Struggling to do more than WaniKani

I’ve been doing WK for over a year now and I’m nearly to level 40 and I still really do enjoy doing my lessons and reviews (for the most part) but the longer I’ve been doing this one specific issue has been glaring at me. So in this year of consistently learning kanji and vocabulary I have learned nearly 1300 kanji and that’s great and I’m psyched that I’m finally getting somewhere in my language journey… except I’m nearly level 40 and I haven’t learned any grammar. I can barely even read the simplest sentences and any time I started trying to learn grammar by like a textbook or something I do it for a day or two and then I just lack to motivation to keep going cause there’s nothing driving me to keep going like wk has. I also recently tried bunpro and I finally thought I had found something that would click but ultimately I did it maybe for a week or 2 and that was fine at first but after that point it just got to the point that it was too much between the 1-2 hours I spend doing wk every day and then grammar reviews and lessons too so ultimately I quit that too. It’s not so much that I’m burning out it’s just that I struggle to keep the motivation to keep up with grammar. I really want to get better at Japanese but I’m just kinda struggling rn cause I’ve spent so long on kanji but no time on grammar. Japanese has been a really big part of my life and I fully intend to finish wk and study abroad in Japan in college whenever I can but I’m just struggling to get to a point where I could be proud of myself. With that said I’m by no means not proud of myself I am incredibly proud of myself cause if you told me a year and a half ago I’d know 1300 kanji I would never believe you I just simply wish I could manage to get the motivation to learn the grammar. As far as kanji goes it clicks really easily in my brain but the same cannot be said for grammar and that just makes it even harder the muster the motivation. All in all I just kinda wanted to get this off my chest to people that could probably understand a little better than my other friends. Anyway thanks for taking the time to read my post :relaxed:

33 Likes

I can totally relate to struggling to keep up with grammar as it’s my weakest area. I found the bunpo app useful (different from bunpro) as it covers each grammar point and has quizzes (including putting sentences in order) which has helped me understand it better than when I was trying to learn it on my own.

For me, trying to find something that keeps me interested was the biggest challenge (I don’t like studying and I need something to keep me motivated). There are some youtube channels you could try. I know Cure Dolly is popular and good at explaining a range of things including grammar.

I personally prefer to use apps wherever possible. If your grammar level is beginner level, you could try the Coban app. They also have a website called Nihongo Library which is really good at explaining the beginning grammar. The app also has quizzes which I found really helpful for me.

9 Likes

I have the same issue! Grammar is really difficult for me. I like learning kanji and building vocab, but it’s hard for me to focus on learning grammar.

What really helps me is that my biggest goal learning Japanese is to be able to read books and manga in Japanese (I really want to read Battle Royale in the original Japanese). Of course, I would like to speak and have conversations and watch anime in Japanese as well, but I really love reading.

So, I went through Genki 1 textbook and workbook and finished pretty quickly. I started doing Genki 2, but it was harder and I was losing motivation. So, I took a break from Genki 2 and decided to focus on this book called Japanese the Manga Way. It takes basic grammar points and uses examples from Japanese manga so you can see how the grammar is used natively. It’s still difficult for me to get through (I don’t think the book is difficult. I’m just very busy! Wanikani is just easier to focus on when someone has a busy schedule. It’s not as time consuming). But, it goes pretty in depth with the simple grammar that Genki doesn’t AND I get real, native examples.

I highly recommend it.

And, as Rachel mentioned, bunpro is another option I heard is highly regarded.

7 Likes

Commiserations, learning languages is tough. What helps me sometimes is thinking about it like walking out to a necessary destination in a rainstorm - an uncomfortable step followed by another uncomfortable step and just as you’re used to getting a bit damp then you turn the corner and the wind is at a horrible angle and you think yerch, not again.

I suspect the issue here might be that you’re using wanikani as a windbreak, and focusing on learning wanikani rather than learning Japanese. That’s fine for a while, and you’re doing great at it, but doesn’t sound like it’ll get you where you want to be. With that in mind, here’s a few different kinds of approaches you could consider when thinking about the path forward-

  1. Forget about trying to find motivation, it usually follows action rather than the other way round. Commit to doing something first, eg bunpro or really anything else, accept that it might be horrible, and make a deal with yourself to do that thing BEFORE wanikani for the day. Doesn’t need to be much, even 10 minutes a day will add up. Do that for three months and then reflect in hindsight about your grammar motivation.

OR

  1. Try to make grammar more digestible. This could be through videos, graded readers, different textbooks etc, there’s dozens of other suggestions in threads round here. One I’ll throw in that will raise some shocked eyebrows is Duolingo - sure it has enormous shortcomings as a language learning app but it’s free and incredibly gamified. If it’s the game-like elements of wanikani that have kept you motivated to date, 15 mins of Duo every day for a few months, plus a bit of bunpro, will give you the absolute basics and then you can think about taking the next uncomfortable (but awesome) steps into reading real things, and I really do recommend the book clubs on the forums at this point.

