Wanikani without grammar

I’m loving WaniKani, I have ADHD but for some reason, I’ve found I can do WaniKani very easily and I’m having a blast. I’ve wanted to learn Japanese since I’ve got an interest in anime, manga, vtubers and other things too. I know WaniKani doesn’t teach grammar, and I don’t look forward to having to learn it. I thought learning it might be more fun when I’ve already gotten to a high level in Japanese vocab, and I wanted to try doing it that way. To what extent is this approach viable or detrimental?


It’s what I did, worked pretty well.

The downside is you’re going to know a bunch of words, but never use them, or know how to. You might catch them while watching something, and that does feel nice. But in the end, you’d make a lot more progress more quickly if you started grammar at the same time. Of course, life doesn’t have to be optimized. If you don’t mind, and don’t get burnt out from just learning a ton of useless (for now) words, then it’s pretty good for when you actually learn grammar.

There’s also SRS for grammar if you feel like that might also work for you. :slight_smile:

Bunpro, and probably other stuff now, iirc.

A lot of people reach level 60 and know no grammar basically, is that knowing Japanese? No. But they do know something.

Basically, doing what’s fun for you is fine.


Short bursts, game-like setup, instant feedback (and as such instant gratification) - WK and similar SRS thingamajigs are pretty good for ADHD.

If your goal is getting there fast, this probably isn’t the way to do it.

If your goal is just getting there, who cares what’s optimal? You’re never gonna have the perfect way to learn Japanese. Do what works for you.

Personally I wouldn’t go that route - what I did was use Bunpro to have an SRS for some basic grammar, and learn it that way, I went by JLPT level and learned the N5 and N4 grammar that way. That opened up a bunch of possibilities in terms of actually using Japanese for entertainment, from Japanese VTuber streams to reading manga in Japanese to watching Japanese cooking videos to whatever you imagine. And I personally think that’s probably the most fun way to learn.

That said, just… give whatever you’re planning to do a go. You know as well as I do that if something’s not working for you your ADHD brain is gonna refuse to do it in about a month or two tops. If that appears to be the case, you can always switch it up :person_shrugging: Time spent worrying about how to learn Japanese is time spent in any halfway useful way - whether it’s as recreation or actual productivity.


That was my original plan, to learn grammar afterwards, but I started reading and translating manga a few months ago, I quickly realized just bad my understanding of grammar was. Now, is it viable? Yes. But you have to accept that you won’t feel significant “I’m progressing” too often if you do so, you won’t be able to do much that you probably want to without it. Personally, I already had a basic natural understanding of Grammar that I picked up from years of anime, unironically. While my native language is English, my mother tongue is not, and I don’t speak it but I understand it perfectly, so maybe that had a bit of an effect on me to understand the structure. I don’t know really, I just kind of knew what sounded right.

What I suggest is getting into grammar slowly, no need to spend too much time on it, but a little bit would be nice and you’d thank yourself in the long run. Again you don’t have to, but it’s a good option


The issue is, even assuming you’d finish WaniKani, you won’t really be at a high level in Japanese vocab. From how I see it, two issues really.
A) You’ll be missing a bunch of high frequency vocabulary. WaniKani vocab was mostly chosen to reinforce kanji, not for it’s usefulness.
B) With Japanese being as different from English as it is, learning one English buzzword often doesn’t get you very far in terms of knowing a word. It’s a start, but you need to see it used a bunch for you to properly understand it.

And B) really is the big one in my opinion. You’ll be learning a bunch of things in isolation, which is a pretty big downside.
As others have pointed out though, learning Japanese is a hobby for most of us. We do it because we enjoy it one way or another. If you absolutely can’t make it work otherwise, it might just be the right choice for you.
As others have also pointed out though, learning grammar doesn’t need to be dry textbooks and pointless exercises. Personally I couldn’t deal with textbooks either and used a +1 sentence deck for grammar. Basically a sentence on the front, and each new card introduces some new piece of grammar/vocab. The sentences get more complicated as one goes on. The grammar one learned also gets repeated several times in later cards, so it sort of just sinks in while one SRS’s. I actually enjoyed that, you might be able to find something for you as well :person_shrugging:


Not really. Wanikani covers about 90% of joyo kanjis, meaning that you’ll be completely fine browsing through basically anything that isn’t too technical or too scientific or even too classical, like very old books and etc…

I started learning grammar properly once I hit level 40, using BunPro (just under 2 months ago) and its made a huge difference so far. Had I started learning it sooner, it would have only benefited me more now.

Before BunPro, I would just do quick searches on grammar terms I didn’t understand, but now I am committed to learning as many grammar points as possible.

I found I was starting to be able to read most content, however, I couldn’t grasp the concepts, I could only read the kanji, and in this regard learning grammar has only strengthened my comprehension.

I recommend Cure Dolly for learning grammar.


Unfortunately, this is not the case at all. Kanji are not vocab, so while I have gotten acquainted with 2000 kanji by using Wanikani, there are an ENORMOUS number of vocabulary still to be learned.

