How do YOU learn and retain grammar

I’ve spent far too many hours on this. I’m not learning grammar properly. My fault. I have no learning management skills.

The trick with WaniKani is symbol memorisation and rhymes. Problem is that doesn’t work with learning grammar points.

I know the basic particles that everybody does but not 100% on correct use all the time. I’ve started BunPro out of curiosity. Definitely a nice product but I don’t have the management skills to make full use of it, for now.

Someone else suggested Japanese Level Up increased their grammar skills but it’s effectively 350$ or you’re burning money buying individual levels, though admittedly some amount of time has went in from what I can see but I can’t get a feel for it myself because I’m too high for the starting kanji cards but too low for the sentence cards that come after. I think it expects you to learn kanji through writing?

Regarding Japanese Level Up I could see listening, reading and shadowing would be a help to me because I’m not practicing those right now.

Does this make sense? I can’t read stuff because I have poor grammar skills and I can’t grow my skills because I’m useless. When I’m stimulated in remembering and repeat it, usually I can retain stuff. Sort of stuck finding a method or/with a service that can get the ball rolling.

Spent 9 hours today but no dice. I’m interested in how other people do or would do it with my constraints.

I’ve read the Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar literally from cover to cover. :grinning:


What’s the last page you read if I may ask?

I write sentences I read and break them down. And then I color code them.

I also have a subscription with Japanese Pod 101, so that helps, but anytime I encounter a sentence I like to look into the structure of it and google why it is so.


Maybe you chose the book that’s too difficult for your current grammar level? Maybe you need easier books to read for your Japanese Grammar exposure?

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The back one. Why?


Whoa! So you just repeat again what you read, or hmm :thinking: nowadays you read the intermediate one or the advanced one? How do you do that without feeling bored?

Because I want to do that too. I tried but I couldn’t. I’m bored. I usually read it per grammar point I found from reading Japanese book/sentence. So, I read it more per grammar point, not cover to cover.

Well, I confess I’ve gotten a bit stalled in the Intermediate volume. But yeah, for the basic volume I’d stop and use the example sentences for practice as I went, by covering over the translations with my hand.

I’ve kinda always liked reading descriptions of why grammar works as it does.


The main way over learned and retained grammar has been by using Japanese. The main source had been correspondences in Japanese and learning from the mistakes I made and the corrections I received. In addition to this, I would glean the patterns I learned from native speakers to formulate sentences.

I’ve also used reading and listening to expose me to new ways of expressing things I may or may not know hope to say.

More than anything, getting input and feedback is key to learning grammar. You can do grammar point study, but it’s likely to be forgotten if there’s no application too anchor it into your memory.

Another thing to consider is that it’s developmentally taxing to force yourself to learn certain grammar if fundamental grammar that needs to be acquired beforehand isn’t acquired yet. Many people often say this, but during their course of studies, certain things start to click and begin to be comprehensible after a certain point. This is due to a combination of factors including (but not limited to) exposure and having a critical mass of acquired knowledge to help guide acquisition.

So my ultimate advice for you is find ways to apply what you know in Japanese and use it regularly. In addition to this, pay attention to how people/resources use Japanese and emulate it; refining it based on reactions you get from using it with others. Eventually you’ll notice you’re remembering what you’re learning because you’ll see the usefulness of the knowledge


I use BunPro because it has an element of producing grammar from having to fill out the blanks in sentences.

After I got the very basics down, I started reading something way above my skill level, but that I actually enjoyed. I would encounter and thereby reinforce all the grammar as I was learning it on BunPro.


Use. The. Grammar. :wink:


Just do like everyone and get the Genki books. Best way to start learning grammar.


Genki didn’t do it for me, so I’m using Tae Kim instead. Somehow the way he explains things is easier for me to understand. I don’t have any explanation as to why, just personal preference. I bought the book because I like books, but from what I understand it’s identical to the free website. I’m only about 1/3 in, but I already find myself ‘getting’ the structure/meaning of a lot of sentences that I didn’t before.

After I finish this book, I plan on learning grammar through reading/writing/listening/talking rather than more books or bunpro or anything like that. If I don’t understand a sentence structure, or don’t know how to express some idea, ask someone.

However this is specific to my goals - to have conversations with my wife’s family and friends even if my Japanese is less than perfect, and maybe to be able to watch Japanese movies without subtitles. I will never do the JLPT or do any business correspondence in Japanese, or anything like that. So if that’s someone’s goal, then probably my method will not be a good choice for them. Also probably not everyone has a native Japanese speaker living with them

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I’m not quite sure what it means to “know the basic particles.” The particles serve different grammatical functions in different sentence contexts so you can know its usage in one and still not know the other ones.

$350 could buy you an awful lot of textbooks and native reading and listening material imo. I definitely think there are ways without making such a hefty investment.


