Using WaniKani exclusively to learn Japanese (eventually)

Hello all. I am trying to learn Japanese purely as a fun exercise and eventually watching anime without subs and reading light novels in distant future. That’s why I am kinda ok skipping grammar for later after finishing WaniKani. Are there any downsides to this approach? I am fine not being able to read stuff till I finish Wanikani, but would like to know if spending time on grammar will improve my speed in WaniKani.


I don’t think grammar influences your speed in WaniKani but it would make sense to study grammar on the side. It doesn’t need to be much. A little bit every other day during the time you go through WaniKani already makes a difference and when you finish WK it would be easier for you to start reading light novels.


Technically, you don’t need to know any grammar to complete WK. However, learning some grammar will let you start consuming content sooner, which generally 1) will help keep you motivated to finish WK, and 2) will give you more reinforcement for the words and kanji you learn through WK. Some people also find that they gain more from WK if they know some grammar, since they’ll understand the parts of speech used in Japanese and that sort of thing.


In my experience reading (manga in my case) improves my kanji and vocab retention in WK and makes the learning process as a whole more fun. You’re not going to be reading much without grammar tho. Just N5~N4 goes a long way:)

A potential downside besides WK alone not being as fun as WK + reading is that, depending on your pace, you might actually have started forgetting burned items by the time you finsih WK. This downside is eliminated by starting to read early as you’ll keep reinforcing what you learn through encountering kanji and vocab in the wild.


The main issue is that you don’t need to finish WK to read light novels, and you definitely don’t need it for watching anime (that being purely listening), but you definitely do need some grammar for either of those things. So given your stated goals, “do WK and nothing else until I hit level 60” doesn’t seem like a very efficient strategy for getting to the point where you can start to do some of what you want to do.


I’ve found my grammar studies more useful than WK. I can easily look up kanji I don’t know, I can’t as easily google a grammar point I don’t understand.


Definitely do some grammar on the side. WK is about a 2 year commitment if you keep on track. You can jump into reading and watching anime without subs almost immediately. You won’t understand everything right away. Start small. You can start with things you’ve already watched/read in English. Focus on what you are hearing. See if you can figure things out. Take notes, look things up as needed.
It’s always fun to see things you’re learning from wanikani while you consume media! Especially if you go back to re-reading something and find more and more kanji each time :slight_smile:
Good luck in your learning adventure!


If you’re currently grammar-averse, I would recommend just lightly going over some basics now at a casual pace. Then, when you get to around level 10 (or maybe even level 20) in WK, reevaluate how you feel about studying grammar more intently. You might find that you feel very differently at that point. Considering how many kanji you’ll know at level 30, there’s really isn’t much practical reason to avoid grammar or reading by that point. Grammar helps reading; reading helps listening; and all of that will be beneficial to your enjoyment of anime and light novels, not just in the future, but starting now and along the way.


Depending on the anime you watch, you’ll likely be able to recognize 80% of the overall kanji used in a series by WaniKani level 30. In some cases, by level 20. Granted, this includes known kanji in vocabulary not covered by WaniKani.

I highly recommend learning basic grammar and starting to read material with furigana before that.

The Absolute Beginner Book Club will be reading the manga 「ルリドラゴン」 starting in a few weeks, then we’ll be reading 「ちいさな森のオオカミちゃん」 after that.

Both would be good opportunities to dip your toes into reading. You’d want to spend a few weeks in advance reading up on basic grammar (no need to be in-depth knowledge) to reach a point where you’re ready to start reading.

Following along with the club would then give you a chance to get to know the grammar better and to get used to reading (an exercise that will be difficult to begin no matter how many kanji and vocabulary you recognize).


A commonly heard sentiment among those who hit level 60 fast then return at a later time, is that they forget a lot of the WK material. Seeing as 80% of the 1000 most frequent kanji are covered by level 30, burning those early levels and then forgetting them as you complete later levels can be catastrophic.