I’m currently plodding through some books /manga and stopping all the time to look up new words.


WK is out-of-context learning. You need exposure to the language to get the context. You won’t be able to retain anything WK teaches you if you don’t encounter it in context. If you don’t do anything besides WK, you won’t have the ability to immerse yourself into native material.

I would love to tell you “go ahead and do as you like as long as you enjoy it”, but I’m going to be cruelly honest here: I think it’s a terrible idea. If you have a goal of actually knowing the language, I don’t think this is the way to do it.


You can’t skip steps when it comes to learning language. Especially when grammar tells you so much about what is even happening. However many words you know you probably aren’t high level at all if you are considering just not learning grammar. Grammar is what makes you understand why 上げる and 上がる are not the same.

EDIT: I hit control and for whatever reason that is the POST shortcut.

Theres plenty of threads on r/learnjapanese with people looking for advice in your situation. I suggest checking there if you want advice on how to approach this.


Piling on - look, i get it. From all items i am currently working on in my Japanese learning journey, WK is by far the most fun and the most addictive - this from an officially diagnosed ADHD’er who either is obsessively all in on something or who can’t hold attention for a handful of seconds…
But learning mountains of vocabulary with no context and no way to tie up meaning is just a recipe to either forget everything quickly, or to just get frustrated along the way. You will be able to reach level 60 and burn everything, and you will encounter something like

And you’ll know that sentence is about eating and about thinking, but you wont get its meaning and it’s something that anyone who has studied Genki 1 should be able to read easily.

So - I’d try to somehow balance WK with learning grammar, other vocabulary and other practice along the way. I don’t have a magic formula and I am struggling myself to find the right balance but I’d strongly suggest you find other things beyond WK to build on.


I’m ADHD as well and allergic to textbooks, so I’ve been learning grammar by using BunPro whenever my brain will let me (which isn’t as often as I’d like… grammar’s more tiring than vocab, and thus more intimidating) and by reading, mostly manga since that’s easier for me than novels and I have more stamina for it. It’s not by any means fast, but it’s working for me. (tbh I’m still kinda hoping I’ll learn it by osmosis, but I doubt that’ll be the case lol)

How viable getting a big head start in vocab is depends on your needs. If you’re not in any rush to use the language, then it won’t be that big of a detriment, but if you want/need to use it soon, then doing both to the extent that you’re able is better. It is generally better to start learning grammar as early as possible, but of course, that looks different for everyone, depending on their needs, schedule, and how many spoons they have available to devote to language-learning. If learning grammar now is gonna take too many, then that’ll be the bigger detriment compared to putting it off

If you find something to read that interests you, though, that makes it easier since your interest in the material can propel you past at least some degree of the boringness of the actual studying. Whether that’s a video game, a manga, or even graded readers (or literally anything else—or something to watch or listen to if reading’s less your thing), that’ll make the hurdle of grammar seem lower plus help reinforce the vocab you’re learning (even make some you’re struggling with finally click!)


You’re in for a rude awakening


Raise. Rise. :man_shrugging:

Thanks, everyone, it is apparent that the majority feel that ignoring grammar would be quite detrimental, I’m glad I asked the question. Many of you suggested options for learning grammar that I hadn’t considered, I’m going to try some of these. My reasons for not wanting to learn grammar had a lot to do with the methods I envisioned having to use, perhaps I’ll enjoy learning grammar as many of you have, so I want to try that before resigning to doing a less optimal method.


Others have reiterated this A) point, but to what extent is this issue resolved by learning grammar? Do certain methods of learning grammar work less well for helping with this? I’m not necessarily looking to learn Japanese in the absolute optimal method but I don’t want to regret my approach.

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Mhhh, it won’t be really. I wrote that mostly in reply to the implied statement that finishing WaniKani will lead to a high level in vocab.

Trying to perfect one’s Japanese studies is a bit of a fools journey anyways, because we don’t really know what is the most effective to begin with.
Personally I wish someone had told me years ago to cut all the fluff and just try to make immersion comprehensible as soon as possible. Some grammar and high frequency vocab and you’re already good in terms of being able to follow easy anime/manga, which does a lot for ones studies. Instead of reading 10 articles on は vs が and still not quite getting it, read a couple volumes of manga and you’ll be fine.


It is resolved by learning grammar, because for learning grammar you’ll need to learn the vocab used in common and simple sentences. So as an extra benefit rather than directly from it.

In general, I don’t think you would regret your approach, as long as you progress somehow and don’t force yourself to remain only doing one thing, i.e. WaniKani.

Yeah, I don’t think anyone suggests this for beginners. :sweat_smile: it’s more of a, if you want to have it be clear for specific situations, kind of thing.


This has been my approach and I can only recommend it.

Can’t say my nihongo is particularly jouzu just yet, but it’s slowly getting there and I’m enjoying the journey so far because it consists of just doing the shit I like to do anyway but in Japanese. And the same approach worked just fine for English, I see no reason Japanese should be particularly different in that regard.


What method would you recommend to learn high-frequency vocab?