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Tae Kim's Japanese guide to learning Japanese grammar1 of ator/%E3%83%8.A Japanese guide to Japanese grammarOutline1.2.3.4.5.The problem with conventional textbooksA Japanese guide to Japanese grammarWhat is not covered in this guide?SuggestionsRequirementsThe problem with conventional textbooksThe problem with conventional textbooks is that they often have the following goals.1. They want readers to be able to use functional and polite Japanese as quickly as possible.2. They don't want to scare readers away with terrifying Japanese script and Chinese characters.3. They want to teach you how to say English phrases in Japanese.Traditionally with romance languages such as Spanish, these goals presented no problems or were nonexistent due tothe similarities to English. However, because Japanese is different in just about every way down to the fundamentalways of thinking, these goals create many of the confusing textbooks you see on the market today. They are usuallyfilled with complicated rules and countless number of grammar for specific English phrases. They also contain almostno kanji and so when you finally arrive in Japan, lo and behold, you discover you can't read menus, maps, oressentially anything at all because the book decided you weren't smart enough to memorize Chinese characters.The root of this problem lies in the fact that these textbooks try to teach you Japanese with English. They want toteach you on the first page how to say, "Hi, my name is Smith," but they don't tell you about all the arbitrary decisionsthat were made behind your back. They probably decided to use the polite form even though learning the polite formbefore the dictionary form makes no sense. They also might have decided to include the subject even though it's notnecessary and excluded most of the time. In fact, the most common way to say something like "My name is Smith" inJapanese is to say "am Smith". That's because most of the information is understood from the context and is thereforeexcluded. But does the textbook explain the way things work in Japanese fundamentally? No, because they're toobusy trying to push you out the door with "useful" phrases right off the bat. The result is a confusing mess of "use thisif you want to say this" type of text and the reader is left with a feeling of confusion about how things actually work.The solution to this problem is to explain Japanese from a Japanese point of view. Take Japanese and explain how itworks and forget about trying to force what you want to say in English into Japanese. To go along with this, it is alsoimportant to explain things in an order that makes sense in Japanese. If you need to know [A] in order to understand[B], don't cover [B] first just because you want to teach a certain phrase.Essentially, what we need is a Japanese guide to learning Japanese grammar.A Japanese guide to learning Japanese grammarThis guide is an attempt to systematically build up the grammatical structures that make up the Japanese language in away that makes sense in Japanese. It may not be a practical tool for quickly learning immediately useful Japanesephrases (for example, common phrases for travel). However, it will logically create grammatical building blocks thatwill result in a solid grammatical foundation. For those of you who have learned Japanese from textbooks, you maysee some big differences in how the material is ordered and presented. This is because this guide does not seek toforcibly create artificial ties between English and Japanese by presenting the material in a way that makes sense inEnglish. Instead, examples with translations will show how ideas are expressed in Japanese resulting in simplerexplanations that are easier to understand.2007/11/05 20:28

Tae Kim's Japanese guide to learning Japanese grammar2 of ator/%E3%83%8.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 in Japanese. 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 found here (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?)SuggestionsMy 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, ifyou can, ask someone right away how to say it in Japanese including a full explanation of its use and start yourpractice from Japanese. 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 impossible to learn correct2007/11/05 20:28

Tae Kim's Japanese guide to learning Japanese grammar3 of ator/%E3%83%8.speaking and listening skills without a model. Practicing listening and speaking skills with fluent speakers ofJapanese is a must if you wish to master conversational skills. While listening materials such as tapes and T.V. can bevery educational, there is nothing better than a real human with which to learn pronunciation, intonation, and naturalconversation flow. If you have specific questions that are not addressed in this guide, you can discuss them at theJapanese grammar guide forum.www.guidetojapanese.org/forum/Don't feel discouraged by the vast amount of material that you will need to master. Remember, every new word orgrammar learned is one step closer to mastering the language!RequirementsSince Japanese is written in Japanese in this guide (as it should be and NOT in romaji) your browser must be able todisplay Japanese fonts. If 「こんにちは」 does not look like(minus differences in fonts), then you needto install Japanese language support or use some kind of gateway to convert the characters. Links to instructions and atranslation gateway are below.Japanese Language SupportTranslation Gateway (Considerably slower)Also, please make sure you have a recent browser to enjoy all the benefits of stylesheets. I recommend Firefox.Don't worry about having to manually look up all the Kanji and vocabulary. You can go to the WWWJDIC and pasteall the examples there to quickly look up most of the words.All the material presented here including examples is original except for some of the common terminology and whenexplicitly stated otherwise. I hope you enjoy this guide as much as I enjoyed writing it. Which is to say, frustratingand time-consuming yet somehow strangely mixed with an enormous feeling of satisfaction.There are bound to be (many) small errors and typos especially since I wrote this in ed, haha, just kidding! (Sorry,nerd joke). I actually wrote this in Notepad which has no spellcheck, so please forgive the numerous typos! Pleasepost any feedback, corrections, and/or suggestions at the Japanese Grammar Guide ForumWell, no more chit-chat. Happy learning!-Tae KimThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.Copyright 2003-2007 Tae Kim (taekim.japanese AT gmail.com)Report a correction or suggestion for this pageThis page has last been revised on 2005/6/8Changed feedback from email to the forum (2005/6/8)2007/11/05 20:28

Tae Kim's Japanese guide to learning Japanese grammar4 of ator/%E3%83%8.The Japanese Writing SystemJapanese (n): The devil's own tongue designedto thwart the spread of ChristianityThe AlphabetsJapanese consists of two alphabets (or kana) called hiragana and katakana, which are two versions of the same set ofsounds in the language. Hiragana and katakana consist of a little less than 50 "letters", which are actually simplifiedChinese characters adopted to form a phonetic alphabet.Chinese characters, called kanji in Japanese, are also heavily used in the Japanese writing. Most of the words in theJapanese written language are written in kanji (nouns, verbs, adjectives). There exists over 40,000 kanji where about2,000 represent over 95% of characters actually used in written text. There are no spaces in Japanese so kanji isnecessary in distinguishing between separate words within a sentence. Kanji is also useful for discriminating betweenhomophones, which occurs quite often given the limited number of distinct sounds in Japanese.Hiragana is used mainly for grammatical purposes. We will see this as we learn about particles. Words withextremely difficult or rare kanji, colloquial expressions, and onomatopoeias are also written in hiragana. It's also oftenused for beginning Japanese students and children in place of kanji they don't know.While katakana represents the same sounds as hiragana, it is mainly used to represent newer words imported fromwestern countries (since there are no kanji associated with words based on the roman alphabet). The next threesections will cover hiragana, katakana, and kanji.IntonationAs you will find out in the next section, every character in hiragana (and the katakana equivalent) corresponds to a[vowel] or [consonant vowel] syllable sound with the single exception of the 「ん」 and 「ン」 character (more on thislater). This system of letter for each syllable sound makes pronunciation absolutely clear with no ambiguities.However, the simplicity of this system does not mean that pronunciation in Japanese is si