Got Grammar?

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.

That works.

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.




You know what?

I don’t want to study this morning.

I usually study in the morning, but, today, I just don’t feel like it.

This is actually part of the process, though.

Not wanting to study is part of the process of learning Japanese?


Some days are just like that, and you have to decided how to deal with those days.  Do you force yourself to study whether you want to or not, or do you take a day off?

Good question.  The answer is, “It depends.”

It depends on you, on who and how you are, on what else you having going on around you, on how much you’ve been studying lately, all of those other intangible variables that make you so uniquely you.

In my case, I know why I don’t want to study today.  It’s mostly because the ac isn’t working properly, so it’s really hot and humid inside, and, for a whole bunch of reasons, I haven’t been getting enough sleep lately.

So, what will I do?

Well, I actually want to study, I just to don’t want to study right now.  So I’ll put it off until lunch time, confident that I’ll feel like studying then.  (This is where the “knowing yourself” part comes in.)

I am in the “yes, it’s okay to (rarely) take a day off” camp, but, generally, I am in the “I’m going to study anyway” camp.  I know myself well enough to know that I’ll be glad later if I study today, so I’ll study today.

Just not right now.



Later:  Posting that made me want to study, so, a few minutes after hitting the enter key, I opened Memrise and reviewed all of my vocabulary for the morning.  Yay!  It’s all about knowing what works for you.

You you you


Continuing my adventures in grammar, today’s lesson in sou matome is all about you.

Wait.  Let me restate that.

Today’s lesson in sou matome is all about よう.



This basically means “to do something in order to accomplish a goal”.

So, for example:


忘れない – not forget (the goal)

ように – in order to, so that I don’t, etc

書いておこう – write it (the action taken to reach the goal)

I write it down so that I won’t forget it.

Which gives us the basic structure  [goal] + ように + [action taken to reach goal]




This basically means “to try to do something”.

So, for example:


分からない – not understand

こと – thing, usually for intangible stuff

は – topic marker

分からないことは – things not understood

先生 – teacher

に – particle indicating direction

聞く – to listen, to ask – you have to figure out which from context

ようにしている – to try to do , to make a point of doing, to have a habit of doing

I try to ask the teacher about things I don’t understand.



This generally seems to be translated as “to reach the point that”.  It indicates that a change of state of some kind occurs.


一年間 – for one year

日本語 – Japanese language

を – direct object particle

勉強して – study (with suru in the て form).

一年間日本語を勉強して – having studied Japanese for one year

日本語 – Japanese language

が – subject marker

話せる – to be able to speak

ようになった – indicates a change of state (in this case, the change was from being unable to speak Japanese to being able to speak Japanese.  Ah, the state we all long for!)

Having studied Japanese for one year, I can speak it now.

After having studied Japanese for a year, I have become able to speak it.


Looking ahead in the book, which I probably really shouldn’t do, I see that tomorrow is all about more uses of ように and the next day includes ようとする.

Sou matome likes to be related grammar points close together so you can really home in on the subtle distinctions between them, which is a good thing.

I’m probably not going to keep posting about the grammar.  I was just running through these points today for my own benefit and decided to stick them up on the blog just because I had written them out.

I’m actually enjoying the book, though, again, the grammar explanations are on the skimpy side, so you have to look things up other places in order to get a complete picture, but I don’t mind that.  It actually helps keep me interested because, let’s be honest, grammar studying can be boring.

Well, back to work.



This Is Like…

One of the things about the sou matome grammar book is that it tends to put similar grammar together into groups.  Similar, but not identical.  That’s good, because it really helps stress the distinction between them.  It does, however, sometimes makes things a little complicated.

For example, on the Week 1 Day 3 you get:




all of which could more or less be translated “like” but which all have slightly different meanings.  As I understand it, it works like this (always with the caveat that my understanding could be wrong or incomplete):

~みたいだ is the basic version of “like” as in:

Even though it is winter, this is a spring-like day.

I want to meet someone like you.


~らしい also means “like” but it contains the implication that things are as they are expected to be or supposed to be, as in:

She is very woman-like (i.e. feminine)

If I said that about my wife, I would use 女らしい, because I would expect her to be feminine as opposed to ~みたいだ.  In fact, 女見たい would be considered to have a negative connotation, since it implies that femininity is, in that case, unexpected.


