I released the Ultimate JLPT N5 Deck onto Anki a few weeks ago, and it looks like it’s already due for a version update. As you may know, it is currently in beta, so I might be making a lot of changes to it over the next few months. My hope is to make it better and better and create a new standard deck that everyone can use.
Any suggestions on comments on the deck would be greatly appreciated. So many people study so many different ways and it is good to hear some differing opinions about how a good standard deck should look, so please contact me if you have any ideas.
Blended Grammar Approach
In the last two podcast episodes, I took a anti-grammar and a pro-grammar stance on how to study a language. Obviously, these are both extremes, but they can work for some people. I think if you are very gregarious and attentive person, a no grammar book way of studying might right for you.
On the other hand, if you are a bit shy and want to be very correct (for example, if you are in business and want to make a good impression) then studying a grammar book religiously might be the way to go.
But, you might have guessed by now that there is a middle road on this path to learning a language. One that maybe most of you follow right now. That is a hybrid grammar textbook and immersion technique.
Because in my opinion, if you don’t balance out your studies you’ll become a bit lopsided in your Japanese. Just to give you an example, when I was studying for the ３級 test (equivalent to N4), all I did was study exercise and grammar books for about 3 months before the test. What resulted was an utter inability to speak the language, but I could answer questions about it.
I ended up passing the test, which was my short term goal at the time, but I learned that I needed to round my studies out or else my Japanese wouldn’t really be of any use to me. Now I include speaking practice as much as I can.
Grammar Textbooks are Useful
A good grammar textbook is useful. I often mention the Minna No Nihongo series, which are a good set of books. Also, the Genki series is pretty good to. These are both great for beginners (N5, N4). After that, the So-Matome series is pretty good for the grammar points of each level.
Studying these grammar books at the very least helps you to know that these grammar structures exist. What do I mean by this? I mean that you might not have a perfectly clear understanding after practicing a particular grammar textbook, but when you go to use native materials, you’ll be able to recognize the grammar structures and can later go back and look it up if you need to.
When you first learn any language it is difficult to recognize what are words you can look up in a dictionary and what is the stuff that is ‘grammar’ or sometimes called ‘grammatical structures’. For example, if you look up つもり in the dictionary, it will tell you that it means ‘intention, plan’. That doesn’t really give it full justice though. If you look it up in a grammar book, you’ll learn that it is the rough equivalent of ‘I’m going to…’ and takes a verb in plain form before it.
Simply knowing that つもり is a bit strange and not your typical word will help you understand the language more. Granted studying the grammar and being perfectly clear what つもり is will also be of great help, but at the very least if you know it is a grammar term you won’t be caught off guard. Does that make sense?
But, you can study grammar textbooks all you want and still not be able to use the language well. You need to be able to use the grammar points with your own ideas. That’s why it is also important to go out there and produce something with the target grammar you are trying to learn. This can be writing; this can be speaking, but it has to be something.
How to Use Grammar Points
You can use the grammar points you learn by writing out examples using the grammar in your words. Then, have the writing checked by a native speaker friend or cruise on over to lang-8.com where you can get it checked by native speaker via the internet.
Another way to practice the grammar is a little more passive – you can read. You can pick up some native materials at your local recycle shop if you are here in Japan, or if you aren’t you can find some blogs to read. Blogs are generally a lot easier to read because they are written in a casual tone.
It may however be useful to read something more formal. For that I would recommend JapanesePod101.com‘s audio blog series. Although it is technically not reading (it’s in podcast format) the transcript is posted as the first comment on their website, so you don’t even need to have a subscription to read the blog. Be sure to download it and save it though, because they only make the last 3 weeks of the podcast available.
Another way to practice grammar that you’ve learned is through listening. You can get dramas fairly easily or native podcasts to listen to. There are also Japanese-learning podcasts like JapanesePod101 that will give you all the nice things like a transcript and lesson notes with a subscription.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Everyone is different when it comes to studying. There is no one perfect way to do things. I’ve talked about this before several times, but it is worth repeating. Like everything I ever recommend, try out a blended approach and tell me what you think. Does it work for you? Great, keep it. Is it not effective? I’m sorry, give something else I try.
Let it Out
How do you study grammar? Is it effective? Let me know in the comments below!
P.S. Do you like to blend things together? Awesome! You should join my newsletter!
P.S.S. Do you take the path less taken? Then, you should leave me a comment on iTunes and leave me a review. If you have comments or suggestions for the podcast, by all means let me know in the comments below or contact me and let me know what I can do to improve the show. Thanks!