As of writing I’m at level 17, well into the ‘Painful’ portion of the curriculum, and I do take a look at the example sentences, or at least their english translation, to know roughly what is meant by the item in question, what context it’s supposed to be in, etc. I can pick apart the kanji very slowly usually for the low and intermediate-level example sentences and slowly mouth out the attached kana, but I can never fully “understand” them, I feel.
So for those further along, at what point were you comfortably able to understand the Japanese example sentences, especially the more complicated ones?
(Yes, I have been slacking hard on Grammar. I’m as monolingual as they come so it’s hard to learn and fully understand concepts that are so ingrained in English that you never think about them, and because I have such a hard time parsing the information given into a concrete understanding, moving forward becomes very difficult. I currently only use Tae Kim’s guide with Bunpro for revising the grammar points.)
I worked through Genki 1 before starting WK and from the beginning I’ve been able to read and understand basically all of the top example sentences (there’s always 3 example sentences and the top one is usually the simplest, I find). I also speak more than one language which probably helps me. Without entirely knowing the answer I’d guess that the key to understanding the example sentences is diving further into grammar study rather than reaching a certain WK level. Best of luck to you, I think you can do it! It’s going to sneak up on you, but if you keep at it then one day you’re gonna have that ‘a-ha’ moment like, ‘wait, I just understood that entire Japanese sentence?’ and it’s gonna be a great feeling
At the beginning of my WK journey, the example sentences were mostly incomprehensible to me. Whenever I do lessons, I physically write each new vocab word in a notebook along with at least one example sentence, and then I break that sentence down and mark new words and grammar structures that I’m not yet familiar with. It wasn’t until I reached the mid-20s levels that I began to notice I could look at some of the sentences and understand them completely. Even now in the mid-30s, I’m still doing this “sentence mining” with the example sentences and still finding plenty of new words and grammar concepts I don’t know yet.
If there’s something that I can’t find a good online explanation for, sometimes I’ll go on HelloTalk and ask a native speaker what it means or how to use it.
For me, the more grammar I learn, the easier they become. After a few levels the vocab usually won’t be the biggest problem, as you can usually read a large percentage of words in those sentences. Grammar is the harder part though, since they tend to use whatever grammar points are required to make a coherent sentence. The more grammar you learn, the more you’ll understand how the words fit together. This also helps you figure out the meanings of the few words you might not know at first sight, which makes it a lot easier to get a logical meaning out of those sentences although logical might not be the right word given that most of them involve Koichi or Tofugu encountering some rather odd scenarios.
The common theme in these answers seems to be that grammar knowledge is the biggest factor in understanding the example sentences, not Kanji. I wouldn’t really expect there to be a consensus level in WK where people start to find that they can understand the examples. Everyone is going to have different amounts of prior knowledge and experience coming into WK, and are going to spend different amounts of time studying outside of WK as well. In theory, you could go through all 60 levels of WK, learn all the Kanji, and never learn any grammar at all.
I don’t know if you’re just curious about other’s experiences, or if you are worried that not being able to understand the examples is somehow a problem. If you’re in the former group then cool, but if you feel like you’re more in the latter group, I wouldn’t be concerned too much. My understanding from some other posts on the forums is that a decent chunk of the examples aren’t super practical anyways.
In the beginning, the trick is to get excited whenever you can understand something. This is what keeps me going.
I’m in a similar position, though slightly earlier in WK terms (clearing out level 13 vocab right now). I learned a bit of grammar very early on while I was still figuring out my overall learning method. WK was the thing that really clicked for me, so I’m much farther ahead with kanji and related vocab than with anything else (grammar, listening, speaking).
For most of the example sentences I encounter, I could probably not understand them on their own. But I try to figure out bits and pieces, then compare with the English translation and be like “yeah okay that makes sense”. I’m not actively looking for new grammar points or anything though.
May I go off topic to recommend the Absolute Beginner Book Club? The more reading you do, the more you’ll come to recognize and understand the grammar. You’ll start to build up pattern recognition for the most common grammar before you know it. In the discussion threads, grammar gets talked about a lot, and you can ask questions on any grammar you don’t know that comes up in the book.
I would raccomand the book I’m currently Reading: Basic Japanise Grammar.
It’s a super basic book but it contains the majority of the grammar, and phrase structure conceps you would need in an every day conversation.
I think that a bigger book for starters would be too much, besides I got the raccomandation for this particular book from a youtube channel by a Japanise native speaker that was preasing it.
If I understand all the vocab, for the most part, I understand the first two just fine. Third sentence tends to be harder and use more kanji, but sometimes I understand it too. Mind you I’ve been studying Japanese for like 2 years, so even though my level is just N4ish I can still read pretty well and have a pretty alright grasp on basic grammar.
I weirdly think that the second sentence example is the hardest because sometimes words are half kanji and half hiragana and then I don’t recognize them as a word. So I often find myself being confused by the second sentence but if the third sentence happens to contain vocabulary that I’m familiar with it’s more likely I’ll be able to understand it.
I actually started Genki 1 at level 2, with my only real knowledge of japanese being hiragana and katakana before that. Genki has furigana just about everywhere, especially near the beginning, so you can follow it without knowing any kanji at all. It does become easier the more kanji you know though, but it’s hardly required. I worked through it while doing the first levels and it worked really well for me.
I was thinking about this just the other day. I really like dedicating time to the example sentences. Having the translation is nice to corroborate your mental translation. It helps me correct mental mistakes, ex: my mental translation was in the present tense instead of past, or active instead of passive.
As others have suggested, the example sentences’ comprehensibility lines up pretty well with your general Japanese comprehension. I think my success with the example sentences is about the same as it is with ‘real’ Japanese in manga, the web, or anime.
This is a weird experiment I’ve been doing with my Japanese study, but I went through some of the basic grammar on Tae Kim and then stopped entirely. I did this because after I got a little comfortable I found that the way grammar structures are put together in Japanese is kind of similar to how they work in my native languages. Thing is, I never learned a single grammar point in either of them but can use both decently well.
I felt like the key to picking up grammar was to know some of the basics and then expose myself to as much native content as possible and figure it out intuitively, instead of memorising the grammar points one at a time (cause that’s how I did it as a kid, right? My parents just kept talking to me lmao) Right now, I can understand most of the example sentences to some extent, unless there are kanji in there I don’t know.
I’d recommend dipping your feet in the waters of native material, as long as it’s stuff where you know most of the kanji already.
I’ve been using Matt vs Japan’s method on Netflix for a while now.
In my opinion, you will never understand japanese sentences if you only stick to WK. there are too many things in Japanese that are only written in Hiragana, so you won’t learn them here. The particles that put sentences together and verb conjugations are all kana-only, and they’re a big deal. That’s where I’m at, I can read particular Kanji, but it’s like “that sentence says something something 12 o’clock something something”. It’s the grammar knowledge that will unlock the rest.
I had learnt absolutely nothing prior to starting Genki, and it actually wasn’t too challenging! I just spent a couple of weeks getting a good grasp of hiragana and katakana in the beginning and then Genki slowly teaches you the kanji that they use as you progress. Doing all the exercises in both the textbook and the workbook really helped solidify those kanji for me, even without my beloved wanikani mnemonics.
It all depends on your grammar knowledge. When I reached lvl 60, I had only Genki up to chapter 10 and could not understand most of the example sentences. Now I’m at chapter 19, I can understand most of them. I use Bunpro to supplement Genki’s workbook. In the past I used Tae Kim guide… but my impression is that while Genki is slower, the material that you learn there sticks with you (provide you do all the exercises).