When to start learning grammar?


Let’s say Wanikani is currently our only source for learning Japanese. At what level would I know enough vocab to practically be able to start learning grammar and start forming sentences? Let’s say using a website such as bunpro (which seems to be put together quite well).


As soon as you know hiragana, you should start with grammar. WaniKani teaches you Kanji at a faster pace than you’ll learn grammar. This means that Kanji will definitely not be an obstacle to your grammar learning.

Also, WK should not be your only source for vocabulary. I’ve noticed that the vocab that WK teaches is good enough to follow most JLPT N5/N4 grammar resources, but I doubt this will happen with higher JLPT levels. Check the Resources list for more: :slight_smile:


When to start learning grammar?



Thank you for the information! Is 5,000 vocab words really so little? Following the 80/20 rule, I would think that 5,000 vocab words should be enough to be able to hold normal conversion?


I’m just confused on how I can start learning sentence structure and whatnot when I don’t understand what words are being used.


Most grammar resources (textbooks, sites, etc) will provide a list of words that are used. If you pick up a textbook that starts from the basics, they will assume you don’t know any vocab anyway. Besides, Wanikani will only teach you vocab based on the kanji they teach you, so for kana only words, or words that may use more complicated/higher level kanji (but are still very useful), you’d be out of luck if Wanikani was your only source of vocab.


I see. I used genki a couple of years ago, but I remember not really learning much from it. Are there any better resources?

Also, should I start learning vocab from other sources aside from wanikani? I feel like wanikani already gives me so much information. Is it possible to attempt to learn too much?


Attempting to absorb WK’s info without reinforcing it in other ways is probably futile anyway. If you don’t learn grammar as well, you won’t be able to naturally encounter the vocab you learn here and it’ll slip away even if you burn it on WK.


That’s considering that those 5000 words are the most used ones. WaniKani vocab is there to help you learn the Kanji. Which means that not so common words might be simply used because the Kanji is also not that common. Plus, WaniKani only teaches you Kanji vocabulary. There’s a bunch of other vocab that uses hiragana and katakana out there.

Also, the top 5000 words might not be your own top 5000 words. For example, I’m a Nutrition Student so I will eventually have to talk about vocabulary related to that. Is any of those words in the top 5000? Doubt it. Probably only ダイエット (diet). I believe the same will apply to you :slight_smile:

From what I read, 20000 words is the minimum to start being considered “fluent” in Japanese.

Don’t worry much about the 80/20 rule. You can’t hack a language that much. You’ll still have to learn a lot of stuff to be able to use Japanese with barely any trouble. Use the 80/20 rule to maximize how you learn, not what you learn.


Check out the resources thread that @jprspereira linked! There are tons of both free and paid stuff on there to try out. Some resources some people may like, but others may hate. I’ve got genki, but I never really went through it properly, although some people love it.

Definitely! There are some incredibly basic words that you don’t learn until much higher levels in WK.

As @Leebo said you have to reinforce what you’re learning. Even with WK’s SRS system, that will only help you remember the words. You also have to remember how to use the words, and the best way of doing that is example sentences. And lots of them. And you won’t be able to understand the sentences if you don’t learn the grammar. It may seem like a catch 22, but it’s important to push through and start getting your head around the grammar as soon as possible.

This really depends. It’s possible to work too much and burn out, but you really just have to find the balance that works for you. Again, example sentences help to reinforce both vocab and grammar, so reading through them like crazy is a great way to get your head around that stuff.


Okay, we’re back to where I started then! How many words do I need to know before I can start doing that?


You don’t need to learn vocab ahead of learning grammar. For example, using Genki you would go about learning grammar and vocab like this:

  1. Read Genki Chapter 1
  2. Do exercises and Learn all the vocab introduced in Chapter 1
  3. Read Chapter 2
  4. Do exercises and Learn all the vocab introduced in Chapter 2

    This is just an example using Genki. All other grammar courses also follow a similar approach


IDK where I saw it, but I remmeber seeing somewhere that tofugu suggests learning grammar at level 5, because then you’ll know enough kanji/vocab used in grammar studies. Your decision tho, I kinda just started at level 25 XD


I still come across words I don’t know with depressing regularity. But anyway, non-native fluent speakers who live in that country and speak the language every day have around a 10,000 word vocabulary.

The thing about the 80-20 principal is it doesn’t necessary work here for two reasons. One, because there’s a shit ton of words in a language, no one knows all the words in a language. And two, 80% comprehension of a sentence is not enough to make it not sound like gibberish. In a given sentence, you need roughly 98% of the words to pick up new ones solely in context.

Anyway, this is just me explaining things. I agree with everyone here. If you take Japanese 101 they don’t just teach you words and then one day go, “Okay, now on to grammar.” There’s a lot more you can do knowing some grammar and a small vocab than a big vocab but not knowing how to make sentences.


I agree with the suggestion to not hold off on grammar. Knowing some of the words you’ll encounter in grammar lessons is good, but honestly you don’t really need to, especially in the beginning. A lot of grammar resources will introduce the vocab they’ll be using in that lesson at the start of the lesson. So you can learn it ahead of time if you’d like or just refer back to it when you’re going through the example sentences.

Really, I say just go for it, and if you find yourself getting too confused, then slow down or take a step back. It’s better to try it and find out you can’t handle it just yet than to wait and find out you could’ve been doing it all along.


I personally prefer Tae Kim. Imabi is another good one. After that, maybe Tobira…

Anyway, in the end, you might have to learn grammar like a lot of vocab, that is, remember too many grammar, and use only some.

What level? I think the official guide says Level 5, but I believe it can be done at level 0.


That’s how I do it, and for me it’s pretty effective. I take about a week per chapter, which I don’t think is too bad.


Definitely concur with the recommendation to learn grammar as early as possible. But that doesn’t mean learning all the conjugations at once. Most foreign language courses (japanese or otherwise) start with declarative sentences in present tense. This is even easier in Japanese because conjugations are based upon positive/negative present/past but not on person. So “I eat/You eat/He eats” becomes “eat.” There is an informal version as well, but even knowing the simple “polite” form of verbs in the present tense you can say a surprising amount of things.

Add to that a basically identical sentence structure with a “ka” particle at the end (sorry not on a kana kbd right now) and your declarative sentence becomes a question.

For example:

Kare wa tabemas. (He is eating).
Kare wa tabemas ka. (Is he eating?)

(Oh, and learn hiragana. Romaji is a bad crutch to depend on.). :smiley:

Final comment: WK expands to fill the available space. If you do WK and nothing else you’ll learn a bunch of disconnected vocabulary and no grammar in a very painful way that takes lots of time. If you use other resources you will not only get reinforcement that will make WK easier, but you’ll actually start putting stuff together into useful sentences and expressions. Starting those things will help you budget your WK time.


As an interjection to the question of what WK level you should start learning grammar at, WK isn’t the ultimate Japanese learning resource. Ultimate kanji learning resource sure, but you shouldn’t be structuring your learning entirely around one resource. I studied grammar for more than a year before I joined WK, and I had no problem with vocab given I was learning entirely through ‘grammar resources’.

If you pick up a textbook, they won’t be like “これ means ‘this’. You use it as a noun to identify things close to you. Here are some example sentences: これは飛行機です。これは教科書です” and then expect you to know or even recognize those words. Any good resource will list the words out beforehand (some will even explain them), and then introduce you to practice sentences which include them.


This is really good advice, I agree completely.