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:
1. Take a grammar structure and practice writing it in your own way. Then, get it checked by a native speaker.
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
2. Don’t just rely on one 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
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 is an app that does this excellently. Lingodeer doesn’t only teach Japanese but also has Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish and more. Duolingo, as good as it is for learning vocabulary and having a laugh at silly phrases, doesn’t come close to Lingodeer’s in-depth grammar lessons.
Lingodeer is a paid app after the first lesson (though reviews and flashcards are free). If you’re keen to subscribe, you can use my code LINDIE15 to get 15% discount on a Lingodeer subscription (whether you choose annual or monthly or lifetime is up to you). Just click on I have a Code upon purchase and you’re good to go.
3. Use the structure as soon as, and as much as you can
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.
4. Keep listening and reading 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.
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.
5. Get a grammar reference dictionary
My FAVORITE grammar dictionary is A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar by Seiichi Makino and Michio Tsutsui. It’s full of examples <3 There are 3 dictionaries: One for basic, then intermediate, and finally advanced. I use the intermediate one. I kind of use it like a reading book and just look at it for fun, which is super geeky, I know. It’s so beautiful.
6. Don’t focus exclusively on grammar. 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.