Lindie Botes

Lindie Botes

I'm a South African designer and language YouTuber with a passion for foreign languages. I aim to inspire, motivate and guide you in your journey to learn new languages!
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How to study Japanese grammar

Let's demystify studying Japanese grammar!

Grammar is either your favorite part of a language, or the most frustrating part of a language. Here’s my guide on how to study Japanese grammar.

These methods can be applied to any language with a similar sentence structure, though! If you’re looking for tips to study Korean grammar, read this post.

STEP 1

Write a grammar structure down and fill in your own words.

Once you learn a grammar structure, writing it out and filling it in with your own words is one of the best ways to learn it. 

For example, if you have the structure ~てみる which is to “try”, then and your example is 「この本を読んでみてください」 (please try reading this book), then you can take the sentence and replace words to make it your own. e.g.:
このパンを食べてみてください Please try eating this bread
その車を運転してみてください Please try driving that car

After you write it in your own way, be sure to get it checked by a native speaker.

STEP 2

Use a grammar reference dictionary

My favorite grammar dictionary is A Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar by Seiichi Makino and Michio Tsutsui. It’s full of example sentences and easily describes the differences between similar grammar structures. There are 3 dictionaries: One for basic, then intermediate, and finally advanced. You can find enough resources for basic Japanese grammar for free online, so I suggest getting the Intermediate one first if you need a reference book for grammar. 

I recommend not using it as a textbook itself to work through, but rather as a reference to refer to when you encounter a difficult grammar structure. If you’re not keen on buying a book, you can always use a grammar reference website like jgram.org. 

STEP 3

Use the grammar structure over and over

As soon as you learn something new, don’t just write it down in your notebook and forget about it. You can make an Instagram post using it, write a blog in Japanese using it, or even just talk to yourself or make a video where you use it. The more you say it, even if you just speak to yourself, the more it will become cemented in your memory.

STEP 4

Get a good grammar textbook or app

An app I use regularly for all levels of Japanese grammar is Bunpo. It goes from beginner (hiragana, katakana, and basic vocab) all the way to N1 (advanved Japanese) grammar. I’ve found Bunpo to be most effective when you do a little bit daily, and that also helps the review section not pile up. 

Here’s a Twitter thread I made with my pros and cons while using Bunpo.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Recommended grammar app: Bunpo

Not sponsored or affiliated – just recommending a wonderful app that I use to learn grammar structures according to JLPT levels. Here’s a review video!

STEP 5

Actively listen to and read Japanese

If you constantly listen to Japanese music, TV or radio, you might hear the grammar structure being used and then you’ll say “Oh! I remember that. Now I see how it’s being used in daily conversation”. You’ll feel good about yourself and you’ll be reminded of what you’ve learnt. You can also listen to podcasts actively and write down what the speakers are saying. If there are new grammar structures, write them down and look them up.

If you need some new music recommendations, here’s my Japanese playlist on Spotify. What you can do is take a song you like, look up the lyrics, and write down some sentences. Take a highlighter and highlight verbs in one color, particles in another, nouns in another and adjectives in another color. This will help you visually see the structure of Japanese grammar.

Tip: read out loud!

Don’t be afraid to read out loud if you have that luxury. I read my sentences over because I’m an auditory learner. This is good for intermediate and advanced learners who don’t have issues with pronunciation. If you are a beginner and still learning how to pronounce things, I suggest asking a native speaker to record some sentences for you. You can ask an italki tutor or ask someone on HelloTalk or Hinative. 

What not to do

Don't just rely on a textbook

There are great grammar forums that you can use for reference to read more about grammar structures. I suggest the following:
Jgram (so good, even has JLPT level indicators and study lists)
Take Kim’s guide to Japanese
Maggie Sensei

You can also use an app that focuses heavily on grammar. Remember, grammar is not just something to learn in isolation – you learn it faster when it’s in the context of a sentence, a situation or something you are interested in. Lingodeer and Busuu are apps that do this excellently. Fore more Japanese resources, check out my collection here:

Don't study grammar and ignore other skills

Learn from daily conversation and remember not to neglect reading, writing, and listening. Think of it as a workout. You can’t go to the gym and just do leg day every day. Your arms won’t be toned and your legs will be insane. You might be excellent at grammar and vocabulary but you may not have confidence to speak because you’ve never practiced speaking. Everything is connected, so by practicing Japanese daily, you’ll be ingraining grammar into your memory too. Just remember, practice makes permanent, not perfect… so make sure you check things with native speakers if you’re unsure.

Tip: Practice Japanese with a free game!

You can practice the grammar you’ve learned and solidify it into your long term memory on a writing game app like Polygloss. Polygloss is completely free! Read more about free language learning resources here:

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One Response

  1. I want to say thank you this because I’m the kind of person who doesn’t really look over grammar in-depth, I’m learning to do that though and take my time when I learn new grammar. I did rush sometimes when I find something new I learned and don’t fully know how to use it, when I do take the time to learn how the grammar is used and try it out it’s almost always wrong, so I ask a native how they would use this grammar, like in what situation would it be most used in and I understand way better than I did before.

    Thanks again.

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