When to approach grammar and where?

Hey there,

I have started with Japanese and have now reached Level 2 (yea pretty early I know).

What I would like to ask you guys is: When did you start learning grammar? Which book/sources did you use? When did you know to keep going forward?

I learned these few kanji and Hiragana but I think I might get stuck soon just because I don’t know what to do next.

Regards,
Numan

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I’d say it’s never too early to learn grammar, though I’ve found that I can only learn so much of it before I need to see it in context. The way I proceed is to read on grammar until my eyes start to glaze over and I start questioning whether what I’m learning is useful or not. That’s usually the point of diminishing returns.

Then I read Japanese content. As much as I can, without worrying too much about understanding the words. Whenever I recognize one of the grammatical structures I’ve seen, it helps give context to the lessons and gives me this “Aha! I know this” moment.

Once I feel I’ve internalized pretty well the 5-6 lessons I’ve read, I go back to reading about more grammar, then bounce back and forth with more reading.

I’m hoping as well that the Absolute Beginner Book Club will give me plenty of opportunities to both learn more grammar and to go much deeper into the grammatical understanding of each page. Having several dozen pairs of eyes all picking apart the same sentences will do that :slight_smile: I’d encourage you to join the book club, seeing as it’s right about to start in a few days. The discussion alone will be worthwhile, not to mention the motivation boost of doing things all together.

Here are other resources you might like:

Organic Japanese with Cure Dolly
Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese
Bunpro
Don’s Japanese Conjugation Drill (Grammar exercise and practice)
I also know the Genki books tackle grammar, though having not gone through them I don’t have any opinion on them. Worth a try though.

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IMO after studying genki II years ago and then watching some of the first cure dolly videos about japanese lessons,

I was dislearning some things about ha and ga and honestly I didnt like it. I prefer to keep what I studied in grammar on genki.

Later I will try bunpro to see if it is good.

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Conversely I recommend starting with Cure Dolly right away. She teaches you what you need to know in a very simple and logical way. If you follow the video course you could be reading in a few weeks.

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Thank you very much for this well written response! Thanks for putting in such an effort. I will definitely look at your resources. Arigatou!

I will look into it. Thank you so much!

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an approach I’ve found useful is focuses on picking up grammar through examples first, and then explanation of the structure after. I started a class with a teacher who uses genki when I was around level 5, and that mostly uses this method (simple dialogue, followed by grammar explanation and glossary of relevant vocab, then questions for you to practice using the grammar) which seems pretty good to me.

I’d say you might as well start as soon as you’re interested - it makes WK feel much more integrated and useful, and I found I already knew a decent amount of the kanji used in genki1 and my class. which was a nice confidence boost :blush:

I looked at Tae Kim’s guide early on, and it was logical enough, but I didn’t have enough knowledge of anything to comprehend it, being a total beginner. I would try read some of the Tofugu grammar articles, but don’t worry if you’re not taking it all in yet. But then come back in a few levels and see what makes more sense. Working with Bunpro helped solidify things, but there are only so many hours in a day. I keep checking in with sites, like NHK easy or Tofugu articles I have read in the past, to see if my vocabulary is good enough for the examples to be readable and useful.

But it’s never to early to learn about basic things, like な/い adjectives and godan/ichidan verbs. You can say quite a bit with a few particles like は and を. Also see if you can pin down intransitive/transitive patterns early, which will save you some headaches later.

My last recommendation is once you have the smallest amount of grammar is to try writing your own sentences. It’s great practice for using vocabulary you have trouble with and really deciding if you understand the grammar or not. Good luck!

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Hey! I have looked into all your resources and Bunpro seems like wanikani but for grammer. Can I only use Bunpro or are there backdraws that it has? :slight_smile:

Bunpro is solid, and I personally like the regularity of SRS studies. It makes it easy to make it a part of your routine.

That said, I don’t believe any one method has all the answers. I’m a fervent believer of the holistic approach, which is why I’m studying kanji and vocabs not just through WaniKani, but also with RTK and Koohie. The same is true for grammar. Having multiple sources explaining the same topic from different angles gives me more tools to grasp the language. For example, Cure Dolly’s explanations on the sentence structure were very clear and eye-opening, yet I’ve found Tae Kim more useful for verb endings.

As a comparison, the fact that Bunpro starts with です while neither of the others do (Tae Kim starts with だ while Cure Dolly starts with が) shows which aspect of the language is in focus. I value casual speech over formal grammar, so for me Cure Dolly felt like a better investment of my time than Bunpro at the start, though over the long term they all lead to the same place regardless. If you want to stick by Bunpro first, then go right ahead. You’ll definitely see some results before long

As before, thank you again for your very insight answer.

I think the things you talked about with where they all start is not even something I can understand because I don’t have enough of an “overview” of the language at all. That said though, I think I will start with Bunpro and keep switching as you said. I really enjoy watching YT videos on Japanese, so I think I can watch the videos of Cure Dolly to see if she touches any topics that I already seen (like you said, to get different angles).

I also have the Tae Kim book. It’s really cool and I am right now at chapter 2 or 3 of that book and really liked it.

Like I said, thanks! And I have enough to learn for the next few months atleast :smiley:

You mind telling me what RTK and Koohie are?

