How to keep grammar in place?


Hello. By now I’ve been 4 months into my WK routine, and I’ve managed to keep a good rythm and to make a somewhat effective routine to keep seeing the vocab and kanjis I learn on a regular basis, aided with Anki mostly.

I can’t say the same for grammar. I’ve finished Genki 1 on January, and was a relief actually, since the workbook and all the time it took me to fill the exercises felt like chores and was something I just didn’t enjoy it by the end (I actually enjoy kanji, vocab and sentence mining for they are really connected to the media I watch). The dialogues form the book, vocab it provided and the explanations where ok though.

Now after a month from finishing the book I notice all the writing and practice it’s gone… I have a thin memory of what many of the grammar points were about, but I see that rather early I’m starting to forget them.

To be honest I haven’t continued with Bunpro this month, which I did when doing Genki. The fun it’s not there for me neither. :pensive:

With vocab it’s easy, since I use sentences from the shows I watch, but given they come as subtitles, those aren’t too long and many grammar points aren’t apearing. Same for my Graded Readers, which being only Level 1, keep senteces fairly short and basic.

So perhaps you could give me some advice on how to cement that grammar. I’m hesitating to continue with Genki 2 now…

thanks guys!!

Studying without textbooks
Genki breakdown?

I personally find that writing helps.

For my classes we have a writing test which involves writing about 400 characters, and I have to write 4-min scripts for our speaking tests. In that length, I have to try to show off as much of the grammar I’ve learnt as possible. I find that actually using those constructions in a piece of writing really helps to cement it for me.

Could you set yourself topics to write about, and try to showcase particular forms of grammar you know? If it’s a topic you find interesting it will probably make it more motivational.

I imagine that fellow self-study learners will have more useful advice, but that’s what sprung to mind for me.


My suggestion might sound old-fashioned, but maybe you should try drilling (à la the “Audio lingual-method”) or the more en vogue “Shadowing” method. I know for sure that the grammar patterns I studied from JSL are stuck inside my brain for the rest of my life.


The advice I commonly see, which I have also found to be true, is that with grammar you will have to encounter an idea many times, in many different ways before it “sticks”. So it is recommended to use alot of different resources to expose yourself to the same ideas in different contexts and with different presentations.

I would try a different textbook ( and ideally a number of different textbooks).
Also, if you do not already have it, tae kim’s book is great, and the Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar is a must have. Putting all the example sentences from DBJG in anki and then working those is a really strong idea.

As far as a practice, i really like doing translations. Pick something you have watched / read / listened to with subtitles so you know the content fairly well. And just try to go through it and decipher the text using your resources. This will force you to recognize grammar as it is used in real Japanese texts.

It is worth pointing out as well that compared to kanji, there is a lot less to learn concerning grammar. (And here I want to make a distinction, I mean “learn” in the academic sense of knowing a specific piece of information, not to be confused with “understanding”). DBJG has maybe 170 entries and that is going to cover the vast majority of grammar that you are going to encounter in texts (or be tested on in JPTL for that matter).

One last thing. There is a difference between grammar (of which there is not a whole lot), and the fact that many ideas are expressed differently in Japanese than in English /romance languages (of which there are tons of examples).

For example, 私はすしが好き。 is a simple A ha B ga C sentence, which is one of the first things you will learn. Knowing that pattern doesn’t teach you that many things that are expressed as verbs in english (to like) get expressed with adjective forms like the above sentence (As for me, sushi is likeable = I like sushi). There are a million things like this.

The only way I have heard to learn this is doing lots of native sentences in anki and reading lot.

Sorry to ramble, hope this helps.
And seriously, Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar is indispensible.


Yeah, seconding this - reading about the same topic from many different angles is a great way to make it stick. If you just keep re-reading the same textbook, your brain will just shut off because it’s seen that paragraph a million times before.

I’d also try to get into reading, because then you’ll encounter the grammar forms you’ve been learning about. Being forced to recognise and understand them should help them stick.


Are you trying to use any of it? If you’re not at Genki 2 yet, then surely it’s all basic, nuts-and-bolts type stuff. How much are you talking to natives?


