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Feb 17, 2011

Understanding Japanese

Today's article is in response to Jerry's question regarding understanding Japanese.

Early on in the learning process there are so many things to learn that it makes understanding things as a whole quite difficult. Even if you know all of the pieces, understanding how they fit together is another matter entirely. The primary culprits for not understanding are a lack of experience and not knowing grammar – and really the two things are about the same.

With Japanese, particles are king. If you can understand the particles and understand the individual words in the sentence, then you'll be able to grasp what is being said. Particles are a guide to show you where the words go and how they interact. With that said, it seems obvious that one of the best things to do when you reach this point is to begin looking at the particles a bit more closely.

If you haven't already, check out my post about learning Japanese grammar, as that's really the key here. Do some reading about the basic particles and what they do, and then get a lot of experience in seeing them used. Listening will be more difficult that reading, so sticking with reading for a bit should help you get more accustomed. But in the end it's all a matter of putting in the time and getting experience with the language.

A final note is that working within contexts should really help with understanding. Being able to understand what is going on by seeing it as well as hearing it will make it much easier to follow along. It's for this reason that I highly recommend reading manga, because you can not only take your time in understanding, but you also have images to help provide additional information.

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  1. Thanks for taking your time and answering my question. I'll make sure to apply your teachings.

  2. This seems like solid advice. With particles and context I find it's still usually possible to figure out the gist of what's being said even if I don't know all the words. I'm not very good at listening but like you mentioned I think I just need a lot more experience with it.

  3. This post is correct. If you find it hard to measure how much you know, try to buy a Japanese novel written for teens- I did, and I can read quite a bit of it. Before that I had no idea how much I really knew, I just knew it was "quite a bit"