Grammar Study Site (Updated)

As it turns out, there are roughly 1,798,312 websites out there which will tell you something about Japanese grammar, a point which is still valid in spite of the fact that I completely made that number up.  So, given the vast number of sites out there (and, again, I have no actual idea how many there are) which one should you use?

I have no idea.

But, I did find one that I like.

I was stumbling around the interwebs like I do, looking for Japanese language related things, and I came across a site called 文プロ, and, yes, that a Japanese pun.  (The Japanese word for grammar is 文法 (ぶんぽう) and プロ is short for professional.)  I have to like a language resource site that starts off with a pun.

Also, it is my favorite price, and we all know what that is, right?  ただ (free!).

I just signed up for an account and have started to explore the site, but I already know that I wish I had known about it a few months ago!

It it set up by JLPT levels, and it looks like this:


A click gives you example sentences in kanji with furigana and translation, along with some helpful color coding:


And then you can get more information from other websites:


For this grammar point, you have TaeKim and MaggieSensei as the sites you go to for more information.  The previous card had two different websites, and some cards have four sites exploring different facets of the grammar point, so you don’t always get the same sites for reference, which I like, since not all sites explain things in a way that works well for me.  Also, I am impressed by the wide variety of sites that have turned up in the first ten cards, including some sites that I have never seen before, but some of which you can be sure I will be visiting now that I know about them.

And, best of all:


Spaced repetition reviews!

The reviews, by the way, require you to actually type in the answer, so you are forced to actually recall the information, or you get the review wrong.  Nice!

UPDATE:  I just discovered another truly excellent thing about this site.  Grammar from earlier cards shows up in later cards, which helps to serve as an extra review for the earlier cards.  This is something that most grammar sites (and even books) that I have tried don’t seem to do very often, but it is something that they all should do.

The more I use this site, the more impressed I am by it.



I Read The News Today, Oh Boy

I was searching through NHK News Web Easy, the web site that is apparenlty my new best friend, looking for some stories to read, and I came across one in which the very first word of the title was a mystery to me, even though it was in katakana.  Usually, after I sound them out, they make sense.

Except when they didn’t actually come from English.  D’oh!  English isn’t the only language in the world that Japanese borrows from.  So, I had to look it up, and I found out that it meant tick which shouldn’t have come as a surprise, since the story is decorated with a nice big close-up photograph of a tick.  Your good language student is able to pick up on subtle clues like that.

The second word of the title, however, was ウイルス, which I could certainly work out to be virus.

Have I ever mentioned that microbiology is my thing?

So, needless to say, I read that article.

If it was needless to say, why did I…oh, nevermind.

Following my usual practice, I print out the article and cross off the furigana for ever work I should already know before I try to read it.  As I read, I make a note or two, so this article came out looking like this: (the typed underlines are words that the site will give you the meaning of in Japanese if you are a glutton for punishment want to really learn the langauge:


Now, my assignment for this week is:

Review vocabulary daily

Learn new vocabulary, preferably daily, and I haven’t been so good about this

Read as many article as possible from News Web Easy

Read one article from the regular News Web

Don’t you like how I put that last one on there so casually?  Because the first two are just effort.  The third one is pure fun.  For example, the story above gave me very little difficulty.  That last one, however, is back breaking brain cracking labor.

Especially since, at last check, Tangoristo hadn’t uploaded that particular article.

Oh, and, by the way, why do I print out the article?  It is because I have a great app that lets me click on a word and see what it means.  It’s too easy to do that.  If I print out the article, I have to be willing to go to the troubled of identifying the Kanji and looking it up, and I have to figure it out from context.

Printing it out makes me a better reader.

I do, by the way, sometimes read stories in the app, but, when I’m serious, I print them out.


Oh, and, just because:


Um…Wait, What?

My attempt to read the current article in Japanese without assistance petered out after the first sentence.  For my own benefit as much as anyone else’s, I am now going to break that sentence down and reassemble it in English, because, at first, it really threw me for a loop.  Here’s the sentence, just at it appeared in the article.


This one includes a few words that I have to look up: 内閣府, 障害, and 差別.  That’s too many words in one sentence for the sentence to make sense easily, but, even after I looked them up, the sentence still didn’t make sense (at first).

