nahcrin took the time to leave a nice long comment, so I wanted to take the time to respond to it at length.
Ｉ’m not too far in my quest to master Japanese, but so far I think the hardest part is simply creating sentences in the way that a Japanese person would create them. There are always technically “valid” ways of saying something, but even if they’re valid it doesn’t mean a Japanese person would naturally think to say them that way. I think the only cure for this is immersion.
As the saying goes, “If you don’t already know how to say it in Japanese, you don’t know how to say it in Japanese.” I can’t remember for sure where I got that. It may have been Tae Kim of grammar guide fame.
I think you’re right about immersion being the only cure. You have to saturate yourself with the language and just kind of absorb it so that you learn what sounds right.
Where I live, there are a lot of Spanish speakers. When I was learning Spanish, I even started playing with the Spanish language choir at my church. I would ask them grammar questions like, “Why did you use the subjunctive there instead of the indicative?” The answer to that kind of question was usually, “Huh?” so I switched to “Why did you say it that way instead of this way.” The other person’s face would brighten and I would get “Porque así suena!” which basically means “Because it sounds right.” Eventually, because I could get at least temporary immersion, I begin to learn for myself what sounds right.
As for the actual grammar itself, I’ve always been intimidated by the different kinds of sentence endings / when to use them. E.g. ending a sentence in の or ぞ. I think part of the reason I find it difficult is because a lot of them are tied to slang, dialects, and attitudes, all of which are numerous and nuanced.
Yeah, I know what you mean. I have asked different people about よ and ぞ and when to use them and gotten completely different (and sometimes contradictory) answers.
I remember when I first started out I was kind of baffled by what seemed to me like totally inexplicable differences in usage between the は and が particles. To me they seemed to be in most cases interchangeable, and I found out the hard way that that’s definitely not true. I’ve learned to think of が as putting emphasis on the subject of a sentence, whereas は (in addition to technically NEVER marking the subject) emphasizes whatever comes after it, usually the predicate. It still gives me trouble sometimes, but I wish someone had explained it to me when I was first starting out.
Yeah, that’s a really tough one. That’s a good description that you’ve given there, but I often still have to think about it and still sometimes end up just grabbing for one at random. That has been one of the hardest things for me to learn, and all that I can say about it now is that I’m better at it than I used to be. Not good, mind you, just better than I was.
I think a big part of it is hearing and using the language as much as possible. That’s why I keep looking for language exchange partners I can talk with. I have found a guy I can send written messages back and forth with, and that’s at least something, but I really need to converse as much as possible now.
Japanese is just a bundle of fun, isn’t it? Hang in there, though. I don’t know if it ever gets easier. I suppose it much. But it’s sure to stay fun!
Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’ve been hung up on some of the same problems you have, and it’s nice to know it isn’t just me!