Rank your personal Order of Importance when learning Japanese

  • Vocabulary

  • Grammar

  • Kanji

  • Reading

  • Listening

  • Speaking

  • Writing

Using these 7 components, I would love to see what you guys rank as your personal order of importance when learning Japanese, which is dependent on your goals or what you currently have to do.

You can just list down your ranking without any explanation if you want to.

My personal goal is to one day be as good as a native at reading and comprehending everything that I hear, so my ranking is something like this-

  1. Vocabulary
    Previously thought that Grammar was the most important component. But after deeply immersing myself in the language these past 5-6 months, I’ve come to realise that a lot of advanced grammar structures hardly get used at all and natives mainly stick to Basic-Intermediate level grammar structures. One can learn almost all of the basic-intermediate level grammar particles/phrases in 3-4 months, compared to Vocabulary which can take many years to achieve a similar vocabulary foundation as a native. Vocabulary is the building block of everything anyway and a good vocabulary foundation can unlock immense improvement in comprehending what I read and what I listen, as well as my speaking ability

  2. Grammar
    Explained why Grammar is my number 2 instead of my number 1 earlier, but it’s still essential to help convey what I want to say. If Vocabulary is the building block and foundation of the language, Grammar is the supporting pillar in my opinion- can’t imagine how chaotic life would be like if grammar didn’t exist for any language.

  3. Kanji
    Kanji is essential to reading comprehension. A passage of text using only hiragana and katakana is cumbersome and I can’t comprehend what’s being conveyed in an instant because I’m so used to Kanji at this point.

  4. Reading
    I’m greatly interested in news affairs and the style of storytelling found in short novels by different authors, so reading a lot helps me to pick up a lot of new expressions and words. I would really like to one day do translations for documents etc, and reading regularly helps me to learn and understand the nuances and the nitty-gritty details of idioms, expressions and proverbs that I’ve never seen before.

  5. Listening
    Imperative for consuming Japanese media and entertainment, as well as understanding conversations between native speakers. For myself, I can replicate speech patterns pretty well by ear so it leaves a great impact on my speaking ability as well.

  6. Speaking
    Speaking practice is necessary so that I can speak clearly without an awkward ‘lost in thoughts because I don’t know how to express what I want to say’ pause. But personally, it’s not as important as Reading and Listening. Listening Ability greatly influences one’s speaking ability, but the same can’t really be said vice-versa imo.

  7. Writing
    I’ll be perfectly honest- in my 1+ year of studying Japanese, I’ve spent 0 minutes on practicing my writing ability. If you pointed a gun to my head and forced me to write random stuff to the best of my ability, I’ll fail miserably because I don’t know how to write like 80% of Katakana, 30% of Hiragana and I can probably only write 人、本、(にち)(とつ)(おう)() and (しろ) for Kanji. I’m that awful. To add on, Whenever I do need to write, it’s when I see a non 常用(じょうよう)漢字(かんじ) that I nor Google Translate’s Photograph Function are able to identify because of the handwriting etc, and I’m forced to write the unrecognizable Kanji by hand into Jisho. Up to this point and for what I want to do in the future, I see no immediate need to practice writing. Will probably start doing so soon though… totally not going to procrastinate.

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Wait, so reading is paired with kanji? But to read, the two things you need are vocab and grammar. Or does that mean kanji meaning and readings?

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Good point- I’ll separate them then

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Yeah my ranking should be as same as yours.

To be clear, I don’t think this is the best learning order or the accurate ranking of how importance they are. This rank just goes well with my personal goal. So it largely depends on individual’s goals.

We would speak like orcs

Me You Fun Here Talk
Japan good One day Go Together?
Anime Great Love Kawaii

Huh that’s not sound too bad, isn’t it?

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Vocabulary/kanji. Then reading/listening, but usually, it goes hand in hand when you watch movies/anime with Japanese subtitles. Speaking is definitely not a priority because after getting tons of input you will naturally acquire an ability to speak your target language- unconscious acquisition. Writing is also not an issue - I can’t remember the last time I had to use a pen to write something, everybody types through notebooks/mobiles nowadays. If you talking about just general output then writing on phone is the same as speaking- it will come to you naturally if you expose yourself to the target language, you don’t really need to practice it.

I agree with grammar. we get an illusion that we need to cover all grammar points in order to dive deep into native material. In reality, in most movies/games/anime people use pretty much basic stuff which is covered by n4. It’s like in English where people spend years wasting time on learning grammar meanwhile all you have to know about English grammar is-

  1. I am, 2) I was, 3) I will,4) if I did I would, 5) something was stolen
    If you know this - you can consume 99% of native material.

But the more correct way would be to say - until covering the whole n4, grammar should be >>>> above anything else, its very important to get the gist of how you should decipher sentences, where nouns, adverbs are, how verbs are conjugated and ext.
But after n4 it should slowly go down in your list of priorities- at that point, you can learn grammar through context.

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As my intention for learning Japanese is purely consuming media of all sorts (newspapers, podcasts, anime, manga, the news…)
My priority is to learn is:

1 - Reading comprehension/kanji

I’ll put these two together because I don’t see how they can be set apart since you probably won’t find native content without kanji (unless it’s aimed for children).