I had to break it down to wring the sense out of it, like this:

内閣府は – the cabinet office, and, yes, I definitely had to look this one up.  In fact, after looking up the word, I looked up what the cabinet office is.  So, in case you’re wondering, it is an agency in the Cabinet of Japan. It is responsible for handling the day to day affairs of the cabinet. The Cabinet Office is formally headed by the Prime Minister. There are usually three Vice Ministers (fuku-daijin) and three Parliamentary Secretaries (daijin seimukan) in the Cabinet Office.  So, now you know.  And, of course, it is followed by the famous topic particle.

8月に – in August.  I love the simplicity of the Japanese system of naming months, but sometimes I still have to count to figure out which month it is.

Then, I eventually figured out that this is basically one thing:


体 – body or, if you like, torso or even physique or constitution.  I generally just go with body when I see it.

などに – etcetera

障害が – obstacle, handicap, impairment, difficulty and so on…and our old friend the subject particle

ある – to be (when talking about inanimate things).  If you are used to more formal Japanese you have seen this as  あります

人 – person

へ – this indicates movement toward a direction or goal

の – indicates possession or links things together

差別 – discrimination

など – etcetera (again!)

So, let’s go ahead and build this one up, since this phrase is really one long thing:


Body etc. handicap there is person…handicapped person


Discrimination toward handicapped people – even though 人 is singular in Japanese, the English phrase seems to me to call for the plural

Whew!  Now that’s we’ve got that phrase out of the way, let’s keep going:

について – concerning, regarding, about

18歳(さい)- 18 years old

以上(いじょう)- not less than, more than

の – possession or linking

人(ひと)- person

So let’s go ahead and put this phrase together:


18 years old, not less than, linking, person

People who are 18 or more years old

Now, we’re getting somewhere.  In fact, we’re almost done.

に聞きました – asked.

The cabinet office, in August, discrimination toward handicapped people, concerning, people who are 18 years or more years old, asked.

Or, to make it more sensible English:

The Cabinet Office asked people who were 18 years and older about discrimination against handicapped people.

I find that, if a sentence seems, at first glance, to make no sense at all, breaking it down like this tends to make it perfectly intelligible to me.  And, the more I do this, the more I learn, and, consequently, the less I will have to do this in the future (I hope!).


It Isn’t Always New

Let’s face it, when you’re learning a language you eventually settle into a routine.  After some exploration, you find the apps you like best, you find the study methods you like best, and then you just do it.  As you advance, the routine changes, but it often simply develops into a new routine.

My current routine is this:

Review and learn new vocabulary using Memrise

Read a news story from NHK News Web Easy

Periodically, I try reading something harder, I talk to Japanese friends on Skype each week, and I also try watching video in Japanese either with or without subtitles.

After I take the JLPT in December, pass or fail, I will have a workbook to dig into.

Yesterday I read a news story about electric planes, and I went through it without any assistance or tools of any kind.  I got most of it.  There were a couple of sentence that I just couldn’t get, and that turned out to be because of 3 important words that I simply didn’t know.  After digging through the article and getting everything I could out of it, including the basics of the story, then I looked up the words.

In case you’re wondering, they were:

翼 – wing

飛行機代 – airfare – and, I have to upbraid myself for that one, since I should have been able to figure it out based on some things I already know

and, most troublesome of all

二酸化炭素 – carbon dioxide.  It was troublesome because it popped up more than once and in different paragraphs.  Once I had that word, multiple sentences suddenly made perfect sense

Today’s article, which I will also tackle first without help is:  「社会しゃかいには障害しょうがいがあるひとへの差別さべつ偏見へんけんがある」が84%


This is Fun

One of the things that makes this blog fun is he comments.  I asked about eating raw eggs and about books being sold in volumes instead of in one piece and got some great (and informative) comments.

  1. Lady Caladium

Ah, raw egg – the first time I encountered eating raw egg I was like “uh, is it safe?” but I’ve done it a ton of times since then. In chains like Sukiya (they do beef bowl cheap type dishes) you can order an egg to go with your meal. Yep, it’s raw and you mix it in. That just doesn’t sound good, but I know it’s a cultural thing. I’ve also had soft boiled egg over rice a few times. Sukiyaki is usually accompanied by raw egg which you dip the cooked meat in before eating (at least in my experience).

Books in volumes – the only thing I can think of (I see them in volumes all the time) is that it is easier to carry – like you said. If you’re riding a bike or taking public transportation, you’ll want to keep your bag light. Plus, it’s easier to hold in the bath.

