Tae Kim's Japanese guide to learning Japanese grammarfile:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Administrator/%E3%83%8...of 2372007/11/05 20:28
In the beginning, the English translations for the examples will also be as literal as possible to convey the Japanesesense of the meaning. This will often result in grammatically incorrect translations in English. For example, thetranslations might not have a subject because Japanese does not require one. In addition, since the articles "the" and"a" do not exist in Japanese, the translations will not have them as well. And since Japanese does not distinguishbetween a future action and a general statement (such as "I will go to the store" vs. "I go to the store"), no distinctionwill necessarily be made in the translation. It is my hope that the explanation of the examples will convey an accuratesense of what the sentences actually mean
. Once the reader becomes familiar and comfortable thinkingin Japanese, the translations will be less literal in order to make the sentences more readable and focused on the moreadvanced topics.Be aware that there are advantages and disadvantages to systematically building a grammatical foundation from theground up. In Japanese, the most fundamental grammatical concepts are the most difficult to grasp and the mostcommon words have the most exceptions. This means that the hardest part of the language will come first. Textbooksusually don't take this approach; afraid that this will scare away or frustrate those interested in the language. Instead,they try to delay going deeply into the hardest conjugation rules with patchwork and gimmicks so that they can startteaching useful expressions right away. (I'm talking about the past-tense conjugation for verbs in particular) This is afine approach for some, however; it can create more confusion and trouble along the way much like building a houseon a poor foundation. The hard parts must be covered no matter what. However, if you cover them in the beginning,the easier bits will be all that easier because they'll fit nicely on top of the foundation you have built. Japanese issyntactically much more consistent than English. If you learn the hardest conjugation rules, most of remaininggrammar builds upon similar or identical rules. The only difficult part from there on is sorting out and rememberingall the various possible expressions and combinations in order to use them in the correct situations.
Before you start using this guide, please note that half brackets like these:
are the Japanese version of quotationmarks.
What is not covered in this guide?
The primary principle in deciding what to cover in this guide is by asking myself, "What cannot be looked up in adictionary?" or "What is poorly explained in a dictionary?" In working on this guide, it soon became apparent that itwas not possible to discuss the unique properties of each individual word that doesn't correspond well to English. (Itried making vocabulary lists but soon gave up.) Occasionally, there will be a description of the properties of specificwords when the context is appropriate and the property is exceptional enough. However, in general, learning thenuance of each and every word is left to the reader. For example, you will not see an explanation that the word for"tall" can either mean tall or expensive, or that "dirty" can mean sneaky or unfair but cannot mean sexually perverted.The edict dictionary, which can be foundhere(mirrors also available) is an extensive dictionary that not onlycontains much more entries than conventional dictionaries in bookstores, it also often contains example sentences. Itwill help you learn vocabulary much better than I ever could. I also suggest not wasting any money on buying aJapanese-English, English-Japanese paper dictionary as most currently in print in the US market are woefullyinadequate. (Wow, it's free and it's better! Remind anyone of open-source?)
My advice to you when practicing Japanese: if you find yourself trying to figure out how to say an English thought inJapanese, save yourself the trouble and quit because you won't get it right almost 100% of the time. You shouldalways keep this in mind:
If you don't know how to say it already, then you don't know how to say it.
Instead, if you can, ask someone right away how to say it in Japanese including a full explanation of its use and start yourpractice
. Language is not a math problem; you don't have to figure out the answer. If you practicefrom the answer, you will develop good habits that will help you formulate correct and natural Japanese sentences.This is why I'm a firm believer of learning by example. Examples and experience will be your main tools in masteringJapanese. Therefore, even if you don't get something completely the first time right away, just move on and keepreferring back as you see more examples. This will allow you to get a better sense of how it's used in many differentcontexts. Unfortunately, writing up examples takes time and is slow going. (I'm trying my best!) But lucky for you,Japanese is everywhere, especially on the web. I recommend practicing Japanese as much as possible and referring tothis guide only when you cannot understand the grammar. The Internet alone has a rich variety of reading materialsincluding websites, bulletin boards, and online chat. Buying Japanese books or comic books is also an excellent (andfun) way to increase vocabulary and practice reading skills. Also, I believe that it is
to learn correct