Wanikani without grammar

Yeah, it was a bit of an hyperbole. Personally I spent way too much time trying to understand grammar well, when really being able to recognize it when you see it in a sentence is mostly enough. Worst case is you have to look it up again.

Mhh… If you ask 3 different people you’re probably going to get 5 different answers for that one. It really depends. I think if I had to start over I’d use jpdb.io ?
You can create a deck for the 2000 most common words in their database, which is a good start.


In my opinion I feel it would be a mistake to wait too long to do grammar. No grammar and vocabulary only means no reading practice and you need that reading practice especially if you have an interest in reading manga. My advice to you is to look into Crystal Hunters. Crystal Hunters is a Japanese language learning manga that teaches vocabulary and grammar. There is Japanese and Natural Japanese. The Japanese version is easier so I recommend buying that version through amazon kindle. Then go to their website under free stuff and you’ll see there guides. Make sure to pick the Japanese guide and you’ll see a list of all vocabulary used in the manga and pages of grammar explanations. This will help you a lot as you’ll see the grammar used in context and then you should be able to fully read the manga as long as you read the guide first.

They currently have 5 volumes right now so I recommend giving that a try. Also there is a video game in development called Nihongo Quest N5 on steam so make sure to wishlist that as that game will teach N5 level grammar. Hope this helps. :smile_cat:


Vocabulary is a very minor factor, it’s super easy to get it the problem when reading is mostly kanjis you don’t know.

Different people are different. Vocabulary is one of my weak points so I need to take extra time to study vocabulary.

I’d guess you’d need atleast 20k words, WK supplies 6k. It’s a math problem.


jpdb.io is incredible, it lists the vocab used in games, anime, movies, books, all in chronological order, ranks those vocabularies by overall use and allows you to put them into lists. Including particles, and all of it in the order they were used. Then gives definitions for those words and has an audio bite for pronunciation and examples of their use in sentences. I’m really impressed. I love WaniKani’s mnemonics, I’m not keen on the idea of trying to learn to read without them, or words without learning the radicals and kanji first, but from the perspective of broadening my vocab and working towards understanding the Japanese content I consume. The website has a lot of utility, I will check out some guides to see how others use it, I’m concerned about the possibility of biting off more than I can chew.

My expectations for how one would go about learning Japanese have proven to be quite outdated, I got lucky by finding WaniKani and this forum. I knew I should consult with people who’ve got more experience but I expected to mostly be told things I already knew, but instead, I’m learning a lot, thanks again to everyone.


Theres a trend there is what I was trying to say between transitive and intransitive verbs.

WK (Tofugu) recommends this until Level 10 or so. In theory, you could go to Level 20 or so, just to have a base… but like many others, I think you should start basic grammar ASAP.

Here are some options:

  • Try some YouTube videos, like Cure Dolly, Japanese Ammo, George Trombley, or some thing…
  • Try an audio course
  • Look at Tae Kim’s free guide (available online and via apps) and just look at one section at a time until you get a little familiar and want to dive into a textbook

Unfortunately, this turns out not to be the case.

There are lots of words. There are lots of high-frequency kana-only words. There are lots of high frequency words for which the ‘meaning’ of the kanji seems unrelated to the meaning of the word. Most books I’ve read use many non-joyo kanji. Word meanings are often subtle, and difficult to grasp from a dictionary definition. Words used depend on context, is it literary or speech, plain, honorific, humble, slang. Then there are the names…

And that’s before you get to grammar and expression strategy. Learning a couple of thousand kanji is one step of many.

The good news is that it’s a challenge / hobby that can last you decades.


So… if you want to read manga and watch anime, you’ll need to work on reading and listening to Japanese. With WK, you will learn some kanji, and some words, but you still won’t be able to read or listen.

There’s no learning detriment with finishing WK, or getting to level 30 or whatever before learning grammar and listening skills, but it will mean that you won’t be able to read or watch native content for all the time you spend not learning it, which might be years, which in turn might be demotivational.

My advice (worth all that you’ve paid for it…) would be to get into a routine with WK, and then identify some spare time you have for something else, or create some spare time by slowing WK down a bit. Fill that space with a bit of grammar, a bit of listening, a bit of reading.

