Supplemental learning for absolute beginners?

Hi all! I’m just starting my journey into Japanese (and WK!) and am following the Tofugu guide to learning Japanese, which recommends hitting level 10 before moving on to new learning. The problem is that I don’t “know” any Japanese apart from how to read Hiragana, Katakana and what Kanji I’ve learnt - but I don’t understand any of the things I can read (example sentences, Japanese out in the wild etc.) I know WK teaches vocab as well, but I wonder how much good this will do me when I don’t know how fundamentals of sentence structure etc.

I know a lot of people swear by reading native text to start cementing the Kanji we learn here, and I want to do that, but I wonder how much that will help me when I read a full sentence and understand none of it (other than knowing oh, that Kanji means katana - guess they’re talking about swords?) I tried my first graded reader last night but that was pretty intimidating for where I’m at.

I guess my question is - should I start “learning Japanese” - as in vocab, sentence structure, basic comprehension - before hitting level 10, and if so, what is the best resource you’ve come across for absolute beginners?

tl;dr - I’m thrilled I can read a lot of what I see, but I’m bummed I can understand so little of it.


I can speak only for myself, so here is a bit of my own exprience.

I started with the fundamentals (Hiragana/Katakana) and then picked up a grammar book aimed to beginners: Genki I to be exact. The first lessons there don’t use much Kanji and when it does, it has Furigana. Every chapter will introduce a handful of Kanjis and new vocabulary. The words used in the exercises are all from the chapter’s word bank.

Another way of exposing oneself to more “native sentences” while in the beginning is reading the example sentences provided by each word that you learn here.

Wanikani is excelent to teach you Radicals and Kanjis but the words while plenty aren’t enough and you’ll need to look for other ways to learn them. By then, as long as you keep the grammar learning up to date, you’ll start to venture in simple written “native material”.

As another source: Satori Reader seems to provide some interesting very basic reading source.
Good Luck!


tl;dr, if you really want to read something, pick up a text book like genki, that’s meant exactly for this, but it’s best to wait a bit.

Issue with reading at a complete beginner level, is that even though many people say, that your first read will be closer to a puzzle than a book, there’s still a limit to most people’s patience. The official wanikani recommendation either says level 10 before you start learning grammar, or in older posts, level 20 even.

Now if you have plenty of free capacity right now (to account for the amount of reviews you don’t have yet, but will), then you can start with some grammar resource. Something teaching you N5 grammar is a very good start, common recommendations include Genki I, if you like video content, Japanese Ammo, or Cure Dolly, the de facto free text resource, Tae Kim’s guide, or Bunpro if you want another SRS. All of them have many pros, many cons, and it’s actually best to use multiple, if you can.

But, it might be worth waiting a few more levels before jumping in. The first 5 levels will teach you 80% of the kanji that will be used in these resources, and that’s a huuge help. 5 levels should only take a month and a half if you do a fast pace. In that time you can get a feel to how you fare with the srs system.


Tbh, I find WK’s recommendation to delay grammar (and other) studies until you’ve reached level 10 to be utterly bewildering.

I have no idea why they put it in there and I suggest that people start with grammar study right away, or at least not much later than level 3.


I have been making a website that allows beginners to read genuinely enjoyable content from day 1. It introduces words using emojis and then build simple stories from them that get more complex as you progress. It’s not a conventional resource but in theory the Japanese you can read inside is correct is I pay someone to proofread it.
It’s the resource I wish existed when I started.

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Wait till around level 5 to begin your grammar studies. Consuming native materials before having gotten through something like Tae Kim is definitely possible. I wouldn’t recommend it because I find it too frustrating.

For grammar study, Marumori and Bunpro are good options. I use both.
For sentence reading practice, Kanji Study has the entirety of the KKLC reading exercises for a small price, and Jalup is also good. I use both.


I think you should study grammar and sentence structure before even beginning Wanikani (or immediately after beginning).

The reason is that you can utilize the example sentences given for Wanikani vocabulary way better if you have knowledge of how these sentences work.


You’ll get a lot of conflicting advice as to when you should start learning. I chose to start learning grammar effectively at the same time as I started WaniKani from the start. But, I’ve found that I need to adjust the pace of one or the other as I go to keep from burning myself out on studies.

