Language Learning Thoughts

My main purpose for this post was so that I could share my thoughts, and hear yours on the process of language learning.

So basically I have watched so much cough Japanese cultural TV shows… that I can in a way, understand Japanese almost as well (or better, but don’t quote me on that) as I can understand Korean (Korean, not being my native tongue, but I am Korean, so I hear my parents and family speak all the time). I actually even sometimes confuse the two, and think that the word I am remembering is in Korean, when it is actually Japanese.

I was trying to get more into grammar now, as Kanji is being learned by using WaniKani, but I noticed how much “memorization” was necessary in the understanding of grammar that I got kind of frustrated. By the way, a bit of my background is that I am fluent in conversational Portuguese, and Spanish. *Conversational as I can keep a full conversation, but left Brazil at an early age, so I never actually had any formal education in the language. So reading and writing isn’t up to par as my English.

Most of my family time in conversation is spent figuring out what the word is in Korean <=> Portuguese <=> English <=> Korean…so we are as a family, basically trilingual, which honestly gets suuuuper confusing :rofl:

I realize that my grammar “knowledge” in Portuguese tends to be based on what I do know simply by speaking. In fact, if I get confused grammatically, I remember by just speaking the sentence out loud, or in my head to make sure I am correct.

I think that might also be true for English speakers…I barely remember the rules of grammar, but have done University level English classes.


All this to say is: how much intensive grammar focused study do you really actually need? And in my opinion, isn’t it better to get to a level where you can understand most conversations, and then develop your vocabulary and in this case also Kanji so that after your conversational “knowledge” can in some way shape your grammar, so much so that, when you read you end up knowing how to read it correctly?

Also, how many of you have begun reading, and not have had much grammatical study, but could still in a sense, accompany the text?

Of course my question is just conjecture because each person is different, they would have to figure out how they learn best. I was definitely not an English major, so what I am proposing is probably heresy haha. And as you can read my post, I am sure that I have grammatical errors…maybe, but I think regardless, I was able to make my point across.


Hmm, well for me, Japanese grammar is so different from English grammar (my native language) that I wouldn’t really be able to get anywhere without grammar study. I imagine that if I was learning a more related European language I’d be able to take a more immersive approach.


Ah that makes total sense… I forget that depending on the language background, grammar becomes significantly more difficult.

I guess since whenever Korean speakers ask if I speak Korean, I say “no” because I am not anywhere close to fluent, I forget that I still know the basic structure that is pretty much almost the same as Japanese.

Whereas if I went into say something like Hebrew, it would probably be completely different.


Hm, I feel that’s true for the basics, but after that I feel like you can just learn from reading. When I was studying for the N1, most of the time I thought “well this grammar ‘point’ is just a literal combination of words”. Obviously, there are nuances that change when you can use it, but since the JLPT (or reading) does not ask for production, that’s not really an issue (for me at least :stuck_out_tongue:)


This! Exactly! I feel that by reading, you can learn so much more than rote repetition of the “rules” which can be so drearrry. :scream:

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Then again, that only works for the input part of language learning. For output, you definitely need to know the rules (if you care about professional level output… I guess not everyone care about that)

I experienced that when I read “the elements of style”, a book about the rules of proper writing in English, and got my mind blown.


Ah yes, though I think, that’s a whole other ball game. I don’t even have that in English :rofl:

Also, wouldn’t knowing how to read it, basically mean you could output?

And by professional, do you mean as an author or as a financial advisor or store clerk or the popular immigrant Japanese profession: English teacher?

I have an interesting observation. My ex, is excellent at writing essays, in fact, in all her University English level courses, she always had the top grade in the class. What was funny though, was that she was terrible at writing short “professional” messages for her office :rofl:

I was the reverse. I helped her write those professional short messages for her, and have never been excellent at writing essays…something I hope to work on in the future, so thank you for that book recommendation!


Nope! It doesn’t! Those are two separate skills. There’s obviously a correlation but not much more. A basic example in English: you wouldn’t pause to wonder about the use of a semicolon, but do you know when you have to use one? Of course, you can just avoid using it entirely, but then the range of your production gets narrowed.

Anyway, yes, I was mostly talking about essays and the like. I feel that, for memos, practice alone would be enough to become functional.


Then I am glad, that I do not have to know how to write full essays to live in Japan :rofl:

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Well, there’s kind of a fuzzy line too… like I haven’t studied grammar separately from reading since finishing Genki, but I look up stuff I encounter a lot. And there are some things I’ve “gotten a feel for” without explicitly looking them up myself… but usually I look them up at some point just to be sure I haven’t got the wrong end of the stick :grin:

Also, I feel like there’s an intermediate stage between “the basics” and “N1” :stuck_out_tongue:

But yeah, my main point was that it’s a lot easier to get roughly conversational in a related language and then just work out the grammar kinks that way than with a totally foreign language. I just think you have to spend considerably longer on the “grammar foundations” phase.

interesting aside on language learning?