Personally, I found the best way to learn grammar was by learning the absolute basics, and then going through grammar specific sentences (my usual plug for the 8547 Japanese sentences Anki deck, plus the grammar dictionaries they’re taken from), and I started listening skills with Nihongo Con Teppei for Beginners.


I somewhat disagree with this, but perhaps I don’t understand the point you are making. It sounds like you are saying the issue with comprehending vocabulary words is that they are comprised of kanji you don’t know, but that isn’t the way vocabulary is learned. The problem with words you don’t know is that you don’t know them, not that you don’t know the kanji they are comprised of. Once you learn a word, you also obtain a better understanding of the kanji therein.

I remember hearing “facade” spoken the first time in my life in my early twenties and I was like “Huh… I’ve been reading that word wrong in books for nearly a decade. No one must ever know this…”

I would say, and I’m likely to be corrected, that learning kanji doesn’t automatically enable you to learn words containing that kanji. Learning enough vocabulary words gives you a rough predictor of how a kanji will be read/pronounced in other words.

There are a few thousand commonly used kanji. There are over 10 times that many unique words that can appear in a large enough publication.

TL;DR: Vocab > Kanji, and you will learn kanji faster through vocab than the other way around.


In some cases knowing the kanji a word is made up of might help in reasoning about the meaning of the word - if you know enough about the nuances and such expressed by a kanji, which is a whole different story in its own right and won’t be taught by anything other than learning (and understanding the nuance of) a bunch of vocab with said kanji, making this kind of a moot point. And even then the kanji to meaning relationship might not even be apparent until you know what a word means - 電子 is perfectly logical, if you know what it means, but I wouldn’t in a million years have guessed that it means “electron” just from the kanji.

And then ateji come knocking and upend the whole thing… :smile:

Yeah, I have to agree. You’re generally better off learning kanji as a part of vocab than you are trying to build vocab from kanji - especially since you’re not really gonna “get” kanji without making them part of vocab.

I’ve actually more or less come to the conclusion that since learning vocab is the end goal anyway I might as well just skip the intermediate step of trying to learn kanji in isolation, but that’s a different discussion altogether


Yeah “vocabulary is a very minor factor and the real problem is kanji” is the most comedically backwards and stereotype beginner comment on reading.

I would say no one should correct you, since this is right.

Learning kanji, whatever that means, doesn’t guarantee any level of vocabulary ability really. It just guarantees you’ll have a generally easier time learning the vocabulary that contains it. Even if you learn the 訓読み for the kanji 人 as being ひと and learning that the kanji “means” person, you don’t really actually know the word 人 for sure until you check and realize, yep, its exactly what you expected. It seems so obvious, but its not a guarantee. If learn the a kunyomi for 瓶 and that it means “bottle”, you will be misreading 瓶, because surprise surprise it actually uses the onyomi. If you learn the kanji 瞬’s kunyomis and that it means “wink”, well then both your guess for the reading AND meaning of the word 瞬 will be wrong. And this is still being very nice and just using simple single kanji words. Getting into multi kanji words and expressions just makes it more difficult. Not to mention even if you guess it right you still dont know till you look it up.

For anyone unconvinced who would like a demonstration. I picked some words off the top of my ankideck that are highest in queue that use very simple kanji. I would be surprised if anyone who hasn’t learned these words could both guess meaning and reading. And again, I emphasize, these aren’t even the hardest ones I could find. Literally just the first ones that popped up to be reviewed next, so its not like I had to search for these. All kanji appear before level 25 on wk i believe. Heres 10

今上 きんじょう the present emperor
風上にも置けない かざかみにもおけない to disgrace a group of people
音を上げる ねをあげる to give up
時化る しける to be glum
人を食った ひとをくった arrogant
真しやか まことしやか seemingly true (but not)
大らか おおらか calm
確と しかと clearly
足がつく あしがつく to be tracked
努々 ゆめゆめ a little bit (used with a negative)

Now again, I wouldn’t expect someone who hasn’t learn those words or expressions to get even a single one correct for both meaning and reading. The point is that “knowing the kanji” isn’t a magical gateway to being able to read anything with ease. A high level of literacy is like walking up a mountain, and just being familiar with the kanji is like buying yourself a nice hiking shoes and putting them on. You’re not done with the hike, you didn’t even start. You’re just more prepared. So how far does the 6000 words on wanikani put you up the mountain? Like a fourth of the way, maybe. Probably wayyyy less if you start considering things like alternate definitions, nuance, recognizing usages, and grammar. In that case its probably more like 1/6th or 1/7th in my experience.


