Am I doing something wrong, how do you retain new lessons?

I’m not really sure what I’m doing wrong. I’ve been working my way through the N5 grammar and I’m at 80 lessons completed so far. The problem is that every time I do a new lesson, I very frequently get it wrong during my first review session. I’d say 2 out of 3 new lessons I get wrong when reviewing them for the first time. After a few reviews and being inundated with ghosts, the lessons seem to stick a bit better but I feel like I’m just remembering phrases rather than actually understanding the grammar point. For example in a bunch of different reviews I know I need to use から, and I can recognise that and get it right but I don’t really understand the nuance of it. I also feel like if someone told me to make a sentence myself using some of the grammar points, I wouldn’t be able to recall them.

I guess the point of this whole post is just to hear what other people are doing for new lessons, because clearly I’m doing something wrong. Thanks so much in advance for any advice.

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Not being able to get it right in the first review seems perfectly fine to me, so I wouldn’t worry about that part :slight_smile:

Personally I think Bunpro alone isn’t enough to learn grammar. The explanations are often very brief, and as you say it can lead to just memorizing the sentences (esp if you get a lot of ghosts).

So I’d definitely recommend to use some other resources as well. There’s a lot of more in depth grammar explanations online and in textbooks. If you check the “Readings” tab on a grammar point there’s links to various sources. But there’s lots of other resources out there too, find what works best for you.

When you do a new lesson on Bunpro (and have read/watched some optional additional explanations) take a look at some of the example sentences, try and break them into their grammatical components and make sure you understand what each component means. (Like, what does から mean in that sentence for example.)

And then try and get some production practice. I’m honestly not quite sure what best to use for those, some people say Duolingo kinda works for that, or similar services (Lingodeer and Busuu, iirc?).
There’s also good ol’ textbooks, you probably heard of Minna no Nihongo and Genki. If you want a free online option there’s Irodori https://www.irodori-online.jpf.go.jp/ and Marugoto MARUGOTO Plus Global Home or Marugoto as a structured self-study course here: JF Japanese e-Learning Minato |The Japan Foundation (I’ve done some of the Marugoto Katsudoo & Rikai courses, can recommend.)
If you can afford it, getting a teacher (either enrolling in a local class or taking personal lessons through something like italki.com) is always a great idea.

And then there’s “practice makes perfect”. Learning a language is a very slow process, and making a lot of mistakes and feeling like you don’t know anything is perfectly normal. Just keep at it, repeat stuff, also try and get some input (eg. the Bunpro Reading Practice, but also just books, movies, etc.) to get used to the language, and eventually you’ll get a better grasp :slight_smile:

Also, take it slow. Make sure you actually understand all the N5 points before moving onward. Laying a solid foundation is essential. Otherwise you’ll just be even more confused when the same grammar points get used again for more complex points. I know it might be tempting to rush and learn ALL THE THINGS as quickly as possible… but it really is better to take your time with each point (be that grammar or vocab really) to make sure you really get it down.

Anyhow, good luck, you got this :slight_smile:

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This might be obvious but I wanted to add that it’s important to review a new grammar point the same day that you did the lesson. In the best case as soon as it’s available. If I let too much time pass between learning a new point and reviewing it there’s a high chance that I get it wrong and remember nothing about it.

Other than that, Ochamame already summed it up pretty good. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thank you so much, that was really helpful to read and made me feel a bit better about my situation.

I think the main take away for me is that I need to spend more time checking the external sources when on new lessons. If I read the bunpro notes and then check the example sentences and feel like I’ve ‘got it’, I’ll just move on, but that leaves me not actually understanding the fundamentals of the grammar. It’s enough for me to pass the lesson quiz but then forget what I’ve learned by the time I do reviews.

I think maybe it has been unhelpful seeing the forums and some people talking about doing 5 lessons every day to “complete” bunpro in only so many days or whatever. I should take things at my own pace and make sure I’m actually learning properly.

As a side note, do you use mnemonics at all to remember grammar?