OR

  1. Jump straight in with something you really want to read that has a translation or community round it. Eg pick a book in the absolute beginners book club, read all the comments on it, understand perhaps one word in every 10 at first and prepare to I have it feel like Mount Everest. Keep going anyway, and accept that it will get better over time. This is a super daunting option, to the point of despair, but some people respond to it better than having to ‘study grammar’ at first, because they have such overriding motivation to get reading that thing.

Good luck! I know you have the discipline already to make this work because you’ve stuck to wanikani as long as you have. The trick is being brave enough to accept that wanikani is your comfort zone now, so to really make progress on Japanese you need to move out of it.

21 Likes

Maybe a passive approach will help. After all, you don’t need motivation to not do work. What I did for a good portion of my first year was just watching grammar videos.

Watching the grammar being broken down was entertaining and not something I needed any motivation to do. The channel I watched is called Cure Dolly, some people find the presentation unbearable, but there are tons of other youtube channels which teach grammar if you don’t like that one.

9 Likes

Just to note that if you’re considering Duolingo as suggested above, might as well use Lingodeer instead. It’s like Duo, but more tailored to Asian languages.

4 Likes

Cure Dolly was the channel that actually made my Japanese usable. I’m awful at grammar, and as a non-native English speaker that never paid attention in English classes, I was woefully ignorant about the grammar terms that things like Genki or Tae Kim use.

I went through this playlist. In it, Cure Dolly first sets out some basics, and then quite quickly incorporates some lessons where she covers the first bunch of pages from Alice in Wonderland in Japanese.

That way, she pretty quickly gets stuck into the kind of structures you actually encounter when using Japanese, rather than just dry grammar explanations. And avoids overly simple, unnatural texts that are written to only use the limited grammar that a beginner knows.

For me personally, grammar was nothing but fretting, worrying, and failing until I was 20-30 levels into WK. Then I went through the first 15ish videos in that playlist, and picked up the Japanese version of one of the Ace Attorney games. Since I had played the game before, I could focus on the Japanese more than trying to understand the story. The first case was sloooooooooooooooooooooooooow and I felt like I understood 10% of what was going on. It took MONTHS (9ish?), during which I also kept studying WK and BunPro every single day, but by the end of the game, I could read with relative ease, understanding at least 70-100% of any text box.

Everyone has different methods and different things they click with. That one thing isn’t working doesn’t have to mean nothing will ever work, so keep at it! Good luck!

17 Likes

going to approach this slightly differently, but what other things are you doing? how busy are you?

I also don’t do much more than Wanikani at the moment, and that probably only around 1 hour a day. But I also walk the dog two to three times a day, work full time, go the gym three times a week, hang out with friends at least once a week, and spend time with my partner. Between all of that, there isn’t a whole lot of time to spend on studying.

So before beating yourself up over lack of motivation, maybe ask yourself whether it is maybe more related to a lack of time? And if it is lack of time you can reconsider what has more priority, learning grammar or the other things that you are spending time on. for me personally, all of the other things are important as well. So for now I am content with my hour of Wanikani a day.

9 Likes

This is a great tip. :+1: You just have to try what sort of things work for you!

For me it was listening more than anything that has given me a sense of grammar, thought reading manga and playing games has also been part of my immersion diet.

The thing with listening is that you can fully concentrate on the language structures and vocab, without the prerequisite of actually being able to read those words and kanji. So for me that helped me get going with learning conjugation forms and internalizing them as something “natural sounding” rather than seeing them listed in a guide (which I always felt makes grammar very abstract and unrelatable).

This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, as many struggle with listening practice. But, trying different things out, you should find something that keeps your interest AND helps improve your Japanese beyond doing Wanikani. Just doing a little bit of reading before sleep will go a long way. :slight_smile:

10 Likes

I think you’re leaning on WaniKani as a crutch. It’s your comfy place, so you don’t want to leave. It’s understandable, but it’ll make learning Japanese as a whole harder.

I’d say there are two things you should do.

  1. Reduce your time on WaniKani. I don’t know how fast you’re leveling up on WaniKani, but at level 39, it’s probably too fast. However many lessons you’re doing a day, maybe cut it in half or something like that. Within a couple weeks, you’ll find that you have more time for other things.
  2. After that, time should no longer be a factor (or excuse) for not doing grammar. Then you need to address the motivation part. As someone else mentioned, forget about motivation and focus on discipline. Use the new time you have from fewer daily lessons to force yourself to do grammar. For example, set up a routine where you’re not allowed to do WaniKani lessons until you’ve done at least 30 minutes of grammar practice. If you set up something like that and force yourself to follow it, you should start making progress.

