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Point of interest: I Am an Eel

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I Am an Eel - The Unique Challenges of Learning Japanese Grammar
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Our language influences how we think. When you study a language that is very different than your first language, grammar can be a real roadblock, because you can't map the target language onto what your brain expects capital-L Language to look like. Learning Japanese from English is an excellent example of this.Once you've got the most useful 100 kanji mastered, it's time to start adding grammar into the mix. Here are a few tips and resources to help you on your journey learning Japanese grammar online.

1. Japanese isn't English

Duh, right? I know you know this. We all know this. However, your brain expects "language" to have a certain structure, to behave a certain way. It's natural to approach a new language unconsciously expecting to "translate" whatever you want to say from your first language into your target language. For some language pairs, this is possible. Because of the differences in the structure of Japanese and English, this road leads only to frustration and despair. Don't go there. For an amusing and insightful tour through Japanese grammar that may just help you get your feet on the right path from the beginning, check out Jay Rubin's book "Making Sense of Japanese." Chapter 2 of Cure Dolly's "Unlocking Japanese: Making Japanese as simple as it really is" offers a simple but thorough explanation of why "Watashi wa unagi desu" does not mean "I am an eel."

2. Work with a textbook

For some people, this might not be necessary, but most people need a knowledgeable guide through learning Japanese grammar. We love "Japanese for Busy People" but you may be using another book out of preference or because that's what you've been assigned in a formal class. The Kanshudo Textbook Companion has material supporting Adventures in Japanese, Genki, Japanese for Busy People, Minna no Nihongo and Basic Kanji Book. You can play Kanshudo games with vocabulary from your textbook's lessons, practice drawing kanji, and create flashcards from each lesson automatically. Kanshudo is an awesome resource to reinforce and support the Japanese grammar you're learning, whatever textbook you choose.

3. Use Japanese every day

Practice is crucial. Using flashcards with a spaced repetition system is not the only form of practice. Particularly with grammar, using the Japanese you know as much as possible in real situations will make the difference between being able to recite Japanese and being able to use Japanese. The reinforcement you get from using Japanese in real-life situations will make "studying" less abstract, and might help you take in new information more readily. The Kanshudo Reading Corner has level-appropriate material for everyone. We've partnered with Satori Reader for more real-life Japanese reading and listening. As you progress in your studies, you can find a lot of Japanese-language material from online retailers in both the US and Japan---from Japanese graded readers to manga to Harry Potter. Animelon has a huge variety of Japanese-language material to watch, and they offer useful language-learning features and customizable subtitles. Some people compartmentalize a certain area of their life and make it "Nihongo-only"---talking to your cat only in Japanese, for instance, or switching the language in your favorite game to Japanese. Some people get a lot out of committing to having a text or voice conversation with a Japanese language partner every day. Try to get an overall balance of speaking, reading, writing, and listening in your practice.
Kanshudo has a reference library of over 690 articles on grammar, and we've got an awesome search function to help answer any grammar questions you may come up with. Whether you're prepping for JLPT N5 or N1, studying Japanese in college or on your own, we have resources that can help you succeed in learning Japanese grammar.
Please contact us if you have any questions, comments, requests, or suggestions.
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