I’m currently only at level 3 in Wanikani and have been progressing steadily. I’m wondering at what point I should start grammar practice? I’ve heard of some users using Bunpro for grammar and I’ve been thinking of checking out Genki, but I’m unsure if knowing grammar will be very useful yet with a vocabulary of only about 100 words.
I mostly just would like to focus on reading for now, and whatever gets me there the fastest is what I’d like to do. When should I start trying something like untranslated manga or visual novels? I get the feeling sticking with just exercises for any longer than I have to is going to slow me down considerably and I’ll pick up a lot quicker once I’m able to start using Japanese for fun and not just for flash cards (though I do intend to stick with Wanikani through to the end). I can tell I’m at least not there yet, but Wanikani is proving to be more effective than I expected and I’d like to start setting achievable goals.
It’s never too early to start gaining grammatical knowledge. Perhaps what you should do is to look at some really basic grammar so that you have an idea of how things might join up in a sentence. You can try some grammar sites for that, like Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese, Maggie Sensei, WasabiJpn and so on. I think another good series to try is NHK Easy Japanese;
This grammar may not be meant for reading, but honestly, grammar applies across various forms of communication unless you’re looking at really archaic structures, so it’s still worth looking at. You’ll probably also learn some basic phrases, which could be useful.
It really depends on what sort of manga you’re reading, but from my experience, if you can understand anime without subtitles/with almost no subtitles, you’re very much capable of handling manga (from similar genres) without much help. I’m not so sure about VNs, but some of them aren’t too different from manga in terms of the language they use, except for the fact that they’re sometimes a little less conversational in style. Manga are often a little simpler in terms of vocabulary and grammar than anime and novels, but that’s not always the case. I think Yotsuba&! is one of the more common ‘easy’ manga that people read on these forums at the beginner’s level. You’ll really just have experiment a little until you find something that you feel is suitable for you.
I agree with this from personal experience as well, but for some people, flashcards and SRS work very well. I guess the main thing to look out for is ways of gradually linking new Japanese knowledge to other things that you already know in Japanese. That way, you’ll get more comfortable to working entirely in Japanese.
For the moment, I really think that the easiest things to tackle might be NHK Japanese resources and perhaps beginner podcasts on YouTube? I’m sorry that I can’t really give you anything more specific, because I’m more of a textbook learner, and I already spoke Chinese before starting Japanese, so I didn’t really have to spend as much time studying kanji as most people might have to.
I appreciate the suggestions! These all seem like very good resources. I mostly intend to read whatever is at my skill level and manga seems like the best resource for that (especially with the furigana). I’ve found with other languages, like German, trying to always read slightly above my skill level (but not too far above) is really the best way for me to learn, and most of the grammar comes more naturally. I will definitely take the NHK stuff a look and youtube is a good idea, too. The more different ways I can see and use Japanese, the better, I think.
My ultimate goal is to be able to work with older Japanese computers and their software for which no translations really exist. The first steps are of course the most difficult, though. What I need most are more ways to get a good foothold in the language. I hope by the time I get to level 40 of Wanikani I’ll be able to start reading some of the hardware manual and programmer’s bible for the PC-9801, with no small degree of assistance of course. Translation tools just aren’t enough on their own and it would nice to be slowed down by them a lot less.
I’ll try NHK tomorrow and maybe open up a manga just to get an idea of where I’m at. I was watching Parasyte the other day and was surprised I was actually recognizing some of their words. Hopefully future progress continues to be similarly rewarding.
Bunpro is good, but not in isolation. Japanese grammar is very different from most western languages, so getting used to it through reading is good, but it really helps to have a guide. I recommend CureDolly’s series of videos. The voice manipulations are a bit cringing at times, but the content is very good and helped my accuracy in Bunpro quite a bit.
If WK level 3 and no grammar paints an accurate picture of your Japanese ability, you can’t read any Japanese yet, and if you try you will be in Dictionary Hell.
At your level you should learn basic grammar. Unfortunately there’s no good definition for “basic grammar”, but it includes basic sentence structure, common particles, and some verb conjugation (at least negative and past tense forms). Truth is, if you’re enjoying grammar study, you can go as far as you want - but at your level you’re likely to hit a point where you’re getting confused and the examples are all hard to read, and that’s where you should stop for a while.
Around level 15 is when you should pick reading and grammar study back up. Give or take about five levels. Somewhere in there.
At that point reading will still be difficult-to-impossible, depending on what you choose to read. Graded readers should be alright; you might be able to do NHK Easy. If you can do NHK Easy you can probably do the easiest books and manga.
If you are a complete begginer, I would recommend “minna no nihongo” series. As far as I know, there are 4 books (two basic and two intermediate). That would be enough for you to establish communication there in japan.
If you are on an intermediate level already (as I like to describe myself). “Satori Reader” is a great app to get in touch with useful material and the built-in flashcard system works just like Wanikani (spaced repetition).
But if you actually need to read technical or advanced books not available in english, then learning kanji is a must. Try to combine the above with WK to achieve that in record time.
Yeah, I personally find that encountering new things in a meaningful context (like through reading) is really helpful. I picked up most of the grammar covered by Tobira (an intermediate textbook) by watching anime and looking up what I didn’t understand, and my goal wasn’t even to learn grammar specifically.
I still think that textbooks are probably a better way to learn basic grammar though (unless you’re on a budget and don’t want to buy any), because they aggregate and organise what you might call a ‘critical mass’ of knowledge to help you get off the ground. Learning little bits here and there like a dilettante might make gaining momentum a little harder, especially since we don’t know what we don’t know when we’re starting out.
Oh, that sounds really interesting! Maybe you’ll want to look at Japanese sites for learning programming some day? I personally like http://prog-8.com/ a lot. It’s probably a little too advanced (Japanese-wise – but there’s an English version of the site too!) for you at the moment, but I imagine you have some programming knowledge already, which could help you work through the material once you know enough kanji and grammar to read it. It helped me pick up a few words and technical terms, at any rate, like 入力（にゅうりょく=input）、出力（しゅつりょく=output）、代入（だいにゅう=assignation） and 矢印キー（やじるしきい=arrow key）. There are also other sites out there you can try once you’re ready.