How do YOU learn and retain grammar

If you thought about this and searched these forums, then perhaps you’ve come across the numerous threads that address this topic. Many people are in this situation because they have no physical access native speakers. So, there are a number of resources for you to access because I’m can’t recall ones I haven’t used. But the biggest contributor for getting input and feedback for me was HelloTalk. Admittedly, it was difficult to find people committed enough to communicate regularly with, but the repeated introductions and basic info exchange conversations helped a lot too. From there I was able to start communicating with contacts I’d know for a while on line and Skype and still have contact with them to this day (four years later).

In other threads, people have mentioned ways they’ve connected with native speakers besides this. I highly suggest you search around the forum and see if you find a means that suits you well.

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Managed to get my University work out of the way with holidays etc before the next assignment deadline.

I’ve tried a few different things and HelloTalk is one of the best language resources I’ve come across. I’m applying my kanji recognition all the time. I can now read sentences. The translations for words and entire sentences is excellent, and it has all the note taking functions I need from bookmarking to recording voice notes, or saving definitions of words. I also get the satisfaction of fixing English for Japanese people. I had heard of it before, I thought it was a one to one app, but it’s more a social media platform where people makes posts in a language and can ask for help. It’s super convenient and cosy. I use it to pass the time at work.


Try bunpro it’s seriously helpful as well.
I’m a (former–don’t live in Japan anymore) immersion learner who always messes up “small details” and has a pretty house of pretty words on a foundation full of gaps >_< the constant feedback of example sentences has helped immensely even 10 days in.

You can try it 30 days free. They even have a special sale/free trial happening.


I have it! But for me it’s not making me go through a process where I retain the grammar point. I keep getting them wrong. It’s a great resource! But I don’t think I’m a person who learns with “lists”. I find getting my hands dirty with good direction/management from some external force is how I get things enough to recall them myself. Different strokes.

庭には二羽鶏がいる :slight_smile:


I can’t believe I missed that in your OP apparently I mistook a different post for the OP!?!? :woman_facepalming: Sorry. Thanks for the patient response.

Yes, we all have different ways of learning! It’s true! I’m glad HelloTalk is working for you, it for sure is a good way to “get your hands dirty.” It’s cool of you to update your experience for everyone.

橋の端に箸がある :upside_down_face:

more of these :smiley:

I went away for 2 weeks. I was stressed from falling behind with University studies and feeling like my progress was stuck so I wanted to experiment with some of the recommendations made here before giving up. I installed HelloTalk this week and it has been massive successful so far, even getting into typing in 日本語 on my phone and at my desktop has been a boost. It’s still a very long road.

I try to make a sentence on HelloTalk using the vocabulary from WaniKani, while applying grammar points from lessons that people post, and they even give me feedback where I make mistakes. It’s social and both parties get to feel good without committing themselves to wasting the time of other people. For example there is someone who posts a lesson, I ask questions about the lesson while fixing their English mistakes. Small steps but like anything if you make a small step each day, you’ll be climbing mountains by the end. I still have a hard time accepting that I can somewhat read as many words as I can, still a beginner but there’s a real sense of a jump from way back when to now. I’ll see where it takes me. :slight_smile:

If it’s possible to draw a correlation, how do the Basic / Intermediate volumes relate to JLPT levels?

I would suggest watching the cure dolly youtube series to get a good grammar foundation.
But i really feel like trying different ressources is what each person ought to do untill they find something that makes sense and seems to click.

Ideally learning grammar should happen through the usage of it, but being able to identify it evidently comes first, therefore a basis has to be established that one can move onwards with going into reading/listening/speaking.
After this i feel like its just a matter of looking grammar up you dont understand as you encounter it. eventually it will stick through usage.

try cure dolly on youtube (enable subtitles if the voice is too weird)

remember you don’t have to, or do you?

Ah, I’m sure it’s possible - just get a list of all the grammar points tested, and check the index of the Advanced volume (which covers all three).

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Can I get more info on this? I was under the impression that thinking in a language was a side-effect of becoming fluent in it, rather than something that helps fluency, so this intrigues me. Are there any tricks to consciously thinking in a new language, or is it just a matter of ‘oh I know that item’s name in Japanese’ and making the attempt?

