Lemony Snicket loved grammar.
“Grammar is the greatest joy in life,” he said.
Moliere believed that grammar could control even kings.
When looked at it this way, grammar might seem like a kind of super weapon.
Well, let me tell you a secret: It actually is.
No matter how hard you try to memorize all those endless phrases, verbs, and vocabulary lists, words will mean nothing unless you are able to put them in the right order. So know your vocabulary, but don’t forget that sentence structure is what links those words together. It provides us with the ability to express ourselves, fosters precision and exploits the richness that derives from learning a foreign language.
Grammar is important. Grammar is your super weapon.
“But how do I get hold of that secret weapon?,” you ask. There are so many sites and books and workshops and cram schools and phrase books and learning aids and… Hold up!
Take a deep breath and relax.
The sea is vast, but don’t worry: I know how important it is to start smart, so I prepared a list of 12 grammar sites, spanning the range of all Japanese language levels. Get ready to hone your grammar skills.
12 Must-visit Websites to Learn Japanese Grammar Online
1. Maruguto Plus – まるごと＋ (まるごと ぷらす) (Beginners)
Marugoto Plus is a site compatible with the contents of “MARUGOTO: Japanese Language and Culture,” the official course book of the Japan Foundation. Having the textbook is not a prerequisite in order to use the site, and all of the site’s content is super useful.
What’s interesting about Marugoto is that its culture references are not strictly Japanese; you can learn about other cultures as well! Marugoto Plus is great for studying the grammar for A1-A2 levels of the JF Standard through an array of conversations, videos and pictures. The A1 level is available in Japanese, English and Spanish while the A2 level is available in Japanese and English.
2. Visualizing Japanese Grammar (Beginners)
Visualizing Japanese Grammar is one of my favorite grammar sites for beginners. It contains 66 flash animations, each presenting a different sentence structure. Every unit consists of the flash animation, complete with explanations and examples, a vocabulary list and a final quiz to test your understanding of the lesson.
The explanations are presented in both Japanese and English, and at the end of each lesson you will see a list of other related units. There is also a side menu of all available units, so you can choose the grammar structure you want to learn in particular.
The site, on top of the video lessons, offers 12 PowerPoint presentations with all the key elementary grammar points. It is a great place to start if you’re new to learning Japanese grammar, and it’ll make your life easier when you turn the page from the elementary to the intermediate level.
3. Genki Vol. 1 Particle Exercises (Beginners)
Genki Vol. 1 Particle Exercises is exactly what it says it is: a website in which you can study and practice particles covered in the “Genki” textbook. It contains multiple choice quizzes, and if you happen to not know the answers, there are explanations provided.
“Genki” is a great resource for learning elementary Japanese, and this site is a great companion to the actual textbook.
4. Genki-Online Verb/Adjective Conjugation Practice (Intermediate)
Here’s another great site that goes alongside my beloved “Genki” textbook series. In Genki-Online Verb/Adjective Conjugation Practice you can easily check all the rules for conjugating Japanese verbs and adjectives. You know all those funny endings you encounter on Japanese words? They all do have a special meaning.
The exercises allow you to turn your keyboard to Japanese input and get a real feel for the way Japanese is written. The site follows the grammar sections of the textbook and contains various exercises—from choosing the correct masu-form (-ます) to those difficult past tense adjective conjugations.
At the end of each practice session there is a very useful summary to review your answers and find your weak points. It’s a great site for brushing up those important basic grammar points.
5. Tama Tamako’s Nihongo Learning Animations – Let’s Learn Japanese! (Beginners)
I love using animations to teach the basics of Japanese grammar, and Tama Tamako is doing just that on her site, Tama Tamako’s Nihongo Learning Animations—Let’s Learn Japanese! In her blog you can study some basic grammar through the use of simple animations and audio.
There are a total of 35 lessons, and each lesson is about three minutes long. According to Tamako, her blog is designed in such a way that it makes you feel as though each lesson were feeding you with a chunk of everyday Japan.
She knows her videos aren’t necessarily that easy to understand with a single viewing, but she believes that even if you don’t understand them at first, there will surely come a day when you do. And that day will come if you continue to study—which I totally agree with. So keep on studying, you guys! It’s working!
6. Teach Yourself Japanese (Beginners)
Teach Yourself Japanese is a very useful site for those early learners of the Japanese language who prefer to study on their own. Don’t be fooled by its dated appearance, as this site covers all the basic grammar with clear and useful explanations.
Its categorization system is simple, making it fairly easy to find what you want. It starts with a very useful outline of the language, and all the basics of pronunciation and terminology. This is another fantastic site for those of you who just started exploring the wonderful world of the Japanese language.
7. Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese (Beginners – Intermediate)
Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese site is one of my all-time favorites. It contains the key points of Japanese grammar with clear explanations and great example sentences. Tae Kim offers his grammar guide in 11 different languages, and his site is pretty easy to navigate.
You can also find both a forum and a blog on his site. In the forum there’s a very active community ready to answer all your questions about the Japanese language, and the blog is full of interesting articles on Japanese culture. Overall, a must-visit site.
