Learning Kanji first or going for beginner classes

I’ve been contemplating for some time now whether to learn Kanji via WaniKani first then take classes or jump straight to Japanese classes; for my local Japanese classes they use みなの日本語 which is completely in Japanese; my thought process is that learning Kanji first would help my progression faster. I am currently use an english guide online to study grammar already if that is any help. Thoughts?

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I think you might as well jump straight in with lessons. Your kanji knowledge will accelerate far faster than anybody else in the class who isn’t using some kind of SRS approach on the side anyway. Plus it’s easy to get hung up on WaniKani because it’s addictive and you forget that the whole point is to learn Japanese.

I took classes for a long while before discovering WaniKani at all, and although I’m sad I didn’t find it sooner, I don’t think kanji knowledge really held me back throughout the beginning. What I learnt through the classes was absolutely sufficient for several modules, and you won’t be expected to start out with any kanji knowledge as a beginner.

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みんなの日本語 is very popular (though I’m surprised that they don’t use Genki). I think just jump to Japanese classes first.

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Go to the classes first. we also use Minna no nihongo. You do not need much kanji at first, There is furigana on kanji, Your katakana will be better and the most important, grammar + kanji = reading

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Another issue is that WK has a fixed order of learning the Kanji and a fixed pace. So if you want to take that class eventually, doing WK first will kind of force you to follow its schedule to some extent.

That being said, you could do both, if you go with monthly subscription, for example. Or, if you can afford it, go with lifetime subscription and then you never have to worry about the WK pacing lining up with the class pacing, since you can always just slow down with WK if you need to.

If money is an issue, you could always try emailing WK, explaining your situation, and see what they have to say. They answer emails like that very professionally and personally (i.e. there’s a real human on the other end, who will take your email seriously), and when I emailed them about my situation, it helped make my final decision much easier – they offered a temporary discount until the December sale for lifetime subscriptions. You never know what they might say, so it’s worth a shot.

Finally, I found several resources that were free and self-paced before I finally went with WK. (Ironically, most if not all of them were recommended by the Tofugu blog, which is WK’s sister-blog!). Probably the most important one I’d recommend right now is Anki, which is an SRS tool that is completely free, and has a lot of different card decks available to choose from, including many decks for learning Kanji.

The only ‘drawback’ to Anki is that it’s completely user-controlled. That may seem like a benefit, and truly it is, which is why I used ‘scare quotes’ around ‘drawback’. See, the advantage of WK is that they’ve put a lot of effort into packaging and pacing the Kanji lessons, especially with the mnemonics, and you won’t get that structure with Anki unless you try to put it in yourself, which is probably more work and effort than it’s worth tbh.

So, if you can’t go with WK right away, at least you can go with Anki, and that will give you at least some SRS support for any Kanji you are learning in your class. It’s not as nice and streamlined as WK, but if money or time/scedule are an issue, then it’s definitely a good alternative.

I used Anki for a while but after my old laptop died, I put off re-installing it when I got a new laptop, and eventually the back-log I would have had to go through just put me off getting back into it. So, when I remembered about WK, I tried the first three levels and really liked the mnemonics and pacing, because it kept me from going too fast, and overall I’m learning Kanji much better, IMHO. The point is that you can start with Anki and just keep using it if it suits you in the long-term, or you can switch to WK eventually if that suits you better.

Good luck, and hope you enjoy your Japanese learning experience! :blush:

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They already have lifetime :blush: I don’t think the concern was which of the two to do; just whether to hold off on the classes initially.

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Oops! I missed that. Just saw they were level 3 and assumed they were making the buy-or-not-buy decision. :man_facepalming: Hehehe :sweat_smile:

Oh, right! In that case, I agree with everyone else: Just jump right in! Go for it.

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I would recommend doing both together. I started WK about a week before starting my classes and it’s helped me have a huge leg up on most of my classmates.

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You should do both. It doesn’t hurt to learn Kanji at the same time. As long as you know kana by heart, there is no reason studying kanji on the side while learning grammar is going to hurt you.

Regardless, I recommend to quit researching methods to learn and just pick one and start studying to get your foundation. Most people will spend months researching methods, but not actually study the language. It’s like researching which guitar brand is best to learn on, despite having an old pawnshop guitar in the closet collecting dust.

BTW, my school uses みなの日本語 and we completed all four books. Nothing wrong with it! Good Luck!

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do both simultaneously.

kanji are the key to less painful vocab learning, and while you’re good grammatically after a few years, new vocab will always pop up and be needed - so imho, starting early on the kanji gives you a headstart.

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I attend beginner Japanese classes since last October and started using WaniKani seriously about the same time and I just do it as an additional thing. By now we had around 15 kanji introduced, but for now it is not expected of us to recognize/read them. Thanks to WaniKani I was ahead and knew all the readings and meaning and that felt pretty nice! I figured that since there are so many kanji to learn I shouldn’t wait until it’s introduced in class because after all my own efforts to learn it will be the same. I am fortunate to have a lifetime account, so I take things slow in my own pace, doing new lessons when I feel comfortable and when there are not to many reviews waiting in line.

Everyone may have a different approach to studying, but based on my experience I would recommend to do it simultaneously at the pace you feel comfortable with. I see that sometimes WaniKani helps me during classes and sometimes it’s the other way around.

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Kanji are for reading and writing Japanese. They are useless if you don’t learn some Japanese. So either do both, or do classes first. (Speaking and listening to Japanese without Kanji is still useful; learning Kanji with no knowledge of Japanese language is useless).

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definitely do both and try to persuade your teacher to do a lot of speaking practise. i mean A LOT. most of the time, actually ALL the time. good luck and have fun!

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I’ve tried it the other way around, learn kanji first because I couldn’t find classes around me and i figured that it would come in handy later anyway. But i lost my motivation pretty soon. That is of course just me, but I picked WaniKani up again now that we’ve gone though the first 10 or so chapters of みんなの日本語 and it is much more fun now that i have the context for the kanji i learn and can actually use them. You can easily use the book without knowing kanji, hiragana is fine, so you don’t have to force the kanji part :slight_smile:

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