Whenever I want to write something that I’m not sure of the grammar for I look up how to form what I want, and then usually post it on Hellotalk so people can correct me and explain the correct way to use that grammar point.

I’m terrible with grammar - start talking about intransitive verbs or direct objects and I’ll start freezing up before you’ve finished your sentence :sweat_smile: I think this is because I only ever learned basic grammar in school, the curriculum was focused on absorption through extensive reading.

BUT the things that have helped me the most were:

  1. Getting a study buddy at the same level (my husband) - it makes lessons easier and we can keep practicing our (limited) speaking skills for fun.
  2. Watching calm anime and silly doramas (stuff where I didn’t care about not understanding everything) - it helps me get used to hearing grammar in proper conversations.
  3. Finding a great private teacher who teaches us through cloze examples and not long-winded grammatical explanations. Usually we’ll see one or two grammar points per week, most often with the support of a text book like Genki - our rate is slow but I’m a slow and intense learner lol.

We don’t really need to know the names of grammatical structures in order to use them. The number of examples our teacher provides and has us invent in role play really help stuff make sense.
Every week she makes a note of what she’s taught us, and will sneak it into our conversation warmup at the beginning of our lesson (my favorite part of the lesson). She asks questions that force us to use the grammar and vocabulary we’ve already studied.

I’ve also discovered Bunpro recently - and have found that after having already spent time working on grammar with a great teacher, most of the examples make more sense to me than they would have before. The system quickly found what I suck at, and has been of great help getting that stuff to stick (after about 3 weeks of consistent failing on specific points, it suddenly magically clicked).

Good luck with your grammar studies - I’m sure if you keep at it, stuff will start to stick! Repeated exposure and good “coaching” helps a lot. :relaxed:

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The japanese from zero series on YouTube with 91 videos helped me a lot.

You’re pretty close. You just have to be intentional, make it a game if necessary.


  1. Start taking personal notes in Japanese. Even if they’re not perfect sentences it’s important for reinforcing what you already know
  2. Whenever you think about saying something simple in your native tongue, think about how you would say it in Japanese first. Even if you don’t say it, you’ve still practiced synthesizing the grammar necessary to communicate it which is the hard part.
  3. Describe things you’re looking at in Japanese. Instead of thinking “that looks cool”, think "かっこいい”
  4. Talk to yourself in Japanese. People think you’re weird if you talk to yourself. People think you’re cool if you talk to yourself in a foreign language :joy:

These are very simple examples, but they have a lot of impact. You don’t have to be successful at this all of the time, you just need to attempt it frequently. You’ll begin to surprise yourself about how many basic things you can communicate. The path to advanced fluency actually lies in becoming fluent in basic concepts first, then becoming fluent in connecting those concepts together.

A problem a lot of people encounter is that they understand a lot of concepts in Japanese, but they haven’t practiced any of those concepts enough to reach mastery / fluency. The trap lies in the fact that the largest component of fluency lies in speaking and listening, during which information flows at a very quick pace, but most learners spend a lot of their time practicing reading and writing, which can happen at any speed you’re comfortable with. What you end up with are people who are literate in Japanese, but have poor speech and listening comprehension.

Here are some tips for self evaluating your understanding of grammatical points:

  1. If you can’t hear a sentence pattern and immediately understand it at the subconscious level, you need to practice it more. You don’t have time to think about what a grammatical structure means when someone is speaking to you, so you should practice a grammatical point until you reach an intuitive understanding of it. It may seem extreme, but you will be glad you did later on.
  2. If you have difficulty communicating a certain idea in speech, go learn how to say it and then create a bunch of example sentences that you can practice saying until you have an intuitive understanding of how to use that grammatical pattern. Once again, extreme but highly effective.

Taking a “fluency first, literacy second” approach is key. That’s how you learned your first language, and that’s how you’ll most effectively learn this one. :slight_smile:


Oh gosh, thank you so much! Step-by-steps were exactly what I was hankering for. I’m only just getting on the grammar train and figuring out my process for it, so knowing what to aim for in this sense is immensely helpful, thank you.

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Japanese in 5?

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