8. Erin’s Challenge! (I can speak Japanese. – WEB版 エリンが挑戦！にほんごできます。(うぇぶ ばん えりんが ちょうせん！にほんご できます。) (Intermediate)
Erin’s Challenge is a great interactive site for practicing your Japanese grammar. It’s the online version of the popular DVD learning material “エリンが挑戦！にほんごできます。(Erin’s Challenge! I can speak Japanese).”
It supports more than five languages including English, Japanese, Spanish, Korean and French. It has 25 lessons with videos of real-life situations in which you can hear a near-natural form of the language. Because of its realistic aspect, you’ll feel like you experience various aspects of the Japanese society firsthand.
Each lesson is divided into seven parts:
- The Basic Skit contains a situational video, which has the ability to turn into a manga! In the manga version, the dialogue is inserted into text bubbles and you can click on each line to hear the audio. There are subtitles in kanji/kana, kana only, romaji or English. After each video there is a comprehension quiz.
- The Advanced Skit contains language as you would find it in a normal conversation between Japanese people. There are practice questions in this section as well.
- You can study the lesson’s key expressions in Key Phrases.
- In What Is This? you answer questions relating to the topic of the lesson.
- Let’s See is a section where you have to answer questions based on pictures relating to Japanese culture.
- The Let’s Try part lets you try out Japanese-related games associated with each lesson.
- And finally, in Develop Vocabulary you can practice the words related to each lesson’s situation or topic with the help of pictures.
The site also offers a mini-game where you have to find you way through a small Japanese town. All the dialogues are solely in Japanese, making the game a great practice on reading and general understanding.
Overall, it’s a fun way to practice your Japanese grammar and a great site to bookmark. After all, they have a cute mascot. How wrong can you get with a cute mascot?
9. Keigo – Advice – 敬語おもしろ相談室 (けいご おもしろ そうだんしつ) (Advanced)
Keigo is the respectful form of the Japanese language, otherwise known as honorific speech. It’s generally used to show respect, and the use of Keigo is mandatory in many social situations. Honorifics emphasize differences or similarities in rank and social status.
Thus, the honorific system in Japan is really extensive, closely resembling the systems found in both Korea and China. It not only includes special vocabulary but it also employs a lot of specialized grammatical forms. Even native Japanese speakers can make mistakes when it comes to the proper use of Keigo.
The Japanese Ministry of Culture created a Keigo website for both Japanese people and advanced level Japanese speakers. It guides you through all facets of Keigo, coupled with detailed explanations and quizzes to test your understanding of the concept. All speaking is done at a natural speed, and the videos depict real-life situations in which mistakes are corrected and explained by a Japanese Keigo master.
10. AJALT’s Enjoy Learning Online Japanese (All Levels)
The Association for Japanese Language Teaching created a website, Enjoy Learning Online Japanese, in which you can study anything from elementary grammar to some pretty advanced reading practice.
There are eight distinct sections, which include survival Japanese and daily conversations, language games (like crossword puzzles), and reading practices accompanied by texts on the history and origins of kanji.
11. U-biq: Online Japanese Tests – オンライン日本語テスト (おんらいん にほんご てすと) (All Levels)
U-biq’s Online Japanese Tests site is a collection of quizzes on Japanese grammar, vocabulary, kanji, listening and reading. It focuses on the things you need to know for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), and it also supports Chinese and Korean.
The grammar quiz format might seem a little familiar to those of you using the “Minna no Nihongo” textbooks, and all the answer explanations are in Japanese. This is a very complete and comprehensive quiz site that is sure to meet all your online testing needs. It is part of the U-biq site, which includes tons of information and tests for both students and teachers.
12. JGram: The Japanese Grammar Database – ジェイグラム (じぇいぐらむ) (All Levels)
JGram: The Japanese Grammar Database is a site run by its community and contributing members. As an open source grammar, you can register and write your own explanations and examples. It has a very extensive list of the most important grammar points, with explanations and example sentences.
The site covers all levels, from elementary to advanced grammar. You can practice each of the lessons with quizzes and flashcards. It has a “grammar-a-day” mailing list, which is similar to the popular word-a-day concept. By joining, you’ll receive a grammar explanation sent to you by email each day.
Don’t forget to check out the games as well. GramaGame is a great practice in sentence structure!
FluentU doesn’t exclusively teach grammar. But it’s an excellent way to learn grammar concepts in action! It’s also a great way to learn new vocabulary, authentic speech, kanji and much more.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
So, there you have it. These websites are sure to fill all your grammar needs, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner.
Grammar is really important when it comes to successfully translating your thoughts to speech. There is a whole unconscious process in the works, from thinking what you want to say in your native language, finding the right words in Japanese and then trying to make a comprehensible sentence out of them.
So don’t just attempt, learn how to do it properly—with grammar. What are you waiting for? Go out there, check out these sites and find your favorite today!
Thanasis Karavasilis is a writer and lover of stories who was educated to be a teacher of English. He spends his time between worlds and inside pages; written or otherwise. You can get a glimpse of his adventures somewhere inside his hideout.