When should i start learning grammar

Hello, well, the main question is pretty much in the title,at what WaniKani level would be appropiate to start studying grammar without too many problems? I started reading a bit of Tae Kim’s Guide for grammar and it was kinda hard because there were a lot of kanji that i couldn’t recognize.Besides that, do you think i should add anything else to my studies?


Koichi recommends waiting until about level 10-20 before trying to tackle grammar because you should know most of the vocabulary in the books around those levels. Here’s an email I got from him regarding the skill of each level in WaniKani:


You’re going to want to learn hiragana and katakana, it’s a prerequisite to WaniKani.

Then learn about on’yomi vs. kun’yomi in kanji.

WaniKani Levels 1-3:

The first three levels are free, which takes 3-4 weeks to complete. They are a little slower, because you have to prove you have the knowledge before it unlocks new items for you to learn, but that’s partly why it’s free. The other reason is because it takes about three levels to really feel the benefits of WaniKani. At the end of Level three, you’ll have learned about 80 kanji and 200 vocabulary words. Actually feeling how you were able to memorize over three hundred (including radicals) items, most with multiple parts (meanings andreadings) in such a short time feels really good. But, you can only experience it if you make it through at least three levels. I highly recommend you do it, if you haven’t yet! Learning kanji takes a lot of patience, so a few weeks to do these three levels is just a drop in the bucket when compared to what’s next.

Levels 4-19:

I tend to recommend that people reach at least Level 10 (preferably level 20) before picking up a Japanese textbook. That way, in terms of kanji and vocabulary, you’ll be able to read pretty much everything in any beginner textbook you use. Then you can focus on the grammar instead of looking up the meanings of every other word and kanji. Having to context switch so many times makes it a) so hard to learn grammar, and b) very demoralizing. Students I’ve talked to who do the kanji/vocab first method tend to have a much more positive experience, develop at a faster pace (in the medium and long term), and are way less likely to quit from frustration. If you’ve ever tried to use a Japanese textbook with little-to-no kanji/vocabulary knowledge, you’ll probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

On WaniKani, Level 10 means you know around 89% of the kanji that Japanese second graders know, as well as ~99% of the JLPT N5 kanji and ~75% of the JLPT N4 kanji.

If you’re moving at a moderately-fast speed, getting to Level 10 in three monthsis very doable. Add another three months to hit level 20. Typical classrooms will take four or five years to reach this amount of kanji/vocab.

Level 20:

Ideally, this is where you pick up your first Japanese textbook. And actually, because of your kanji and vocabulary knowledge, it’s going to matter less which textbook you end up choosing. Without the distraction and difficulty that not knowing kanji/vocabulary creates, you should find that learning grammar is quite a bit easier! Don’t let up on your WaniKani studies, but between Levels 20 and 30 see if you can get all the way through a beginner level textbook of Japanese so you can start intermediate level grammar when you hit Level 30.

By Level 20, you will actually be able to read ~75% of the kanji that appears on Japanese news websites! Not all kanji are created equal, after all. The kanji you’re learning in the early levels are the kanji you’re going to see the most of.

Once again, moving at a moderately-fast you can finish levels 20-29 in about three months.

Level 30:

You’re halfway done! At this point, you’ve finished your beginner’s Japanese textbook. And, you’ve learned a lot of kanji/vocabulary. You know ~89% of the JLPT N3 kanji. You can read ~86.5% of the kanji in Japanese Wikipedia articles. And, at least when it comes to kanji, you’re finishing up your fourth year at a Japanese elementary school. It took those other dumb kids four years to get here, but you can do it just this year, if you want.

Between Levels 30-40, you should pick up an intermediate level textbook and try to work all the way through it. Once again, you’re going to know almost all of the kanji already because of your WaniKani level. Go ahead and focus in on the grammar.

I think you’ve figured out the pattern by now. You can get ~10 levels done in about three months if you keep at it.

Level 40:

Okay, now you’re getting pretty good at Japanese. At this point, textbooks aren’t going to do much. It’s just you, the open road, and some reference books to help you out. You need to go out and find materials for yourself, and see a lot of Japanese. Your goal is to find things that you already know 80%, then teach yourself that last 20%. Repeat. Over and over again.

One way to do this is to study with Japanese sentences. In this article we make some suggestions on where you can get sentences as well as how to go about this study method. One of those sentence resources, the 4,500 Sentences ebook, is currently 75% off in the Tofugu Store for New Years, fyi. Just like WaniKani, you need to figure out how to make this kind of study part of your daily ritual. If you do, you’ll notice your Japanese doing a sudden level up (it will feel this way, anyways) every three months or so.

