How can I get over decision paralysis for picking a grammar resource?

Basically I have a very hard time choosing study resources and being happy with them, and whenever I see people talking online about how whatever resource I am using is bad, I’m like “oh no am I wasting my time” and think about that until I switch to something else. At first I think I was following the itazuraneko.neocities.org main guide, so I was going through the core 2k anki deck and read through Tae Kim’s book. At some point I stopped the core deck and started Heisig’s RTK because I realized all of the characters just looked random to me and it was making it near impossible for a lot of the vocab to stick. At some point I switched to using this instead. I am trying to remind myself that if I reinforce what I learn on WK with communicating in Japanese and reading that it will work well.

I usually am probably too laid back and almost never have any anxiety but I hate sorting through all of the options for grammar. Genki, Tae Kim, Bunpro, Human Japanese, JapanesePod. A youtuber a watch called Tokini Andy said he opted to not even use a textbook and made an Anki deck from the dictionary of basic Japanese grammar and created his own sentences based off of that and went over them with someone on italki. I just feel like there are so many options and a lot of people online have strong opinions about what the right way to learn Japanese is. I’m not even sure if I should be studying grammar yet, because the idea of knowing all of the kanji and a lot of the vocabulary in whatever textbook I use, as well as being able to construct my own sentences with different vocab I already know sounds appealing to me. So on one hand the recommendation from Koichi to wait a few levels before opening a textbook makes sense, but I also don’t want to feel like I am wasting time until then, especially since I feel like I have a lot of time invested in this already and have hardly made any progress. I feel like it would be easier if someone just handed me a detailed schedule of exactly what to do every day so I wouldn’t have to concern myself about it lol.

I realize this post is probably redundant but this is more of a little venting post than anything else. Do any of you also feel the same way? Also I accidentally posted this before it was finished and tried to delete it so sorry about that. :confused:

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why do you think you going to waste time studying kanji/vocab first?
expanding your vocabulary is like 90% of your total study process in any language. If you know the words it’s not really that hard to form sentences and getting the gist of grammar. Japanese grammar is not even that hard and most movies/anime usually use pretty basic grammar points from n5-n4 levels.

I would recommend focusing on kanji/vocab first. Ideally supplementing wk with torii.srs or another app for basic vocabulary.
When you get your basic core- 300 kanji-1000words you can start learning n5-4 grammar- will be easy to learn with knowledge of basic kanji and vocab,
Just pick 1 resource- tae kims/genki- their content is pretty similar and stick with it. Or you can watch a good course from cury dolly on youtube if you prefer learning from videos. Also Tokiniandy covers all 2 Genki books on youtube in 40min format every chapter with explanations. Just stick to 1 resource- dont use all all of them.+ I don’t think there are * bad* resources out there. Content presentation can be different, but their core is pretty much the same, just find the one that suits your taste more.

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One tip from me is that the tool being perfectly efficient matters a lot less than just finding a flow you don’t mind sticking with for a long time. (and that doesn’t have to involve just one single source, or the entire scope of the sources you do use)

For me, for example, I used Genki early on, but I treated it like a book to read on the bus and didn’t do any of the exercises, just read the chapters. Is that the best, most efficient way to use that resource? Not at all, but I had a lot of time on the bus and don’t like doing exercises, so I would have moved through it much more slowly and enjoyed it a lot less (and possibly stopped using it entirely) if I’d felt like I had to use it the Best way. And in the end, looking back, I think that made what I did the better choice for myself in that situation.

So that’s pretty much my advice: I think the choice is a lot less important than it might feel like!
Everything you mentioned I’m sure has something to offer, and when people criticize one resource vs. another the distinctions are more like about formatting and speed than like “if you pick this resource you will be permanently barred from learning Japanese ever in your life.”

So I’d say stick with what you click with, and if you’re burning to try something different, trust that feeling more than general roadmap advice.
The time to learn grammar, for example, is ultimately just when you want to learn grammar - anything else is a very broad guideline that’s going to vary wildly from individual situation to individual situation.

