How to Study Grammar?

#1

Hi all,
Some background first, I’ve never learned a language before, and to be honest I’ve never really studied on my own before either. Everything in my (19 year) life so far has been spoon fed to me, and I humbly ask for tips on how to go about learning grammar.

Specifically, what does it mean to “go through” Tae Kim?
If I were to use that source, what would I supplement it with and how do I apply what I just learned?
Any other tips or pitfalls to avoid would also be appreciated.

I know I’m looking to be spoon fed again, but I also think asking before I dive in would save me a lot of trouble. Thank you for any responses. (Sorry if there’s already a thread like this)

3 Likes

#2

I would avoid trying to use any free online resources as your main grammar backbone from the start. I think they work well for picking up things you missed here or there, or refreshing yourself. If you don’t have a Japanese teacher to guide you, a textbook is probably the next best thing.

5 Likes

#3

Depends. Some would say it is just reading the guide thoroughly. Others say it is adding examples from it into an SRS. I personally used it as a guide which I would go back to as I read some manga sentences and NHK Easy. Essentially alternating between reading the guide’s grammar points and seeing those while I read some basic material.

The textbook route is for people who want a more complete, less rough shot kind of way of learning. You don’t run into the risk of misunderstanding grammar points, and your more likely to have a better understanding of vocab, writing, etc. The only problem is you might not be able to make the transition to real Japanese as easily, but it’s still possible with enough effort.

Also, Tae Kim and the two Genki only takes you to about N4 grammar. After that, I would recommend a combination of Tobira, Kanzen Master, japanesetest4you, and Nihongonomori (日本語の森)

4 Likes

#4

I also think a textbook is a good idea to start, on your own it is hard to find out where to start, what is more important than other things, and get some motivation by going step-by-step instead of looking at everything in parallel.

Depending on where you live you can also check if there are cheap Japanese classes, the textbooks are usually geared towards practicing with other people, and I think during self-study they appear more dull than they actually are :slight_smile:

2 Likes

#5

I recommend checking out a program like Human Japanese. Speaking as someone who had zero clue about grammar prior to it, I’d say its a really great starting point. Its targeted toward self learners, compared to textbooks like Genki (which are ok, but dry and intended for classrooms). Plus, you learn things in a +1 manner similar to how Wanikani operates. Its a great base from which you can build your Japanese.

It does cost money. Two things on that - you’re paying for and supporting quality instruction, and a good chunk of it is free (up to chapter 8). So you can try it and see if it suits your style. Personally, after I finished the free stuff I tried going back to other grammar resources but it all paled in comparison.

Regardless of what you decide to do, hope your studies go well. And welcome to the community! Hope to see you around :smile:

8 Likes

#6

For someone of your background, I’d recommend Genki one and two, and their respective workbooks. They have toooonnns of examples and practice sentences. Though, warning, it’s a bit dry (Not nearly as dry as minna no nihongo) but that’s to be expected as they’re textbooks. You can fill any from Genki with either the grammar dictionary, or Tae Kim. You’re definitely asking the right questions though.

1 Like

#7

I appreciate the tone of OP’s question. It’s refreshing that this is not just another “how to grammar” topic, but rather one about grammar study in the context of a specific background.

@Brynn, I have a hard time suggesting anything apart from Human Japanese to beginners. With your background, I am even more convinced than Genki should be step two, not step one for you. Start out with Human Japanese, it’s a great read, and it’s not dry (available on iOS and Android, as well as desktop). It’ll give you a smooth yet comprehensive introduction to Japanese grammar and set you well on your way to to further study. By the time you’re done with it, you should be in a great position with Kanji to start alternative textbooks.

6 Likes

#8

With regards to your question about “going through”:
It means many different things to different people, but I would suggest you take it as “reading and then generating sentences on your own”. This would also start after going through Human Japanese.

Tae Kim is very good, but dry. I’ve stopped using sleeping pills ever since I’ve started reading it.

1 Like

#9

I’m of the opinion that acquiring grammar through writing is particularly fast when compared to acquiring it while speaking, or listening. This is because you don’t have to worry about pronunciation and nervousness.

You may feel differently.

2 Likes

#10

I never see anyone mention A dictionary to japanese grammar in these threads. I consider these books as the holy bible of japanese grammar. All you need to know is in there, getting through the 3 Volumes brings you to N1 and basicaly cover in details all you’ll ever encounter. It’s in dictionary form thought, it’s can be quite tedious to read…

And as going through them: reading a grammar point then flashcards on meaning/construction/nuance/sample sentences

2 Likes

#11

In all seriousness, how do you manage to go through them? I really have trouble with dry reading…

1 Like

#12

Baby steps. Just one or two points at a time is manageable (and I used bunpro for the JPLT order).

But it’s clearly a personal taste. I prefer rigorous approach with the logic, history and detailed nuances of a grammar points with all possible use cases rather than a less dry but less precise explanation.

1 Like

#13

I completely understand the need for thoroughness as I too prefer rigor over speed. My concern is more that I genuinely doze off :neutral_face:

Do you feel you progress at a decent pace by assimilating one or two points at a time? Could you give me an idea of how far along you are and how long it took you to get there?

2 Likes

#14

Thank you all for the guidance :bowing_man:
I’ll go ahead a jump in

1 Like

#15

They’re reference books. Definitely good to have, but their purpose is when you are just needing to look something up, not as the initial study resource, I feel. I can’t imagine just reading them from cover to cover, same as reading any reference book that way.

3 Likes

#16

Past the basic grammar rules, particles and verb forms, it has all the information any other resource have, often more. It only lacks structure, but that can be fixed easily.

I might be biased though, as I’m not a complete beginner and already had exposure to those grammar points and a have the basic knowledge to understand related points.

1 Like

#17

That’s just it though, right. If the OP picked up the first volume of A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar and tried to read it I think they’d just get overwhelmed.

3 Likes

#18

This is true, my bad. This is not a good solution for OP’s case, this might be better for false beginner.

0 Likes

#19

In the thread of ultimate additional japanese resources list, (which i copy its url here because i don’t know how to attach a link into a word…)

where you can find a lot of useful info, i followed the advice of Polv, saying that the udemy courses were worth the money, i bought the N5 course about three weeks ago in a discount (never ever buy a course at full price, udemy makes discounts every single month), it is not perfect, but i do agree it’s somehow nice because it’s like a classroom course. I pretty much came from zero and i can tell you using it alongside with bunpro, and the minna no nihongo textbook has really paid off.

This is the udemy course i mention… they have courses up to N1

https://www.udemy.com/japanese-n5-course/

i downloaded a free app that has test for the n5 examination, or you can either go to
http://japanesetest4you.com/

when you feel ready to check your progress.

0 Likes

#20

To answer the question you specifically asked, “Going through Tae Kim” could look like this:

Do one chapter a week. Each week on day 1 read the chapter through and read the example sentences (this will take 10- 20 min). On day two put the example sentences into an SRS system with the sentences on the front and the english gloss on the back.
on day 4 or whatever re-read a chapter you read before. Do the SRS reps everyday.

This would take you about 20-30 min a day (with more the day you entered the sentences).

…Or some modification of this to more suit your personal preference.


To the point that others have made (or implied), this is not going to be enough. The nice thing about a textbook is it doen’t just go one way (can to read a sentence and “understand” it). A textbook asks you to do specific tasks (read the following passage and write the answers to the following questions, look at these clocks and write what time they say in Japanese, write a sentence that describes the action taking place in the picture, etc.) This kind of stuff while maybe boring, a - forces you to do something that can then be checked for correctness, b - can use and incorpoarate not just one grammar point but multiple points, vocab, cultural information, etc. And well written textbooks (like Genki or any of the others mentioned here) do exactly that. They slowly incorporate more language information into the tasks they ask you to perform.

But as has been discussed in this forum many times, Japanese grammar is not trivial (it is not super hard, but it is not “like” english or french). You will probably have to encounter a particular grammar point or construction many times in many different contexts and have it explained multiple different ways before you feel like you really understand it.


If you are looking for a system, I could suggest:

  1. Start with Genki and work out a pace that works for you (a chapter a week, every couple days, whatever)
  2. After you have done a couple chapters of Genki (or at the same time if you want) start going through Tae Kim in the sense discussed above
  3. when you start reading native materials (WK recommends at about level 10) you can then start using a reference (DIctionary of Baasic /intermediate Japanese grammar) to look up things you don’t understand.
  4. whenever in the course of doing the above things you have a question that isn’t answered by the resource you are using or you just want more information and examples on a particular topic, use one of the many online resources to get an alternative explanation or more information

If you do something like the above, you will pretty quickly find out what you feel like works for you and what sorts of online resources resonate with you etc. From there you will be able to find your own path.

0 Likes