However, there are a number of things they don’t explain. They tend to treat Japanese grammar as if it were West European grammar. With the same categories: nouns, verbs, adjectives. This is helpful for grasping the concepts. I do recommend reading the “classic” explanations (if you haven’t already) along with our articles.
The “classic” Western-grammar-based explanations do falsify Japanese to some extent and this makes it much harder to get an intuitive grasp of the language.
In many cases, because Japanese is presented in terms of European grammar and English uses, it is turned upside down and becomes near impossible to understand correctly.
Simple explanations like
(watashi wa) koohii ga suki desu
X I like coffee
(watashi wa) nihongo ga dekimasu
X (I) can speak/understand Japanese
are unfortunately just plain wrong and confusing. They do not represent what the Japanese is actually saying. They represent what an English speaker would be saying in a similar situation.
If we were translating an anime for an English audience, this would be fine. But when students are told that this is what the Japanese means, it lays the ground for confusion and difficulty, especially at a later stage when things get more complicated.
For example, it sows complete confusion about how the ga-particle works. And the ga-particle is the single most fundamental element in Japanese. There is a “ga” in every Japanese sentence whether we can see it or not. Ga is always there, either implicitly or explicitly, or else it is not a sentence.
If we are confused from the beginning about what ga actually does (and the “translations” above create exactly that confusion), the very clear and simple structure of Japanese – one of the most regular and logical languages in the world – becomes obscured.
So how do we turn Japanese the right way up in our minds?
We just need to learn a few simple facts about the language that the textbooks never teach.
Because there is such a need for this information, we have put these facts into a very short concise little book called Unlocking Japanese. It isn’t another heavy task to add to your study schedule – it is a simple, clearly written book that you can read in an evening (though you will probably want to go on referring to it for years).
It takes you in a clear step-by-step way through the “hidden” basics of Japanese that the schools don’t teach.
If you don’t know any Japanese grammar this isn’t the book for you, but if you know even the very beginnings you should read this, because it is going to make every step easier and much clearer.
If you have been studying Japanese for years, Unlocking Japanese will make a lot of things fall into place. Intermediate Japanese learners report that the book is full of “Aha!” moments.
We apply the knowledge contained in Unlocking Japanese throughout this website, but we highly recommend reading the book first because it prepares you in a systematic way for so much of what we have to tell you here.