Taking Grammar Notes

How do you guys take notes on grammar?

I’ve been experimenting with various methods for note-taking regarding grammar and I’ve not yet found one that suits me (especially for reviewing the grammar).

I tend to get very wordy, especially when studying resources such as Tae Kim and Japanese the Manga Way. I usually use bulleted lists with “new information”, but it gets too cluttered so I don’t usually bother to review them.

When studying for the JLPTs, I wrote down a point, gave an explanation, and came up with three example sentences per usage of the point/particle, however, I found that even with using/making sentences the explanation was difficult to understand.

Is there a method that you find works, or is grammar really one of those things that comes with time/exposure?

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I’ve pretty much only used textbooks for grammar. Meaning I’ve read the grammar points, done a few exercises to make sure I understood them, then left the rest to sort itself out. Most of the time I start recognising the grammar in my listening and reading resources and don’t forget it, but if I do forget I just go back to the textbook and refresh my memory.


I watch the Japanese From Zero video series, and mark each video as a lesson in my Word document with a link to the video in the title. I write down the main vocabulary and the points that are made in the video, then copy over some of the example sentences that are given or write my own at the bottom. It looks pretty clean and it’s easy to find stuff that I need.

Doing it this way is also a good way to keep my attention on the video, because I’m constantly taking notes of what’s being shown/said instead of just passively watching it and hoping I remember everything.


I have the Genki I book and workbook but never gotten around to using it. I know a lot of the stuff in it, but not all, so I always feel like I should go through it but never do. I might try to, though, as it’ll probably help me in the end.

I keep documents where I can collect examples of grammar usage I find in real life. I also try to read things above my level for the purpose of finding those new grammar points I don’t know yet. I have a hard time retaining grammar points without having seen them used for real. The example sentences given often leave me with a quickly fading impression.


That sounds cool; I do something similar for my online classwork. I’ve watched a couple of those videos and they’re definitely easy to understand.

I recently started doing textbook work again after a few months of not bothering and I highly recommend just doing a few pages a day as part of your routine, it doesn’t need to take more than 15 if you don’t want it to. It’s so much easier to take it slow and keep doing it than going fast and not burning out

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Indeed, and I like that previous grammar point are often repeated in the following videos, so it makes it stick better and feels like you’re building a solid foundation that just keeps on growing. I’ve also ordered books, but they have yet to arrive, so for now I’m just using the videos to study.

I’ve attempted something similar when I gave Satori Reader a whirl, but maybe it would benefit me to make a document rather than obsessing over my handwritten notes. Seems like that helps get grammar down quick.

I never looked at them in order, but that would probably be even better than watching random ones lol. I’ve really got to step up my study game as far as using a resource more than once a while. Maybe alternate between bookwork and videos…

Too scary

Not that anyone else in their right mind would do this, but I’m codifying grammar into Javascript for a project, so that’s my form of notes. It works amazingly well for me, because I have to understand every point in detail in order to write code. It forces me to discover questions that I would never have thought of otherwise.


I haven’t had many good experiences with the language exchange programs thus far. I used HelloTalk for a minute but either no one replied or they insisted on using English only. I do talk to my cat in Japanese sometimes, though.

Maybe once summer starts I can be more persistent in finding an actual person to talk to.

I’ve only taken notes on Genki I & 2, which I admit was pretty easy since they already have more or less bulleted grammar points with explanations and samples which is more or less the form my notes took (although my sample sentences involved far more cake and cookies).

Maybe if you’re finding your own explanations difficult to understand, the resources you’re using might not be the best fit for you? Sometimes Genki’s explanations just did not sit right in my head, and I had to look up that bit of grammar elsewhere to understand it.
Sometimes this would lead me down a rabbit hole where I’d be discovering more advanced uses for the grammar and my explanations would become overly long and a little less sure-footed - at those times I’d backtrack and keep my explanations shorter with a footnote that there would be more to learn about it later.

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Ah, I wish I had talent in that kind of thing.

Possibly. I used A Japanese Dictionary of Particles and then looked the points up on Google to get further explanation when needed. Sadly, I have a bad habit of trying to learn every use for something all at once.

Well, I have respect for people who really just go it alone and put together their own study programs. :slight_smile: I just let Genki gently hold my hand. Maybe too gently, because once I went back through it to take notes I realised how much they DON’T tell you… but trying to learn everything about everything from the start would have overwhelmed me, so I can appreciate that they keep things simple.

I have some background in structured Japanese classes, as I took two years of it at my online school. Sadly, all of the notes I had from those classes somehow disappeared when I moved. I’ve mostly been trying to reinforce/expand upon what I learned in those classes, though I’ve been considering just biting the bullet and going through the entirety of Tae Kim or at the least just reading through my copy of Genki.

At the very least, I’m aiming to take the N4 next December, so I’ll look for a grammar list for that and go over N5 grammar again (I say this like I’m responsible but I crammed for the N5 starting a month before the test; miraculously, I passed, but listening is my next biggest hurdle).

Have you taken the J-CAT recently?

I recommend using japanesetest4you. It is a great website that compiles and breaks down vocab, grammar, and quizzes. I use it to study grammar in relation to the different N exams. They also give plenty of example sentences so it’s easy to see the difference between similar grammar points.