You might not want a heavy duty grammar source with writing and workbooks and recordings like Genki, but flipping through a gentle beginner grammar source like Tae Kim or Human Japanese (or if you prefer videos, a youtube course like CureDolly or Japanese Ammo with Misa) will allow you to recognize basic sentence constructions and begin to catch your WK vocab in context as you watch anime (with or without subtitles) or begin to poke into the basics of reading. Just 5 or 10 minutes of grammar a day a few times a week is going to be far more helpful than trying to hit 60, then trying to read half remembered kanji in a beginners grammar text afterwards.


Japanese learners tend to focus on the kanji first because they are seen as “the hardest” part of Japanese.

But remember that Japanese children don’t learn kanji until they are already fluent listeners/speakers, and can already read kana. They learn 猫 (in junior high school), as another way to write the concept they already know as ねこ. That’s a very different process from learning the cat = 猫 = ねこ equivalence all in one go.


Bit of a tangent, but I feel like this is to some extent a new thing from the internet Japanese learning community. The old-school traditional classes-and-textbook approach doesn’t foreground kanji that way, starting out with just kana and only very slowly introducing kanji along the way. (The really old-school stuff doesn’t even assume kana and uses romaji…)


The old school approach arguably goes too far in the other direction, assuming that most people want to learn conversational Japanese in order to visit Japan, and only “serious students” care about the written language.

“Remembering the Kanji” was published in 1977, and Heisig argued that learning the readings first was either unnecessary or actively harmful.

I don’t know whether it’s internet-driven specifically, but certainly such an approach only makes sense if your primary goal is reading. That could be as an academic (Heisig himself), as a manga consumer, or as someone who primarily communicates with Japanese people via the internet. It’s also true that the internet era has made Japanese popular culture much more accessible, and dramatically increased the number of people seeking to learn Japanese as a path into that culture.


Genki still does that, to be fair. I get it’s more focused on using spoken Japanese but my point is there’s still modern resources that push kanji to the background.


I include Genki in the textbook-and-class category. I don’t know of any textbooks that assume or advocate big-kanji-study-up-front.


Double comment by mistake.
Thanks everyone for the replies! Much appreciated. I understand the geenral idea that grammar alongside consuming media would be helpful in retaining WK better. My hesitation also comes because I like the gamified SRS structure of WK with levels and all. So I feel more motivated to finish WK as a checklist (I know only level 3 out of 60 so plenty of time to lose that motivation :sweat_smile: ). Are there any grammar resources that are also gamified like WK, but for grammar?
@pm215 You are correct. I would say those goal are far away in the future though. I like the gamified and fully contained system in WK hence the preference to learn as many words as possible before moving on grammar.
@ChristopherFritz thanks for the club recommendation! Will try and see if I could make it there.


You should check out


It is OK to start grammar later on. I did that. When I was on level 42, I think I had done only Genki 1. However, the sooner you get grammar, the sooner you can read stuff. The sooner you can read stuff, the easier is to retain the kanji and vocabulary that you learn here. The more stuff you are able to read, the more motivated you get to continue studying Japanese.


Someone posted this exact idea a couple months to and I’ll just copy and paste what I said.

It’s a bad idea if reading is part of your goal because the reason WaniKani has “burned” items is because they expect you to see it again in your reading within said 6+ months of burning that item. So while you might have wanikani completed, you didn’t use any of the knowledge you acquired and will likely have lost it. Plus you will forget the words more often as you aren’t exposing yourself to the language at all. Grammar is going to have a bigger impact on your ability to read than kanji is and there is less of it to learn when we talk about the most frequently used grammar structures.

TL;DR this idea can’t work if you aren’t reading and at least looking up grammar or learning grammar on the side in some way.


WaniKani and Bunpro, for kanji and grammar respectively, are a match made in heaven. You can do ten lessons per day on each and surpass the average first-year Japanese college class.

Learning to read means you translate といいんですが as “and” “good” “but”.
Learning grammar means you translate といいんですが as “I wish for this”.

Do both :relieved: