And so, here I am cramming chunks of grammar into my head, which is just about as painful as it sounds, and I found myself faced with the question of what is the best way to do that?
Sou Matome and New Kanzen Master both take the same basic approach – they explain several grammar points and then quiz you on them, generally with multiple choice question (since this is, after all, prep for the JLPT, which also gives you multiple choice questions).
The questions typically take the form of a sentence with a blank in it, and you have to choose the correct word to go in the blank.
Now, let’s be honest: just reading over the material isn’t studying. It’s reading. It’s good preparation for studying, but it isn’t actually studying.
So how can we study the grammar?
I have decided that, for each grammar point, I will analyze a bunch of sample sentences and see how the grammar point is used in each sentence. (Not just read the sentence, mind you, but break it down.) Then, of course, the next obvious step would be to write my own sentences and have somebody more knowledgeable than I am check them over for me.
So, where do I get the sample sentences?
One really excellent option, suggested by rold2007 (thanks!), is A Handbook of Japanese Grammar Patterns for Teachers and Learners which you can find discussed at Tofugu. I asked my Cafetalk tutor about the book, and she immediately held up the all Japanese version and asked, “You mean, this one?”
She told me that it was a great book, but she wouldn’t recommend the all Japanese version to me at my current level (in fact, the she gave me the ever popular ダメです), but the Tofugu link above talks about the relatively new English version and even links to it on Amazon. It looks like a really excellent book to have.
Another option is a site that I have gone to several times but hadn’t really dug into: jtest4you. This site will give you a (brief!) overview of a Japanese grammar point and will then inundate you with example sentences. (The first grammar point I clicked on had 14 example sentences, with the first few being pretty straight forward but the later ones increasing in length and complexity.)
Each sentence appears three time: Kanji, English translation and hiragana. There is also audio for the sentences.
From a learning standpoint, I’d prefer some breakdown of the sentences or an English translation that highlights the grammar point instead of the most natural sounding English translation, but what do you want for no charge?
Now, if I can really get a handle on the difference between うちに and あいだに…but that’s a whole other post.
Well, back to work.