When you reach Level 40, you will know around 83% of the JLPT N2 kanji, around 87% of the kanji found in a Japanese novel, and you will be near the end of your sixth grade school year in Japan.

If you started at Level 1 at the beginning of this year, it’s possible for you to end up here, even not at the fastest-ffastest pace.

Level 50:

At this point, you’re going to be quite proficient in Japanese. You will be able to read 98% of the kanji found on Japanese news sites and 96% of the kanji found on Japanese Twitter, and know a bit more than half the kanji required for JLPT N1, the highest JLPT level! Getting N1 or N2 is often a requirement for working or going to school in Japan.

In terms of your other reading studies, keep studying with sentences on a daily basis. As you get better, your definition for “knowing 80% of the sentence on your first read” will include more and more difficult sentences, though it shouldn’t feel more difficult to you. You still know 80%.

As sentences become easier, consider integrating articles, books, manga, news, etc., into your studies. Same rule applies, though. You should be able to understand about 80% of anything you use on your first read through. Otherwise, it’s too far above your level, and using another resource that matches the 80% rule will be more efficient for your overall speed.

For someone who puts in a lot of effort this year, getting to around Level 50 is not impossible. It’s a good goal for those of you who are feeling extra ambitious.

Level 60:

You’re at about a Japanese 9th grader’s level in terms of kanji now. The best thing you can do for your Japanese is to read. Like, a lot more. Good news, though. You should be able to read 99.21% of the kanji found in Japanese novels. That last 0.79% actually contains a lot of kanji, but at this point you should be really good at learning kanji, right? You don’t need ol’ WaniKani anymore.

Speaking of which, go ahead and keep doing your WaniKani reviews so you can burn those last items, but it’s really time for you to spread your wings and I push you out of the next, whoops. Get out of here. Go read.

If you’re working towards JLPT N1, you’re about 79% of the way there in terms of kanji. But it’s a tough test, so I hope you’ve been reading your fair share of Japanese books, articles, etc. Those are going to give your brain a sort of statistical framework it can work from. Your brain will identify patterns and connections. But, it needs you to input an insane amount of data. Reading will do this, and much more. Although we haven’t talked about it much, reading is a necessary part of advancing your speaking and listening abilities to and beyond fluency, too.

There you have it. That’s 2018 and then some. You can do a lot in a year, but it’s important to concentrate not on “big resolutions.” Instead, focus on seeing what you can do on a daily basis. Figure out how to do your reviews every day, even if it’s just a little bit, because those little steps add up to be much bigger than the whole.

And, if you’re just starting out at the early levels WaniKani already forces you to break things up into smaller pieces, and brings you back day after day (we literally try to get you mildly addicted to studying kanji).

Grab WaniKani Lifetime for 33% Off (sale is ending pretty soon)

Or, if you need some help with your Japanese studies this year (what to do next, what you’re doing now, etc) just reply to this email and we’ll be happy to try and help you out with some suggestions.

Anyways, happy New Years! Instead of starting 2018 off with a bang, let’s start it off with a small, repeatable task that we keep doing through the whole year, eh?



Genki, as well as the other main textbooks are meant to be started from zero. Vocabulary you need is taught in the chapters anyway. So frankly the answer is “yesterday”.


I have to say that Koichi’s recommendations seem odd to me. Picking up your first Japanese textbook at level 20? Starting an intermediate textbook at 30-40? You can do these things at much lower levels, frankly. As Syphus said, Genki is aimed at beginners, as are a whole raft of other textbooks. That is the purpose of a textbook, surely. To ease you into the reality of Japanese. Koichi’s words seem far too cautionary. Pick up a textbook. See what it’s like.


Because more people give up than continue to study Japanese.


People give up because it’s hard work. I don’t think dragging it out for longer is going to help.

Anyways, an interesting case study would be to look at the relative levels of the various level 60s and see what people say they can do. Probably just an informal Google survey or something.


I agree, but having a daunting first impression of all the work you have to do is a big turn off, I guess. Thinking it’s all easy and then facing reality can be a problem too though.

In my brief experience, having a healthy Japanese study routine is probably the most important thing. For a lot of people, Japanese isn’t their number 1 priority, so the moment something happens in their lives, Japanese suffers. They didn’t plan ahead.

