How do you manage your grammar studies?

Hello,
I’ve learning japanese for quite a while now, but I always feel stuck when it comes to grammar.
I estimate myself at around ± N3 level (just for some kind of measurement) but I can’t manage myself anymore with grinding textbooks.

So I’ve switched to reading and either it is too easy with nothing new, or instantly too difficult so that I don’t even know what grammar concept to look up.
I got my hands on the first Harry Potter book in japanese, but I quickly learned that there is no chance currently (not on a level where I would learn something apart from vocabularies). I guess the same would be the case with light novels.
So now I’m trying to read a manga I read a while back (君のいる町) because I still roughly know the story to have some context but cant remember the details anymore, so reading it is still “new”.
But there are also sometimes (sometimes more often) sentences where I don’t have the slightest clue what they want to tell me.

How do you do it? Do you copy paste sentences which you completely not understand in google translate (which I dont really like) and try to get the pattern out of it? Or what is your grammar routine?

Thats also the reason why grammar is my weak point. Kanji and vocabularies just became a natural habit over time with wanikani (I also resetted it some time ago) and external words and expressions I found in other texts, but with grammar I have huge problems (which ironically I found more important by now than words currently).

I feel like somewhere stuck in the middle where it doesnt go forth or back, not too bad but by far not too good for more common stuff.

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I think your mileage may vary for this but I have become a massive fan of BunPro. I tried doing Genki exercises when I was still on Genki but I found that all my grammar knowledge went out the window after about a week or so - with BunPro you get an actual structure for your reviews in the same way as WaniKani, which for me personally really helps.

The same goes for encountering grammar in the wild that I don’t understand - I basically use it as a grammar dictionary by typing in the new grammar structure and adding it to my reviews.

Ultimately, as with anything in learning a foreign language, it’s probably all about seeing repeated examples of a grammar structure but I found BunPro to be a great stopgap!

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I used a text hooker and parser initially which would kinda highlight certain parts of the sentence and made it easier to look up grammar since it told me what stuff went together.

Keep in mind it’s ok if you don’t understand some sentences. Look for sentences where you understand all the grammar but one part. Then search that part and see if you can find an answer. People don’t talk about it often, but the actual skill of finding what you don’t know, knowing how to look for an answer on the internet, and overcoming that wall for difficult text is very important if you’re going to be a successful self learner.

One thing I’ll say tho is to make sure you’re using something like yomichan so you’re not wasting a lot of time. If you’re reading a book, get the ebook and use the ttsu reader. If you’re playing a vn set up a text hooker.

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Any recommendation for a text hooker program? Please treat me as a Boomer with special needs that don’t understand anything about technology…

I’m growing tried of print-screening and send the picture to my google drive then let google-san text hook the screenshot for me…

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I really like BunPro but it definitely leaves reading further explanations up to you, so be aware of that.

Beyond that, I’ve benefited mostly from just reading. When I started やがて君になる I missed fairly basic stuff like the conditional use と, 8 volumes later I still don’t catch everything but with occasionally rereading a sentence here or there I can confidently say I catch about 90% of the grammar used.

And a tool that’s very helpful for parsing sentences you don’t quite get is https://ichi.moe/ - it breaks down sentences for you both in terms of vocab and in terms of grammar, so if a manga has a sentence you don’t quite understand you can dump it in there and it’ll tell you how to read it. Not always 100% correct of course, but that goes for any tool.

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The dictionary of grammar series. All three books, but mostly the basic and intermediate. Treat the basic one as your Bible. They’re very useful. I read all three once and keep referencing to them. They might not be your cup of tea but I suggest it strongly.
Are you watching anime? Watch some before start reading. I did that and when I tried my first book I still felt like I crashed headlong into a wall. But I pulled through as it was a little easier.

Edit: oops forgot to answer the question. Well I was fairly good at identifying which part I didn’t understand. Even if I wasn’t sure, I would look up the grammar point in these books. At that previous level of reading, everything was there so I could go on with a good explanation. If I couldn’t find anything, I would Google ~Naninani grammar, and most of the time something would pop up.
If I found nothing, then I would move on and save it for later.

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You could try reading with a book club. That way, when you don’t understand some grammar you can ask others reading the same thing.

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Holy what.

I used ITH, but that’s because I started years ago and that’s just what was popular, but I figured there is better stuff now so I looked around. Looks like textractor is the one to use. Here’s a guide on how to set it up and there’s also stuff about how to use it to make high quality cards if that interests you

https://animecards.site/visualnovels/

But yeah, definitely recommend. The power of instant lookups and parsing help is something I think everyone should use. You’re putting yourself at massive disadvantage if you’re a beginner reading something that can be hooked/yomichaned and not capitalizing on it.

