Bootstrapping grammar?

I know enough basic words and grammar that I can say and understand some simple phrases - basically toddler level, I guess. I learned a lot of it years ago, when I was into anime (which I’m not anymore… not particularly anyway).

I started WK to pick up new vocab and kanji reading and it’s working well for that - but the example sentences almost always have grammar I can’t make heads or tails of.

I tried Bunpro, just to see how it is, and almost immediately it started teaching me grammar I don’t recognize. Which is fine, that’s kind of the point - but compared to what I’m already familiar with, this feels like it’s just an abstract intellectual exercise, like memorizing pi, without some reading or listening or conversational practice that contextualizes the grammar. I won’t say I never heard this grammar back in my anime days (because I surely did hear it) but I can say I never picked it out from the garble.

But if I try to read or listen to Japanese, it’s full of words and grammar I don’t know yet.

How do I cut this Gordian knot? Do I seek out preschool-level material? Do I go back to listening to material that I don’t understand 95% of, trying to pick the needles out of the haystack? Do I just need to grind more before it starts to come together? What worked for you at this stage, or what do you wish you’d known to do sooner?


Have you tried using a textbook (together with bunpro, perhaps)? They usually have a progressive quality to them. Building on grammar you’ve learned already, so you can focus on one new thing at a time.


Try tae kim’s grammar book, it’s pretty nicely done, and you’ll have most of the usual grammar usage explained, instead of just memorizing it without any understanding.

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When you’re listening,

  1. Can you pick out individual words and phrases yet?
  2. Have you learnt to ignore all the filler yet?

Listening is going to a garbled mess until you get those down, no matter how many word/much grammar you know.

In short, yes. Pick some anime you like, maybe ones you’ve watched a couple of times, and watch them without subtitles. Then you don’t have to worry about the not understanding bit.

For reading, you probably need more vocab/kanji or it’s going to be really frustrating. There’s no harm in having a go as long as you keep your expectations in check and your prepared to give up until later though. If you can get parallel readers then those are at first, otherwise check out:

Learning the stuff in the abstract is good and all, but it’s never going to click unless you’re getting exposure to native content.

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Yes, supplementing kanji/grammar/vocab study with active reading and listening is :ok_hand:

I found graded readers in combination with a structured grammar resource quite good for internalizing grammar! And now I’m further along in my grammar study, native materials for children and preteens have become a lot easier to digest.
Other people dive straight in to only using native materials, but you need a lot of grit to get through them without some existing grammar knowledge and vocab (when we’re starting out, we probably have less knowledge than a Japanese 2 year old).

The structure of a text book or YouTube playlist helps my grammar study feel progressive instead of just randomly memorizing grammar points, because new grammar structures build on each other (as mentioned already by @Saida above). Also the example sentences in Bunpro should help contrxtualise a given point, even if you need to rely on the translations for unknown vocabulary.


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