2- Vocabulary and grammar

I grouped those because the way I study they go hand in hand and I kind find them equally important. Grammar alone won’t get you far if you don’t know the vocab just as only knowing vocabulary will get you drifting on a soup without much meaning.

3 - Listening comprehension

I actually think this is as important as number one for me so albeit it’s occupying the 3rd place here I try to keep it on par with reading.

4 - Speaking

I’m not the most social beast out there so speaking is not a matter of great concern to me and as @alexsandred mentioned, you’ll get some speaking skills while getting proficient at the other abilities.

5 - Writing

If you mean writing by hand, I wouldn’t even put it on the list, I barely use handwriting in my own language :upside_down_face:
And writing with a keyboard will basically come as you learn the readings and the looks of the kanji.

I do however fancy at some point in time try some calligraphy.

Are those really kanji - 凸, 凹 - I’ve never seen them. Had someone asked me about those I’d think they’re trying to pull my leg :laughing:

@Pizh Is that a hint of prejudice against orcs there? Poor creatures :blush:

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But with the proper stroke order? :slight_smile:
To be fair, even natives forget that for those.

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I think Vocabulary would be the most important. You need to know words first before you can do anything else with them.

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Nah, I think I’m only able to get 目, 日 、口 and 人 right in regards to stroke order lol

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  • Grammar
  • Vocabulary

Hard to tell which one of two I find more important. Without vocab I have no idea what’s going on. Without grammar I have no idea what’s going on either. Generally it feels that unknown vocab can be skipped more freely than grammar. If a word is important, it will be either repeated verbatim(telling me to stop being lazy and look it up) or will be reworded so I’ll have another chance to understand.

  • Reading/Kanji
    Isn’t it the similar to vocab? Anyway, it’s important for finding vocab. If I e.g. don’t know 悪夢(あくむ), I can at least use わるい+ゆめ+generous amount of spaces and backspaces to reconstruct 悪夢

  • Listening
    Since YT is one of my media for consumption, I find listening to be important. Just not too much.

  • Writing/Kanji
    I need writing only to the point where I can guess approximate writing for kanji recognizer, which is generally the last resort when everything else failed.

  • Writing/Kana
    Very little. It is worth to remember strokes of シ (it looks right, waiting for small vowel to modify it) vs ツ and ソ (looks top of handwritten そ) vs ン

  • Speaking
    Don’t care. I do read bunpro/WK items aloud when I can be bothered, as it helps to remember stuff, but beyond that - completely don’t care. Pitches? Not even once.

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Writing/Speaking
I love writing around on the daily some stuff and I try to speak in my apartment. Go Read all my “Japanese Sentence Daily Challenge a day” posts (By the way when I say I write I mean I type haha, no way I am learning to write by hand 2000 kanji)

(By the way anyone that says that reading will help you write, you should practice writing haha, because I used to read daily before huuuge amount and when I came down to writing I was struggling at making anything haha. Writing/Speaking is a different skill that people tend to forgot. I mean we say to be able to “Speak japanese” dont we, isn’t the word speak in the expression ? In my opinion you cannot be fluent if you never output, whatever you want to say. It is a proof of your fluency )

Listening
I prefer watching some japanese youtbers (no subtitles) than reading

Reading
Reading some NHK news or manga from time to time.

Vocab
Using wanikani daily

Gaming
Im trying to get into gaming full japanese, im struggling a bit because I have no time, but I tried to get into P4 or BOTW full JP.

Grammar
This used to be my top priority but I did all the JFZ and Genki books and grew tired of it. Even used bunpro. ( I think at some point you can acquire new grammar by reading, watching or writing stuff [yes even writing if you are searching your words haha ] )

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  1. Kanji/Learning how to read

  2. Vocabulary

  3. Listening

  4. Reading

  5. Grammar

  6. Speaking

  7. Pitch accent

  8. Writing

For me acquiring vocabulary and learning how to read are the most important things in the beginning, but listening follows not far behind, in the case of languages with a different writing system you have to learn how to read first and that’s obviously very important so you can start reading, but once you can read, acquiring vocab becomes easier as you’re able to understand sentences and you learn vocab in and from context.

I’ll never subscribe to the idea that grammar is the most important one or that you should study grammar right away when you start, because we can all acquire basic/intermediate grammar from listening and reading, you don’t have to learn the rules to be able to use grammar, but of course I’d never say that you shouldn’t learn grammar at all, I’d say it’s best to tackle it at some point when you’re more used to the language instead of right away at the start, so it’s less confusing and difficult. But yes it is important, so you can polish that knowledge of the language that you have acquired, but most importantly to learn how to output properly, e.g: Speaking and Writing, Forming sentences in your head by yourself without even hearing/reading them previously.

This is of course my personal experience, after all Japanese is not the first foreign language that I’ve tried to learn, I learned English this way too and German, French, Portuguese, Italian, Russian and Polish, and you’ll find that a lot of polyglots say the same thing, is not a lie or a new concept, but as always I would say do what feels right for you and what you find easier.

