Best Way To Approach Grammar

To put it simply I am looking for my best option for studying Japanese grammar, I am using wanikani as my main kanji learning resource and also have anki decks for kana-only words and additional vocabulary not on wanikani, and am wondering what the best way to approach grammar is in this situation, I purchased Minna No Nihongo however it was completely useless for me personally. Should I try another textbook or find another way to learn? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks :smile:

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Hi @joshroberts2000! As a beginner myself, I use Genki (second edition). The third edition is just released so maybe you can give this a try? It works for me and it works for a lot of people.

  • I’m using Genki as my primary grammar resource.
  • I use Bunpro as an extra, just to train my grammar with SRS.
  • For Kanji i’m using WaniKani (obviously :slight_smile:).
  • For Vocab (mainly the Genki Vocab) i’m using Anki.

Works for me so far :slight_smile:

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Before we can make a recommendation, it would be good to know why you felt that book was completely useless. That may give some clues as to whether a different book would be a better option.

If you like the SRS-style learning and practice that WaniKani provides, you might look into something like Bunpro and see if you like it.

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Thanks for the reply @Earthly! I was considering Genki to be my best option, but was looking for other peoples opinions on the matter, seems like its my best bet, will look into BunPro also. Thanks :smiley:

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To say it was useless was a bit harsh on my behalf, for me personally, i didn’t like the style of teaching used and felt like important grammar points were simply skimmed over a few times, the workbook style tasks I also found a bit difficult to grasp and understand what they were trying to get me to do, as there was no explanation of said tasks in the English translation accompanying it. Maybe i was just pushing it too much with getting an all Japanese textbook to begin with. For your other point, I really like the SRS-style learning of WaniKani, and after looking into BunPro it seems to be a valuable tool when accompanied by a main grammar learning resource, so i will definitely be using it.

Thanks for your reply :slight_smile:

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There are some good online grammar references you could read through, I personally find Tae Kim’s guide very useful (http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/). It also just recently got an integrated “path” on Bunpro, if that’s something you’re looking into. Imabi is another one I hear people talk about a lot though I haven’t used it personally. I think just reading through one of these guides, maybe one page a day, is a good way to get a grammatical foundation.

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The main grammar learning resource bit is a tricky one. I’m honestly not sure what to recommend.

I’ll say that I didn’t love Genki as a textbook, and it really didn’t keep my attention long. Kinda picked through it but mostly used other resources. I dunno. I’m picking this stuff up in my early 30’s just on my own as a hobby, and a textbook geared for college classroom use and “Ask a partner what their major is” kind of stuff… just didn’t fit in with me.

I do highly recommend A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar (and its subsequent intermediate and advanced editions). Lots of grammar points with key example sentences, explanations, notes, etc.

It’s not so much intended as a guided learning textbook, but with English and Japanese indexes in alphabetical order I found it really easy to learn from. Usually doing practice posts on HelloTalk and I’d be thinking “I wonder how you say (some English construction) in Japanese…” and it’s then easy to go find it in the DBJG index. It can get a bit pricey though at roughly $50 each for the basic, intermediate, and advanced editions. Basic one will take you far though.

Another thing you might find is the Handbook of Japanese Grammar Patterns. It is similar to the DBJG books but in a single volume rather than three separate ones. Long run perhaps more cost effective.

However, it doesn’t have an English index. So you can’t look up “how to do something” and then find the Japanese equivalent. Index is Japanese in 50音 order (Japanese “alphabetical” or sound order) which takes some time to get used to in its own right.

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I had been struggling with Japanese grammar for years, even though I had been taking weekly private lessons, and even after reading the very decent Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese, until I finally found the Organic Japanese with Cure Dolly YouTube channel, particularly the Japanese from scratch: the game-changing course in organic Japanese playlist.