There is also intermediate and Advanced, and I have found both are missing certain grammar points.

The grammar usually follows a logical pattern, and the rules of the language are pretty consistent, but there are a lot more specific grammar constructs than in the three dictionaries.

And seriously, Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar is indispensible.

But yes, this is true.
Probably one of the best purchases you can make.


Is this the book of which you speak?


That’s it.
There’s an intermediate and advanced book too.

I would say its a good investment to make; its exactly as it says, a dictionary of grammar terms rather than a text book.
So grammar is arranged alphabetically, so if you want to know what “のに” is for example, you would look for “N” and find it under that; it then provides a break down of meaning with example sentences and explanation of nuance/comparison of similar terms.

It doesn’t try to teach anything though everything is handled as a reference rather than a lesson; which makes it invaluable in my opinion.
Its also a lot more complete and useful than Bunpro in my opinion; but that has its own uses and merits.


Thanks for the tip. It’s a bit pricey and I’d rather have a digital book but I do want to work on my grammar.


Ebay or Amazon second hand.
I got a copy of the intermediate for about £15 on Ebay and a copy of the beginner for £20 used on Amazon.

You probably only need the beginner for the time being.
Also, its a dictionary with about 700 pages, so paper is easier.
You can just flick to N and find what you need instead of having to scroll for an age.

Here, for you Americans.


The basic grammar dictionary is really good, but I’m not sure if it’s really all you need to learn enough grammar. I think at least the intermediate one is necessary as well to learn enough grammar.


Wow, thanks!! That’s lots of responses.

So, basically my resources until now were Genki 1 and Bunpro.
I’ve started doing some Shadowing (Shadowing: Let speak japanese vol 1). And that has put some lines in my repertoire and improved my listening, some grammar too, but these are short lines as well. Since I’m not speaking much, I’m not sure it will pay off very soon, but I clearly see how it can help when speaking more regularly, so after my secont chapter with the book, I’ll just continue with the same practice on my own sentences.

Most of the grammar that I’m learning it’s fairly basic still. But the main thing it’s I want to create an habit out of grammar as well, since for the rest of the study routine I see it can be quite possible.

I have the DBJG, an probably it’s the best resource I’ve found; have ordered the intermediate one as well. Actually I’ve found the sentences made Anki deck with the corresponding words, so It’s like having a digital version now :star_struck:

For now the more tempting idea it’s: read a lot. and just as I found new words an add them to my vocab deck, do the same for grammar, since with the DBJG been in Anki I can search rather quickly now.

Has someone study grammar without a textbook? how do you do it?

The idea of writing actually sounds very good too. Will start with my own sentences, and the little paragraphs of things I care about as well.


I’m just quoting this post here. How much are you actually using Japanese? Virtually everything in Genki 1 is stuff you will see and use every single day.


Actually I’m doing much more japanese studying than actual usage of the language for now… :persevere:

I’m hoping to change that rather sooner than later. For now my reading it’s reduced to 2-3 Graded Reader tales every week. And watching japanese shows with jsubs (undertsanding 20% perhaps :man_shrugging:) , then same thing with L1 subs and filling the gaps (sometimes big gaps), maybe 3-4 times a week as well.

Then those lines come back in the format of sentences when I review them in Anki, those are graded in a fashion too (Subs2SRS/Morphman) and include particles as well (but no conjugations, as morhpman uses morphemes), so I’m reviewing them in the DBJG whenever they come.
The immersion part with the kanji / vocab / listening feels really enjoyable now… grammar, I’m trying to throw it into the mix somehow :sweat_smile:


Japanese is the 7th language I am learning. This language is the first one with a different writing script, that can feel exhausting or even stop the learning progress in the other areas of the language.

From the time management perspective there are only two possible ways:
a) Do everything in your daily routine (either overload more your daily routine, or doing less but everything)
b) To mix things by intervals (dedicated periods to each activity); one day or week for each activity or partitioning by larger periods of time.