Once you learn the basics of grammar, it really opens up your opportunities for reading, which then allows you to learn more Japanese in a more fun way. But you need to learn the fundamentals first.

13 Likes

I think that one of the many positives to WK is the gamification element, which can be really addictive and keep you consistent. I’ve found Lingodeer to have the same attraction and it teaches grammar in bite-size lessons.

I’ve tried to learn grammar from Genki & JFZ, but I find textbooks rather stale. What I now use them for, along with Tae Kims Guide, is doubling down on the grammar concepts Lingodeer teaches.

What works for me might not work for you, but it sounds like we’ve hit a similar Grammar Wall before :grimacing:

If you need some more motivation, you’re welcome to join us in the Lingodeer leaderboard thread and compete with the cool kids :sunglasses:

Good luck with your learning :vulcan_salute:

2 Likes

Steve Kauffmann (find him on YouTube) suggests that grammar will “come to you” with massive exposure to the language. He recommends repeated reading and listening…over and over. But the key is to find stories, articles, content that is very interesting to you! Your brain will discover the grammar patterns if you expose yourself to more and more reading and listening. THEN you can refer to grammar books or apps to get the deeper understanding of what you have already discovered through your extensive reading and listening. SUMMARY: Read and Listen Everyday to content you Really Enjyoy and don’t focus much on grammar until later.

3 Likes

And to make it easier to take the first step, here are some useful links:

I think it’s best to join in with the next ABBC book/manga, and follow along in real time. However, if you see something interesting that’s been previously read, utilizing the existing threads works as well. The ABBC often gets easier material, but BBC material is fine as long as you don’t mind it taking longer to get through.

This is worth repeating, as it helps set expectations. No matter how much grammar you know already and how many words you know already, chances of your first attempt at reading is going to be very difficult.

The brain is a pattern recognition machine, and you’re starting with very few patterns. It takes time to build up those patterns of seeing words and particles and such organized in certain ways. But with your WaniKani level being where it is, you’ll have a really big head-start on the vocabulary portion.

Still, even knowing many of the words, it’s perfectly normal to pick up a manga, one’s first attempt at reading native material, and spend an hour looking up every grammar on the first page alone. (This is where the book clubs help, as often the grammar’s already been discussed. And you can still ask questions in threads for completed book clubs.)

4 Likes

Note that you could multitask at least two of those activities and listen to some japanese podcast / immersion resource / grammar explanations.

2 Likes

That sounds painfully inefficient. Yes, babies learn grammar from exposure and not from textbooks. But they do this with a support network of people reinforcing what is right and wrong, and it takes a few years even with this support. Without that support it could take even longer. Why would you want to learn basic particles and conjugations through hundreds or thousands of hours of exposure when you can learn them much more quickly through a textbook and then solidify them through exposure?

8 Likes

Battle Royale! I had forgotten about it :scream: but it was one of my favorites as a teen and I had dreamed about one day reading the original. I still own the translated version… Now I want to buy the Japanese version to see how difficult it’ll be to read :thinking:

(confident boost thanks to all the book club reading I’ve been doing. I imagine reading a book without pictures for context will be alot harder, but I’m curious HOW hard/painful it would be.)

3 Likes

I highly recommend not adding any new items until you’re grammar is up to speed. I did that for N5 and was amazed at how much more I could read after just a few grammar lessons and I’m nowhere near level 40. You’re way too far ahead on kanji so it’s time to put kanji on the back burner for quite a while in my opinion.

For now just tackled all of the N5 grammar and start doing more input, reading and listening. You’ll be amazed at what you can read.

7 Likes

Another thing to consider is that we as native speakers of our own language often don’t actually ‘know’ the grammar that we use every day, without even thinking about it. If you really are struggling to get your head around a grammar point to the extent that it affects your motivation, I would say forget the grammar specifics for the time being, and simply focus on example sentences where it’s used instead. In short, learn it without learning it by just knowing examples rather than memorising some grammatical equation that isn’t sinking in. You’ve got this!

2 Likes

Immersion isn’t an efficient method of learning at the absolute beginner level, but I think at the intermediate level it starts to outstrip textbooks.

Once you understand enough context and vocab to start picking up meaning it’s great. If you’re just getting hit with a wall of nonsense it’s pretty useless.

10 Likes

By lvl 42 I was thinking about quitting and also did not have time for learning anything else but WK. I stopped every other Japanese learning and waited until lvl 60 to re-start learning grammar and reading. So far, I have no complaints with this path.

3 Likes