It honestly feels like this is the one and only source that really groks Japanese. Everything is put logically, every sentence deconstructed, each topic given several examples, each explanation given its reasoning. She makes a point to demonstrate that there are very few exceptions and “random” things in Japanese, always going deep into why something works how it works. There are also a few miniseries (two so far), my favorites, where she reads stories, not translating them but deeply explaining line by line.

Now, I feel that I need to be upfront about some downsides. Her choices of aesthetics are… peculiar, to say the least. Her use of SFX is particularly upsetting, sometimes almost blowing my earphones. Her Japanese pronunciation also has a very pronounced accent, and it’s sometimes hard to understand her because of the voice modulation. This is a minor problem though since she has subtitles for all of her videos.

I made a point to mention these issues in order to make it clear that none of that really matters. If you’re able to endure these small problems, I can guarantee that you’ll find it the best Japanese grammar source available. At least, I couldn’t find any book, blog or YouTube channel in the English language that is so thorough and accurate.

After going over every single of her videos, I never felt so capable of understanding phrases in the wild. After translating any unknown words, the sentences’ meanings very frequently become clear to me, which is a completely different feeling than before. I started doing her recommended immersion techniques and, comparing with only two months ago since I last tried watching something with Japanese subtitles, the improvements are huge. By the way, if you subscribe to Netflix I also recommend the Language Learning with Netflix Chrome extension, very useful for going over line by line of the subtitles (not sure where you live, but here in Japan the anime catalogue is pretty decent).

Finally, I’m glad that you’re motivated to learn grammar. It’s very common for people to prefer to learn foreign languages without going deeply into grammar, which to me causes a huge time loss. Knowing grammar allows you to shortcut several breakthroughs that would take years to find by yourself!

In any case, whichever source you end up deciding, good luck with your studies!

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Wow! How can i not check her out after this review?! Thanks so much for your help, and for the netflix chrome extension, that will be very helpful, much appreciated.

Good day to you :slight_smile:

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I have been ignoring grammer(yeah yeah my bad). It not like i am ignoring it because i feel it is useless or difficult (didn’t progress far XD) it just that i feel studying grammer is too boring. I tried tae kim, bunpro and some more. So i decided to procede with my intial plan. Ignoring it till i am done with wanikani. Bad idea? I know. Might regret it? Probably yes. But i won’t risk burning out especially knowing that i have my fill with wanikani work alone. (Have been using kaniwani but ignoring it too lol)

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Human Japanese (app, paid):

This app is fantastically designed with thorough explanations on every point it introduces. It has interactive quizzes and reviewing, sound bites for every Japanese word/sound spoken, and between the Beginner and Intermediate series ($10 each), it will take you decently far with grammar. The only downside is that Kanji isn’t really used, so you’ll be reading any Japanese in hiragana.

Tae Kim (app/website, free):

Very grammar focused and detailed explanations geared more toward the Japanese side of things. It tries to take you away from your English expectations and switch your brain over to the Japanese way.

Bunpro (website, paid):

Great for reinforcing the grammar points you’ve learned. Has “paths” you can follow based on which book you’re using. There are several book choices to choose from, one of them being Tae Kim.

Japanese Ammo with Misa (YouTube):

These videos are an amazing way to introduce or reinforce your basic grammar knowledge. I’ve personally watched her ‘Absolute Beginner Series’ twice so far, and learned a bunch of new stuff each time. I like to take notes and follow along with her little exercises as well.


I highly recommend trying all of these, if you’d like. Each of the paid platforms I mentioned have pretty decent free trials, so its worth checking them out to see if it’s worth for you.

Good luck!

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The Japanese From Zero series by George Trombley is supposed to be pretty good if the Genki and Minna No Nihongo ones aren’t clicking for you. I’ve never used it myself, @seanblue is a proponent of it on here and his accounts on it are pretty good.

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I really like this book. This review sums it all up nicely and has some example pages. The main problem is indeed romaji and no audio. But it is the one book that actually teaches me actual Japanese, the way he explains things just clicks with me. It makes you want to read the source material. I just plain love the book. I want to open it and read about grammar. How many people can say that about Genki?
It’s based on Mangajin, some issues are still available online. All Mangajin issues also float around in the big torrent ocean, if that’s your thing.

