How much grammar should I learn before reading?

I’m only level 4 right now so there’s a lot of work ahead of me before I’d be able to read anything but since it’s my goal to read untranslated manga, I’m thinking a lot about it :stuck_out_tongue:

My question is - how much grammar should I learn before reading? I use Genki in my studies and I’ve just started recently so I’m only at chapter 3 of Genki I. Should I know grammar from Genki I and II before reading any japanese texts in order to fully understand them? Oh! And what other textbooks would you recommend alongside or after finishing Genki I & II?


Can’t answer your question much as i’m in the same boat as you, but i have Japanese material i bought recently that i cannot read and don’t even know what most of it is. However, it is giving me inspiration as something to work towards understanding, and even with my very low level Japanese i’m able to pick up a few phrases from the books… personally i don’t think it’s ever too early… just be prepared not to know what’s going on. It’s also helpful i think to see the things we learn in a textbook in a completely different context and in a ‘natural’ form.


You need to think about what you consider as “reading”. What you should be doing (even now) is immersing yourself in as much Japanese as you can. If you come across some Japanese outside of your textbooks, try to read and understand as much as possible. Even try to get into the habit of reading over some of the stuff in the Japanese only section on here. This will really help you get used to Japanese sentence structure, as well as improving your kana reading skills.

As far as reading manga and other texts, this kind of depends. I never read Genki I, but I’d say by the time you’re half way through, you should be able to pick up a decent amount of content from some lower level manga. Just make sure to keep checking out stuff and trying to integrate it into your life. You can’t just read through a book for 6 months and do nothing else, since nothing will reinforce what you’re learning.

As far as other resources go, I’m not the best person to ask. I’m sure other people will have some good recommendations though.

This. While it’s good to get good at understanding example sentences in textbooks, this alone will certainly not help you with native material. There’s an important distinction between Japanese for learners, and Japanese for natives.


You don’t have to fully understand what you’re reading. Personally, I started reading before finishing Genki I, though I don’t know exactly which chapter I was at. If you reach a sentence you can’t make sense of (which happens frequently in the beginning), you can try to look up stuff and decipher it, or leave it alone for now if it’s being too difficult.

If you want to start reading when you can already understand everything, it will never happen. You can only understand (almost) everything if you have practice, which you get by reading. Take what you understand as a sign of progress and what you don’t as a need to learn more.

If you keep hard at it, you’ll end up learning a lot of grammar through reading rather than textbooks, and then you can see a textbook explanation later to clarify things. You don’t have to see it in a textbook first.


I think the question here shouldn’t be when or where to start. In fact, I think you should focus on the concept of x + 1, x being your skills today. This concept implies that you should always push 1 step further from what you already understand, even if what you know is very little. This method allows you to not only reinforce what you know (until it gets intuitive) but also to lazer focus on what you don’t know. This should be used in reading, listening, writing and speaking. You should always try to push this 4 skills one step further. Reading will give you the tools to boost your writing and listening will give you the tools for your speaking.

Also, realize that in order to become fluent, you have to completely integrate yourself and your daily life in the language. This means that you shouldn’t focus on reading a bunch a books, speaking for hours or writing a thesis every day. It means that you should be lazer focused on making progress in these 4 categories every day. It means you should focus on developing new habits. Then, you just need to climb the stairs one step at a time and you’ll get there :slight_smile:

Just my 2c.


Just my recommendation, finish at least Genki I and have that basic stuff under your belt without overwhelming yourself with too many other resources.

If you want to do manga, I would then consider picking up Japanese the Manga Way. It covers the same basic grammar as things like genki I & II but from the manga angle and gives examples from Japanese manga.

I personally did Japanese the Manga Way after finishing Japanese from Zero 1-4 (which is basically the equivalent of Genki I and II) and even though it has the same grammar points, there is a lot to learn from the manga dialogue type perspective and I found it pretty easy after already having the basic understanding from Japanese from Zero.

You can get practice from NHK Easy pretty early on, but that utilizes grammar a little different from manga (more formal, etc. ) but still good to reinforce things as you go.

I started reading manga around level 15 WK after finishing JFZ 1-4 and Japanese the Manga Way. Just regular manga I would normally read, not childrens or anything. There is still a learning curve, but my grammar was pretty good, it was the kanji I had to look up most.

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Actually, you have to read, fully understand, and take a quiz on this before you’re even allowed to read Japanese.


I would recommend you to just try different resources (which can include manga), and see what works best. It’s not like you lose anything by trying things out, it’s all part of the learning process. If something proves too difficult, move over to something more basic. Then once you feel like you’ve improved you can retry it, or try something completely different. There’s no reason to speculate if or when you’ll be able to do something when you can just give it a try!

