Just a Few General Questions

Hello all, first post! Thank you for taking the time to read and hopefully respond.

I am only level 3 (1 kanji away from 4), and have a few questions about my future Japanese.

  • I read Tofugo’s Ultimate Guide, which says I shouldn’t start practicing grammar until around level 10. In the meantime, what have you guys been doing prior to level 10 regarding grammar? I am super eager to start speaking the language and desire early and often exposure to grammar.
  • Without others to speak with, how can you make sure you are pronunicating words correctly?
  • Do I reeealy need to learn Katankana? Hiragana was enough of a pain, I don’t really want to learn another 40 symbols.

Thank you guys!

It shouldn’t be surprising that the company trying to get you to pay to learn kanji wants you to stay focused on kanji for a little while. There’s nothing wrong with starting grammar now and in fact many people (myself included) started learning grammar before kanji. If you’re eager, you might as well start now.

You could try shadowing, which is where you listen to a recording of a native speaker and then repeat what they said. Obviously you could still make mistakes with this method, but it’s probably better than nothing.

Yes, these are essential. Are you really worried about learning 40-something katakana when you’re using WaniKani to learn 2000+ kanji?


Easy question first… they’re not as important, but you’ll certainly need to be able to recognize them eventually, as they are all over the place in genuine Japanese.

If you’re just doing vocabulary on Wanikani, there aren’t too many words that use katakana, but there are a couple you’ll need to transcribe into hiragana. If you really want to put off focused study on katakana, you could just memorize those as one-off vocabulary, I guess?

One good thing is that a lot of the katakana are fairly visually similar to the corresponding hiragana, so it won’t be quite as arduous as learning the hiragana initially.

Not learning grammar for that long seems silly to me, but I guess their argument is somewhat sound; they want you to be able to recognize basic vocabulary quickly so you can focus on how the grammar fits around it once you get there.

I still personally think it would be a good idea to at least peruse some overviews of sentence structure in general, so you have at least a bit of an idea of why words go in the order they do in WaniKani’s example sentences. You probably don’t need to worry about more specialized points like the causative-passive form or the difference between ので and のに for a while, but I wouldn’t think it’s ever too early to understand what a particle is and to be able to spot the basic particles in a sentence.

It’s been so long since I learned basic Japanese grammar myself that I couldn’t really suggest what works or what doesn’t, but a few sources I know of that might be good for a quick read:

  • 80/20 Japanese has some overview posts about Japanese sentence structure, including helpful diagrams, that are reasonable for a quick scan.
  • A lot of people like Tae Kim’s guide… it’s a bit longer, but it does a fair job of separating basic sentence structure from specific grammar points.
  • Cure Dolly has a series of YouTube videos on sentence structure. Some people are weirded out by her animated avatar and artificial voice, but the content is quite good IMO. Just be aware that she disagrees with traditional textbooks in the way she presents the material, which might be confusing if you’re not already familiar with traditional textbook explanations.
  1. Start learning grammar whenever you feel ready to. I started learning Japanese with Genki and TextFugu well before I ever touched WaniKani. I enjoy learning grammar and the language itself along with the kanji, and getting to see in real time how things fit together.

  2. I highly suggest trying to find someone to speak with, whether it’s online/phone calls/group chats/a physical group that you participate in. My language ability picked up so much when I joined the Japanese Language Club at my campus.

  3. Yes, you really do. It’s just as important as hiragana. Yes, it’s rough having to learn another 46 symbols that have the exact same sounds as what you already learned, but that’s Japanese. And if you ever look into a Japanese dictionary, or even Jisho.org, you’ll see that they use katakana for the On reading, to differentiate it from the Kun.

I have a subscription to RocketLanguages.com (Japanese). They have speaking, Reading, Writing, Grammar, Listening, etc. The Speaking part is very good, in my opinion. You can listen, repeat, and get a rating on your pronunciation.

The advice on waiting to level 10 to start grammar is not good. In fact, it would be better to not start wanikani until you’ve gotten through at least 1, if not 2, elementary level Japanese language textbook series, like Genki or Nakama. The reason is that if you don’t have a basic idea of the way the Japanese language actually works, what wanikani teaches isn’t particularly useful. Think of it like this. Imagine you want to build something, a car for example. Now imagine that all you’re doing is collecting various car parts, but you haven’t yet bought any tools or learned anything about mechanics at all. You basically can’t use any of what you gathered because you haven’t picked up the tools or the knowledge to use them. In wanikani, without the background if a little prior language study, you’re going to just gather together a bunch of words but you won’t have any idea how to use them. If you can’t use them, what’s the point?

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If you want to start studying grammar now, then by all means do, but as a suggestion you could use the time until you get to level 10 to learn katakana - because as others have said, (unfortunately?) you absolutely do need to know katakana.

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