Now I am planning to move from strategy A to B: keeping a constant daily study but trying to move to a mixed model (sometimes focusing in the progress of different areas of the language).

I studied the problem of language acquisition, somehow it is always convenient to mix the next aspects:

  • Grammar
  • Vocabulary
  • Production (Grammar)
  • Immersion (listening, reading, vocabulary context)
  • Writing system

I always tried to do everything every single day, but it is very demanding (especially if you have an intellectual job. I am assuming you are levelling more or less at a fast pace (between 7 and 9 days); if you want to keep that pace and you do not want to overload more your daily routine you will have to find a way to combine and mix the learning areas in a way that works for you.

Since I am not dedicated to this topic professionally I cannot give a scientifically baked answer but from my experience learning, it might make sense to take breaks in the active learning in order to focus on learning or immersing.

When I was learning german I remember I took two breaks of 3 months between periods of intensive study to just relax and read, write, listen and live in the country, which also consolidated the base of all what I learnt before continue the studies.

If you want to give it a chance: my breaks were after complete the complete beginner level (pre-intermediate) and after complete the intermediate level. I am not sure whether it is faster or helps against bad habits but it helps achieving fluency and consolidating knowledge, it also helps against burning after intensive periods of learning (just do not forget to review and use your Kanji which is the part that cost more to acquire).


The problem with just sentences like that is you just memorize the sentences. I’m going to highly suggest Hello Talk or something of that nature.


I think this is a good point, and it’s one that a lot of people overlook. I moved to Germany in August and the last 2 months or so I made notes of new vocabulary, etc. but dialled way back on intensive learning and just watched some shows, did some readings for uni, etc. I still need to put all the vocab in my AnkiApp deck, but with hindsight I think this mental break was really helpful. I still picked up German, my speaking and especially listening has really come along, and I think if I’d been doing all the other things alongside that, intensively, coupled with being in a new country and everything it would probably have all been too much.


I’ve never used a traditional classroom-style textbook like Genki or Tobira if that’s what you mean. Not sure if I would recommend it, but as far as I can tell it’s worked out alright for me. If you really hate Genki and want some alternate recommendations let me know, but I don’t think it matters too much what you use to get a handle on the basics. As everyone else has said, you need to engage with the actual language to make it yours. Try HelloTalk, try translating something, try playing a game, anything. If kanji is the problem focus on things intended for general or younger audiences with less kanji and more furigana, or get a program like KanjiTomo to help you out.


I think there’s something to be said for doing more reading and listening, like you were planning! I find coming across a grammar concept I just learned “in the wild” and suddenly understanding how a sentence hangs together is really gratifying. I get that moment of “whoa where there was no meaning there is meaning now,” which makes the grammar learning process seem more fun to me and less wooden and rote.

Maybe it would help to seek out reading material that’s less geared toward learners, but speaks more to your interests? I tried one graded reader but found I didn’t really care that much about the stories.

Personally I’m more motivated to read or listen to things where I’m confused a good deal of the time, but where I’m interested in the subject matter and the little flashes of understanding feel like a bigger payoff.

One dumb example:

I learned の中で~が一番~ in BunPro. A few days later I was listening to a radio interview with my favorite wrestler (lol at my hobbies, but point being, someone I’m emotionally invested in learning things about) and they used that construction to ask him what his favorite animal is. Bizarrely, the answer was 小魚 – but this grammatical concept is now memorable for me, haha!

Also going to put a word in for “Learn Japanese The Manga Way” – I don’t use it as much as I should, but I like that it puts every grammatical concept it introduces in a practical context, and when I do get a chance to read a chapter I always feel like I get something out of it. Here’s a bit from Tofugu’s review:

Japanese the Manga Way is the perfect tool to fill in knowledge gaps for beginning and intermediate Japanese learners. It’s 493 mini lessons designed to give you the detailed gist of grammar points using real Japanese that real Japanese people read. How is this done? Each mini lesson is illustrated by a panel of manga. Not fake manga cooked up by a textbook company to teach you grammar they want you to know. Real manga from real books and newspapers in Japan.