I think there’s something to be said for learning to recognise Kanji, and having a reasonable idea of what meaning they’re associated with most of the time. There’s a definite intermediate stage of learning a word where I’m recognising individual kanji, before I recognise the word on sight.


I mean, sure, there’s something to be said for that - but IMO if I learn the words, kanji and all, I’ve achieved the same goal.

YMMV and you should absolutely do what works for you but even when it comes to learning kanji I’ve had better and faster results knowing a word that contains certain kanji and then learning the kanji as part of that than I’ve had the other way around, so knowing 最強 and 勉強 will already cement that 強 is きょう, making learning that a breeze, whereas the other way around I’m learning the readings by heart first and then I have to learn the words that contain them, which feels backwards to me and takes longer. It’s only rarely that learning to recognise specific kanji helps me recognise words, in my experience.

What I will say helps me tremendously is learning radicals. Just knowing what parts kanji can consist of simplifies them enormously - and makes them a lot easier to recognise as a result.

So in short, I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m still learning to recognise kanji and associate their readings and meanings (where applicable), I’m just letting that flow more or less naturally from learning vocab rather than memorising the kanji first. Seems to work better for me, but that doesn’t mean it works better for everyone of course.


bruh you legit using a couple examples, well MOST vocabulary will use the meanings of the kanji in them, it’s very easy to pick up COMPARED to picking up kanjis.

its fine approach. 90% of all efforts in language learning is pretty much vocabulary acquistion where you need to know around 12k-15k worlds to be truly proficient. 15k+ if you want to read novels since they contain tons of descriptive words that are only used in written language.

grammar ussualy takes 2-3 weeks max in order to cover fundamentals the rest is easy acquired through immersion.

i would still heavily advise to add nother vocabulary tool- for example torii.srs - there is an option to learn vocabulry words sorted by wanikani kanji levels but without the vocabulary allready covered in wanikani. Even though im lvl 27, my vocabulary is around 6k words including 1000+ only kana words thanks to this supplementary app.

I’d say the main problem is if you don’t know much grammar while you study kanji, you can’t practice reading. It doesn’t actually take that high of a gramatical level to start reading some of the easier manga, as long as you’re okay with looking things up.

I got to level 60 on WaniKani while having very little grammar knowledge and the only reading I did was in my classes, where my class was expected to know like 50 kanji. So naturally, I rarely saw anything I was actually learning, and when I cancelled my WaniKani subscription, within a year I needed a reset.

It may seem like hitting level 60 is just checking the box for Kanji, but in reality to keep that knowledge you need to use that knowledge. Best way to do that is reading things that interest you. Shonen manga is usually made for kids, so it’s easier than you would think.The first manga I read was Yotsubato!

Its not about the relative difficulty of learning a single word vs a single kanji. It’s about the sheer amount of vocab in comparison. Even if you managed to perfectly guess 66% of words if they used wk Kanji, there would still be an enormous pile of words you couldn’t read.

Either way, I’ve made that journey myself so I’m speaking from experience. What are your credentials? You seem very firm in your claims so I’m curious where they’re coming from.

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Literally trying to read N4 articles, Japanese has been more and less so of a hobby I do study more at school but it’s usually more speaking and grammar rather than kanji, because they themselves ask for you to learn the kanjis using a multitude of ways, they are actually tuned to wanikani, meaning they teach phrases and etc in the same order as wanikani, so far i’ve met a enormous amount of words I don’t know, mainly at other medias like twitter for example, while in fact a couple of them really don’t makes any sense just by kanji meaning, majority of them do… at least the ones I’ve encountered so far, and those ones aren’t that harder to learn either, principally if you have a friend or teacher to tell you what it is. :japanese_goblin: