I feel like I am not really connecting the sounds to meaning

I did the entire Pimsleur Japanese audio course before attempting to learn kanji. It is quite easy for me to understand now but I lack a lot of vocabulary. Reading is slow for me because I can’t help but sound it out in my head or out loud. I hope this well get easier with practice…I have been using Satori reader, but it is quite painstaking at my current level. I kind of miss Pimsleur, TBH.

I think your problem might be a lack of sample sentences. Maybe try some userscript for that (I have no idea if any of them include audio).

If Wanikani is your start into the Japanese language as its mine, we are pretty much at the same level. A week ago I started to also use Bunpro and their many sample sentences with audio are amazing. At our level you know far from all vocabulary, but that is not such a problem with the beginner grammar points. While Bunpro is mainly a tool to learn grammar, as Wanikani is focused on reading kanji, try to use it also as an exercise for listening. You can first listen to a sentence, see what words you recognise (surprisingly mainly at our wanikani level!), then read the sentence in Japanese with kanji to see if you recognised all you should recognised, and then there is English is as well to double check.

Unfortunately, making sentences with good audio for all the wanikani vocab would be A LOT of work, so I am not sure we will ever see it. But I think listening to sentences is the way to go for beginners (more advanced users can listen to entire texts and use a variety of sources).

I think that is also the strength of most textbook based methods. The vocabulary & grammar you learn are build on short dialogues that most beginners of a language can recognise (e.g. introducing yourself, where you are from, asking for basic info etc.). So even after just one chapter, there is audio with entire dialogues of which you can grasp the general meaning and recognise the individual words (even if you don’t understand the nuances yet).

tl;dr: If you like the wanikani approach: Try Bunpro and really explore the example sentences. Give traditional textbooks that are build around dialogues a go (e.g. Genki)

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