Japanese is an East Asian Language spoken by about 128 million people, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language. It is a member of the Japonic language family, and its relation to other languages, such as Korean, is debated. Japonic languages have been grouped with other language families such as Ainu, Austroasiatic, and the now-discredited Altaic, but none of these proposals has gained widespread acceptance.
Japanese grammar patterns are quite different from those we have in English, and there is a lot to learn. Things you may not even realize are grammar patterns in English, you have to learn in Japanese. For instance, in English, we can say “I want to.” Yes, it’s a grammar pattern, but it’s a simple one, and more a matter of learning vocabulary. Japanese grammar rules are different. That same phrase in Japanese requires learning how to conjugate the verb.
Sounds a bit confusing, right?
Don’t worry, after you read this, it won’t be anymore. I’m going to make it easy for you to understand!
How to learn Japanese grammar:-
Before we start learning actual Japanese grammar patterns, there are a few things you need to know about the Japanese language. If you haven’t gotten very far in your Japanese studies yet, then here are the basics.
Japanese sentence order is different than in English and takes a little bit of practice to get used to. In English, the basic sentence order is subject – verb – object. Example: I play sports. “I” is the subject, “play” is the verb, and “sports” is the noun.
But in Japanese, the order is subject-object – verb. That same sentence in Japanese looks like: (“I”, subject) , (“sports”, object) ,(“to do/to play”, verb). There are particles in there, too — which we’ll talk about in a minute — but that exact sentence in English would look like “I sports play.”
The handy thing is, every other part of the Japanese sentence is flexible. If you add a location, a time, a preposition, etc., they can go anywhere in the sentence. As long as you mark them with the correct particle and the verb goes at the end, you’re good to go. So, the key to remember here is: the verb always goes at the end.
There are plenty of resources, exercises, approaches, and methods to studying grammar.
Rather than prescribing one specific approach, I’ll give you a few ideas based on what worked for me.
Buy a comprehensive grammar book.
Academic language courses often shy away from a “big picture” approach. By surveying grammar early in your studies and coming back to it repeatedly over time, you’ll actually understand what it is you’re practicing and you’ll learn new concepts much more quickly.
I recommend choosing a book that is organized by topic, not alphabetically. Books organized by topic are designed to offer you a bird’s-eye view of the language, while dictionary books are designed exclusively for reference.
Read through the entire book without expectations.
People get scared or overwhelmed by stuff they don’t understand.
Don’t let grammar get under your skin.
When you get your grammar book, give the entire book a real read. Don’t expect to soak much of it up or even understand half of it.
So why do a read-through, then? Because each time you come across these concepts in your future studies, they’ll trigger memories of what you’ve read. New concepts won’t be so new and vague.
Practice sentence and word constructions on your own.
When I studied, I was pretty darn interested in the language. So it wasn’t hard for me to practice on my own and enjoy concocting sentences directly from the grammar book. But if that’s not your style, you can also buy an exercise-based grammar book or a separate textbook to get material.
Once you dig into the book, you’ll realize how simple it is to conjugate words in Japanese and build basic sentences.
Practice speaking and listening with natives.
And while you’re talking with natives, be sure to ask questions during conversations.
There’s nothing more exhilarating than hanging out with Japanese people and conversing in their native language.
For me, speaking and listening was the practice that I needed to internalize grammar and vocabulary. If you don’t have access to natives, you can use audio-based courses, online courses, self-study courses, movies, anime, and Japanese TV shows as a substitute.
Language Learning: Theory vs. Practice
A theory-based approach teaches the big picture through language systems, such as grammar or vocabulary, while a practice-based approach improves language skills, such as speaking or reading, through specific exercises.
If your academic studies focus on practice, then perhaps the best way to balance that out is with theory.
And if it’s so easy to learn Japanese grammar and there are so many benefits to learning it early on, shouldn’t you take care of it as soon as possible?
Hopefully, you can see the benefits of learning grammar upfront and now know how to learn Japanese grammar painlessly.
Of course, too much emphasis on grammar alone will leave you knowledgeable in structure but deficient in certain skills. But an approach that balances theory and practice can help you save time, eliminate obstacles and—most importantly—become more fluent.