I’ve also noticed that many of the non-native English speakers I know (apart from Germans usually because they’re ridiculous) are functionally fluent but have grammatical… quirks, I guess? Like, something that they say wrong in a completely consistent way. Nobody is ever going to correct them and even if they realised it’s probably too ingrained for them to fix unless they really decided to focus on it.

So I’m kind of cautious of being too laissez faire about the whole “oh I’ll just pick it up by chatting to people” approach… As I said, those people are functionally fluent and working English-speaking jobs and are far better at English than I will ever be at any foreign language; they’re understandable and it’s not a problem. It just makes me aware as a language learner that I’d like to avoid picking up similarly incorrect habits.


Yeah, after the basics I’ve definitely learned most of my grammar through just listening. Although I did use Bunpro for a while, but I never really like reading grammar rules and just tried to get an intuition for it. I feel like I remember things a lot better when I figured them out by myself.

Seeing stuff like: “NB3! まい is usually linked to inf non-past V form, but sometimes V2 form may be used. Also, するまい and 来るまい may come as すまい and 来まい” doesn’t really help me understand the language (except in a theoretical way).

Of course my goal has always been comprehension, but I feel like formal grammar studying makes so much more sense after you kind of “know the grammar”. Last week I was skimming through Tae Kim and thought many a time “Oh that’s why!” of stuff I had already picked up. It gave me new insights as well. There’s also the option to study grammar from a Japanese perspective, which I’ve done a bit with some middle-school videos.

First time I tried to learn Japanese ten years ago all I got presented was conjugation tables and such, which are the worst things to start with. Focus should be on the language. I like to think Grammar+Vocab+Kanji does not equal Japanese, but there’s the mysterious ingredient as well that just needs to be hammered in through a long period :stuck_out_tongue:


There must be, but I don’t know where it is since I basically studied “grammar” (again, it’s not really grammar anymore at some point, but whatever) all the way, so I don’t have any idea of the point where I could have stopped checking the books and getting it from immersion + look up. (Also, even though I was reading a lot of manga at the time, I had no idea of how to look up grammar points, so I just went with gut feelings all the way :sweat_smile:)

Well, I know I am in that situation in Japanese. I basically have my own “brand” of keigo. There are things that I know I don’t know (I’d like to tell you what they are… but that would require me to look them up… which I should probably do… but), so I just plug in something else in there. I know it’s wrong, but it’s to talk to colleagues of equivalent/slightly above status, so I just hope they appreciate I am trying. (They may get annoyed I’m not making any progress, though, it’s been years…)

I probably have something like that in English too… I’m just not aware of it as of now. That being said, it won’t kill me, so I’m a-okay.


Yes, absolutely - I’ve never thought less of people for it, but it’s just very noticeable (because they’re otherwise so fluent).


I noticed a long time ago that I kept looking things up and then going “wait, why did I look this up?”
I can’t think of any examples anymore, but it’d be like
Me: “I’ve never seen this before. Clearly it’s a conditional. Let’s look it up.”
spends five minutes looking it up
Grammar Resource: “DAT’S A CONDITIONAL”
Me: rethinks life choices

Eventually I learned to stop looking this crap up.


I learned a lot of conversations from Rocket Languages before I found WK, so I have learned some grammar that way, as it is explained during the conversation lessons. But can I make a sentence of my own yet? Not easily, so I am learning grammar, too, although it comes slowly sometimes. When I can make my own sentences easily, I’ll be happy, but I think it will be a while yet. More grammar is needed.


Enough that you understand most of what you hear and/or read.

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That’s kind of an empty statement that doesn’t mean anything. Could be none or a ton.

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As you speak Korean, not much effort will be needed at all (well I’m pretty sure at least)! I’d start reading as soon as possible, kanji will be a bit difficult. However, the grammar and words will be quiet natural.

For example…

이 책을 읽어 볼게요.

Exactly the same grammar, in the exact same, in both languages.

There are some little differences with particles. Like sometimes Korean wants 를 [を] and Japanese wants に [에]. Which I still sometimes get muddled up :disappointed_relieved:

버스를 타요.

친구를 만나요.

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haha, I totally relate. I have taken Japanese courses in college, but their methodology of giving you an entire list of rules made me frustrated!

And thanks for all the responses! It has really shed some light to understand what I have been pondering on for some time.

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or will it… :rofl:
Just kidding, as far as we know, no one speaks 100% proper anything anyways…I guess if we did, then we’d be basically machines, cough, Elon Musk wants that I guess.

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