Minna no Nihongo for grammar only?

Hey everyone.

I’m on top of WK, I’m studiying with the Minna no Nihongo, which I had in my library from quite some time ago when I studied Japanese in university.

I’ve started it from scratch again, but it feels a bit counter productive:

  • in each lesson (so far), I usually already know the grammar points already
  • I know some (not all) of the vocabulary in kanas
  • however I currently don’t know most of the vocabulary in kanji.

This time round I had tried to do things properly with the minna no nihongo, and do every single exercise of each chapter, write it all with the appropriate kanjis etc. but after a few lessons, it feels like most of the effort is on learning the kanjis and some vocabulary that I imagine I would learn on WaniKani anyway.

Does anyone have experience using WaniKani for kanji and vocab, and Minna no Nihongo strictly for the grammar points / and speaking and hearing exercises? Or do you have an alternative resource to suggest?


Very specific and I happen to have done this.

I did WaniKani at the same time as MnN and it was pretty nice not having to worry about vocab and kanji for the most part.

If you feel like you already know the grammar points, that’s a different question, but the lessons are pretty short so that there shouldn’t be a problem skipping them, or ideally just going over them again.

The vocabulary in MnN is sometimes a bit unusual, like テープレコーダー or 化粧室, but I wouldn’t worry too much about learning all of it, unless you want to. The shock made for an easier learning experience for me. Specifically, the kanji is just there because they’re common words, for the most part, not because the book expects you to drill them until you know them, it’s not a kanji book.

MnN is about the grammar in the end, so I wouldn’t worry about knowing the vocab beforehand. It can be helpful if you don’t know it, but it shouldn’t be detrimental if you do.

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I don’t use Minna No Nihongo myself, but I am in a similar situation with the textbook that I do use. What I like to do is consider those grammar points that I feel I already know as review. It definitely can feel slow at times, or like I’m not making much (or any) progress. But, I also remember that a strong foundation is important for future language acquisition. And, there’s always the possibility that some subtlety of a previously learned point will reveal itself.

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I’m studying with Genki but the same idea will apply.

Just look up the words in a dictionary. The focus is on the grammar point so I have no issues just looking up any words I don’t know and not worry too much about learning them there and then. I’ve got them in an Anki deck and I’m getting to the point where my Genki and WK vocab is starting to overlap a lot.

As a pretty trivial example, say the grammar is saying you want something. You’re asked to translate “I want a new, red bicycle”, but you can’t immediately think of the words for new and bicycle. You’re doing this exercise to understand how to say you want something, so I’ll just jump to the E-J section at the back of Genki and just copy the words for new and bike, and then make sure I focus on the actual grammar point.

I find it very easy to miss the woods for the trees, especially when I’m doing grammar practise. If I don’t know the exact words they want me to use in the exercises then it quickly becomes a vocab lesson instead. I understand all language skills go hand to hand, but I’ll never get to understand the difference between くれる and あげる if my banging my head against nouns and not actually focusing on the grammar points.

Thanks, yeah I think I’ll just take it easier on the vocab / kanji, trying to focus on the grammar instead.

very easy to miss the woods for the trees

That’s exactly my feeling, I feel like I’m spending 10 days on a lesson that’s mostly about ですandじゃありません because it also features 40 words like 会社員 that take me a lot of practice to write correctly.

I’ll experiment with the following

  • Trying to remember the vocabulary orally (kaishain instead of 会社員), with no particular effort for long term retention, just enough that I can do the exercises comfortably (assuming that at some point I’ll get them in WK)
  • Reading the grammar lesson
  • Reading through the dialogs, making sure I understand everything, at least with the furigana
  • Do the exercises orally only instead of written down
  • Focusing my notes on the various grammar points.

thanks everyone, I’ll update this thread in the future with whether or not it was successful as a strategy


MnN does a good* job in that it doesn’t really ask you for anything that it’s not providing you with, so you can answer every question with a really basic understanding, using examples, etc.

* if you don't care too much about output

In a classroom environment, I’ve seen people teach the first 7 lessons without worrying about kanji, then start teaching the easy or common ones (50 or so), and go from there. I was level 30, and I knew more than enough kanji for MnN, and even the N4.

I’d suggest writing them down, as it helps figure out issues and you can always sprinkle some kanji you know in there, and look back later when you need to review something. But that’s up to you.

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Genki only uses vocab in that chapter or previous ones, also. Anything new is given to you at the side of the exercise.

I think what I was getting at is sometimes you’re taking in a lot of information at one time. If you’re purposefully studying grammar, you’re going to get nowhere banging your head against a wall trying to recall a single vocab word when your time is better off spent just looking up the word in a dictionary and getting on with the exercise.

Hell, typing this out made me realise it’s the same advice as writing something in your native language too. If you’re writing an essay, or a needless long forum post, is it beneficial to sit there and try and recall a word that alludes you/you’re struggling to spell correctly? Or is it better just to jump to a dictionary and get back to the main task?

While my approach may seem like a crutch, doing it too much is definitely not helping your studies, but I can’t help thinking it can be good practise getting used to using a Japanese dictionary. Once I get to advanced reading, I’m definitely going to come across words that I will have never encountered before and being comfortable admitting you don’t know and reaching for a dictionary will make reading much easier.


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