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Yeah, don’t worry so much about what other people are doing, everybody learns differently and goes at their own pace :slight_smile:
For a different time reference: At language school we spent nearly a whole year to get through both the Beginner Minna no Nihongo books, which I think cover mainly N5 and N4 grammar. Ofc we also did kanji, vocab etc during that time. But yeah, I don’t think we did five new grammar points per day. Lots of time spent on revisions and practice to solidify everything.

It’ll probably take a while to figure out which study methods work best for you, so just try various things. Also the way you learn best may change over time/your level. :slight_smile:

For me personally, ideally I’d look up a new point on verious sources (the explanations can vary wildly), do some exercises to reinforce it, then reivew the main points of the explanations after a few days/weeks and also do some more exercises. Basically an SRS with each review being explanation + several exercises, not just one sentece. Plus actually using the new grammar in whole conversations/texts with a teacher. (Realistically I rarely actually do all of this atm bc time, but I’m also still mostly re-learning stuff I already covered a few years ago.)

I’m generally not much of a memnonics person myself, so I haven’t tried that. But give it a try, if memnonics help you! :smiley:

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It’s not that bad. This is how you’ve learned your native language. Just do your reviews and don’t turn off your ghosts, they help to reinforce your knowledge. It’s not math where you need to know a formula by heart in order to solve problems.

As for me, I’ve never read that boring stuff, I just carefully read and listen to the example sentences.

Also, there are really hard things to remember about verbs conjugation in N5 and N4. It’s OK to make mistakes in these reviews and dependent ones for a long time. At least, I don’t much care about it. Trying to make things perfect leads to a burnout, I had it twice.

頑張ってください!

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I’m pretty dumb so developing recall for a point will sometimes take me more than a day. It gets a little worse when the prompt responds with “Not looking for…”, but at the same time that makes it a little easier to group concepts and know what to look for when using other resources like Ochamame brought up.

I think this can be a good thing. It’s like a phrase book or set play, where sometimes having an example of a pattern you can remember will help with internalizing and appying it later. However, if you feel like you’ve gone too far with remembering those phrases/example sentences in Settings → General → Reviews you can set Ghost Reviews to Minimal which only spawns them after you missed a specific prompt twice in a row.

I think 5 lessons/day is probably too much for most people, but it does have the benefit of making it hard to memorize sentences through sheer volume.

Check the community discussions as well. Each study page for a point should have a link to an auto generated thread. Easier/obvious points are often empty, but there is a lot of good discussion explanation in threads for difficult points or points that are similar to others. It’s fairly rare, but I’ll occasionally see someone post an extra resource there that isn’t listed on point (or they’ll post a more specific timestamp + explanation).

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Hey there! Welcome to Bunpro!

It’s very common not to fully understand a grammar point the first time you’ve seen it. So don’t worry about that bit, everyone struggles with that.

Being exposed to sentences constantly is actually a great way of passively learning the nuance of it, you just need a certain bulk of grammar and vocab for stuff to really start to click.

Like others have mentioned in this post, using Bunpro as a tracking tool rather than your main source is an excellent approach, that’s exactly why we offer the Paths function! Are you already using it?

Any of the books @Ochamame recommended are great options. Personally, I started out with Genki in tandem with A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar. I highly recommend both of these!

If you have any questions, me and the rest of the Bunpro staff are more than ready to tackle any question be it Grammar, Bunpro or anything really!

I hope this helped you, and good luck on your Japanese journey.
It’s never been a race, so pace yourself and enjoy the ride!

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I know that feeling of remembering the answer to the sentence rather than understanding the grammar point. Many many reviews of mine have been completed that way and it just kept frustrating me the further on I progressed as nuances became harder and harder to separate. The ghost reviews just kept piling up since i was just randomly guessing when I couldnt remember the answer.

My main solution to this problem was actually to remove the english translation entierly, maybe it will work for you too? It might be nice to keep the “hint” at most (the blue grammar text), but dont have the translation visible at once. For me, this slowed down my reviews considerably because now I actually had to read and understand the sentence, nuances etc. It will take more time and require a lot more mental effort, but it is worth it in the long run as you will start to see sentence patterns differently.

