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The following is an excerpt out of a conversation between me and my language partner. For context: 基本的には italki と同じです。時間があるときにメッセージを読んだり書いたりします。Skype の便利なところは、イラスト、写真、リンク、ファイルなど、いろいろなものを送れるところです。文章を読むだけではわかりにくいことも、イラストや写真、時にはYouTubeの動画なども使って説明することができます。モチベーションを保つためには、楽しみながら学ぶことが大切だと思います。

The sentence in question: モチベーションを保つためには、楽しみながら学ぶこと大切だと思います。

My attempt at translation: "Concerning preservation of motivation, I think it is important for having fun while at the same time studying."

So the problem here is that in the way I translated the sentence, I'd rather expect the particle に instead of が in 楽しみながら学ぶこと大切だ. So, either I misunderstood the sentence entirely or there is something about the use of が in the construction at hand which I don't know yet :D

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    I would translate it as "Concerning preservation of motivation, I think it is important to have fun while at the same time studying" or "I think having fun while studying is important for preserving motivation." In that interpretation, the が makes sense, doesn't it? – Greg Dec 25 '17 at 21:20
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    I interpret the sentence in question as: ”In order to stay motivated (lit. keep motivation), it's important to have fun whilst studying." With に the sentence doesn't make much sense, probably because こと here serves as a nominalizer and there isnt anything in the sentence telling me what is literally "important to (subclause)," unless you really insist "The purpose of staying motivated is important to having fun whilst studying." I cant really articulate it, but thats how weird it sounds with に – binom Dec 25 '17 at 23:25
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To be honest your translation doesn't sound like natural English to me. "It is important for having fun"? I don't think I've ever heard that construction before. "It is important to have fun" sounds natural and is a better translation of the original Japanese, imo. As Greg suggested in the comments, I also interpreted the sentence as "I think having fun while studying is important for preserving motivation." が in the sentence is marking that phrase to be the subject, so like これが大切だ would be "this is important", the が in your sentence is marking the phrase to be defined by some adjective.

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