Use it all the time. Think in it when possible, starting with simple ideas. Play in the language. Make jokes in the language. Watch silly shows in the language. Send text messages in the language, even when the recipient doesn’t know Japanese. Maybe they’ll be a sport and at least try to use Google Translate. The biggest barrier is being willing to look up stuff so that you can think about / express your everyday life in the language.

“What do I want to eat? Maybe I’ll go here. Ah! I remember that I want to buy that thing off of Amazon today. Gosh, my coworker is SUPER noisy. Ugh, I didn’t get enough sleep last night. Why is my boss making me do this stupid task? TRAFFIC AGAIN!?!?! Maybe I’ll listen to this audiobook while cooking dinner.”

These are the small things that lead to you developing a basis for the language that you can then build from. You can then go on to expressing more complicated ideas. A practical definition of fluency in your target language is having the ability to express yourself in a natural way.


Are you totally set on being a self-learner?

Because otherwise, I will throw out the controversial option of trying lessons. Actually, this could even be a suggestion if you used an online service with a tutor, rather than going to classes.

Classes can be pricey, and they might not progress perfectly at the speed you’re capable of, but if they force you to go and actually learn Japanese every single week, and perhaps force you to do exercises as homework, then you’ll progress more than you otherwise would. I’m not the kind of person who is good at establishing self-imposed routines, so for starting out lessons were essential for me.

You’ll also be forced to talk in Japanese, which can be a big barrier for many self-learners.


Maybe. I have some Snoopy comics made for learning Japanese. I’ve tried some other kids stuff. NHK EZ. The Bible. Some other web based stuff based on grade or JLPT levels. A site with some folk tales. Terrace House. I think my method of approach is the area that needs fixing, like a formula to cement what’s here and build a path in front.

Yes I feel the same way. I need a routine in which I repeat it effectively. I’m on my own so this cannot help organically like it does with a potential practice partner. So I write it a few dozen times. Do I improvise using random WK learned vocab. The next problem from that is maintaining focus, balancing the learned material with the new without it being an ever increasing weight of “sort-of-learned” things (which is why SRS management systems solve my personal management shortcomings) and most importantly checking that my grammar is correct somehow.


I have the first book but have used it myself, maybe had one attempt. I went through many lessons with a one-to-one tutor a year ago using it but I eventually kept using the same vocab anytime I had to speak. This was before WK though. I cannot draw the vocab from my memory, I need to read them. I guess this stresses how I need to start employing them creatively myself somehow and listening/shadowing speech. I don’t talk much verbally in any part of my life right now.

Definitely a good resource. My trouble is sticking it into my brain. I feel I’m allergic to textbooks and just learn through brute force examples repeated over and over. You’ve got everything you need, it sounds like. Best of luck!

I wanted to somehow say the singular character particles that everyone learns to begin with, through a textbook or class.

You’re right. I respect his efforts but it’s an extreme hustle for such a large flat payment for what you’re getting. I don’t know if there’s any server side aspect to it. Still keeping it in mind though. I could see it being stimulating for me (if it started to work, especially).

This and the rest, I get you. I’m someone who cannot stop thinking at least, just not in Japanese because I don’t have the ability to recall it yet. Wanting to recall, searching it, then employing it, noted. There’s always that nagging “but I don’t know enough yet feeling”. Waiting for the work to do itself which will never happen, I realise.

I have to. There’s a sense of burden of more management when you begin to involve other people. Even this thread is an example, a last resort, and there’s a unspoken understanding that when we leave this thread there are no real obligations to one another. I don’t want to begin to irritate the few good people I know with the frequency I would need it at this early stage, I do want to keep them around, namely some Italian students of Japanese (who I helped with some of their Masters in English Linguistics) and a Japanese friend who I could call upon if I was really stuck for a native’s input. In short, involving other people is a weight of expectation that will collapse from no management skills. I do things more randomly, unfortunately. It’s easy to build oneself up with goals and acknowledgement from peers but the real battle is keeping that kindled which never works for me. Continuing or completing tasks is a struggle.

I’ve went a bit off track here but I did take a short class that I never finished and one to one lessons which I did not make progress on. These kind of inevitably require in-between management if that makes sense, which is where the real progress is made. I probably spent around $500 in total on these.

Thanks for all the words. Appreciate the thoughts. I’m not whining, but I was extremely frustrated and tired from wasting my day yesterday then going to work with 2 hours sleep after. I’ll think about what to try over the next few days. If I make progress I’ll report back at some point, or not at all if I fail. :heart:

I’ve got the curse of the gamer brain where my dopamine is just burned out, which is why WK worked for me so well.

Let someone else to teach you. in a classroom, with a teacher and classmates. Works for me.