I use both bunpro for grammar and listening, and wanikani for kanji and vocab. Bunpro actually has some integration with wanikani: if you give it your wkstats api key, it can automatically hide furigana for kanji that you’ve learned on wanikani and show furigana for kanji that you have not learned.

I recommend bunpro, but be patient with yourself if bunpro is your first exposure to Japanese grammar. It is slower to progress than wanikani. I recommend really taking the time to use the resources it gives you with each grammar point. You’ll see a lot of people on the bunpro forums flying through lessons, but most of them know some Japanese grammar going into it (even if they say they’re total beginners – they usually aren’t beginners and they’re just flexing)

I think bunpro offers a free trial that may be worth checking out. If you do, take a look at the settings right after making an account. I found a lot of defaults to be annoying or counterproductive, but those things were configurable :slight_smile:


Personally I recommend waiting until level 5 of wanikani or so to start on grammar. I agree with others that earlier is better in general, but I found that until a little bit of meta-leaning from wanikani kicked in, I was getting so hung up on parsing sentences that I couldn’t really focus on any grammar. That’s just my experience though – everyone will learn differently.

Thank you so much for sharing that valuable experience of yours!

I don’t want to rush this. My goal is to be able to speak and write Japanese just like English (which is my third language). I have time!

I’ll continue wanakani and then go into Bunpro :slight_smile: It helps that I have a friend that is learning Japanese since about 2 years already. We are talking a little with him and it already helps a lot!

I’m unfortunately one of those, I’ll admit. This is my third attempt at learning the language. Not too proud of giving up the other two times, but I’m trying to correct my previous mistakes and plan for the long run this time around.

As such, I apologize if my explanations implied existing knowledge of Japanese. By starting points, what I meant was that です is the polite form of saying something is/exists, while だ is the neutral form. Both Tae Kim and Cure Dolly recommend to learn the neutral form first since the polite form tends to mask several verb endings, which can lead to some confusion once you do eventually learn the neutral form. As for the が, Cure Dolly makes it a point to demystify common misconceptions about proper labelling and inferring the subject of the sentence as opposed to its topic. It’s more syntax than grammar, but the fact is I suffered from those misconceptions the other two times around. This felt like I had to unlearn what I had seen in class and rebuilt a proper foundation.

Sure.

RTK stands for Remember the Kanji. It’s a method of learning kanji not by complexity nor by frequency of use, but by appearance. Each kanji builds onto the next, growing steadily more complex along a family branch until you’ve exhausted the kanji you can form with your given radicals. Then you introduce one more radical, and explore the family branch of the kanjis related to that. It goes from simplest to more complex.

Koohie is a website where people share their RTK mnemonics. Some stories are more impactful and easier to understand than others, so having access to 5-6 mnemonics (plus WaniKani) for each kanji is a godsend.

With the use of mnemonics, you can build meaningful stories for more and more complex kanji while very rarely using more than two of simpler kanji you previously learned. This makes more complex kanji very approachable, especially since you don’t have to remember any onyomi/kunyomi readings. All you care about is to associate a single meaning to the kanji.

What this does is that you can easily “learn” many more kanji in a short time than WaniKani. “Learn” is in quotes, because without the associated vocabulary nor readings, what you learn is very superficial, yet it is immensely helpful in parsing visually a dense text. Picking up the details that distinguish one kanji from another without confusing them is a great skill to learn, and not one WaniKani practices. It’s also nice to recognize more meanings in a text even if you can’t quite read it, as sometimes you’ll be able to guess the word from the contextual cues.

The way I use all of this is as such: Whenever I learn new kanji on WaniKani, I’ll look to Koohie for better mnemonics and pick one I like, or make my own. Then, whenever I feel like it, I’ll read ahead on RTK and add about 75 kanji per week to a SRS deck. I skip any kanji I learned on WaniKani. The RTK is just there for early exposure, and it makes recognizing these kanji easier when they later show up in WK. I don’t take RTK too seriously though, as I know WK is enough given enough time. Koohie however is the real gem here.

Hah, I wasn’t trying to imply anything about you or anyone else here! :slight_smile:

Nearly all of the community members both here and on bunpro are very nice and helpful. I only meant that if you skim some bunpro posts and see the pace many people are going at, it’s easy for a new learner to think they’re doing something wrong because they’re not keeping up with that pace.

I’m a native English speaker, so Japanese grammar is very different to me.

Bunpro is a little lacking on the actual explanations. I tried using it for learning and it did not help me much. I found it more useful to review things I had learned elsewhere. But your mileage may vary.

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I started at level 4 and I am so happy I did, my friend @Mrs_Diss told me to, I was going to wait until level 10, but thanks to her I started earlier.

Even at level 3 or 4, you can write some basic sentences and stuff and it’s just good fun and motivating!

Don’t be scared or intimidated the beginner grammar is fairly easy!

For example:

だ (da) is simply “is” and it’s informal / casual so you could say “neko da” which basically just means is cat. Very simple right?

Then desu which you would probably have seen around before is the same as だ da it means “is” but it’s more formal. So you could also say neko desu - “is cat”.

Go go you’ve got this don’t be intimidated, learn a few basics and start writing sentences :grin:!!

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