Whenever I try to come up with my own Japanese sentences, they always end up being a lot more complicated than I thought they’d be. Then, when someone tries to correct me, I have a hard time understanding their correction. It’s really frustrating.
Another option is to just copy my texbook sentences exactly with a little word replacement, but that feels super repetitive and boring and like I can’t actually do anything other than parrot my textbook.
I want to practice what I’m learning and try to come up with my own sentences, but constantly hitting this wall really saps at my motivation.
I haven’t put nearly enough effort into this part of my studies before now, so good on your for starting early.
The way I’ve been trying to tackle this is to try and keep short diary entries, and write them in an “Explain Like I’m 5” way. Don’t always feel the need to make it complicated, just what you did, where, and when.
As well as these forums, you can get a lot of help using the HelloTalk app as it puts you in touch with native speakers and other language learners.
I think this is normal for everyone at first, the only option that you have is to practice a lot. At first you’re only going to be able to say the simplest stuff, specially while you’re still building your vocabulary.
My tip is: instead of first trying to think of what you want to say, and then trying to write it, whenever you learn a new grammar pattern, just try making new sentences that follow that pattern. This is way simpler, and it will help with the memorization of these new grammar patterns. Slowly but surely you’ll expand you repertory. And you’ll see your sentences growing in complexity.
There is nothing wrong with starting to communicate using patterns, it seems stiff and unnatural but it’s just how it goes at first.
Building on this, one of the things you’ll end up realizing is that you’ll have to change what you want to say to actually match something that sounds normal in Japanese, given how different Japanese grammar is. So you’ll need to familiarize yourself quite well with Japanese grammar patterns/phrasing to know what you should use.
A common example of this is in most English sentences you’ll want to say something like “I’m going to the convenience store.”. And although you can say exactly that (私はコンビニに行っている), in Japanese it’s much more natural to omit the 私は unless it’d be unclear in the current conversation that you’re not talking about yourself. It’s a bit of a habit that you’ll have to break out of at first since if you’re used to forming English sentences you’re used to always having to use “I” or “me” in a sentence. A similar thing happens with “you”/あなた, in that the Japanese will refer to each other more often by name, whereas in English that would seem weird, like you were talking in the third person.
In other words, there is some effort involved in breaking out of the habit of trying to take your English sentences and putting them in Japanese, when you should actually be forming the sentence in Japanese from the beginning. As I said before, I think the best way to break into this is to get lots of exposure to native Japanese writing and talking to hear the grammar in practice. It’s hard but you’ll pick things up slowly.
I really want to upvote this part, so imagine I’m ing this in particular.
I also highly recommend the 4500 Japanese Sentences available from the wanikani store. Be warned, they are often a little weird, so your translation might well be correct even if you’re thinking “What the hell?!”
Through HelloTalk, I’ve been meeting up with a Japanese student in town for language learning fun. Originally we were using a kid’s book to help with my reading, but more recently we’ve been doing the sentences. He says there are lots of very Japanese phrases and ideas in there, more than if you use a textbook. It’s led to loads of conversations about phrasing, emphasis, and small changes in structure and the change in meaning.
I really want to work on the sentences, but right in the first page there are dozens of kanji I don’t know and since there’s no furigana, it’s hard for me to know of I’m doing anything right. I fell like I’m totally in the dark.
What you’ve been able to do with the Japanese student in your town sounds like the best way to go. You’ll still have to dedicate and work hard through it but you’ll be guided, which I think is a must sometimes
This is helpful, but not necessarily in the way you think it’ll be.
Lots of advice on here is to create your own anki decks, vocab lists, etc. This does not work for me. What’s happened with my learning is that I’ve become swamped in review queues and stress, and considered throwing it all away. All of my good intentions to widen my learning were delayed cos I just needed to get the numbers down. THE NUMBERS! OH THE NUMBERS! Anyway, that’s all well and good, but I have limited free time and just remembering isn’t learning. I spent two years trying to learn vocab and not using it.
One of the things the sentences are good for is looking things up, and typing it out. Use the radical lookup on jisho to find the kanji, or this on Android. Not only does reading get easier with time, so does looking things up. As for typing, learn how to switch keyboards quickly and easily on whatever OS you’re using.
Now you’ve looked something up, and it still doesn’t make any sense. You’ve typed in so many characters that jisho is underlining stuff in red and saying “uwot mate?”. Cool. Now you’re going to have to spot the verb or the adjective. See those verbs and adjectives? They’ve got lots of forms. The more you see those, the easier it is to say to yourself “Pretty sure that’s the verb, it’s in past negative form, so that means the root form is…X”, into jisho it goes, and you’re away.
Maybe even take the translation aspect out of it, and use the sentences for reading practise. Can you successfully go from looking at it, to typing it out again and getting the same characters? Great! You got better!
What I’m evangelising is this: try it. Diversify your learning. You will need kanji, but also particles, and forms, and other stuff I’ve never heard of, I’m sure. I concentrated on WK lessons and reviews alone, and it hurt my progress. I’m correcting that now.
Anyway, it’s windy up here on this soapbox so I’m going to get down now.