 3148 on iKnow (Burn is Mastered on iKnow). That’s about 7 times slower. So WK is very, very slow for vocab building. It would take me forever to comprehend anything if I depend on WK vocab. I plan to do the vocab slower now since I know this by using reorder script to do all my radical and kanji first instead of the normal order I used to.

Not as a supplement, but the main vocab acquisition should be outside WK.

I assume that you are in the early stage of learning Japanese. Just make a goal or milestone like “I want to read this manga”, “I want to be able to watch this drama without subtitles”, or “I want to pass JLPT N5”.

Then just learn whatever you want to learn and come back to check your Japanese skill with those milestone once a month. This will help you realize what skill you are required to be able to complete your goal. After that, you could balancing your study routine effectively.

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What other resources do you guys suggest for vocabulary? To be honest, I assumed WK would be enough for that, but from what you said, it looks like it really is a kanji-specialized tool.

I’m a heavy novel reader, so my current main objective is to get enough understanding of Japanese characters and grammar to read books, even if it means relying on a dictionary or similar for the actual understanding since that’s how I learned English, as mentioned previously.

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There are a few different approaches, and each has their own downsides.

Some people acquire a base of vocab by using an SRS flash card deck of the most common words. There are various options for this, depending on how willing you are to spend money on a tool, and what kinds of program you prefer. I think kitsun.io has a deck that lots of people recommend. There’s also Torii, which is free I think? And I believe Memrise might also be an option. There are also plenty of Anki decks out there that people have made if you’d prefer to stick with Anki. I can’t recommend any of these over the others, because this isn’t the route I’m taking for my vocab acquisition.

Another possibility is learning vocab alongside grammar by using a textbook. This is what I’m doing! Two popular textbook choices are Genki and Minna no Nihongo, and each of those have vocab lists that you’re encouraged to learn with each lesson. I like learning with MNN because it lets me practice the vocab and the grammar together (the main textbook is entirely in Japanese, and the book encourages you to learn the vocab for that chapter before you try reading the lesson). I add the vocab to my Anki deck and run through it for a week or so until I feel comfortable with it, then read the lesson and do the exercises. So I am using Anki as a tool for learning vocab, but in conjunction with my textbook and not in isolation. Tofugu has a list of beginner textbook recommendations if learning from a textbook seems appealing to you.

The other method that I see commonly recommended here is to acquire vocab exclusively by immersing yourself with native media. I think people have various strategies for doing this. Refold, which was linked earlier, is one approach. There’s also koohi.cafe, which is a website where you can pre-learn vocab for specific books and other media before you start reading. The intent there is that you learn a word and then immediately see it in context, which reinforces the meaning. Some people mine vocab words from native materials and create their own flash cards for words above a certain frequency. One tool that can do this is Yomichan, which is installed in the browser and acts as an instant dictionary as well as allowing you to create Anki flash cards with the click of a button.

Immersion can be really effective, but it can also be really frustrating and intimidating when you have very low knowledge of the language. But if you’re able to tough it out, you’ll probably be fine acquiring your vocab that way.

Of course, it’s completely possible to learn vocab without relying on an SRS! Some people just look up words as needed while reading, and eventually learn them that way. But incorporating an SRS can make memorization more efficient, hence the abundance of tools and options, haha!

It can get a little overwhelming, though! You’ll probably get people swearing that one particular method is the absolute best or most efficient, and saying that everything else is wasting your time. I think it’s best just to look at the options yourself and see if anything speaks to you or seems to suit your lifestyle. If you try one of them out and don’t like it, you can always try something else instead. The most important thing is that you find something that you can keep doing, and don’t burn yourself out or get bored or discouraged.

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I’m using Kitsun. If you are looking for a free tool; Anki is a well-known but out-dated app. I heard that kamesame is also a good website.

I’ve tried learning Japanese by reading manga with a dictionary side by side. Honestly, I think it was a waste of learning oppotunity for me lol. I encountered too many new vocab and grammar at once and my brain can’t learn them all effectively.

I’m not saying it’s not a good method but I was not ready for it.

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