If your answer is incorrect, see it as an opportunity to ask yourself why you were wrong and find your weak spots. Was it a simple spelling error, tense error, conjugation error etc?

Hope it helps!

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In addition to the great responses above, use the cram feature!

After I’ve looked at the definition, peeked at the example sentences, read the readings, I go cram it. I’ll find the grammar point and select for cram. Sometimes there are some very similar grammar points, I will also select them and drill it until I feel comfortable.

When I have that feeling of “I can’t remember anything!” I’ll do a few cram sessions.

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Try slowing it down. Read the resource links, read the entry for that grammar point in Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar, watch YouTube videos on that grammar point…. Then add it to your reviews. There are only about 300 grammar points for the whole of N5+N4, which is your foundation. It’s well worth taking your time to really understand the fundamentals. I was going pretty slowly but that still took less than a year.

Also, you could try working alongside a textbook as they introduce the grammar points used in the example dialogue at the start of the chapter so everything is put in context. Each chapter has drills and examples. I used Genki and would listen to the audio for a chapter every day when I went running, over and over. There are loads of conjugation drills in Genki in the audio files.

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Since you want to know what other people are doing, here are my 2 cent:

I usually learn about a new grammar point in Genki, and read the explanation there. Then I go to Bunpro, read the short explanation and all the examples there and add it for review. And then it’s back to Genki, doing a few exercises with the new grammar. By the time I see it again in Bunpro I’m already a bit firmer with the grammar point from using it in Genki.

I also go super slow. It’s been a little over a year and I’ve added 152 grammar points in total.

In general, I think Bunpro is great for reinforcement, but it’s more a supplement. I think you have to also use the grammar with exercises, reading/listening materials and conversation in addition to SRSing it on Bunpro.

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The general consensus here seems to be: Understand the grammar point using outside resources, then use Bunpro to get example sentences to practice on and reinforce what you’ve learned.

Just to add my two cents: What I did was actually the opposite - I learned the point on Bunpro and saw how it was used in the example sentences, then later would find the grammar point explained elsewhere, e.g. a youtube video, and then I always had that very satisfying “aha!” moment, where it all suddenly made sense.

Long story short: Use whichever approach works best for you. The others mentioned it here, but especially in N5 and N4, there’s a lot of conjugations and things that really have to be “understood”. From N3 onwards, the grammar points become a lot more “common phrases / patterns” that don’t rely that much on understanding and more on seeing them over and over. Hang in there!

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You are probably just being too hard on yourself.

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どもありがとうございます!

Thank you all for your responses. It’s really cool to hear how everyone seems to study slightly differently. Lots of great suggestions and I think I’ll have to try a few different things to see what really works for me.

I do actually have Genki I but I struggle to find time to sit down and study properly with it, I think I’d feel held back if I waited for the lessons to be covered by Genki before learning them on Bunpro. I also found the lessons on Bunpro felt out of order when I used the Genki ordering, so I opted to use the Bunpro default order.

At the end of the day, everything I learn here is knowledge that will help improve my Japanese in the long run. Even if it’s imperfect or comes with gaps. Thanks for inspiring me everyone!

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I don’t do lessons, I just add the grammar point in the textbook I’m using. If you don’t like textbooks than at least use a grammar dictionary. Try to get a tutor to correct exercises in which you have to compose your OWN sentences using a grammar point. Good textbooks (Genki, Tobira, etc…) have lots of such exercises

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For から in particular, it might help to realize that although it’s often conveniently translated into English as “because” or “so,” you can pretty much always think of it as “from” even in those instances. This is why nouns (and so-called “な-adjectives,” which are honestly just a type of noun) need or です in front of them:

  • から、さむいです。= “From (the fact that it) is winter, it is cold.” → more naturally, “It is winter, so it is cold.”
  • 冬から、さむいです。= “From winter, it is cold.” This particular example sentence is also grammatically correct, but its meaning is different from the one above that included だ