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Um–if you can copy/paste the words into google translate it kind of helps. I do that with some social media accounts I follow that post in Japanese. But if you are reading a physical copy that doesn’t help…

I also use ichi.moe for parsing sentences, as someone else mentioned already I think. The good thing about it is just gives you a breakdown + meaning of each word, but not translate the whole sentence for you. Piecing them together into a coherent thought myself is where I get my practice. If I really, really don’t understand it at all, or want to double-check myself, I paste the sentence into deepl.com, which is a better translator than google.

I also have A Handbook of Japanese Grammar Patterns. It’s a resource/dictionary type, so not the sort that can or needs to be read cover to cover. I look up the grammar point here because it gives me the patterns it’s often used in, like which particles or verb form it’s usually with. This is helpful for me because there are a lot of grammar points with different uses/meanings depending on what they’re attached to.

I’m not the textbook type either, so this is the only method that works for me and it’s been ok so far. Everything’s above my level, but I try to enjoy everything unknown that I come across, and put them into an SRS system.

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Also voting for BunPro - really helped (and continues to help) me with grammar, although I’m way behind you :sweat_smile:

My fav thing about BP is it lets you jump around grammar points; you don’t need to stick to the path. Really useful for looking stuff up on the fly! I was reading a VN that used つつ and つつある constantly, so I just skipped ahead to those points on BP and added to my reviews.

Also I find that DeepL gives much better translations than Google, but I tend not to translate whole sentences. Instead I’ll look up unknown kanji and grammar points separately to try and work it out…then DeepL if it’s still too hard lol.

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I usually use DeepL to double-check if I understand the text or just to get a quick second opinion on a possible other interpretation.

One thing to be aware of is that the writing style in manga is way different from regular articles and books so it might take some time to get used to. Especially considering that textbooks often (sample size of 3 here :stuck_out_tongue: ) teach proper Japanese while other reading materials are not as restrained.

It’s also kind of up to you what you want to do with the language, right? :slight_smile:

Reading is definitely a good idea, especially getting exposed to several authors. The first couple of books will be tough, but then it gets easier (so I heard).

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Harry Potter is a special case because a lot of the translation tries to keep idioms and turns of phrase that exist in the english version.

Light Novels are probably easier than you think, especially if it’s one that you’re really interested in. The thing I’ve found is that LN’s get easier to read as you get used to the author’s style, so even if it’s a struggle at first by the time you get to book 2 and onwards things really start to pick up.

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I feel like light novels really have two options: Either they’ve got pretty straightforward writing and aren’t that bad or they’ve got chuuni ass or slangy writing that will be tough for beginners. Go with the former and youll be fine.

Of course, the average light novel is still going to be significantly harder than the average manga, but its definitely accessible to someone around n3 with help.

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Personally I’d recommend trying visual novels first over light novels especially for your first ever novel. With texthooking tools it becomes much easier to look up unfamiliar words (and add them to SRS if one chooses to do so)

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I have been really enjoying the hardcover editions of “Kiki’s Delivery Service” -

Lots of new vocabulary and the grammar is not too bad. The print isn’t as tiny as in
a lot of Japanese novels, and if you enjoy the story, there are 7 other books in the series.

I learned a method from a YouTube channel - Fingtam languages - that is really useful.
I read a few pages of the Kiki book every day, with a highlighter. I don’t stop reading, but
I highlight words I don’t know. Then I go back, look the words up in Jisho, and write the
definitions right in the margins of the book.

The idea is - the more you read, the more grammar you absorb, provided you’ve at least
been exposed to the general grammar point somewhere along the way (Genki, etc.). I
don’t put the vocabulary into an Anki deck - I just keep reading. Eventually, I will probably go
back and read the whole book again, using the customized notes I put in the book.

The Japanese translation of “Charlotte’s Web” is another good one. CDJapan : Sha Lot No Okurimono / Hara Title : Charlotte's Web E. B. White / Saku Ga Su Oui Rear Muzu / E Sakuma Yumiko / Yaku BOOK
It also helps that these books have occasional pictures, to help you keep track of the story!

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To be fair you can do the same exact thing with an ebook and yomichan.

But yeah, visual novels also have audio and visual aids which are really nice.

All the japanese learning resources I use try to cram lots of grammar points into my brain. I put them slowly into bunpro and try to remember them. But distinguishing between similar grammar points is really hard. I try to consume japanese media every day so I see/hear the new learned grammar points pretty often which helps me remember them.

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Thanks you all for the many answers. Didnt expect this much input.
I will try the different suggestions like ichi moe or deepl to get around unknown sentences better and I will also look in visual novels soon and give it a try.
I guess the main thing I have to do is reading everyday and get as much exposed to it as possible (kinda like wanikani).

Thanks again!

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I’ve only had a quick skim through the responses and although I agree with what other people have said (Bunpro, textbooks like Genki/Tobira and reading more) I feel that speaking Japanese regularly helped solidify the grammar I was learning, especially as its something that has always been a bit of a struggle for me.

You might only be learning Japanese to read light novels or play games - in which case speaking is pretty low down your list. If you do want to go down that route however, finding a conversation partner or tutor on italki etc really helps with developing muscle memory (in a way) for grammar.

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