Good ways to internalize verbs and sentence structures?


#1

Hello!

How do you all internalize Japanese verbs and sentence structure? I’ve learned other languages before, but Japanese placing the verb at the end of the sentence makes it really hard for me to understand sentences, especially when spoken. WaniKani has been a great help in reading and dissecting sentences and I’m using Genki for learning grammar, but any tips on the best way to study/rethink Japanese sentence structure/drills/etc would be greatly appreciated.


#2

Personally I’ve been using Bunpro and Human Japanese for grammar. I think producing the grammar and knowing where you went wrong is a key step in understanding some of the twisty ways of Japanese sentence structure. For free alternatives, there’s also Duolingo and Lingodeer.

Japanese Ammo with Misa is a really great YouTube channel that helps break down a lot of Japanese grammar structure. I’ve enjoyed all of the explanations I’ve watched so far.

If I don’t really get something, I try to look it up in other grammar resources, too, like Maggie Sensei, Imabi, or Japanese Stack Exchange. There’s also this nice cheat sheet for basic grammar. Nihonshock makes some other ones as well, some of which are paid. Lastly, cure dolly has an interesting site with some in-depth (though at times controversial) breakdowns on Japanese grammar and how it’s sometimes taught incorrectly.

Now, for the reasons Human Japanese and Bunpro have helped me the most so far:

  • In Human Japanese, the author frequently talks about “breaking down Japanese at the particles.” This means you can split up a sentence into parts and translate those pieces to get a better understanding of the overall whole. One example would be: ねこがれいぞうこのうえにいます. (A cat is on top of the refrigerator). If you split this at the particles, it becomes ねこが (a cat) れいぞうこの (refrigerator’s) うえに (at top) います (exists). Definitely not like English, but when you split Japanese into these bite-sized “lego blocks” the overall built sentence meaning starts to take better shape. I would really key into particles to start with, since those are often the most confusing at the beginning.

  • (Another thing I like about Human Japanese is that it spends extra time explaining certain concepts because it assumes a self-learner, while Genki assumes a classroom setting. Genki is really great but I’ve found it sometimes moves too fast. With Japanese, you want to make sure you understand the basics before piling on additional heaps of grammar.)

  • Bunpro is an SRS that quizzes you on grammar. I really like that their example sentences build on previous grammar, so you won’t just be quizzed on a concept like すぎる (“too much” of something), you’ll also need to remember that すぎる can become past form (すぎた), etc.

Overall, with grammar it’s really zoning in and drilling those basics over and over, and maybe reading breakdowns from various resources to get a better overall concept of a grammar point. :+1:

Good luck in your studies! :hatched_chick:


#3

At the beginning I translated example sentences I was given very literally in my head whenever I could, then converted to more natural English. For example…

さとしさんとまりさんはお茶を飲みました。–> Satoshi and Mary [as for] tea [d.o.] drank. —> [As for] Satoshi and Mary [they] drank tea.

猫は学校に行きました. [As for] the cat to the school went. ----> The cat went to the school.

お母さんにせーたーをもらいました。[From] mom a sweater I took. —> I got [myself] a sweater from mom.

For me it helped adapt my understanding to the order of information as I was given it, and helped me understand how to replicate similar sentences. A “simple” English sentence structure is equivalent to a slightly different Japanese sentence structure. Eventually I didn’t need to translate like this anymore, because I understood what relationships the particles stood for in the order they were given.

You’re going to be asking yourself questions in a different order as you hear a sentence:

WHO/WHAT?
From whom/what? To whom/what?
Does what?

Whereas in English, the order of your questions is, WHO? DOES WHAT? FROM WHOM/TO WHOM?

The English order may be more natural to you, but in the end all the same relationships get conveyed. You just have to expect a different logical flow.


#4

(I wrote a huge post to reply to this but in the end I don’t think I would be super helpful so I deleted it and here is the really condensed version)

What I have tried to do is come up with a strategy of glossing japanese in a way that preserves the word order of japanese in english. I then have “gotten used” to hearing this really weird version of english. and then as I have read more japanese, the english glosses have kinda “fallen away” and I have been left with just understanding the japanese.
(I guess this is pretty much what others have said)

Sorry to not be that helpful. What I can say by way of encouragement is that what seems impossible now (that you could here japanese spoken and parse the various phrases and clauses in a way that makes sense) really does get easier.


#5

There’s actually no really fixed sentence structure, because the role a part of a sentence plays comes mostly from the particles, not from the position in the sentence.

See this helpful article:
http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/debunking-the-japanese-sentence-order-myth/


#6

I feel the other people who responded provided great feedback, but I’d like to tack on something else. Having grammar resources are great for giving you an idea, but it cannot be emphasized enough the importance of reading. Pulling from your subject title, you mention ways to internalize verbs and sentence structures.

Engaging in reading for fun is a great way to do this. Start at a level that will be easy for you to read and build from there. Take note of the difficult sentences to study for later (at a separate time from your reading time). Over time, you will begin to build a subconscious understanding of what feels correct or natural. If you are essentially level 0, you can use the example sentences you come across in your normal studies (less preferred), take the plunge to invest in graded readers to help build your confidence (preferred but costly), and/or you delve into one of the many reading groups on the forums to help you get through a book you couldn’t do on your own (preferred but takes determination).

No matter how you look at it, there needs to be a conscious effort to immerse yourself as much as possible in Japanese. Over time, through your studies things that didn’t make a lot of sense in the beginning will begin to come together and make sense to you.

*Note: I know that my response referred to sentence structures explicitly, but verbs and other vocabulary will be helped by engaging in reading for fun. And to clarify, I’m not talking about reading every once in a while, but setting aside a regular time (preferably daily) to read. Extensive listening (listening to things for fun) and shadowing also have a similar effect as well.


