How to get back to the basics

So I could use some advice. I began learning Japanese while I was in Japan doing an intensive learning program. Which was great and taught me a lot of stuff. For example my professor says that my pronunciation is the best in the class, I assume that’s because I learned it surrounded by Japanese people. However, he says constantly that I lack basic Japanese conversational skills, he’s a really strict Japanese sensei. Think Mr. Miyagi but with 1970’s cop sunglasses. Anyway, what he says is completely true. He says that I am probably like this because I learned the foundations in Japan. And in Japan, as i’m sure many of you know, the Japanese will rarely correct your japanese so I got some bad habits. Cause you know, practice doesnt make perfect, just permanent. I can listen to Japanese, read Japanese, write Japanese and even speak Japanese. I can say advanced phrases and stuff like that, however, my foundation is lacking and I constantly make small mistakes like misconguations or incorrect particle usage on more basic things. He keeps telling me I have to relearn my foundation in order to proceed to more advanced material in Japanese.

I guess my question is, does anyone have any advice on how I can “relearn the basics” or “learn my foundation again”? I know that I have to do it if I want to continue advancing in Japanese, I just am not sure at the best approach.


I mean, I’m sure you could just get a textbook and do the exercises, but I’m guessing you already considered that and dismissed it.

If I had to recommend a less structured, but still quite comprehensive resource, maybe find videos on Nihongonomori that review things you need?

1 Like

How about writing it down in the way you think it is correct and then look at it again after a while and checking the grammar? Or have someone correct it for you? There are some websites where natives correct your stuff. At least that way you can focus on your mistakes and re-read exactly the basics you got wrong.

I have an idea for you. See what you think of it…

The basics are the stuff that makes up most of the language most of the time. To natives, they seem simple but to second language learners, they can be a nightmare to properly reproduce despite understanding them on an intellectual level. Think about prepositions and phrasal verbs in English. After accent and pronunciation, they are the next biggest indicator to me that someone isn’t a native speaker.

The reason I believe that native speakers speak the best, apart from the longer amount of time spent with their mother tongue is that they learnt it completely by ear and could speak grammatically correct sentences before they even knew what grammar was as a concept.

The key is daily active listening exercises that gradually become more and more difficult and complex. I developed my own method of this when I was frustrated with my own listening comprehension skills in Spanish. I studied music and I always tried to figure out songs by ear on my guitar, or at least the chord progression. I thought, why not apply the same theory to language acquisition.

First, you need high-quality audio spoken by a native speaker who speaks clearly. You can graduate to slang and all that later but first we want to nail the basics like you said. It’s critical that the audio deal with a topic that you find at least a little bit interesting. There is no point in being bored. Any language epiphanies you have will be etched more deeply into your brain simply because the subject matter itself is memorable to you.

Now you need a piece of software that can slow down the audio without altering the pitch. Sometimes you’ll want to slow down the audio to help with the way native speakers chew their words but after some practice, you won’t need to do this. I recommend this program called Transcribe.

Now that you have an audio and a program to slow it down when necessary, open a word doc and simply listen and type what you hear. Make a note any new words you learn, language shadow words and phrases you like the sound of etc.

I did this for 15-30mins sometimes an hour daily for about 5 months solid when my Spanish was at the level your Japanese sounds like it’s at. After those 5 months, I could watch youtube bloggers and most movies without subtitles and my writing had improved simply I had internalised a lot of Spanish language grammar structures so well that I could use them intuitively.

Hope this helps.


Second this. Or maybe if you learned elementary Japanese with one textbook, say Genki, maybe try Minna no Nihongo or something else for a different angle at the basics.

duuuuuude, thanks for the nihongonomori tip. never saw those before but those videos are amazing.

1 Like

I really like your idea for listening practice, but how do you go about this part:

Just by weaning yourself off of slowing down the audio? Or do you try to find simpler things to listen to at first? If it’s the latter, well, it sounds hard and time-consuming to try to gauge the difficulty of every piece you intend to listen to, so do you have any tips for that?

1 Like

Yes, you’re right. Guaging this is the tricky part.

At the moment I’ve just about finished everything on Lingodeer and can pretty much understand all of the example sentences just listening to them. It seemed like the perfect time to try the transcribing again(I had a shot at it two months ago but it was too overwhelming). I came across this video

I ripped the audio and I’ve done about 01:30m of it so far. She speaks almost baby slow so it’s perfect to start out. It also already has a transcription on the video so you can check if you’re really stuck. I haven’t looked at all the videos she’s done but this is the only one I’ve seen so far that’s in Japanese. I’m going to write to her and deman… I mean request that she make more because it’s the key to making the transition from baby Japanese to actually using the language as a tool.

When I first started do this to improve my Spanish I had the audio speed set about 85%. I just slowly moved the setting up until I was transcribing full speed. I hope to use the videos from this channel once I’ve graduated from baby slow dialogue.

They talk about a lot of varied things so it’ll be great for building vocab.

The cool thing about Japanese is that it’s not phonetically challenging so you can always transcribe the sounds with hiragana/katakana even if you don’t know what it means. Your Japanese IME will give you kanji suggestions that you can then put into houhou or jisho.

1 Like

Now that I think about it, for starting out I suppose I could do NHK Easy articles that interest me - listen and transcribe first, then read to check my transcription and understanding. They already speak super slow on those so I wouldn’t have to try and set up any new software. Plus they’re really short, so hopefully it wouldn’t take too long.

When you do it, how much stopping and starting and re-listening do you do to try and catch everything?

P.S. I just enjoyed watching a video from the second channel you linked to. It was 「世界のグロテスクな料理」。面白かったですよ。

@alexa234 sorry for the thread derail (or maybe it’s helpful to you too :woman_shrugging:)

Your professor does sound pretty strict, but have you tried asking him for advice on how to do what he’s suggesting you do?

This is just my opinion, but maybe now that you’re formally studying again, things will get worked out over time with practice in class? Or if you feel like you need extra practice maybe you could go back to a beginner textbook/workbook and do extra exercises on the things you need.


I totally forgot that these existed! Excellent idea :ok_hand:

Generally just once for the simple constructions. But sometimes two or three times. As a general rule, I don’t fret to much if I don’t catch something. I just move on. I think the real benefit is to just do it every day. Then twice a day morning and night if you feel comfortable with that.

I’ll be sure to check it out.

Based on how he describes his level I reckon the prof realises that if he gives him a bit of tough love that he could turn out exceptional like this dude.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.