Step Translation: ideal reading material [resource creators]

Hi, for the longest time I’ve wanted reading material that provides a useful English translation. Rather than the full meaning conveyance.

The theory here is simple, a three stage translation:

Japanese sentence: 寝ねる前まえにお菓子を食たべないでください。

  1. Step translation for each grammar unit:
    [寝ねる verb: to sleep] [前まえに direction: in front] [お菓子を object: sweets] [食たべないでください verb: eat. conjugation: request in the negative.

  2. English aligned into Japanese order:
    to sleep, before, sweets, eating, please don’t

  3. Full English translation:
    Please don’t eat candy before going to sleep.

Every time we see an English sentence we have to do the first and second step. When the grammar is not know, or there is a run of hiragana that is not clear everything gets a little confusing. If anyone knows where we might find this type of translation I would appreciate it. Human Japanese is the only resource I am aware of that gets close to this.

I looked for something like this when I first started learning as well and wasn’t able to find anything like what I wanted.

Now after having learned quite a bit more, the problem is that it only works for simple sentences where the components are unambiguous.

Take the following from 無職転生:


  1. English aligned into Japanese order: That, only, possessive, thing, when it comes to, negative, right?

  2. English translation: “That’s it, isn’t it?” or “That has to be it, right?”

Steps 1 and 2 don’t look so intuitive anymore do they?

The other major factor is that you tend to move past this sort of thing rather quickly, probably within the first year, and it’s a good exercise for you to do anyway.

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Edit: Updated my answer to include more resources.

NativShark is probably the closest thing that I can think of to what you’re asking:

NativShark Lessons

And then the next closest would probably be Satori Reader by Human Japanese:

Human Japanese’s Satori Reader

Otherwise there are a variety of other tools that are similar. @alo has highlighted some of the difficulties of making stuff like this, and also that ultimately you want to get to reading without these helpers sooner rather than later.

Other Unit Breakdown Tools and Sentence Parsers


EtoEto Kuma

Lapis App

Screen Recording 2021-05-14 at 12.39.12 am Trimmed 480p


I understand your point. But I’m looking at:


And I’m having a hard time figuring out how to translate it. I would love to understand wher all of these: “That, only, possessive, thing, when it comes to, negative, right?” come from.

My view is that step translation make ambiguous Japanese unambiguous by defining clearly what each element of a sentence is doing.

The current practice is basically: you want to draw a horse? simple, draw the horse.

I understand that this sort of resource is difficult. But in the steps, explaining that difficulty, that is where the value comes from.

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If you look at the Absolute Beginner Book Club threads, these kinds of breakdowns can be found for lots of the material (and also in the higher level book clubs, but of course only for more complicated sentences). You can find them all here:


Sorry I should have broken it down.

それ - “that”
だけ - Can mean “only, just” or “nothing but” depending on context.
の - I said “possessive” but I think it’s more properly “of” in this case
こと - “thing”
なのでは - “when it comes to”. This phrase is three N5 grammar points in a row. な as a stand-in for だ; ので to mean “because” or “since”; and では for the “when it comes to” part with the other stuff just being connectors.
ない - “negative”
だろう - “I think” or “I suppose” but also implies something of the listener so I just used the English tag “right?”
か - “?” Basically the question marker.

And even with all that, many of those points are debatable. Take the の for instance. The first one is the “possessive” or connector form and the second one is part of a set phrase that’s taught as a grammar point. You can either think of them as two different の for each use or the same の used in two different ways and both views are valid.

I agree.

But, like I said, only for clearly defined sentences like in your example. In many cases, the entire sentence will be more than the sum of its parts where you have to take a holistic view of that particular sentence and even surrounding sentences in order to glean meaning.

Like @NicoleRauch pointed out, the book clubs are a good resource for that as the discussion involves the kind of breakdown you’re looking for.

You may also want to check out the Short Grammar Thread where you can find discussions on things like what exactly なのでは is doing in the sentence.

I think it would be great if there were resources out there like you want and maybe we’ll get lucky and someone will post one. :smiley::+1:

@Aaydothaytch I actually just remembered about Game Gengo:

He does the kind of breakdowns you may be looking for.

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