#7

I strongly agree with reading as early as you’re able to, I started reading maybe halfway into Genki I and some may say that’s super early, but I don’t regret it one bit, I’m actually glad I started reading so early. I would read pretty much anything I happened to see in Japanese, certain NHK Easy articles that piqued my interest, twitter posts, HelloTalk posts, etc. It was super difficult at first considering how early I started but my Japanese ability really skyrocketed from doing so. I do want to comment on one thing though.

Personally I found things that were easy were also quite boring and it was a slog to get through. I think you should go through something you find interesting even if it’s a challenge. Most people typically say to read Yotsubato as a first manga for some reason (I can’t stand it but I’ll not get into that). I chose Noragami, considering it’s theme it can be quite challenging for someone who’s never read manga before. Because I enjoyed it I kept going through it anyways despite the difficulty. Sometimes I actually like reading challenging things anyways even if there is something interesting at an easier level, it really forces me to push myself and I think I improve much more because of the challenge.

I reset WaniKani and really started taking Japanese seriously nearly 1 year ago now, according to the wkstats site in 13 days it will be a year exactly since I reset. I’m starting to read novels now, from what I’ve gathered from other Japanese learners a lot of people still struggle to read manga in that time. I think that speaks measures for how much reading can really help you if you start early and read constantly even if it’s just a small bit every day.


#8

In the words of the old esports gamer Fatal1ty, “Practice, practice, practice!”


#9

Read a lot. Watch a lot of Japanese media. It’s okay if there are subtitles, but don’t read those absentmindedly. Try to hear everything that’s said and try to read any Japanese text on the screen. If Japanese captions are available, turn them on. Keep English out of your brain as much as possible.

I’ve started reading Yotsubato and it’s working really well for me. I can read it without too much trouble. Every 5 pages, there might be a sentence or a couple words that I don’t quite understand. But it’s nothing that a 5 second dictionary trip won’t help me get the gist of. It’s not at all painful, though, and I’m learning a lot because I’m seeing what I already kind of know placed in a concrete context. I’m also able to enjoy reading the manga, which I think is most important, because that makes me want to read more.


#10

Just to qualify my comment: my advice is to engage in extensive reading, which entails consuming a lot of material. This is a key point. This is mainly due to the OP’s goal to internalize content. One of the first things to causes people to “fall off the wagon” is to bite off more more than they can handle and it become difficult to continue. Really in the end it’s up to the individual learner about what’s best for them, but if from the start, the act of reading seems like study (e.g., having to look up every other word, researching grammar, constantly asking the meaning of passages, etc.) the purpose of extensive reading is lost. Some people are able to accomplish extensive reading with more difficult challenging texts, but the key thing is to find something that is interesting not just easy. Which is why I said,

Reading something one finds boring defeats the purpose of extensive reading. Nor does easy exclusively mean something that it’ll be uninteresting because of the plot or content. FULL DISCLOSURE: I didn’t start with Yotsuba& either because I don’t like reading manga.

Not trying to contradict anything you’re saying, but I want to make sure what I wrote isn’t being mis-characterized because your experience with finding accessible material was different.


#11

The Fluent Forever method suggests making flashcards every time the word order/structure of a sentence surprises you. I make fill-in-the-blank style cards in Anki and find it works well for me. A different particle than I was expecting? Strange word order? Make a card where you have to fill in the blank with the thing that surprised you, and memorize the sentence.

I just had one about an hour ago actually!

何から影響されてスポーツをしますか。
“From what, (you) are influenced and (you) do sports (?)” AKA
“What influences/influenced you to play sports?”

My head is still reeling from this very Japanese word order. I made two cards that look like this:
__影響されてスポーツをしますか。← for 何から
何から__スポーツをしますか。(影響する) ← for passive

In these cases where something makes your head spin, I think outright memorization can be very useful. With the sentence memorized, in a future conversation I can simply replace a few words (何 and/or スポーツをします to say what I was influenced by and what I now do) and I’m on my way to using this (at first totally weird) structure in normal conversation.

I hope that helps! I found the Fluent Forever book very helpful too, as a general guide to learning languages.


#12

I think this is a good example of what some of us were talking about in terms of “getting used to” or internalizing japanese qord order and usage.
I am assuming the translation was taken from the resourse (sorry if tthis is not true).
But i think that the translation as given is an example of how to gloss japanese in a way that makes it harder to understand and apply. heres why.
By attempting to have the english gloss sound more natural, I feel like the way the sentence works is obscured.
The main structure of the sentence is (te-form clause A + clause B). The basic way to understand this structure is (clause A + “and”/“and then” + clause B). also, the verbs used in the gloss misrepresent the grammar cases of the nouns in the original. When you say “____ influenced you”, “___” is the subject and “you” is the direct object of that verb. That is not true in the japanese.
I think a closer gloss is : From what, (you) are influenced and (you) do sports (?).
And while that sounds weirder, I think that there is alot “more” information about the japanese in that gloss.

I think that being precise about how you gloss japanese into english lets you “see” alot more of the logic of the japanese sentence.


#13

Yeah, I agree that the English translation can get in the way. Your way of phrasing it is what I was going for with “From what are you influenced sports do you do?” but I edited it to your way because it’s a bit more accurate with the て-form.

My main point was meant to be that putting these types of sentences that we’re not used to into flashcards (all in Japanese) has been working for me, and maybe OP would like to try it. For me, your kind of gloss does indeed help me to see the logic, and the flashcard part is how I internalize and solidify it.


#14

Totally agree. and as a useful stratagy, i think making these kinds of flashcards is the way to go. however one thinks about japanese (in english) the end goal is to just be familiar with so many sentence structures that you just start thinking of things in japanese.