Learning Japanese with Oreimo

I’ve gotten a number of comments and emails over these past months from people who are interested in learning Japanese. And although I’ve been trying to give people the best advice I can, I realize that learning Japanese can be a daunting task. This is especially true as many people want to learn Japanese to enjoy anime culture in its native tongue, and almost all structured courses will take a very, very long time before you are able enough to read anything worth reading.

So, as an experiment, I want to try something rather insane. Something that any experienced Japanese teacher or professor would laugh at me for (or maybe just shake their heads in quiet disbelief and walk away slowly. After all, what I have might be contagious). People want to read manga and light novels, so I want to try to teach Japanese from scratch completely from a light novel. Specifically, the Oreimo light novel, since that appears to be the translation site we are all looking at right now. Those who know me in real life know that I love to teach and am fairly involved in education and lecturing, which is good, as I will need every ounce of teaching know-how I’ve learned in these past few years to have a chance of pulling this off.

To be more precise, what I will try to do is to translate Oreimo for you, from Volume 1, sentence by sentence. Except I will explain how to translate every single sentence in excruciating detail, assuming no prior Japanese knowledge. In this way, we will be able to amass a large amount of knowledge for Japanese grammatical structure fairly quickly, through reading something we all want to read (you DO want to read Oreimo, right?).

This is, at the moment, a complete experiment. I do not know how well this will work, and at the moment I’m pretty much winging it. It is very likely that this project will be scrapped and abandoned eventually, and I don’t plan to work on it too much (it’s just a side project). But I hope this will be a fun, interesting experience for everyone involved (myself included). Since this is such a radical experiment at the moment, I would very much appreciate constructive comments on what is good/bad about how this is going. Feel free to leave the comment on this page or to email me at NanoDesuTranslations@gmail.com.

Table of Contents

New Grammatical Object – Particles (A General Introduction)
New Grammatical Object – no (Particle)
New Grammatical Object – ga (Particle)
New Grammatical Object – kore, sore, are, and their variants
New Grammatical Object – “true” i-adjectives, present tense
New Grammatical Object – Relative Clauses (A General Introduction)
New Grammatical Object – wake

Paragraph 1, Part 1
New Grammatical Object – kara (Particle) – “from”
New Grammatical Objects – Verbs, –ru form
New Grammatical Object – suru verbs
New Grammatical Object – to (Particle) preceded by verb –ru – “when,” “if”
General Comment – What happened to the subject?



28 thoughts on “Learning Japanese with Oreimo

  1. Interesting idea! I can grasp the basic language in most manga, but once they start talking about slightly more advanced stuff it becomes rather hard to follow exactly.

    I don’t know when you posted this, but I for one am looking forward to seeing what’s coming out of this.

  2. Oh, cool idea, will probably follow this as you update it, definitely an interesting way of learning.
    I look forward to the future of this mini project!

  3. While I find this idea great for those who don’t know Japanese, I find it extremely inefficient in translating since this is going to take a lot of your time. Though all the best for this project and I hope you can enjoy teaching the masses. I think it would be good if you can suggest some good reference books as well since I think that’s the biggest problem for those trying to pick the language and they accidentally pick a bad book.

    • Well yeah, as I said, this is a mini side project. I’m only going to work on it when I have nothing else to do and I really don’t feel like translating, so I don’t foresee this making the translation slower.

      Rather, what is DEFINITELY going to make the translation slower is my going off to school next month. That’s loads more dangeorus.

  4. I’m currently learning japanese myself (my program and written guides rate me at about 2nd/3rd grader level after a month of learning :D) and I’m highly curious about how you’re gonna go about this.
    My biggest problem, as a person fluent in german, french and english (german is my native language) would currently be the differentiation between formal and informal speech.
    But it’s really a fun language to learn all by yourself, and I’m looking forward to your take on this.

    Could you maybe do a little snippet to preview what’s in store for us?^^

  5. This is amazing is all I can say. I’ve always wanted to learn how to read Japanese, and feels like I have some great luck today. I gave up on looking for Oreimo thats been translated and then I stumble onto your site while browsing Baka-Updates. I just have to tell you that not only me but every fan will really appreciate this site and your work.

  6. Thanks NanoDesu

    I feel that finally I am able to to quickly recall all the Hiragana, so now I am on to the Katakana.

    Anyways, as I try to make sense of the headlines from yahoo.jp I notice that it is hard to translate sentences even from word to word. In European languages it is usually easy to pick the at least the nouns and the verbs to make sense of a sentence, even without knowing every word. For example: not knowing the verb in: “he ____ the ball” is not a hindrance in making a guess. But in Japanese it seems necessary to go from character to character. How do you not get hungup on this, when the characters run together.

