First there was… sound?

I recently noticed this piece of news regarding learning new languages.

link to Japanese article

A research team lead by people from University of Tokyo basically concluded that languages are learnt “audio first”. In short, people who listened to the vocabulary and grammar while studying had better learning results. According to the study, this is apparently especially useful when learning grammar points, as they are easier to remember as sounds.

Of course, WaniKani has sort of proven the same. When 頂く (いただく) finally comes up on level 51, probably everyone watching Japanese food shows already know it.



Everyone learns their first language by being spoken to. Children can speak and listen long before they can read and write. Japanese kids already know their vocab and grammar before they start school - when they learn kanji in school, they’re simply learning the characters that go with the words they already know. In that respect, WaniKani’s kanji-first approach is kinda backwards.


This is why I think listening a lot especially in the beginning is super important. Audio just goes “directly” into your brain without a medium. You have to immediately grasp it.

When you think about it, all grammar is just made up. It’s just a model being fitted onto a language to try to explain things. Languages are first and foremost spoken.