Making this whole thing a consistent routine that works for you is definitely important. Avoiding the storm before it comes. I guess I’m considered by some people in here to be learning in a fast pace (started last June), but I don’t really think that I’m doing good enough honestly.

I have yet to find a routine that fully works with me. I’m not organized enough and I think a lot of people aren’t either. In a world that praises multi-tasking, we weren’t really taught on how to be laser focused.


Download LingoDeer for your phone and start learning Japanese with it, now. You can toggle kanji with furigana (little hiragana on top) so you don’t need to know kanji. This will help you get familiar with the language (some vocabulary, some grammar, and some pronounciation), but also start recognizing a few kanjis. Doing this and Wanikani at the same time is the best thing you can do. Some words will become familiar in LingoDeer because of Wanikani, some words and conjugations/grammar will become familiar in Wanikani because of LingoDeer.

LingoDeer is not a tedious grammar textbook or website, it has interactive lessons and also short grammar tips that don’t overwhelm you and don’t make you feel lost because of all of the kanji.

Plus LingoDeer is completely free, there’s nothing to lose.


I think in the end, if you want to do something, you’ll figure out how. It’s that for most people that “want” goes away when it becomes hard.

When I started, I just did what I can to make sure at least some Japanese was in my routine. So at least I knew a little bit of learning, or a little bit of usage was happening every day.

But anyway, I also think it’s because there’s this overemphasis on making things easy and there’s so much out there with complaining about things being “tedious” or “boring” so they find a resource that emphasizes how “fun” and “easy” it is, yet it actually barely teaches you anything. So people are constantly looking for those, yet they get burnt out by seeing how little they’re learning, or how far they have to go.


In short, it will be different for everybody. Koichi recommends being levels 10-20 in WK before starting, some people wait until 30; I started grammar at WK level 3. With resources like the Genki books, they make it pretty easy to read through and learn grammar points, as long as you know your hiragana/katakana. In the early chapters of the books they don’t use much kanji, so most things are written in hiragana anyway. Just move at your own pace. Ultimately my advice is that it’s never too early to start learning grammar.


Never! Grammar is for wimps.

But actually probably as soon as possible… My lack of grammar knowledge is killing me right now…


Now, or “yesterday” as syphus said. There is no downside to learning grammar right now, so why not do it. You are going to have to memorize it all some day anyways, so why not do more now to save time later. It will be nice when you are at a higher level and can focus on learning vocab/kanji for reading rather than having to go back to simple grammar points with example sentences like これはペンです. If you look through some of my posts you’ll notice my grammar isn’t too good compared to the rest of my skills. That would be because I didn’t listen to people like the ones in this thread when I was your level.


As a person who has a good handle of English, regardless of what you think of your skills personally, you (yes, you @jprspereira) have a better idea than those who are learning Japanese as their 2ND language. As @Syphus has mentioned, there are a lot of learners who like the idea of learning Japanese, they just don’t have any idea of what they are getting themselves into when they encounter language study. So they underestimate the amount of effort is necessary to be at least communicative in Japanese. Once they have an idea of what it may take to be “basically” proficient, many have already given up. I’ve seen this in my experience in teaching music; “Oh, could you teach me how to play X” → A month later they’ve already resigned themselves that they aren’t able to get any better because they’ve realized the amount of time that is required to be proficient.


I have picked up several textbooks at several points, and what I liked most was Tae Kim at about level 7 (where I am now or will be in a day or two). Starting text books earlier than that didn’t feel like I was actually learning grammar, just memorizing even more vocabulary, and less efficiently at that.


I just started learning kanjis, and felt I couldn’t just memorise kanjis without knowing any grammar, because my memory works better if I see kanjis in context (sentences) and I couldn’t understand the examples in wanikani because I didn’t know any grammar whatsoever. Lingodeer was a great suggestion because it’s a very gentle introduction to some basic grammar that allowed me to start understanding easy sentences, which is making my kanji learning much easier. Thanks a lot for the great advice :slight_smile:


Language is mostly spoken, though, so to learn Japanese words you don’t necessarily need to learn kanji. I started learning in a classroom setting in September and picked up WaniKani a couple months later. If wait too long with starting grammar you’ll know how to read ‘horse’ but not ‘there is a horse over there’.

In short: to speak the language I think learning the grammar is more important than learning the kanji. That said, it is very easy to mistake leveling up in WaniKani as progress in my Japanese studies…


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