On a final note I’d like to give you some recommendations on grammar learning resources.

Bunpro is a website which offers a SRS system similar to wanikani’s but for practising grammar.

Japanese from Zero is a video series teaching grammar, based on the books of the same name. I don’t own the books, but the videos series is a personal favourite.

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Omg! Thanks! Japanese the Manga Way seems to be exactly what I was looking for. It’ll suplement my other grammar sources like Genki and Bunpro nicely. Once again - thanks! :smile:

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For me, starting to try reading too early was really counter intuitive. I would say get to the point where you can recognize basic verb tenses and about 10 particles. Like, the first two chapters of Tae Kim maybe. Then start on reading the easy stuff (よつば). Everything you read before that can be specifically geared toward you (like textbook examples) because before that, you won’t learn anything by reading in the wild any way. (Or, at least, I didn’t)

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Personally, I found trying to read too early to be overwhelming and pretty… down-heartening. It’s depressing when you try to read something and you can’t understand any of it, and it’s really difficult to even look things up when you don’t even know what exactly to look up. After that experience, I kind of lost traction for a bit, and now that I’m back I’m determined to really double down on my grammar learning.

So! I found this guide here that is pretty much centered on learning Japanese through reading and how you can get to the point where you can start reading!

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Hi there !

Do you know about Japanese Graded Readers ?
When I first took japanese classes last year ( studying with Genki), I borrowed it from the library
It’s a series of really small books, you have four by volume, and with each volume, the level increases, the sentences are longer too
I really liked it, because I was able to understand what I was reading only after having studied a few chapters from Genki I. And as for the vocabulary, it was really simple to look it up, as the structure of the sentences was simple too.
I had tried to pick up a book before, and I know that it can be quite difficult and disheartening to read something you don’t understand But you won’t feel this way with Graded readers, I think it’s really well made, you should take a look


The opposite is also true! I read all three sets of Japanese Graded Readers Level 1, and they were entertaining and completely clear to me, so that was a huge motivation boost. I recommend these wholeheartedly. They’re a bit pricey outside Japan, but I found mine at a library, so that’s something to consider.


lucky! I wish my library had these. Everything at my library is way to easy, or way to difficult…

You can honestly start reading whenever you want, but if you want to know when it’s comfortable to read (like not having to stop mid sentence every sentence to look up words/grammar to understand) I’d say that came after reading tobira for me, as well as a lot of graded readers and satori reader.

I first started reading when I completed about 4-5 chapters of Genki I. I couldn’t understand much at the time and I was constantly looking up words and grammar points. Eventually I was reading so much I started slacking on continuing studying grammar formally with Genki. By the time I decided to do that, I already knew most of the grammar in the book just from reading. So you can start reading quite early if you’re dedicated enough.

Oh yes! Graded Readers are definitely awesome. I’ve been dying to get my hands on some but the price is just too much ;; It’s just really difficult to find material for beginner beginners, so you will more often than not run into material that’s above your level and really overwhelming :,c

+1 to what @jprspereira said about +1.

That being said, while i think that’s theoretically the best, in practice, I think it’s kind of hard to do. Personally, I think going through a textbook like Genki 1, supplemented with something like, provides a decent amount of reading practice. I think did a fairly good job making the example sentences in a way where, as long as you do the grammar in order, you get that +1 experience.

Graded readers also sound like a great option - but I can’t find any that are even close to within my budget so… yeah.


In my opinion it’s never to early to start reading while learning another language. I’m, for example, only at lvl 1 in wanikani and just ordered my first two japanese mangas, so I can start reading as soon as possible. I will probably understand almost nothing, but I can pick out what I already know, which is always a great motivation. That’s exactly the same way i learned english. I had really bad english teachers back when i was in school and I literally didn’t learn any usefull stuff at all. My english started to get better, once I lurked around the net on the search of english webpages or while playing english games and reading english books, and so on. Immersion is key, even though you won’t understand much.

I don’t knwo many ressources to learn grammar and stuff. I use the Japanese level up beginners course with wanikani and it works great together so far.

There’s also a whole Level 0, so even if Level 1 is too difficult for you all is not lost!

You can get an idea of the difficulty of each level here:

Much though I think reading native material is incredibly important, I think that that’s often just not feasible at extremely beginner levels, and I think a graded reader is basically equivalent to a native book for teeny tiny children - it’s written very carefully for a specific audience, and is designed not to be too difficult. The difference is that a graded reader will cater more towards the sort of learning curve a foreign speaker will experience.

I’m very much of the philosophy that it’s better to read lots of material that’s pretty easy (+1) than to slowly struggle through something too difficult. You’re also much more likely to keep reading if it’s enjoyable rather than a slog.