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Sentences Series 1: An Overview of Phase 3

Tue Nov 29 2011
Sentences are the largest part of learning Japanese, for several reasons. But before we jump into that, let’s take a step back and look at this phase from afar to get an idea of what it’s all about. The idea here borrows heavily on AJATTs method, specifically the sentences portion (credit where credit is due and whatnot). The idea is that by the time you learn 10,000 sentences, you’ll be fluent. Why sentences instead of words? What good is a bunch of vocabulary if you don’t know how to string it together? This method kills two birds with one stone. You learn sentence structure and vocabulary at the same time. That being said, it’s important not to memorize the sentence, but to understand it instead. 10,000 sentences! Holy crap! Yeah, holy crap indeed. It’s a large goal, and not one for the faint of heart. That being said, it’s also the most important goal. First, let’s define what “learned” means. To have “learned” a sentence, you need to:
  1. Know the meaning of every word in that sentence.
  2. Be able to read that sentence without furigana and/or understand it in its spoken form.
  3. Be able to write that sentence from memory (or, at least, paraphrased).
  4. Be able to speak that sentence correctly.
At a minimum, if you don’t have at least one of those, you haven’t learned it. Why 10,000 though? That’s a huge number! You’re right, it is. But it’s not so bad if you take it in bite-sized chunks. Once you get the hang of it, you may be able to pick up as many as 50 per day. That’s less than a lot of homework assignments from high school. That’s not so bad, right? Right! In fact, at that pace, you’ll be done in less than a year! So I just memorize 10,000 sentences and I’ll be fluent? No. The key here is not memorizing, but understanding the sentences. Somehow, the human brain will fill in the gaps in due time. After some time, you’ll know enough sentences to be able to have your definitions/answers in Japanese as well! However, I’m going to table that discussion for another article since that’s a whole other can o’ worms. What kind of sentences should I learn? Start with some easier ones in the beginning. Stay away from long sentences – they usually just add more confusion than they are worth. However, don’t just add sentences that end in “です” – that won’t really help in the long run. Where do I get sentences from? Everywhere you can find them. Anime, manga, Japanese TV, etc. are great resources. However, I will toss a warning out there: if you are getting sentences from an audio source, acquire independent confirmation of what you heard, not what you think you heard. Japanese has a lot of words that sound the same, and can easily become very confusing if you don’t do this. If it’s a movie, check the subtitles. If it’s an audio recording such as music, have someone who speaks Japanese confirm it for you, or look up lyrics online. It is extremely important not to learn something incorrectly because then you have to un-learn it to fix it. And that’s just counter-productive. I’m also going to table this discussion for another article, as it deserves a spinoff of its own. Hopefully this article has provided a decent overlook of the process. More detailed articles are to come in this series.