How to study 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:

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
Maggie Sensei

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.

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 ❤ 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.


Header Photo by Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash

5 Rules for Choosing a Language Textbook

 

Buying language textbooks can be intimidating. How do you know you’re getting one with an equal balance of grammar and vocabulary? What if it is too businessy and outdated? What if it’s too difficult? What if you can just find resources online instead?

Here are five simple guidelines you can apply when you’re looking for your next textbook.

1. Establish why you need a textbook

If you’re a complete beginner in the language, getting a textbook is a good start. It helps to have a curriculum to follow, because beginners often feel intimidated and don’t quite know where to begin. If you’re intermediate or advanced in a language, a textbook will only be beneficial to you if it is specialized. Rather than chapters that teach you vocabulary and grammar structures you’re likely to know already, invest in something like a book that improves your writing through essay prompts, or a textbook specifically targeted to advanced or business language usage, if that’s your goal. Perhaps you’d be better suited to something like a bilingual novel instead of a textbook. Write down your language goals and decide what type of textbook will suit your needs best, rather than just blindly purchasing one.

2. Check for audio

You can probably (illegally) get away with downloading a PDF version of a textbook online, but it is unlikely that you’ll find the audio files that go with it. Most well-made textbooks come with a CD in the back. These CDs usually have audio files of the example sentences or vocabulary words. This is extremely important for perfecting your pronunciation. What I like to do with CDs is pop them in my car on the way to work. Even though I don’t have the textbook by my side, I can listen to the example sentences on repeat and really nail the pronunciation, as well as get used to natural grammar.

It’s up to you to decide whether or not you really need audio input. If you’re an intermediate and above learner, you probably have a good idea of how to pronounce new words. I’m still a beginner in Hungarian, and the textbook I use doesn’t have audio input. Luckily, you can work around it by using a website like forvo to look up a word, but having a CD on hand is much easier.

3. Stay away from the following:

Be careful of mass-produced “copy-paste” textbooks (i.e. a language company producing books in multiple languages in the same format. Be wary for books that claim to make you fluent in a certain number of days and weeks as well. I’d also advise against the “for Dummies” series of books – they generally make heavy use of romanization for languages like Japanese and Korean, which isn’t a good start if your aim is fluency.

Finally, don’t fall prey to the “1000 most common phrases” books – these are usually overpriced and you can definitely find common phrases online! Don’t waste your money on something you could just Google. My preference for textbooks is textbooks made by companies from the target language’s country. For example, Korean books made by Korean authors, not Korean books manufactured by large international companies.

4. Think about longevity

If you’re at a beginner stage, you tend to progress really quickly in a language. Once you’re intermediate, you might not notice your progress as quickly. Beginner textbooks are the ones that get resold and given away the most, since people work through them so quickly. If you’re able to get a base in the language by using resources online, do so until you feel you need a textbook for more structured lessons. That way, you won’t buy a book, use it for a month and need to throw it away.

Longevity also refers to textbooks that you can go back to and reference. I particularly like the Korean Grammar in Use textbooks because they have grammar structures that I can go back to and refer to if I forget the rules behind using them.

5. But don’t think too much

Use your gut to decide what book is best for you. If you think too much and look up too many options, you’ll be paralyzed and left unable to make a decision. It’s like standing in a shop and seeing 10 kinds of chocolate cereals. It would be much easier to make a choice if there were 3 cereals only, right? In the same way, don’t think too hard. If you see something that just “looks right”, go ahead and buy it! Your heart is telling you so.

All the best with your textbook hunting!

Love,
Lindie

Feeling demotivated with languages?

It’s human nature to feel like we don’t do enough. I feel the same way in many aspects of my life. If you’re struggling with this, think about it objectively and ask yourself why you are feeling this way. Do you have any proof or evidence that you aren’t doing enough? If your grades are going down, if you’re doing the bare minimum required and if you’re skipping class, then yes, you have reason to believe you are not doing enough. But if you’re putting in extra hours, reviewing your materials, engaging with materials, lecturers, online courses etc, then you have no reason to think you aren’t doing enough.

In our world of instant gratification and so-perceived overnight successes, it is becoming harder and harder to live and work with patience. You must understand that learning a language takes time and it requires a strong base and patience. Hold onto that. Language learning takes years, and nothing happens overnight.

Studying 24/7 is not effective for anyone. In fact, it will make you tired and de-motivated since your body needs rest and a break. Your brain cannot take in massive amounts of information at a small time. If that were the case, language learning wouldn’t be a journey or an exciting thing to add to one’s CV cause everyone in the world would be able to learn any language in minutes. Reward yourself for every little step you’ve taken and how far you’ve come, no matter if you feel progress is slow.

Don’t be so hard on yourself, and pat yourself on the back for what you’ve done so far. Can you see progress from a year ago to now? If so, you’re on the right track and you’ve done an excellent job. Keep going! It’s okay to slow down. Just don’t stop.

My friend Alex Rawlings said he once heard someone tell him that learning a language is like swimming in a river. If you stop swimming, you float back because of the current. If you keep swimming, no matter how slow, you’ll at the very least stay at the same place or move forward slowly.

You can do it, and I believe in you.

Check out this video I made on motivation and language learning.