I'm new to Japanese, any tips?
Do you have any tips for learning Japanese? If you have any, I would love it if you could tell me!
Be aware that there is formal and informal speech. For some reason, most language learning tools teach you one or the other. For instance, take a common verb, such as wa-ka-ru. (分かる) This translates to "understand". Let's say, for instance, you want to tell a Japanese person you don't understand. You have two options. In both, you will take the verb and make it negative.
- wa-ka-ru-na-i (分かるない)
- wa-ka-ri-ma-se-n (分かりません)
If you end your sentence with either form, they both translate to "understand not." But these two things are not equal. Option one is informal, and option two is polite. This can be very important, depending on who you are speaking with.
In my experience, as long as you use the polite form with a verb, most native Japanese will understand your intentions, even if you make a mistake someplace else. Intentions matter as much as correctness with most people. That aside, knowing the difference will definitely make people feel more comfortable. When talking with strangers, such as on an airplane or at a restaurant, you will feel more socially adept if you can speak politely.
When you've got a sentence, first look at the bottom: there you'll always find a verb. After that, search for a particle (は, が or を) to understand where the subject and the object of the phrase are placed. Usually, beginners get confused by particles (は, が, を, に, で, へ, の). But once you understand their meaning, you'll be able to use them to faster comprehend the sense of the sentence. It's just like they've already done grammar analysis for you! Example:
彼女は彼に時計を与えた kanojo wa kare ni tokei o ataeta
"ataeru" means "give" (when you've got "-ta" or "-mashita" instead of "-ru" it always means that the action takes place in the PAST, thus "ataeta" stands for "gave")
"wa" (は) always marks the subject: kanojo (she)
so "She gave..."
"o" (を) marks the object, the thing she gave: tokei (a watch)
so "She gave a watch..."
"ni" (に) can be three things: - a place in time - a place where you're standing (or going) - something that receives the action of the verb
in this case, it is near a pronoun, kare (he), so we can only be talking about the one who receives the watch in question:
"She gave a watch to him".
I recommend to memorize all the possible uses of these particles. You'll just need to glimpse at them (and at the nouns before them) to quickly form in your mind the word order of the sentence. It helps especially when you have to read long sentences.