 

There’s even a grammar point in N3 where から is literally used in this way: …ことから gets translated as “from that fact that…”

Anyway, [A]から[B] can always be thought of as “From A, B.” The order might feel confusing at first, but that’s just because ALL of Japanese’s particles (は、が、に、へ、を、から、まで、しか…) are postpositional, unlike English’s prepositional words (a, an, the, to, for, from…), so their meaning applies to whatever word is in front of them. In the case of から vs. だから, you’ve just gotta know where you can and can’t put だ :slight_smile:
(Hint: い-adjectives are basically just special “verbs” that already include the “is” meaning, so saying something like 青いだ would sound like you’re saying “is is blue.”)

Lastly, since you specifically mentioned “nuance,” (だ・です)から feels… direct/blunt. This usually isn’t a bad thing if you’re just stating simple facts, but if you find yourself apologizing for something and having to explain yourself, something “softer” (more “indirect”) like (な)ので is preferable.

Sorry for going so far off on a tangent, but everyone else already addressed your main question. Hopefully I could at least help demystify some of the language for you :stuck_out_tongue:

Feel free to ask me if you have any questions, though!

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You are meant to forget stuff. That’s basically how the brain works and why Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS) works so well. There’s a handful of theories about it, and I’m not going to go into them because they weren’t what I studied in grad school, but a prevailing idea amongst all of them is that forgetting is necessary. By forgetting, and then remembering, the forgotten information is “stored” better and you will remember it for a longer period of time.

Granted, this won’t help a ton with production, but it will help you remember the basics of the grammar point. If you then go out and interact with Japanese and these grammar points (in a book, website, general studying, conversations, games, etc.) you start to strengthen the connection with your memory of the grammar point and its use in the language as a whole.

It feels kind of frustrating at times, but just trust yourself that as long as you keep studying you’re going to do great!

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That actually comes as a surprise to me as I had assumed it changed depending on the particle. Like the way I had mentally separated the roles of が and は was that が is talking about the thing that comes after it and は is talking about what came before.

Really helpful all round though, I definitely feel like I better understand the role of から now.

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I think it’s usually explained in the opposite direction (が emphasizes what comes before it, while は emphasizes what comes after it), but I guess it maybe depends on how we’re understanding “emphasis.”

Generally speaking, the “topic” marked by は is something that is mutually known by both the speaker and listener. So, in AはB, the new information (or in questions, the information we’re seeking) is going to be in B, since the purpose of A was only to set up and provide context for the rest of the sentence. One clever way to conceptualize “○は…” in English is, “As for ○, …” This is because even in English, it’ll sound pretty weird to put something your listener doesn’t know about for ○.

Conversely, が marks the “subject” of a sentence. Unlike は, this part of the sentence is quite literally necessary for the sentence to be understandable, despite Japanese often leaving it implied. In English, the “subject” is usually the first word in any sentence we make: “I am Tom,” “She is busy,” “It’s going to be on Saturday,” etc. Anyway, Japanese mainly uses が instead of は when the sentence’s new information is in front of the particle.

You may notice that questions are always framed with が. This is because the new (or sought-after) information belongs in front of it:

  • いついいですか?
  • どれ好きですか?
  • A:だれ来るの? B:トム

 

は also brings a feeling of contrast with it (it’s often called “contrastive は”), so most compliments will be said with が instead, to avoid implying anything negative. Saying something like 今日のごはんはおいしいです! to your host family for example would sound like a backhanded compliment, as if other days’ meals weren’t おいしい. For this reason, I think you’ll find nearly all of your example sentences for 好き are framed with が, unless it’s an intentionally contrastive sentence like Xは好きだけど、Yは好きじゃないです。 This sounds something like, “I do like X, but I don’t like Y.”

All that being said, in AはB vs. AがB, both particles are actually “marking” A. It just so happens that sometimes, we’re more interested in hearing what the speaker has to say about B :slight_smile:

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