That’s really the key: As you delve deeper into your Japanese language studies, you’ll start adding more resources. Make sure that what you add fits into both your schedule, and you’re mental capacity.

P.S. I started grammar when I did because I like grammar, and I would have actually become burnt out if I just did WaniKani…


A lesser know resource to start grammar is the Sakubi grammar guide which is perfect for beginner

Basically, this guide is a primer. This guide takes a very specific stance: The only way to acquire language features and become fluent is to consume them in a real context. This guide doesn’t try to drill you, and that’s a good thing.

When you read this guide, don’t try to memorize it. It won’t work.

You shouldn’t spend a week on each lesson. In fact, I think one new lesson a day is far too slow, even if you’re also reviewing old lessons.

Every single main lesson in this guide covers basic grammar. You should read the entire thing as quickly as possible. It’s important to get stuff in your head sooner rather than later. It gives it time to grow, subconsciously, and even if you didn’t feel like you learned it the first time, it makes it easier to remember it for good next time. Just don’t get stuck reviewing it forever.


This is more important for users that have gotten far enough to get past their first burn reviews, or arguably once they get enlightened items that have a long SRS cycle. Either way it’s several months into the program which should be enough for most users to get to the level 5+ range where beginner textbooks get much easier to read (being able to focus on the grammar/vocab and not the kanji is a huge boon).

I’m with Gorbit99 to just stick to a grammar resource initially. A good one should have plenty of examples to read and practice with. Graded readers are a great motivational tool, but a lot of the very early ones are kind of… jank. At the least I would recommend avoiding the ones that don’t even use basic sentences and coming back after making some progress in N5/Genki or equivalent.


Yes, of course you won’t be able to go full-speed in WK if you do other forms of study, unless you really have a lot of free time.

But IMHO that’s a good thing. Some people complete WK and seem to have learned barely any grammar in the meantime. I wonder what’s the point of knowing 2000 Kanji and having no idea how they’re actually being used.


Given the number of times I’ve seen people give up because they didn’t adjust for time when adding additional study methods, I feel it’s never a bad idea to bring it up into the discussion. :slight_smile:


I was agreeing with you - just wanted to add to it. :slight_smile:


Howdy! I started my learning journey in late September, so I can relate. Life got out of hand around the time I got all WK Level 3 content to at least Guru 2, so I sought out other sources while I considered whether or not I wanted to subscribe to WK. I got the Lifetime subscription at the turn of the year and am now using the resources I liked best in tandem with WK.

For point of reference, I’ll have Level 5 fully green bar’d by tomorrow morning. The idea of waiting until Level 10 to look at grammar is bonkers to me. That would be incredibly frustrating!

Here’s what I’m using in addition to WK (click each for details):

Kanji Study (Android only)

For learning to write and recall (as opposed to just recognize) kanji, I cannot recommend Kanji Study enough. You can drill kanji in a number of ways: simply studying the information, writing practice with or without stroke guides, select the correct kanji for the meaning, select the correct meaning for the kanji, select the correct readings for the kanji, and select the correct kanji to complete the commonly used vocab word. It also has graded reading, as @VegasVed mentioned above, and you’ll only be shown sentences with kanji you’ve already studied.

The free version has a pre-made study set of 100 kanji and the graded readers for those kanji available, as well as the built-in, searchable dictionary (which includes vocabulary as well as kanji!) The paid version allows you to make custom study sets, which has been amazing for me. The full set of graded readers are another fee. I’ve not bought them yet, because I’ve been using…

Graded Readers on Tadoku and Yomujp

Tadoku Graded Readers: 本の検索 – にほんごたどく
Yomujp Graded Readers:
These sites are loaded with graded readers, many of which are intended for absolute beginners (Level 0 on Tadoku and N6 on Yomujp. Yes, N6: they made up a new level just for us babies, haha.)

Tae Kim's and Tofugu's Grammar Guides

For grammar, I have been using Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide (Introduction – Learn Japanese) and the Tofugu guides (The Japanese Grammar Index).


I’ve been using Renshuu to supplement my learning with additional vocab and grammar study. The exercises in Renshuu have been a great, fast, easy way to practice grammar concepts I’ve just learned through the app itself, or the guides above.