Good luck! :slight_smile:

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The best grammar resource is the one you actually use!

It’s fun to try out new stuff. You might discover a new favorite and you’ll certainly learn more about what works (and doesn’t) for your specific brain.

But if you’re happy with what you have, it makes sense to you, it keeps you wanting to come back, then stick with it and enjoy! (unless of course the reviews are saying that it teaches incorrect grammar, but that’s a different matter.)

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One quote that stuck with me was
“It doesn’t matter if you learn something out of order. If you learn really complex structures one day and basic things the next day that’s okay. You’ll have to learn it all anyway.”

I know that’s not exactly your problem. I’m also overwhelmed by resources.

Here’s my grammar journey for comparison

almost 4 years of studying omg

-Japanese class confusion
-Japanese from zero video (free yay)
-Japanese class with minna no nihongo books 1 and 2
passed N4
-dropped all grammar studying for immersion with native material

Was that helpful at all??

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Personally, I wouldn’t worry too much about trying to optimize your study schedule or figure out the most efficient method. Some people work really well from textbooks, and other people don’t. That doesn’t mean that textbooks are necessarily “bad,” just that they they work better for some people and less well for others. A lot of it depends on how well you’re able to motivate yourself to study. Some people find textbooks too dull and prefer to jump right into native materials as soon as possible, but some people get really frustrated by trying to read stuff that’s far above their ability. I’ve seen people on this forum quit studying for both reasons. As it turns out, the most efficient method in the world is actually terribly inefficient if it causes you to burn out and quit!

But if you like having more structure and a schedule, you might work really well with a textbook! As far as specific textbooks go, if you do want to try that, there are lots of options with different styles of teaching. I’d recommend looking through Tofugu’s list of beginner textbooks and see if any of them speak to you.

If this is how you feel, you might like Minna no Nihongo? It’s what I’m using (I’m currently only on lesson 7, haha, but I’ve been using it consistently for a few months now and really love it). It’s pretty easy to study the vocab for the chapter in advance (I use Anki to help memorize it), and then when you actually read the lesson (the primary textbook is entirely in Japanese), you’ll know all of the vocabulary and will only have to worry about figuring out the grammar. There are a few exercises that also prompt you to write your own sentences with the vocab, too.

With MNN, I started it at level 6, I think, and it was really nice to know a lot of the kanji already, but there was still plenty that I did not know. The truth is, WK levels don’t really correspond to most other resources, so pretty much no matter what grammar resource you use, you’re going to be exposed to kanji you haven’t learned yet anyway. I’ve been working on this spreadsheet that contains all of the kanji introduced in the MNN vocab each lesson along with their WK level, and as you can see, even waiting until level 10 to start grammar, there are still loads of kanji that you wouldn’t know in the first several lessons. Because of this, it might take you a little longer to learn the vocabulary, but the textbook has furigana, so you can always memorize the words just by the kana. When they do show up in WK later, you’ll have already learned them!

My strategy was to start watching Japanese Ammo with Misa’s grammar lessons for absolute beginners playlist on youtube while I was waiting to start MNN. That way, I was still learning some foundational grammar and just familiarizing myself in general with the way that Japanese sentences worked. It made it a lot smoother to start reading MNN, because I already knew all the grammar used in the beginning.

It’s also okay to drop a textbook if you do try one and realize that it doesn’t work for you! If you try any of the options and don’t like them, it’s perfectly fine to stop using it and try something else.

My philosophy is that learning from multiple different sources is really beneficial, anyway, so even if some methods are more efficient for you than others, none of the time you put into studying is really “wasted.” As long as you keep chipping at it and keep going, you’re going to progress towards fluency.

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Prioritize vocabulary if you can’t do it all in parallel.

For me, I got the best result from learning in parallel (do a little kanji, a little vocab, a little grammar, a little reading…you get the point)…but prioritize vocabulary SRS. You are limiting yourself if you need to learn the kanji before vocabulary. I do not care about kanji at first, just use furigana and memorize that pronunciation. If you look at children’s books, a lot of vocabulary will be in hiragana, not kanji. That is how children learn a language. Don’t underestimate your own memory. You will pick up the kanji reading in the future when your WK level matches up.