    That’s why I guess I will be following this project.

    Japanese is (at least) your second language, so could you spare a couple sentences during this project for the best method that you used to become self taught?

    • It is quite daunting when you start learning because of the scrunched up characters, but after a while you realize that in Japanese, it’s much easier to tell what part of speech something is. For example, things that end in “ii” are almost always adjectives, things that end in “ru” are almost always verbs, things that end in “aka” are almost always adjectival nouns, things that end in “ni” or “to” are often adverbs… compare this to English, where you can’t say at all that “things that end in ‘a’ are always verbs” or something. So as you get better at Japanese, the sentence structure will become clear even if the words don’t have spaces between them.

      Japanese is my fourth language =p. I did better than a few sentences – I uploaded a section called “Quick Guide for Self-Study” and I listed the basic process I used to learn the language. I hope that helps.

      • Thank you! It is very helpful to know how others managed to study. It is nice to see an example of someone who successfully self-taught themselves, but even better to get an idea of how to do it oneself. the “quick guide” has some good links.

        I know only two languages, so I got a ways to go!

  7. If this helps anyone, I learned Japanese by watching with subs and matching up what characters are saying with the subs. ( matches up with Ore, Watashi, Boku, etc). I can understand Japanese pretty well now. Now I’m playing untranslated japanese Light Novels, matching up the voices to The japanese text. I’m starting to be able to read a little bit.

    • Yeah… I mean, it’s wonderful that this method worked for you, but I really do recommend getting a solid grammatical foundation before trying to use things like anime and VNs. The Japanese in anime and VNs and stuff like that is REALLY not proper Japanese, so some care needs to be taken if you plan to learn exclusively from those.

      And also, you really do need to learn how to write from the beginning. Because writing is much harder than everything else, so putting that off is not recommended. Which is why I always recommend starting with manga, not anime.

      • I kinda ended up understanding Japanese by accident. I just watched a lot of anime one summer and this happened. So as far as understanding goes I’m somewhat well off, I can watch anime raw and understand most of whats going on. I do realize this isn’t the best way of doing this, but I’m having fun with it, Just playing VNs for one day and I started being able to read a few things.

        I think grammar is my weak point. I’m pretty much just taking full sentences I remember and modifying them to fit what I need to say. Not sure how to explain it. I sometimes draw a blank because I don’t know how to connect my sentences together.

        The reason I picked it up on it so easily may be because I grew up speaking 3 languages,

  8. Ga, i wanna do this, but I’m learning Mandarin Chinese (as my second language) at the moment, and I’m afraid that, due to the similarities in writing styles, I might get them horribly confused if I try to learn them both at the same time. Life is cruel.

  9. I would love to study under this system you have going on here! Please keep up the good work! I would not mind compensating you since it does take time to prepare this lessons…

  10. This is an excellent Idea 😀

    I know a little Japanese from listening and can speak a bit but not been able to find a place to start learning how to read/write the language…

    I’ve signed up for a course at Uni (Nights) for beginner Japanese which I’ll be starting in September, in the mean time I’ve started slowly learning Hiragana (slowly).

    The course obviously has some books to get for it, one of which was the Oxford Japanese Grammar & Verbs book! I had a read through it, it mentions some of the bits you have discussed in the “Title” explanation however I lost the plot when trying to work it out… Your explanation however was excellent and now it all makes a lot more sense.

    This is one novel I would eventually like to read for my self but that will likely be a fair few years away 🙂


    • Try using TextFugu – (Google it)

      It’s the Japanese tutorial sight i’m using and it has been working out fairly well.

      But this Oreimo Japanese tutorial will be very interesting, gonna try it out.

    • I agree, and I’d love to continue this series, but because I have to prioritize real life and normal translation work over it, I just can’t find the time anymore :/

  11. Hi again! This is very interesting. I really want to read the novels, and the translations on baka-tsuki…. Well, I appreciate their effort, but they’re a bit Engrishy….

    I hope you keep going with this. You have my new support!!

  12. Man, this an excellent idea!!! I’ve always believed this kind of learning is very practical, in fact, I’ve been doing kinda the same thing myself! I’ve been studying Japanese on my own (Kim Tae’s grammar guide ftw, the only thing which I could finally get a grasp of language) and complementing it with translating and ‘grammatically decomposing’ what I come across, always taking notes on the structures, particular grammar/ exceptions, slangs, etc. I don’t think I’ve made a lot of progress just yet, but at least is easier to memorize some grammar by just remembering a series’ title or a phrase! It’s working!

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