Lightbulb learning moments, what were yours?

Hey guys,

Some of us have been studying for many years, some only a few weeks. Whatever timeframe you have been studying for; I am sure that we all have had lightbulb moments here and there. What were yours?

One of my ones was between どう・どんな and なに・なんの. When I first started learning these gave me trouble for such a long time because I couldn’t reconcile when to use which (Apart from obvious situations), then I had a lightbulb moment. If you want your conversation partner to answer with a description/ adjectives, use どう・どんな, if you want them to answer with a noun, use なに・なんの … Sigh, so simple.


I often require some etymological structure or explanation in grammar points, otherwise everything becomes kana soup for me.

An example of where this helped a lot is for “must” grammar structures((Verb [なければ]/Verb [なくて]は)(いけない/ならない)).
Once I realized that いけない is just 行けない (can not go) and ならない is just 成らない (does not become), it started to make a lot of sense.
Even the more formal one is easier to point out.

(You can not go not eating)
(Not eating can not become)

It’s both gibberish, but the second one sounds posher for some reason XD

Also learning the uses of そう and よう in sentences opens a world of sentence understanding, as it is both common, and is quite complicated/requires a lot of knowledge of nuance.


I have too many to list! :laughing: Many of them are with words or phrases that I had learned and accepted as being a single phrase and then later on after learning more grammar or words the pieces came apart and everything made sense. It’s such a good feeling because it truly feels like you learned something.

This is pretty much me on the daily now:


Learning the kanji behind almost every grammar point (even if they aren’t often used) makes them soooo much easier to understand. Took me awhile to learn that too!


That’s common. You see something in an unfamiliar context and it all falls into place.


I first studied Japanese using Pimsleur audiobooks, then jumped straight into WaniKani without much stopping for grammar or any native content until I was prepping to move to Japan. This being the case, I really struggled picking up vocab in reading/conversation if it wasn’t written in kanji. Since WaniKani is centered around mnemonics, and was my near sole studying tool, I also struggled to learn new words if I didn’t know how it was written using kanji. I would mix words up by flipping the order of their kanji, and subsequently their readings, which would cause all sorts of issues in conversation as my conversation partners wouldn’t always automatically realize what I had done. (For example, 挙選 instead of 選挙, or 段階 instead of 階段).

Then, one day, I had the (incredibly simple) epiphany that: kanji aren’t Japanese. I already knew that kanji had been borrowed from Chinese back before Japanese had a writing system in place, but this was separate. I was always trying to remember words by their kanji, and when they didn’t have one I was frustrated. I had incorrectly, and unwittingly, assumed that the words took their meaning from the kanji. After I realized that kanji were, for all intents and purposes, all assigned to words after the fact, and were more akin to spellings in English than to words in and of themselves, remembering vocabulary became so much easier.

Pretty crazy how much just a change in mindset can change your ability to comprehend things.


On that note, the grammar point for ことに could use the kanji reading note. Usually BP is consistent including kanji in the entry if it’s used, it appears using 殊に is used from what I see. Nonetheless, this grammar makes more sense now that I see it, att. @Pushindawood

It cracks me up when Davie504 deadpans ‘nani’ :guitar:

Not many moments recently, maybe I need to change my lightbulb :sweat_smile::bulb:…only thing that comes to mind is that if you don’t know or recall a word in conversation, a wild swing ‘katakana’ assumption can often save the day


I actually mentioned to @Pushindawood recently that all grammar points should have the associated kanji, even simple ones like これ それ etc (as a side note at least). He said it was something they were working on.

Not sure what you mean here, can you explain further? :thinking::thinking:


Whoa I am surprised that you can learn that way! Your brain must work differently to mine. For me, I really struggle to understand some things if I don’t know the original kanji that the meaning came from. Most words DO take their meanings from the kanji… however Japanese bends the original Chinese meanings a bit at times so that it fits the kana meanings.

However, I learned the kanji through their onyomi and kunyomi readings first and foremost; after that I assigned an English ‘meaning’ to them when I encountered enough kanji with similar ‘kana’ readings to more accurately depict what the kanji was trying to describe.

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I just meant that there are a lot borrowed English that may not be realized…some are very surprising. Granted this trick doesn’t work every time, resulting in made up words that don’t exist (confusion ensues) but I’ve borrowed English loan words is desperation while conversing (not knowing if they are used or not) with some success.


Ahhhh you meant it that way hahah. I must admit I have done that a few times myself. :joy:


I feel like this applies sometimes to judging how formal different expressions are as well. For example from the kanji it seems quite clear why it might be unusual to say something like 申し訳無い if you bumped into someone on the train as apposed to 済みません, since 申す is distinctly formal and bumping into someone being inexcusable sounds like something someone would say to a feudal lord, even though both are often translated as simply “sorry”.


It sounds like you may be missing what I’m saying. Japanese, like all languages, was spoken first and written later. Before they had a writing system, there were quite literally no kanji in existence anywhere in the Japanese language. Despite that, the words still had meaning, and grammar constructs still existed in some way shape or form. The kanji and kana only came into play after the fact to represent the sounds used in the spoken Japanese language. Sure, words like 練習 may have been taken directly from Chinese in meaning, reading, and writing, but even in Chinese the hanzi are just a representation of the sounds.

Of course, the kanji are related to the words they represent and the meanings are connected. I’m just suggesting that the meanings kanji/hanzi have come from the spoken words they represent, not the other way around.


Ahhh ok I am with you now, totally agree!


mine was really a simple one.
kimono means things you wear…
then i realised tabemono, nomimono etc etc. you can guess how happy i was.


One of mine is つつ (tsutsu - while, even though) . I keep seeing it in books and manga and keep wondering what it means for years not even considering that it may be a grammar point… I used to assume all kinds of things… Like why is the word not in the dictionary?


This sounds very useful. Do you have any good resources for that?


Sorry, resources for what exactly?

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Sorry, I was a bit unclear. I was looking for a resource for finding the kanji behind the grammar points, as you suggested.


I had two of these moments recently.

One of them was that one of the first words that I ever learned おやすみなさい has the なさい ending and is really the command form of rest, “rest!”.

The other one is that きのこ (mushroom) really means child of a tree, or tree baby!