Review is more important than learning for long-term memory, so do many reviews rather than learning. Do little learning and test a lot. That is why most people will suggest reading a lot. It’s not specific for the reading, but reviewing activity counts. The sources don’t really matter. Just get it down. I even learn with DuoLingo which is frown by many people to get my review activity down.

Why do you think you need to study in order? Because other people tell you so? Different people will have different journeys, so shape your own.

Have you considered that much of this boils down to what works for a specific person (and also to personal taste)?
E.g. many people on the forums love Bunpro, but I hate it; many people on the forums hate Anki, but I love it. :woman_shrugging:

Yeah, I can see that the amount of resources is pretty overwhelming. Have you considered joining a class or getting a tutor and then simply go with what they use? That would take the burden of the decision from you.

As soon as you learn to construct sentences, you are already studying grammar, no? :joy_cat:

Honestly, I am very upset each time somebody mentions that recommendation and I don’t understand at all what its purpose is. Beginner textbooks start from zero and don’t require any previous knowledge of kanji or vocab (they exist to teach you that stuff!) so why the recommendation to wait?

If you are eager to jump into the full language, start studying grammar as soon as possible. If you want to build a foundation of kanji and vocab first and take it slow, then you can safely wait. But it has nothing to do with WK levels. (In fact, I think people who do WK without any grammar studies will have a harder time because so many vocab are grammatical variations of each other…)

Maybe you are really looking for classes then? My favourite language school in Japan runs online classes at the moment. I took their in-person classes for 3 months in total, and it was an amazing experience. If their online classes are only half as good, your knowledge will skyrocket.

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For what it’s worth… this is what I’ve done.
Mainly used Japanese for Busy People 1, but then also switched over to Genki 1 halfway… and then did both books simultaneously (not necessarily recommended, but it helped me). Then I bought Minna no Nihongo 1 and reviewed everything and got much more clarity about structure and form and developed better fluency, and then did Genki 2 and Minna no Nihongo somewhat in tandem. With Genki, I skip the confusing bits and the parts with too much English but utilize the helpful parts. And with MnN I focus on general language skills and specific structures and use their supplemental book and always check my grammar. I’ve basically reached the end of Genki 2 (found diminishing returns in some of the later chapters, except for the listening and reading), but I’ve got about 5 mini-units in MnN.

For intermediate resources, I’m going to use any and everything I can find that is comprehensible, clear, and engaging.

You could try NativShark, that’ll hand you something every day. I was getting on quite well with it but since having to commute again I couldn’t keep up (it has flashcards you have to go through as revision before each lesson) and now (sadly) I think I’ll have to start from the beginning again. It was too much alongside WK for me at the moment, and the few times I actually find for reading and grammar, I know I do find my new kanji knowledge very helpful.
You do have to pay though. But maybe worth a look?

That might be true, but most movies/anime also use a lot of either colloquial/slang language or keigo. For example there is a lot of regional dialects in Oishinbo, children language in Crayon Shinchan, keigo in Kodoku no Gourmet, etc.

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Hi,
I’m new too!

I think it’s a matter of just picking a method (any method) and getting started.

I’ve got Genki 1 (self study). I’m just working through chapter 2 now.
It was basically a coin flip between that and Minna no Nihongo for me.
I got a textbook because I wanted a structured method to guide me, I think I would get lost if I tried to piece it all together on my own. And I like physical books.
I really want to get to reading native materials.
It seems like Genki 1 and 2 should get me to about N4, which should be enough for me to be able to start reading!

If you know that one medium works better for you (video, podcasts, books, etc.) go for that!

Start now… Refine the method later!

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The best resource is the one you will stick with, that is all that really matters.
Pretty much whatever you do, within reason, as long as you stick with it you will improve.

You can stop reading here.

I regret wasting so much time at the start of my Japanese journey trying to find ‘the perfect method’, watching youtubers discuss the pros/cons, reading long reddit threads, or switching between methods - when I could have instead spent that time actually learning the language.

