Escaping the "English Mindset"

One of the hardest transitions from going between English and Japanese is the mannerisms and structure that the English language holds. If I were to give an example, one idea that I don’t think would translate directly that I find myself attempting to express terms such as “sounds like” (sounds interesting, sounds like fun) or everyday weird English sayings like “under the weather”. Of course I can directly translate these if I try, but I don’t think Japanese people speak in this sort of way. Furthermore, I’m sure there are also Japanese mannerisms that fall in the same category that have indirect translations into English (お願いします is one that immediately comes to mind).

Consistently I attempt to do direct translations of thoughts I have into Japanese, which I feel like it’s a hindrance to my overall learning. I’ve been trying to avoid using Google translate as a tool to test my Japanese knowledge, as I know it isn’t always accurate to the language and reinforces the use of said “direct translation” method (I can directly place all of the words I’m thinking of into the order of a Japanese sentence and google gives me the English translation that I’m looking for, but it may not be actually correct in Japanese). I also have noticed that if I change out different grammar particles, such as using に instead of で, the translations don’t always change, which shows that using Translate is an ineffective tool to ensure I’m giving grammatically correct sentences.

What are some resources or practice methods that I can use to help move myself away from this sort of study habit? Should I just start practicing grammar and exposing myself to more Japanese content (I’ve been using Bunpro and Genki I as study tools, but I haven’t gotten too far into either of them yet), or is there another resource I should look into for learning specific mannerisms and sayings used in everyday Japanese? I’m interested to hear what you all have to say!


Well yeah, but translations don’t always change. Not saying Google Translate doesn’t suck at Japanese, mind. :stuck_out_tongue:

Yeah. Try reading a book with one of the books clubs here, for example. :slightly_smiling_face:


Yeah I understand that. I was mainly thinking of an example I tried from Tae Kim showing the difference in particles. I mis-remembered, but I meant the difference in へ and に with the sample sentence: ボブは日本へ行った vs ボブは日本に行った. Google gives the same translation, even though the vagueness of へ would more imply that Bob went “towards” Japan, instead of “to” Japan.

I’ve been considering it for awhile, but I should try to do that before long. I keep feeling like I’m not quite at the proficiency to start doing reading yet, but maybe trying to join a reading group can help me more than I think.


I also find that lots of exposure to Japanese helps me with that way of thinking. It’s hard to begin to express yourself in a way that doesn’t sound painfully unnatural in your language of study.

As I do more and more Japanese-only reading and watching, I’m noticing increasing amounts of those cultural usage details.

One of the first ones I remember actively noticing was the use of 心を読む. I was watching something with English subs at that time, but when I heard the dialogue, it made perfect sense.

It’ll still take me hundreds if not thousands more hours to get used to and remember these ways that the Japanese people express themselves, but it also feels like it’s getting easier to catch the drift of some things even without looking it up. This doesn’t hold true for every form of expression, of course. Some things just don’t make any rational sense at first glance.

Keep chipping away at it! :muscle:


I think it’s natural to translate to and from English in the beginning. After all, most of the things you know at this point are probably through an English translation.

Like others have said, I just think it takes exposure. You can start with sample sentences, then maybe graded readers and then go on to native materials in due time.

Also studying grammar will probably help getting up to speed in how to actually say various things in Japanese since it’s often completely different from English. (At least that was the case for me).

Personally I’ve noticed that words or concepts kinda go in phases from being something I only know by means of translation until it becomes internalized and I’m not even sure how to translate it most of the time because concepts map so poorly between Japanese and English… I’m sure you’ll get there as well!

頑張ってください!(Incidentally one of the many things that aren’t easily translatable into English! )


You can change a particle and still have a grammatically correct sentence with the same translation.

I draw pictures in the hall.

I draw pictures in the hall.

The first sentence means that you draw pictures while being in the hall, presumably in a notepad or something.

The second sentence means you draw pictures onto the hall itself, like on the walls or floor.

So the the sentences can result in the same basic English sentence even though the Japanese nuance changed, but there was nothing wrong that.


As Belthazar said, the translation really does stay the same. I do not think that an English speaker would say “toward” in this example. A Japanese listener would infer the difference though.

Edit: Leebo said it better

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I think Tae-Kim also mentions that “if you don’t know how to say something in Japanese, you don’t know how to say it” or something along those lines. The hard part is that we can’t approach Japanese as a puzzle where we just use our knowledge of vocab and grammar in order to put together what we want to say. There is probably a natural way of saying what we want to say but we just haven’t heard someone say it yet (or didn’t register it).


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