Using sentences to study Japanese (and other languages)

Studying using sentences is incredibly beneficial for studying any language for a couple of reasons:

  • It gets you used to sentence structure, which you can then adapt to use when speaking or writing
  • Helps you to learn vocabulary in context – important for words with similar meanings in your native language

This article from Fluent in 3 Months explains it better than I can, but the brain is good at spotting at remembering patterns. As we are learning to speak our first language, we hear sentences spoken by others around us and so we build up a bank of sentences for our native language(s) in our brains.

This is why it is very easy for us to spot when something sounds unnatural in our native language(s), even if we are not sure why. With learning a new language, we have to follow the same process of learning what phrases and sentences are natural or not.

Engrish_Example

Sometimes, you just know when something has been put into Google Translate

Studying sentences alongside grammar rules will help the grammar to stick in your mind more effectively. Once you’ve understood a grammar point, you can then focus on making sure that you can implement in in your own speaking/writing – which is why I think keeping a journal in Japanese is such a good idea.
Let’s say for example that you are studying counters in Japanese, and come across the counter ‘hai’ which is the counter for glasses.

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If you also memorise the sentence [ビールを三杯ください/ ビールをさんばいください/bi-ru wo sanbai kudasai] meaning Please can I have three glasses of beer, you are not only memorising the counter ‘-杯/はい/hai’ but internalising several other Japanese grammar rules at the same time.

  • That after 三, -はい becomes ばい
  • That counters are used after the particle を
  • That ください can be used when making a request (especially when ordering food and drink)

You can then experiment with substituting in different vocabulary, for example using a different number with the same counter…

ビールを一杯 (いっぱい/ippai) ください

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Or you can change the counter itself…

ビールを三本 (さんぼん/sanbon) ください

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(Just like with -はい, the -ほん counter has a sound change to -ぼん when following 三).

Or you can change the drink to something else…

水 (みず/Mizu) を三杯ください

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(NB: probably a good idea if you’ve been ordering beer all evening)

… and this is all by changing just one word in the original phrase we learnt!

With Japanese, context is key to understanding grammar and vocabulary, so I believe that studying using sentences is more important coming from English. Adding Japanese audio in the mix is even better for learning to distinguish similar words, especially as Japanese has different pitch accents for similar words.

So how can I implement this into my language study?

With new grammar points, try writing out an example sentence you already know to be correct, then try changing different vocabulary as in the example above. You can always ask on an app like HiNative or a friend to check your new sentences to make sure they still make sense.

When learning across new vocab, look the word up in a dictionary or ask a friend to give you an example of how that word is used in a sentence and write it down for review later.

When making your own flashcards (real or online), make sure to write these sentences together with the vocabulary. If you are using Anki for vocabulary study, you’ll notice that a lot of decks introduce sentences at the same time.

I also highly recommend Delvin Language, which offers sentence and listening practice at the same time!

Screenshot 2017-09-02 at 18.15.23

You can learn new vocabulary via sentences taken from real life speech in dramas and documentaries, with all furigana and meanings provided for words and grammar points you may not know yet.

I hope the above post has helped – if you have any questions or suggestions please let me know in the comments!


Japanese sign image source: with attribution By Info2Learn (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

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3 Youtube Channels for Learning Japanese

Youtube is an amazing resource for language learning. So amazing, in fact, that it can be a bit difficult to know where to start. Whether you are looking for another resource to help explain a tricky grammar point, or are looking for short clips of people speaking real Japanese, there should be something for you on Youtube. I’ve introduced a few channels below that may be of some help:

Bilingirl Chika/ Japanagos

Japanagos

Chika is a Japanese-American who produces Japanese and English language learning videos. Her main channel is aimed at Japanese speakers learning English, but I have found it to be a really good resource for picking up differences in language usage between English and Japanese. Chika is really engaging and I always find that I can learn something new from her videos.

She also has a separate channel for her Japanese language lessons and vlogs called Japanagos which is also a fun and educational channel. I recommend checking out Japanagos if you are new to Japanese, and moving on to her main Bilingirl channel if you are at intermediate level. She is often travelling so both channels are good if you would like to follow her vlogs.

Easy Languages – Japanese

Easy Lang Japanese

The Easy Languages Youtube channel covers a lot of different languages with a series of videos interviewing speakers of each language about different aspects of that language and the cultures connected to it. The Japanese series has 19 videos which are all about 5-6 minutes long.

I like this series as each video is fairly short, contains natural language and each video has Japanese (both kana and romaji) and English subtitles.

Japanese Ammo with Misa

Japanese Ammo with Misa

Misa has some really great videos on fundamental aspects of Japanese grammar and usage. This is my top recommendation for beginners to the language as she has a very good way of explaining things.

She also has really useful videos on how to learn kana as well as Japanese study tips.

Nihongo no Mori

Nihongo no Mori

The Basic Japanese series is really helpful for clear and informative explanations of key grammar points for beginners.

If you are looking to take the JLPT N3 or above, this channel is full of great videos for you as well. There are videos aimed at the JLPT levels N3, N2 and N1 with each focusing on a different aspect of the JLPT test (reading, listening, grammar and vocabulary). A lot of the lessons cover differences between similar seeming grammar points, which is particularly useful for those pesky multiple choice questions.

 

If the above do not take your fancy, you may find that jumping into Japanese videos by searching the Japanese term for something that interests you is the way to go.

How has Youtube helped your language learning? Are there any channels that you think do a great job of promoting the Japanese language? Let me know in the comments!

10 things about learning languages I wish I’d known 10 years ago

The Memrise Blog

I started learning languages as a serious hobby just over ten years ago. It started out as a slow and frustrating process, and I never truly believed that I would ever really be able to speak and understand any language as well as my native English.

Now I’ve studied more than fifteen languages, was named Britain’s most multilingual student in 2012, and have written a book called “How To Speak Any Language Fluently”. I am able to speak several languages very fluently, and at least get by in the many more.

If I had a time machine, here are ten things I’d tell myself ten years ago:

  1. Make mistakes, they are your friends

Sometimes just the thought of saying the wrong word would give me so much anxiety that I would just walk away, rather than risk looking stupid. Then I realised that running away was not helping the problem…

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Turning Thoughts into Action

(aka my first post!)

Hello world! This is officially my first post on my blog, so I will take the opportunity to tell you a little bit about myself…

My name is Stephanie and officially I have been learning Japanese for over half of my lifetime. I was incredibly lucky to attend a secondary school specialising in languages and started studying Japanese aged 11. I have always enjoyed learning languages but I caught the Japanese learning bug quite quickly, mainly because it was so different from anything I had come across before.

I initially had my heart set on a career using Economics but I was so eager to carry on with Japanese after studying it to A-level that I went on to complete a degree in Business Management & Japanese. I graduated some time ago now but have been trying hard to keep up my language skills ever since, and finally got round to passing JLPT N2 last summer. To goal now is get as close to fluent as I can whilst living in the UK and keeping up to date with current affairs, with the hope that I will be able to use this in my career in the future. The idea for my blog has been in the pipeline for a long time but I have finally decided to put my thoughts into action and get blogging about something I have been passionate about for such a long time.

Although there are so many more amazing resources out there for learning Japanese, my approach to learning the language has changed now that I am no longer studying it formally. This blog will be all about different approaches to the language learning journey as well as a way for me to document all of the resources that have helped me out on the way. I hope you stay tuned and you find something of use!

–Steph