I also like Cure Dolly, but I’m a book person, not a video person… I never understood why you’d want to hear someone say something that you can read yourself in a fraction of the time… Subtitles are a must though, I hate that voice. It is quite compatible with Japanese the Manga Way.
And of course the dictionary of basic Japanese grammar.

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Since you already have the books, I could try to give you some pointers on how to do the exercises? I worked through first and second book, and now working on the intermediate textbooks with my classes.

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What are you using for output? How do you put the Cure Dolly teachings into practice? I always wonder when people mention they learn grammar from YT videos or Tae Kim, too, honestly.

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I second this. I’m also relatively confused.
I’ve been using BunPro for grammar, but I don’t know if I’ve actually learned anything or simply memorized the test sentences the app uses.
How much grammar should I learn at a time? How am I supposed to put it into use? How do I know if I’ve memorized a particular grammar point? Where do I go for grammar practice?
I need some advice too lol.
Thanks in advance if somebody is willing to take the time to explain the process of learning grammar to me :).

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Read, watch, and listen to stuff to practice understanding grammar. Write and talk to native speakers (or even other learners) to practice using it. :slight_smile:

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That’s quite a complicated bunch question :sweat_smile:

Personally, I find bunpro enough - memorising enough examples of a grammar point is most of the way to learning it anyway.
Learning the rules/logic behind the grammar can also be helpful, as it helps you see patterns more easily, but you shouldn’t confuse it with actually learning to apply the grammar.

Ultimately, you just need to encounter enough examples of it in the wild and try to produce it. The bookclubs and the Japanese only parts of the forum are a good place to start, particularly if you don’t have access to natives.

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For output I mostly:

  • Speak and write during my private lessons
  • Practice with my wife, usually when sending messages on LINE
  • Send emails concerning varied topics (for example, asking for informations about a service I’m interested about, or explaining a problem I’m having)

I’m not a very social person and I still don’t feel very confident in my active vocabulary so for social interactions I mostly stick to written form, that way I have time to think and review my text (I recommend the video How to be Better at Japanese than You Actually Are! Easy hacks to improve your Japanese usage on that topic). For spoken interactions, for the last few months I’ve been self-isolating because of the pandemic, so I’m very limited to occasional exchanges at the nearby コンビニ.

For now I’m working towards improving my passive vocabulary with massive input, hopefully I’ll have more opportunities of practicing output in the near future.

I also recommend “Input” vs “Output” in Vocabulary Strategy: Revolutionizing the “Japanese vocabulary” model on this topic!

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I definitely don’t know the BEST way as I’m struggling with grammar myself.

I’ve been using Tae Kim as a guide and Bunpro to test my knowledge. I don’t think SRS is as useful for grammar as it is for kanji, but after all it does drill you more on the sentences you struggle with and not so much on the stuff that’s easy, and isn’t that what you want anyway?

When I’m using Bunpro, sometimes I’ll get to a question I’m struggling with; when that happens, I generally open up all the readings for that grammar point and read them all; some cover a particular point better than others and Tae Kim doesn’t always tell me what I need to know. If I’m at home, I’ll also make notes from the readings - I keep a growing Word doc with conjugation rules and things like that, very brief, maybe one example per rule, just as a reference. I tend to have that handy when I work on Bunpro, so it’s part memory exercise, part workbook for me. There is definitely a tendency to memorize sentences rather than actually learning the grammar, but when you learn a sentence, there’s a new one waiting behind it that you haven’t learned yet.

Japanese Ammo with Misa videos are extremely clear and I can recommend them on that account, but they are very inefficient; she can spend half an hour covering a couple of grammar points or half a dozen new vocabulary items. Watching them with the speed cranked up is a must, unless there’s a part you need explained . . . v e r y . . . s l o w l y .

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