~っぽう also means “like” but might be better translated into English as “-ish” or something like that because it have a more conversational or casual tone as in:

I wish they’d turn on the AC.  It is kind of warmish in here.

That cat over there is kind of lionish isn’t it?


I came up with these after a little scouting around the internet, and I used these as my basis to answer the quizzes at the end of the section, and I got them all correct, so either I have the basics of this, or I just got lucky.  I’m going to go with option 1.


Sticking With It

Life is beginning to resume some aspect of normalcy at this point, which means that I can dig back into some Japanese.

The current goal:  Pass the JLPT N3 in December.

The current tools:

The “of course I’m using these” list:

Memrise though I have back way off on the number of courses I’m studying, really focusing now on just two – Minna no Nihongo and JLPT N3 Standard 2400.

The textbook Chuukyuu Kara Manabu

Bunpro for grammar reviews

And what else?

This is where I am drifting a little bit, trying to decide which of the N3 tools out there would be the best.  Of course, I prefer ただ (free) tools whenever possible, but, sometimes, you have to spend a little money, and I would generally rather spend it something that you pay for once and are done rather than a subscription site where the paying just goes on and on.  Plus, I like books.

After some consideration, I have decided to give the 日本語総まとめ (にほんごそうまとめ) books a look.  The title translates as Japanese Summary, and, to be honest, one reason that I like them is that they look very user friendly.

Here’s a sample page from the grammar book:


You get a brief daily conversation, and then you get generally three grammar points a day.  The next page has the third grammar point (which, in this case, is とく as in 書いとく) followed by five questions in which you have to pick the correct grammatical form and two questions where you have to put some words in the correct order in a sentence.  (I personally find those last questions difficult.)

Oh, also, when I opened the grammar book to week one, day one, the first word I saw was 頑張らなくちゃ.  I liked that!

The downside of the books is that they don’t have complete explanations of each grammar point, but there is a whole internet out there to fill in any gaps, especially the excellent Maggie Sensei, so I’m okay with that.

For six days, you study two pages daily, and then, on the seventh day, you get a quiz (three pages long!) in the format of the JLPT.  All in all, each book is supposed to take six weeks.  Do them now and then review in the month or so before the JLPT is my plan.  Of course, I would have to work through two books at once to make that time frame, but that sounds okay.

I have been using this grammar book for all of two days (today being day three) but I can say that, so far, I like the book and am interested in looking at others in the series.  In the meantime, I will stick with what I have.



I am going through a grammar drill book right now.

I am finding out that my grasp of grammar isn’t as good as I thought it was.


There seems to be a fundamental difference between just talking and doing a grammar test.

I am using a process that I basically borrowed from Japan Talk Online.

It works like this:

Do a page of grammar drills

Check the answers

For any one you got wrong, don’t stop with just noting what the right answer is.  Dive into the grammar and make sure that you understand the right answer.

Write out a description of the grammar point in a way that works for you.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I did page one today.

It was depressing.

Out of 10 questions, I missed six.

Out of the six I missed, I shouldn’t have missed four of them.  I understood the grammar involved and should have selected the right answer.


So, the grammar I truly didn’t know, I looked up and looked over (as opposed to overlooking it) and wrote it down.  Later today, I will redo that page and check my new answers, and we’ll see see how I do then.

This is all good.  Doing the book this way will probably take about 1.5 to 2 months, and that’s okay.  I have the time.  There’s no rush.  I just want to use my time wisely.


More Than You Can Chew?

Thinking about how much time I spend studying Japanese (and the fact that the JLPT is now less than 6 months away) made me think about organizing my study time.


I’ve been using memrise for this, but I decided that I was taking too many courses, so I have backed way off.  Now I am just reviewing vocabulary from Minna No Nihongo and JLPT Standard 2400.  I have put all other courses on hold for the time being.


I’ve been using bunpro and will continue to do so, but I am also starting some grammar drills out of this book:



Audio lessons while I’m driving, doing the dishes, etc.  These lessons are reviewing grammar that I already know, so I suppose it fits under that heading as well. I like this because it doesn’t actually use up extra time.  Also, of course, I have skype conversations with Japanese friends every week.


I am using this book.  I should be using it every day, but time does not permit.


And, of course, I have the homework assigned by my Cafetalk tutor, which I fit in when I can.

Backing off on the memrise courses was the best idea.  I didn’t realize how many courses I was signed up for.  It was actually pretty ridiculous.  I definitely got carried away there.

Now it’s time to go to work.