What would be the best way to learn Japanese grammar? I would like to try and avoid textbooks, but if they are clearly superior, I will try them. I’d prefer an online source, like WaniKani.
You could start with Tae Kim’s guide.
Try Cure Dolly’s organic japanese series on youtube. It’s very logical and easy to follow.
If you want an SRS platform like WaniKani there is Bunpro, but in my experience the lessons are very lacking. You can manually add grammar points that you’ve learned elsewhere just to help review them.
You could try memrise. I don’t know how good it is for free accounts since I did a lifetime back in the day, but there are a number of classes for grammar.
My study log has a list of (some of) the grammar resources I use. (Some that aren’t included are Tobira, Sou Matome, etc. But they wouldn’t be that useful for a beginner anyway).
I recommend starting off by going through a chapter of Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide every night before bed. That’s what I did and it was the first time I started learning grammar properly after wading through that slog otherwise known as Genki. (No offence to any Genki fans ).
Consistency is key, and whatever you do, make sure that you apply it in reading, writing, listening, etc.
A lot of people recommend Tae Kim’s guide. I personally didn’t like it but everyone’s different. The grammar points are presented one by one with simple explanation, but IMO it suffers from over-simplification sometimes, and there’s a lack of exercises.
If you’re comfortable with linguistic terms and aren’t worried about jumping into the deep end, Imabi is a good choice. The content is all top-tier and in depth, having been written by a linguist, but the site isn’t very well organised tbh. Also, a lack of exercises.
One resource that I’m currently really enjoying myself is Bunpro; it’s an SRS like Wanikani where it gives you a grammar point with a small explanation, links to a few different resources that also explain it, and then has you review it over time by filling the blanks of example sentences.
If you do eventually go the textbook route, the usual choices for that are either Genki or Minna no Nihongo. Other options include Japanese for Busy People, Yookoso, Japanese: the Spoken Language, Japanese the Manga Way, and Japanese from Zero; each of them obviously with their own pros and cons.
Personally, I would recommend getting your base down as quickly as possible with something like Tae Kim, and then diving headfirst into native content like manga and simple novels. It’s way more fun and teaches you via immersion. At first it feels somewhat like throwing yourself full-speed at a wall and hoping you can cling onto one of the bricks, but it gets easier the more you read, and the book clubs in this community are great for collaborating and discussing any problem areas with other readers.
Somewhat related to the above is Tadoku and graded readers. The idea is to read as early as possible, and not actively study grammar, but infer it from context. I can’t pretend I know how successful that is, but it’s an option nontheless.
I also avoided textbooks so here is the route I did via Youtube videos.
Japanese Ammo with Misa’s beginner playlist (good for learning vocab and drilling in grammar points since she builds on what was introduced in previous videos).
Cure dolly’s beginner playlist (more on the theory side of things which can help you understand why sentences are structured the way they are).
I completed Bunpro’s N5 and N4 grammar curriculum.
At around level 30, I started watching Youtube channels such as Nihongo no mori, Ako Nihongo lessons, Yumi yura, and Nihongo no Tabi in that order (for N3 content; they all teach in Japanese but may have subtitiles with Kanji / Hiragana).
I have tried the occasional Manga (e.g. Yotsuba, Rental Oniichan, Crystal Hunters, Love Hina) at various points in my study to gauge my progress as opposed to for completion.
My focus when studying Japanese is on reading so bear that in mind. Speaking is an entirely different beast because it goes beyond relying on Kanji as a crutch of sorts as well as pitch accent.
Good luck my dude. It is a long and arduous journey that requires sheer will to not quit. There were many times that I wanted to quit but that feeling of accomplishing a new task (e.g. Going from being lost in a Nihongo no mori video to understanding 80% of it in a matter of a few months) has kept me going.
I haven’t seen anyone mention Tokini Andy yet. This playlist follows Genki I and II but is in a video format. I also didn’t want to use a textbook but I still wanted something structured, so this worked out for me.
You could try out the website Marugoto Plus A1. There is an explanation for each grammar point, a lot of videos and checkpoint exercises to practice. There are also cultur related notes and videos!