One of the struggles of learning a new language is learning to think in that language.

For example, when someone asks me "where did I you go?" I translate the answer in my head to:

Speaking of me, the bookstore, I went.

And then answer in Japanese.

However, if I'm trying to express an idea I've never said before

That was more difficult than I thought it would be.

or an idea that doesn't conform to "A は B です", I'm lost.

Is there a guide or ruleset to help guide English speakers on how to start arranging their thoughts in a more Japanese way?

  • 3
    The more you study and memorize Japanese phrases and sentences and the more you watch Japanese movies and dramas, the more likely you will think in Japanese. Is there a good guide to thinking in Japanese? No. You will never be able to think in Japanese unless you reach certain proficiency in the language. That's for sure. – Rathony Oct 22 '16 at 18:40
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    If you ask about "how to start arranging their thoughts in a more Japanese way", I think this question should be moved to meta. however, if it's about how to translate "That was more difficult than I thought it would be.", I think I can answer how and why. – broccoli forest Oct 23 '16 at 6:25

Learning a language involves a lot of memorization, not just of words but entire expressions.
The dictionary may tell you the translations of individual words, but rarely the most appropriate expression for a certain situation.
To learn those expressions you have to be interested in the culture.
- read as many books (in Japanese of course) as possible, including fiction and non-fiction.
- watch videos with audio and subtitles in Japanese.
- listen to music while reading the lyrics.

Even though it seems a lot of hard work, if you are interested in the culture, it should actually be a lot of fun.

For examples when I was studying English (my first language is Portuguese) one of the first books I started reading was the Exorcist.
The book was so exciting that I couldn't stop reading, even though I couldn't understand half of the words.

You can get the overall meaning of any text if you know at least half of the words in the texts.
In other words it is not necessary to know the meaning of every single word to get the meaning of the text.

  • I think it came around 10-12 years after putting myself in English environment, when I started dreaming in English. You need to literally saying be "soaked" in the environment, including not only the language, but also something more. +1 – Kentaro Oct 23 '16 at 8:00

You don't 'learn to think in Japanese'. No, you 'learn Japanese', then you 'think in it'.

Sorry if that sounds condescending, but what I mean is that you will think in Japanese once you've learned to read and write it. Once your brain has been trained to understand it, it will begin to put things together on its own.

Apart from letting your brain try to think in Japanese and not remain locked in 'English Mode', you can't directly learn to think in Japanese.

So ya, sorry I can't give more advice than that.

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