At home above my desk on the wall I have a little card with the following written on it:
“The toolbox fallacy: owning a toolbox doesn’t make you a carpenter”.

The textbooks that others said were right

I own a bunch of textbooks, some partly finished, others barely touched.

I kept banging my head against textbooks trying to convince myself they were the right way, or I kept thinking that if I changed textbooks my problems would go away.

But what I should have realised is that it wasn’t because I didn’t own the right textbook, but because the textbooks weren’t working for me.

The potential efficiency of the textbooks was irrelevant because I couldn’t reliably stick with them.

My story with Kanji and WK

I ove WK, but I spent a lot of time avoiding WK and instead trying other methods.

Why? because other Japanese learners in those threads and youtube videos said that WK wasn’t as good as method X or method Y. So instead I repeatedly tried and failed to follow their paths.

I used to hate Kanji. I previously quit learning Japanese because of how much I hated Kanji.
But now, Kanji is my strength. My reading is easily the strongest part of my Japanese.

But that isn’t because WK is magical pixie dust, it is because WK happens to mesh well with me - it works for me - and it works towards my goals around being able to read native material.

I needed to realise that time spent finding a method or switching between methods is wasted time, its really a form of procrastination, shopping for methods is much easier than actually studying.

Your primary goal should be to build a regular and sustainable routine, it kind of doesn’t matter what order exactly you’re learning things in, as long as you’re moving forward then that is progress.

It might be useful to try think of what your language goals are, and I mean more than “to be fluent”.
Imagine that you wake up tomorrow and you are suddenly imbued with the ability to use Japanese fluently - What would you then do? What would excite you? How would your life change?

Examples

It could be that you’d start binging your favourite anime/manga in Japanese as the lord(s) intended, or it could be watching Japanese Vtubers be silly, or that JRPG you’ve been dying to play but which never got released in the west, maybe you crave the sweet sweet taste of Takeshi’s castle or Japanese television, or maybe you want to go online and talk to Japanese people about life in Japan.

Learning a language is hard work, but if you stick with it you will make progress. Course corrections can come later. They method will likely sort itself out over time.

My focus

I chose to focus on reading, so I weight my studies towards that. My speaking and listening are lagging behind by a lot, but that’s okay for me for where I’m at. I’ll improve those some other time.
Comparing now to 6 months ago, I’m able to see huge improvements. I’m bumbling through a manga with WK’s absolute beginner book club, and I’ve been able to speak to Japanese people online through chat messages.

Sort itself out??

Once you get the ball rolling, your study method will probably sort itself out over time.
This may sound silly, but once you start learning and then trying to do the things you want to do, you’ll start to realise the aspects of your Japanese skills that are holding you back.
At this point you can start incorporating more of that weak skill into your studies, but I find it much easier if that course correction comes from being pulled towards something, rather than being pushed from an external force.

Sorry for the length, I tried my best, I hope some of this was helpful…

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Yes! I know how you feel! I was in the exact same position myself when I joined wanikani back in March.
I used tofugu’s guide to learning Japanese, but I also did a lot of research online to find out what resources other people were using. I felt a bit overwhelmed over how many options there are and I found myself trying to find out as much as I could about each one. Eventually, I just realised that it was better to start studying Japanese in the first place, instead of worrying about whether I was doing it “correctly” or using the best resource. What works best for one person may not work best for me, and vice versa. I gave Tae Kim, Japanese Pod and few others a little taster, but I just wanted to go with the most straightforward option which, for me, was Genki 1. It seemed like the textbook would have everything I needed and was structured in a way I would be able to easily follow.

So I decided to buy the Genki 1 textbook and workbook a couple of weeks after starting wanikani, even though I did not intend to use them until reaching level 10 (which was Koichi’s recommendation).
However, I already had some prior experience making sentences from basic grammar using は、が、に、で、を & と and wanted to practice posting moments on hello talk using the new vocab I had learnt.