  1. rold2007

I don’t mind about raw eggs and I also find it tasty. Really? I’d have to get over the creeps about it to try it. I did eat raw eggs on crepes (galettes) and pizzas beforehand so it is not as if it was totally new to me. I just never tried it on rice before living here !

If I remember well Rocky Balboa also used to eat raw eggs ! He did, and it looked kind of disgusting to me then, too!

For Musashi I have no clue though. I could check in a local bookstore but I’m sure another reader will be able to answer you.

  1. nahcirn

The books in volumes thing is definitely an interesting phenomenon. As far as I know, it’s just a scheme set up by the Japanese publishing industry to sell more books. Each volume is about the price of a normal book. I mean, I’ve heard other reasons too (that Japanese takes up more space than English, or that it allows authors to release books in parts and therefore more frequently, or that it quickly increases the size of your library and makes it appear that you read more than you actually do…. OK I made that last one up). But I  like it! There might be some historical precedent for it as well, but really at bottom I think it’s about money. To be honest, that’s my best guess, too.


Thanks for the responses.  Any body else out there want to chime in?


Two Cultural Notes

I have not been to Japan (yet!) but there are two cultural issues that I am curious about.  I have asked Japanese friends and gotten some input, but I’m curious about the perspective of nonJapanese people.

If you know about these comments and have something to add, please do.

If you don’t know about them, what is your opinion of them?


I was watching an anime called 銀の匙 and they were eating a hasty supper.  They took cooked rice out a rice cooker and cracked raw eggs into it, stirred it up and ate it.  Raw egg?  It seemed more than a little unappetizing to me.

I asked a friend about it, and he assured me that it was yummy, though he added that it seems more popular among older Japanese people than it does among younger Japanese people.

Still.  Raw egg.  Um…

Publishing books in volumes

One of my goals is to read the novel Musashi in Japanese.  The English version that I have is a fairly large book, clocking in at 984 pages.  Although I’m nowhere near ready to read it in Japanese, I got curious and looked it up, and I didn’t find it in one volume.  Now, from what I have heard, the English version might be abridged, so the Japanese might be even longer than 984 pages, but it is published in 8 volumes instead of one massive book.

I asked a couple of Japanese friends about this, and they told me it was normal for books to be published this way.

Now, on the one hand, it can be difficult to hold a massively large book.  I get that.

On the other hand, at least I have the whole thing.  What if you go to the store and they are missing volume 3 and volume 7?  Or what if they they have them all except the last one?  Would this not be annoying?

I haven’t looked up all the volumes and added the cost together, so I can’t compare the price, but just have a feeling that the 8 volume set will be more expensive.  It’s just a feeling and not backed up by hard data, so take that for what it’s worth.

So, I’d be very curious what other people, Japanese and nonJapanese alike think of these things.


More Vocabulary

I have written lately about learning vocabulary.  After all, you need to know lots of words, right?  So how do you make vocabulary stick?

First, of course, you learn it using your favorite method, whatever that might be.  I use Memrise.

Second, you review it using your favorite method.

Third, you use it and look for it in the wild – in reading, in conversation, etc.

Here was a good comment from insidethatjapanesebook I always feel that learning a new word with an SRS is like meeting someone for the first time, if I don’t see that person again soon, I may forget his or her name. As for words, It’s only by using them and recognise them “in the wild” as you say, that they become familiar. The more I come across a word, the more it will look like an “old friend” that I know well.

I agree with that completely.

And, speaking of encoutering vocabulary in the wild, today’s news article is:  イギリスの航空こうくう会社がいしゃ電気でんき飛行機ひこうきを10ねん以内いない使つかう」.

I have done my usual thing – copy it to a document, print it out, and black out all the furigana for words that I cam supposed to know.  For words I don’t know, I leave the furigana the first time the word appears and black them out on every subsequent appearance.  On this particular story, that leaves me with only 4 words that still have furigana showing.

Now I will try to read the article with no help of any kind – no dictionary, no apps, nothing.  After that, I will make use of a helpful tool to double check myself (and, let’s be honest, to figure out any sentences I can’t make sense of on the first run through.

I really want to call up jisho or takoboto or tangoristo to help me out, but I will go through it on my own first.  It’s more work that way, and, though I like to be efficient, sometimes the harder method is actually the best method.

So, I have some vocabulary reviews to tackle and an article about electric planes to read so, to work.