Though I must say that my Japanese journey has been very weird, since I learned vocab and how to speak way before reading thanks to my mother and years and years of watching anime in Japanese since I was a kid and now staying in Japan many months, leaving and coming back but never staying too long, somehow I noticed I was speaking it without even knowing how to read, but honestly being an illiterate sucks, but at least learning Kanji is easier I just have to associate words I already know with the characters and voila! haha, but the fact that I can speak and understand it when spoken, has made me postpone learning Kanji for too long :frowning_face:.

I would personally group Kanji + Vocabulary together. After all, unless we’re talking about very academic-ish purposes (correct me if I’m wrong, I’d be curious to know more), one only learns kanji in order to apply the knowledge into real words (vocabulary). Of course, if we want to be picky, we can differentiate kanji and kana-only vocabulary.

That said, my “ranking” is similar to OP’s. :slight_smile:

  1. Kanji + Vocabulary
    To have the basic foundation and start to know what’s going on.

  2. Grammar
    To glue all that foundation together and make sense out of things. Grammar seems to be somewhat polemic among different people, but I do have a better time in the long run if I’m introduced to the structure of the language along the way (it was like this to me with other foreign languages).

  3. Reading,
    Because I’m a very visual person, and it is probably my primary “goal” when it comes to learning Japanese.

  4. Listening
    Mainly because of Japanese media and, in my case, for music, anime, movies, games.

  5. Writing / Speaking
    These are the more “active” skills when we learn a language, and although they are very important, I believe they ultimately become less so if, for instance, you don’t have plans to live in Japan or you don’t have native speakers friends or acquaintances. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to visit Japan and I’d be delighted if I could hold a basic conversation with someone (speaking), or if I made a Japanese friend so we could text in Japanese (writing). It just isn’t my personal top priority for the moment.

Vocabulary
Kanji
Reading
Listening
Speaking
Grammar
Writing

I am surprised at the near equal priority people have for vocabulary and grammar. In the vast majority of languages on the planet, you can communicate and be understood (albeit with a bit of difficulty) with no grammar knowledge whatsoever. Don’t get me wrong, I know the importance of the knowledge and understanding of proper grammar. I just do not personally evaluate it’s importance anywhere near that of vocabulary. :smiley:

It’s a conventional learner mistake- when you think you need to know all grammar to speak with natives and enjoy their content. You obviously need a base since Japanese has a completely different sentence structure, but it’s not that much.
All these cases from Reddit where people pass n1 in a year and a half from 0 usually follow the same path- covered basics (tae kims/ wasabi or organic Japanese with cury) then they just dived deep into native content where they learned the rest of grammar from context.

I have an American friend who frequently travels around former soviet states, he can speak Russian, can freely express his thoughts, and have a very good understanding of the language. According to him the biggest boost towards his proficiency in Russian was just memorizing words/expanding his vocabulary. Learning grammar points, different cases, conjugations is great, but one day he just decided to leave it all behind and focus on vocabulary. Long story short- he became fluent in 1.5 years, he’s friends who began studying with him- they diligently continued to study Russian grammar from textbooks- in the end, none of them learned how to speak and they just decided to abandon it.

As he put it: Vocabulary is king in foreign language learning.

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I feel like a lot of people undervalue the important of grammar here lol. Especially, Japanese which has many layers in its langauge.

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It is very important imo. Grammar is includes conjugations, adjectives, tenses, verbs, nouns, adverbs, particles etc, almost everything under the sun of any language basically.

you can communicate and be understood with no grammar knowledge whatsoever

I disagree with this point. You’ll be saying words individually without stringing a proper sentence in this case because if you do, it means that you have grammar knowledge. Imagine if a native of English language went to Japan, just knowing vocabulary but not knowing the basic SOV sentence structure, not knowing particles and not knowing verb conjugation (just knows the dictionary form) and he is telling locals that he wants to eat sushi.

私。食べる。寿司(すし) (Uses SVO sentence structure)

The message conveyed isn’t anywhere close to his/her intention.

But like others have said in this thread, I agree that studying Grammar can be put on the backburner after you have a solid grasp on it.

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I think it depend on his langauge goal. If he just want to have basic communication like. This Buy Good Bad Cheap Expensive No OK I think that’s fine.

I doubt without grammar you would even understand Shonen manga. You would just get the gist of basic idea of what are they talking about and half of the time misleading without grammar knowledge.

I think without grammar, even kindergarten level books can’t be understood completely, let alone Shonen Manga.

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I mean you can learn all the grammar in the world you want, I think having a foundations is good enough as long as you are using the language. I know that I can read shonen manga like One Piece etc. (I obviously did grammars for 6 months 3 hours a day before I quit grammar)

I know for english I didnt even learn any grammar I just picked what I heard/read/saw and tried to communicate on online games with friends. I mean in the end if Japanese seems complicated to us westerners it remains a language and Im tired of seeing Japanese being put on that pedestal as being impossible lol. (Oh and I am still the typo maker in any language even in my native language and I dont care about being perfect)

If they could have a game like habbo JP if someone know one. I would spend my day on it haha after work. I used to learn english that way.

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