For that reason, I instead started using Genki in April, when I was level 4. As someone who reached level 10 two weeks ago, I’m really glad I didn’t wait this long to start using Genki. Even before level 10, I had already learnt some of the kanji and vocab used in the textbook and coming across vocabulary I was unfamiliar with wasn’t a setback at all. I just found a Genki 1 course on memrise to learn the new vocab. Even if I had waited until level 10, there is still a lot of vocabulary in the textbooks that wanikani either doesn’t cover, or, covers at a later level. Also, because I was learning grammar and getting into the habit of making sentences, I was able to start putting the vocab I learnt on wanikani into practice. They became less abstract when I started doing this.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a waste of time to only focus on vocab but on the other hand, if you feel an urge to study grammar or come across a sentence and want to understand why it is structured that way, there’s no harm in picking up a textbook or reading Tae Kim before hitting level 10. There’s no right or wrong way to do this and there are many ways you can supplement your study on wanikani during these early stages. If you don’t want to study grammar yet but still want to do more, you can even try listening to beginner podcasts or watching youtube videos. It can feel like you’re not making much progress in your first 3 levels, but soon enough, a month will go by and you’ll realise how much you’ve learned!

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To paraphrase a popular saying, the best learning tool is the one you started to use yesterday. The second best one the one you start to use today.

TLDR: Toss a coin and do SOMETHING to bring you closer to your goal.

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Immersion as a primary source of learning after N4 gang unite! :sunglasses:

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This 100%! Having an idea of what your goals are and also what way you like to learn (although the second can be found out via trial and error) should really help you sort out which methods are best for you. There’s been a lot of great tips shared in this thread so far but how well they will work for you will depend on you.

Eg. to take an example - a lot of people swear by learning 1000s of vocab via core decks etc and finishing X textbooks before starting reading any native materials. However, I know fine well that whenever I personally have followed that approach I’ve burned out/got bored before I get to any of the fun stuff that gives me motivation (which for me atm is reading). I don’t think that means that the approach is bad (certainly many people find success with it), just that it’s bad for me personally because of my goals and personality.

So yeah - have a think about what your goals are and what kind of learning methods have worked or not worked for you in the past and that should help. But also, as others have said, in the end it doesn’t really matter terribly much if you don’t follow the ‘most optimum path’ starting out - even if you spend the first few months trying out a few different methods until you find what works best for you, in the grand scheme of things that’s not very long at all.

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I recommend choosing a podcast with a transcript or a book with audio to start studying grammar. Studying grammar in context is going to be the best thing for your memory. It’s also the most practical. As you come across things you don’t know, you use a number of different resources to help you figure out the meaning and explain the pattern.

Steve Kaufmann - polyglot with great information about how to study languages
4989American Life - podcast with transcript (free)
The Real Japanese Podcast - podcast with transcript

Good luck! Just get started with something that interests you!

*I’ve been living in Japan for 4 years and was able to improve my Japanese enough to get a job not teaching English using this method

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I like your taste :grin:.

I recently did some BunPro, because when I logged into the community there, it somehow logged me in BunPro as well and gave me a month of trial :thinking:.

I found it super frustrating just like last time. I’ve done most of the N2 but I feel like I’m just translating English into an arbitrary expression. Moreover most of the time it’s just super formal expressions, so I think I’m just doing my brain more harm than good, associating and overwriting much more simpler solutions with ones that are not even used in speaking. I had an abysmal correct percentage rate, but almost always when the answer came I knew it immediately.

Wish there was a mode where it showed me the sentence and I could mark it “understood” or not. Hmm, I wonder if I could extract those sentences to Anki…

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off-topic Bunpro hate and Anki love replies

Yay, friends \o, I thought I was alone.

This so much. Even at the lower levels I kept feeling like I understood the grammar points, but I didn’t understand how BunPro was expressing it and going via their English prompts felt very unnatural. It felt like I was spending more energy trying to learn BunPro than the underlying grammat.

+1, yyeeapp.
When I gave up on BunPro I sent myself an email reminding me of how much I hated it and why, just so I wouldn’t forget and risk going back again. I tried for months and in hindsight it was just all sunken time.

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