Is anyone studying using *only* non-traditional grammar guides?

I’m really curious… Is there anyone out there who started studying Japanese with non-traditional grammar guides (eg. Tae Kim, Cure Dolly) and has become comfortably conversational in Japanese, using only those guides? Or do people eventually dip into the traditional guides at some point, for whatever reason, either because there’s a missing grammar point or because there’s an inadequate explanation? Or have those guides not been out long enough?

what I mean by…
“fluent” = comfortable speaking in Japanese at a normal speed with native Japanese.
traditional grammar guides = Minna No Nihongo, Genki, Japanese for Busy People, etc
non-traditional grammar guides = Tae Kim, Cure Dolly, etc

[Edit] Can you also become comfortably literate through non-traditional guides?

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As far as literacy goes I’m currently finishing the promised neverland manga fairly comfortably, I’m not sure what the reading age would be, but I assume it must mean I’m reasonably literate. I’ve never used any textbooks, I downloaded Genki once and found it boring so I haven’t looked at it since.

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Awesome! Which guides/sources did you use?

The main method was excessive amounts of SRS. Between: Wanikani, Bunpro and an app called Houhou I used to have hundreds of daily reviews. Then I would occasionally look up grammar I couldn’t quite wrap my head around on sites like Tae Kim. That all supported my reading which I worked up a bit like a staircase from childrens stories to nhk easy and so on. I don’t know if I’d recommend it as a sensible way since it does rely on my compulsion to look up absolutely everything I encounter and don’t recognise. For example right now I have 8713 words saved in a to be learned list.


A better question is if anyone has ever become fluent with traditional guides. I’d err on the side of probably not.

Most learners who get past N3 realize pretty quick that most traditional guides are garbage at higher levels, and go their own route, whether that be non traditional, or pure brute force immersion. One thing is for sure, you will 100% hit a wall with traditional textbooks.


I can decent, not fluent, conversations after 2 and a half years having used only Bunpro, Jisho, Remembering the Kanji, JapaneseTest4You, YouTube, and Flashcards Deluxe.

@Asher That’s an interesting viewpoint, but that’s not where I was trying to go with this. I’m genuinely curious what it’s like to learn Japanese through a different path. Since I can’t go back in time for myself, I’m asking for other people’s experiences.

Sure, at some point, anyone who wants to reach advanced levels of a language has to break out and take ownership for their own progress. That happens with any language – not just Japanese. There’s plenty of people who start with textbooks and eventually become fluent on their own. I’m looking for experiences that don’t follow that traditional route.

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@Johnathan-Weir Nice! I use some of those, too.

Are there areas that you wish you had more guidance, or areas that you struggle with? Or do those resources pretty much fill in all the gaps?

From that perspective I’d say I am in that boat. I studied genki for maybe 20 minutes. I actually started with bunpro for grammar, and only used youtube for help every now and then. For vocabulary I started with the N5 to N1 list taht is provided as premade decks on the Takoboto app, then just added extra words whenever I saw them to ‘additional lists’. I am on about 18,000 words atm and rarely come across new words (Just words I think are new but actually already have in another list) hahah.

As for kanji, I have an all in one kanji deck that I use. I can comfortably read and write 1200 or so, and about another 500 that I know, but not well enough to write off the top of my head. I would say nearly all of my study is refined to anki and bunpro, and pretty much always has been.


whaaaa?? How long have you lived in Japan?


Almost exactly 1 year, but I only really started focussing on kanji this April. I have been studying Japanese since I joined Bunpro though, so 2 years all up.

Here is an example of decks that I make in Takoboto (I transfer them to anki for use). There is between 1000 and 1300 in each ‘additional’ list.

The anki screenshot is my kanji study from this year, I average 2.5 hrs a day (most of that time is writing).


The number one thing this lacks, which I believe is probably a problem with traditional guides too, is that it is very hard to receive feedback on how natural your grammar and word choice is.

In general Japanese are quite polite and it’s hard to get them to criticize you (even on HelloTalk where that’s kinda the idea). The only real solution I see is either a LOT more analysis of native content or hiring a teacher but I’m broke at the moment so right now the former is my only option.

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Can confirm, receiving feedback is nigh on impossible from most people. You kinda just have to mimic people and be very concious of what language people use in what situations.

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Agreed, that’s similar to any textbook, it’s near impossible to get a good feel for what’s common and not-so-common just from studying. You have to hear/read the language being used “in the wild”.

One thing is getting lots of input: talk with lots of Japanese people, watch lots of anime/drama, and read lots of Japanese books (manga, novels, blogs, whatever). Each experience exposes you to more examples to give you a better feel.

Another thing is just to ask. Because Japanese culture is so focused on helping others (collective needs over the individual needs), if you guide them how to help you (eg. ねえ、私の日本語は分かりやすい?自然な言い方はどう?), they will gladly help.
(On the flip side, there’s so many dialects that I think they’re just used to hearing lots of weird Japanese. :smile:)


I think often they have the same approach as I tend to do with non-native English speakers. If we can understand one another in some way, be it with broken speech or gestures or sheer goodwill, then that’s enough in most situations. In the same way I don’t always expect fluency, I’m sure they too don’t expect fluency from me. Which is great in some aspects, because I’d stop speaking if every single word got corrected, but sometimes I’m like “Ah, I must have said that correctly, since nobody said anything!” and it turns out they’re just taking my gaijin card as payment for a job badly done :face_with_hand_over_mouth:


I feel personally attacked


@Daru Are you a textbook learner? How are you feeling about your Japanese?

I religiously followed the Genki Textbooks/Workbooks when I started out, along with WaniKani.

Completed the both Genki 1 and 2, supplemented with Minna no Nihongo, and I got a buttload of reference books such as A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar and the like.

Then I really got into Bunpro, right now I’m starting N2 grammar. I’m doing a lot of reading practice and shadowing nowadays.

I still feel like I talk like shit.


It sounds like you have a pretty solid foundation. Now you just need to apply it out there. :blush:

I think the trap that we get from traditional studying is that, after having success just memorizing vocabulary and grammar for so long, we feel that we can keep just memorizing and become fluent. Language is for communicating with others. (Unless you’re studying Latin. :smile:)


Compared to 2012, there is a lot more information / websites / apps / available these days…
Bunpro N2 has more grammar points than Kanzen Master N2 for example…

I actually copied the whole of Tae Kim and made that my foundation and left space in my notes for extra information that I would fill over time when I started going to Japanese evening lessons in my city using Japanese for Busy People I, Genki 1, Genki 2 and one intermediate book. I would write extra essays from time to time for my teacher to check :slight_smile: My grammar and writing skills were way above everything else hehe :smiley:

Books are great for the structure and pacing…though if feels like most of them are suitable for classes more compared to solo study… It also depends on the person’s goals too and what works for them…