In the past I’ve tried to explain basic Japanese sentence structure and introduced “masu” form, but I’ve not gone into much detail on how to learn these. That’s difficult thing about Japanese grammar, you can’t just read about it and expect to know it. There are hundreds of websites that explain grammar to you and tell you what you need to know for the various JLPT levels, but not much on how you learn that.
I guess to sum it up you just have to keep using it in different situations. But what’s the best way to do this? Write a diary or a blog? Drill grammar over and over? How do you know if you’re getting it right? Grammar is tricky because it seems so vauge and doesn’t always have a ‘direct’ translation to English.
Hopefully the following tips and explanations will help.
As I said, you just have to keep using it in a mix of different situations, such as the following:
Flash cards programs – In particular Memrise, which is a great program, lets you have the ability to create your own flashcards which you can use to create your own drill sessions.
Reading Textbooks – Textbooks will have grammar explained but also lots of example questions and segments of writing that will have the grammar in them. (For advice on textbooks I wrote a post on using Textbooks for Self Study)
Doing Japanese exercises – If you have a textbook with exercises or a workbook they will often have practice exercises you can do. (Try not to look at the textbook for reference and try to do it from memory). When you do exercises from a textbook/workbook do them on a separate piece of paper so you can do them again. Repetition of exercises will help enforce the grammar in your mind.
Using a teacher – If you don’t understand how a textbook or someone online has explained a piece of grammar, asking a native Japanese teacher is the best way to understand as they can give you more examples and answer your questions quickly.
Using Lang-8 – This is a site where you can write things in other languages and natives will correct it for you (and in return you correct other’s English). This is great if you’re writing your own diary, using grammar and vocabulary etc, as you can see how a native person would write it and ask them questions directly. People will give you various answers and alternatives for a sentence in Japanese, and you have to remember they aren’t teachers. But it’s a great resource.
Coming up with sentences in your head (and/or saying them out loud) – If you’re at school or work, just think about how you’d say something in Japanese randomly. Write it down or say it out loud, and then look it up online to see if you’re right or not. You can do this anywhere and coming up with your own sentences is a great way to practice using the grammar rather than just reading about it. (And if you’re not sure if you’re right write it down and get someone on Lang-8 or a teacher etc to check it)
These are just a few tips. As Master Japanese says, it’s important to do regular study and to keep a variety of how you learn. One of the best ways is role play, so if you have a teacher ask them to role play situations where you’d use grammar you learn, and try and do it regularly.
Do you have your own tips/advice for people learning grammar?
Do you have any requests or questions about learning grammar?
Feel free to leave comments and questions!