Based on my experience so far, you will absolutely have to supplement your WK studies with additional vocabulary studies in addition to grammar. What WK puts in front of you isn’t exactly aligned with what you’ll read/hear the most often in conversations and media. You’ll need something to guide your word selection for supplemental studies, such as…

Kanshudo's "by Usefulness" Level lists

These have been an indispensable part of my studies. The main ones I’ve been using are Vocab by Usefulness - Kanshudo and Kanji by Usefulness - Kanshudo. Meaning, reading, stroke order, pitch accent (for vocab), words in context… it’s all accessible for each entry in these lists.

Here’s one of the main ways I’ve been expanding my kanji and vocab outside of WK:

  1. Jump on Kanshudo’s Vocab by Usefulness list and grab the next ten on the list that I don’t know.
  2. Is there kanji in those words which I don’t know? Add it to my custom sets on Kanji Study
  3. Learn the kanji
  4. Learn the vocab
  5. Return to step 1

Just for funzies, I also make little flash cards (like, physical ones! That you can touch!) for the kanji I learn, each including at least three of the “recommended words” from that kanji’s entry in Kanji Study. I don’t try to learn those recommended words at the time (that’ll come later), but they do give me a sense of what usage of that kanji is like. For example, is the kanji typically used in a very literal, concrete sense, or does it get used in more metaphorical ways?

Please forgive my terrible kanji writing skills.

As I mentioned in the Renshuu details, I’ve also been getting a bit of vocab through that app, but for some reason I’m finding retention is not working so well there.

I’m still in the process of finding good listening practice resources. I haven’t found anything I absolutely love yet, but I’ve had some fun with:

Japanese Immersion with Asami Full immersion videos for absolute beginners. She makes very clever use of the subtitles for learning purposes, and I like her approach.

Huge collection of a guy reading children’s books. A lot of it is still above me, but I imagine it’ll be great as my knowledge grows!

My last recommendation is to start working on using what you know ASAP! Do you have a store nearby that sells Japanese goods? Get over there and start peepin’ at packaging, signs, etc. I remember being in a Daiso months ago and getting far too excited about recognizing えんぴつ. I start every day by saying the day of the week (“おはいよ、もくようび!”) If I see something I know the word(s) for, I say it! Preferably out loud, but in my head if vocalizing wouldn’t be appropriate at the time. Now that I’ve got a grasp on basic grammar, I write at least two sentences each day and then read the sentence aloud into a translation app to see if it picks up what I’m trying to say. There are opportunities everywhere :slight_smile:

I may be an outlier, but I found Genki did NOT work for me. I stuck with it for a few chapters and decided it was not jiving with my brain, nor my priorities in language learning. As I understand it, it’s meant to be a companion to a Japanese language class, and feels as such. I am highly self-driven, and so decided to design my own curriculum instead. I understand that’s not for everybody, though.


Do grammar right away. When I did WK for the first time I thought I’d wait on grammar until I started taking classes, which I started about a year after I started WK. By the time I hit level 60, I’d learned about half of Genki I (which is not a lot). The result of course was that while I continued learning grammar, it would be a long time before I could read material that actually contained the kanji I was learning, since material made for kids will use hiragana instead of the rarer kanji. I naturally forgot most of what I learned.

Don’t be me. You don’t need to know any kanji to do basic reading or learn grammar, and those things are more useful to know and more fun to do.


To add to this, the beta which is publicly available and will soon be pushed to the main release includes SRS. This is a critically important feature that really helps in scheduling your studies aa you can just let the system guide you. In addition, you can set the levels to match WK levels in about 20 seconds. I wrote a thread about this which is easy to find.

It worked amazingly well for me. As a substitute for Ambien.


Thanks for the kanshudo info. That looks really useful.

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WHAT?! How did I miss the news about SRS integration?! I’ll wait for official release, but that is very exciting!

The thread @VegasVed mentioned, for the interested: Simplified import process for the Kanji Study app

Also, is creating custom sets via txt import really so simple as to just list the kanji with a new line character between stages? Good lord, this will make creating custom sets so much easier. Truly, Kanji Study continues to surprise me with great features on a regular basis.

Thank you!

Yes :grin:. Glad it’s helpful. And, your SRS sequence can be defined by a Custom Set :eyes:.

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