Learn: Grammar books
Retain: Listen to hours and hours of podcasts


Before taking care of grammar, we’ve got to address this first. While it’s true that thinking “I am invincible” won’t actually make you invincible, thinking you’re useless will most definitely work against you. We all have limitations; the trick is designing personalized methods that play to our strengths and reduce the impact of our weaknesses. I don’t recommend motivational pep talks or a glamorized sense of self-worth or capability. Just be real, be honest. Look at the landscape that is Japanese. There are grassy rolling hills, but that’s the endgame. Look around your feet and see that you’re standing before mountains. Allow yourself to say, “some things here are easy, but overall this is going to be hard, painful at times even.”

Can you control how much sleep you get? Life prevents some people from doing so, so if that’s the case, I understand. But otherwise, you’ve got to take care of your body. Effective language learning is hard, hard work (even if you’re only doing it all internally in your head), and if you show up already exhausted and defeated, you will continue to waste most of your time.

As for language learning, if you’re in dire straits, I recommend we take inspiration from our first steps. You learned your native language by constant exposure. You were fluent before you read any native-language textbook on grammar. Yeah, it took years, but because you were immersed in your native language environment, you really didn’t have a choice. This is a double-edged sword, though. When we have the choice of kicking it in our native language environment and playing fun games, talking with friends, reading, etc. or doing something in a language that hurts to work with, we’d obviously naturally be like the electron and take the path of least resistance.

This is your strength, not your weakness. WaniKani is the Balloon Fight in Animal Crossing, The Prairie King in Stardew Valley, the hack-n-slash dream in MGS3. WaniKani is the game within the language-learning game. The hacker spirit and the gamer spirit are not terribly different. Games have rules, mechanics, and the gamer is first at their mercy, struggling to win and understand how everything works. But then the gamer masters the mechanics, and as Morpheus would say, begins to bend and break the mechanics, and now the game is at the mercy of the gamer who is only limited by the core mechanics. I can air dodge? Sweet, watch me basically use that on the ground. Now I’m wavedashing with some invincibility frames to boot.

The “rules” for effective language-learning are guided by general human psychology and how the brain works. Your specifics, though, are entirely dependent on how you work.

Back to language-learning, predecessors to WaniKani looked at how kanji was being learned in Asia. Sure, it works, but it takes years of formal education. These people realized it could be done more efficiently with imaginative memory. They effectively hacked the kanji-learning system. Others studied memorization techniques and realized the efficacy of spaced repetition. These people effectively hacked study methods.

WaniKani is sufficiently gamified, but language-learning in general is not as gamified as WaniKani. This is where you hard work starts. No PS2? No problem. I’ve got emulators, and now I’ve got save states and memory editors and all that action. What about the Japanese language? No Japan? No problem. Time for you to emulate a Japanese environment. But you’re not going to Japanese primary school, no. You’re recreating a world in Japanese, so you get to pick things that interest you, things that are fun. You mentioned you like to bounce your attention around to different things all the time, so fill your surroundings with Japanese versions of all of those different things. These are the “laws” that can be broken (you don’t need to go to Japanese primary school).

Some laws can’t be broken, though. As others have said, you’re probably like most people in that you won’t retain what you don’t use. That’s the limit of la cabeza. Keep your SRS handy, because you need to use its memory-hacking approach to reinforce the grammar you learn as you jump between all the media you’re interested in. Remember that time you became a Street Fighter grand master by playing three matches? Right, didn’t happen. You had to go back to the same arena, with the same character, and the same buttons, and try new combinations for hundreds, nay thousands, of hours, but eventually you recognized patterns, and you start to predict your opponents’ moves, and you start to crank your own out subconsciously. Japanese is now your Street Fighter, and your score is how much you’re able to understand in reading and listening and then eventually how much you can correctly output.

What are the variables in your environment that you can control? Which Japanese things are you interested in? These are the things you can tune and exploit.

Have you tried making sentence cards out of the examples sentences for the grammar points?

It’s got to be fun. If it’s a chore, you’ll opt to do other things. Not everything in the beginning is fun, so you might have to develop a reward system for yourself. Want to game a little? Not so fast–have you finished a single Tae Kim grammar point? Or have you done your Anki reviews? Or have you made some sentence cards? Knock those out, and then take a little break.

When it comes to anything language-learning for me, I personally find “read x pages of the novel” or “learn y vocabulary terms today” to ironically make me reluctant to learn in some cases. Ugh, x, y?! I have time for x/4 right now, but I want to knock it out in one fell swoop, so I’ll save it for when I have time later. “When I have time later,” hah. So I just remove the x, the y. “Read the novel,” “learn vocabulary.” Psychologically, this helps me, as there are no expectations. Just do it, and stop wherever you need to stop. I often find myself doing more than what I otherwise would have committed to.

Right now you’re getting punched in the face, but with some hacking on your own environment and with transforming any conceptual language-learning to language-learning reinforced by practice, you will become Daigo.

Also, hearkening all the way back to the initial quotes in my response, if you’re down on yourself, maybe check this out. There are three yous, your new best friends.

From sapiens to ludens.
-Kojima Hideo