Low stress Grammar Building

Greetings again. I said i’d post after finishing the advanced Michel Thomas Japanese course. I have to say that in terms of the breadth of Japanese you will learn, it is less comprehensive than French. In the French program you learn a LOT. In  this, you get “control” over certain expressions which allow you to say many things. I am not sure if it is “very” advanced Japanese, but it is quite useful.

Regardless, what I like is the methodology as i’ve said numerous times. I’m actually going to test this approach as I teach myself more grammar. The point of learning these days is to keep stress super low as I move forward. I don’t know about you, but any time I see dense explanations with words like clauses, volition, subjunctive, situational and so on, I get brain freeze. In fact, i’m going to illustrate something that shows how weird people explain things.

With the MIchel Thomas method… they introduce nuances gradually… so you master one expression fully and then add the nuance. So for example, if I was to say:

If i go to Tokyo, I want to see Mount Fuji.  (tara)

Tokyo ni ittara, Fuji-san wo mitai.

This is pretty easy to translate. More importantly, how they explained it was SUPER simple. I was hoping they would explain stuff like “ba” and “nara” as well (which are versions of IF) and it was a nightmare trying to find a super simple explanation for  the nuance of difference on the web. This is the failing I believe behind much of language learning. There is too much data and variations tossed at you in the initial explanation, so its hard to swallow things logically.

So, as I was researching I noticed I was getting tense because the explanations for nara, etc were long winded and filled with complex sentence examples. So I decided to focus on the English sentences themselves to teach myself the nuances. I am determined to make learning this as painless as possible, like the Michel Thomas method. So i just read through a few example sentences and picked simple ones that strongly express the variations. But I figured even one sentence might be enough even my original Tokyo sentence.


If I go to Tokyo, I want to eat Japanese food. (tara)

Tokyo ni ittara nihongo no tabemono wo tabetai.

If I go to Tokyo, I will see Japanese people (ba)

Tokyo ni ikeba nihonjin ga mimasu.

If you go to Tokyo, you should go to Shibuya (nara)

Tokyo ni iku nara, shibuya ni ikimasu.

*update I just added these sample sentences, the explanation is very clear but I think these add more context and examples.

  • Basically you look at will, want and should to differentiate the nuances. After I read this (today October 22, 2105 I made these updates. Crazy eh?) But I see that this way is easier relative to speaking about these things in a specific context.

If you play vidoegames you should be an Otaku.

Bideogamu ni suru nara, Oktaku ni narimasu.

If I go to Tokyo, I want to play video games.

Tokyo ni ittara, videogamu wo shimasu.

If I go to Tokyo, I should play video games.

Tokyo ni ike nara, videogamu wo shimasu.

Reading these sentences the differences are glaringly obvious. One sentence is sort of like thinking out loud, the next is a logical A to B scenario, and the third is a suggestion. This is all I’m going to focus on to solidify the differences in my head. Now there are some overlaps depending on the nature of the expression… but the point is to NOT FORGET the nuances.

So after this, I can just model some sentences and practice those occasionally without having to “study” or “memorizing”. The most i’d have to memorize are probably these three sentences.

So let’s say a Japanese person is in Kingston and they say they are going to eat later. Let’s say I want to suggest a place

If you go to a restaurant, you should try the Jade Garden restaurant at Sovereign Center.

In my mind, I can already figure this is “nara” since I will be suggesting it. So… I can use these three sentences as a fallback for my purposes. Of course there are additional things to remember such as (i read that “ba” can also express some sort of past stuff) but in learning that I’d keep the approach with the same level of simple.

These “nuances” and “variations” were the things that always made me get very stressed. You see all these particles and patterns and it just looks like noise. But now with practice, and making things way more simple, I believe that building onto the grammar I already know won’t be as painful or intense.

Once I get back to my reading, I will see if I am correct. I think in speaking it will be initially harder to track these patterns because people speak so quickly, but I know that if i see nara in a sentence or ba, I can just think of my Tokyo sentences and then know the person is saying “if” and then I can just figure out the context from there. So basically the idea is to get it as quickly as possible with almost zero stress, and zero memorizing, just like the Michel Thomas Method. So i am hoping to be able to “stack” the advanced grammar patterns I used to struggle with by implementing this system and filtering the grammar points through one or two super simple, almost impossible to forget sentences.

When I say “stack” I just mean add on successively more complex/advanced grammar patterns using this methodology. Nuances in language are always situational, so its a matter of frequency versus necessity. Sometimes you need to say “I might go” instead of “I will go”. But “might” in Japanese might be closer to “try to”. These things always come up in conversational practice (of course) but I am very curious now to see how these things will popup in reading and how it shifts the reading experience for me. The only trepidation i’m having is seeing how well my memory will hold up regarding those few thousand words I spent a buttload of time memorizing. Will they come back easily? Are theyg one?


who knows, but more on that soon.



About marcusbird

Writer, Designer, Filmmaker
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One Response to Low stress Grammar Building

  1. JayWithWoman says:

    Thank you sooooo much for this! At my level I have seen so many explanations of the ‘IFs’ that it really should be easy, but I still find myself having to double-check. But this three sentence clarification is PERFECT! Excellent…

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