Grammer question

I recommend the following to improve your grammar acquisition:

  1. Read this post on what your first reading experience should be like.

    • If you’ve tried reading native material before and failed, this post covers that exact scenario.
  2. Reading makes grammar easier to learn, remember, and internalize. However, you need a certain base level of grammar before you get into reading. To this end, if you haven’t already done so, watch the first five videos in Cure Dolly’s subtitled Japanese From Scratch series on YouTube.

    • Some people complain about the voice. Turn on subtitles, and if needed, increase the speed a little. Or listen on mute and read along.

    • The first five videos may cover material you already know from Genki and Bunpro. In that case, consider it review. You want to see if her teaching style works for you.

    • If you can learn from her videos, keep going with at least one video a day.

    • If you cannot learn from her videos, at least you know you gave them a try.

  3. Check the preview of ちいさな森のオオカミちゃん.

    • As Gorbit99 said, it’s the easiest manga we’ve read in the Absolute Beginner Book Club, making it a good starting place to get into reading and learning grammar along the way.

    • Caveat: If you don’t like cutesy stuff, you may not like this manga. That’s why I recommend utilizing the preview, which covers about 30 pages, before you buy.

  4. Read the Absolute Beginner Book Club weekly discussion threads for the manga.

    • Warning: The first few pages are the most difficult. It’s okay if you don’t really understand them. Use the Absolute Beginner Book Club’s discussion threads to help get the gist of it.
  5. Utilize a frequency list to learn the most common vocabulary words in the manga volume.

    • Stick the highest frequency words into Anki or another SRS application and start learning them.

    • Focus on learning the words that appear at least five times.

      • If you learn the 50 highest-frequency words, you will know over 40% of the total words in the manga.

      • Learning the next 30 most frequent words from the list gets you to 50% coverage.

Spend one month on the above.

Review vocabulary a little each day.

Learn grammar a little each day.

Decipher your way through sentences from the manga a little each day.

See where you are after four weeks.

Unfortunately, a month will not be enough time to see meaningful progress, but it should be enough time to notice whether you’re starting to recognize and understand grammar.

From there, you can either buy the manga and continue with it, or switch to the preview of another manga covered by the Absolute Beginner Book Club.

Overall: Be aware of the amount of time you have available to spend on Japanese, and be aware of the amount of time you want to put into Japanese.

Bunpro gives you links to resources to learn grammar. Anki decks likely won’t have that. I expect an Anki grammar deck will be a worse experience for you. (I could be wrong, of course.)

MaruMari is worth it under the following conditions:

  1. You enjoy using it.

  2. You are retaining the grammar you learn from it.

  3. You can afford it.

Unfortunately, the free trial is (I believe) only two weeks long.

What was the process like when you tried it before?

This is what makes the Absolute Beginner Book Club valuable. You get a vocabulary list to use to help with vocabulary lookup.

The aforementioned frequency list is also useful for pre-learning the most common words in the material before encountering them.

This deck will give you many words that you may never encounter, depending on the kind of material you consume in the future.

You won’t always have access to a frequency-based vocabulary list for material you want to read or listen to or watch, but any time you do, I recommend putting your SRS focus on the highest-frequency words from the material you plan to consume.

Going back to 「ちいさな森のオオカミちゃん」 as a reference, if you complete the 2K deck, those 2,000 words will translate into knowing 62% of the words in this manga. After completing the 6K portion of the deck, knowing those 6,000 words will give you 75% coverage of the manga.

If you instead focus on learning the highest frequency words in the reading material, you can reach 75% coverage by learning only the top 319 words.

This method lets you recognize more words in less time, allowing you to focus on learning the grammar.

You will unlikely find any native Japanese material that is N5 level.

That’s partly the reason the Absolute Beginner Book Club exists.

We go through the material slowly, build a vocabulary list, and discuss the grammar.

First-time readers are expected to decipher each line of dialogue to try and understand it, while referencing the vocabulary list, asking questions, and learning more grammar.

You won’t feel like you’re actually reading until you’ve worked through enough native material to start recognizing vocabulary and grammar.

The goals are 1) to learn the most common grammar, as this will help you the most in future reading, and 2) to acquire more vocabulary along the way.

Repeat this enough times, and eventually, you’ll reach a point where you feel like you’re actually reading.

I wouldn’t recommend bothering with this for manga that has furigana when you’re still at the N4 level or below in grammar and vocabulary.

If you can get it working, it’s great. I use Mokuro + Migaku for all my manga reading, including material with furigana. It makes lookups quick and easy.

But this has a major downside: the quicker and easier a word is to look up, the more likely you are to forget it just as quickly and easily.

Early on in reading, I believe it’s better to go slower, to pick apart the sentences, figure out the grammar, and get to know the vocabulary words.

Once you reach a point where you already know the highest frequency words in the material you’re reading, and the unknown words are ones you’ll likely only encounter a few times a year at best, then I think Mokuro + Yomi-chan or Migaku becomes worth using for manga that has furigana.

As mentioned above, and by others, 「ちいさな森のオオカミちゃん」 is the easiest manga we’ve gone through and is highly recommended for that reason.

Give it a try and see how it goes.

If the material doesn’t interest you, or if you finish it and are looking for something to continue reading, my number two selection is 「レンタルおにいちゃん」. For this one, the preview on BookWalker covers almost 30 pages and the first three weeks of the book club.

Learning from the volume 1 frequency list gives you 75% vocabulary coverage in 287 words.