When I started learning Japanese, one of the many things that I struggled with was registering the one-syllable particles that I heard when practicing listening. This was especially difficult for long sentences, as sometimes the meaning of a particle was not known until the end of the whole sentence. (For example, on hearing Aさんに, one does not know immediately what is going on regarding A–did the speaker give A a gift, learn something from A, get criticized by A, request a favor from A, make A cry, or was the speaker made to cry by A?) I had to try to temporarily memorize the particles as sound/symbols and only at the end of a sentence could I convert those into information. Japanese being a particularly fast spoken language made it even harder.

Recently I noticed that I was struggling less than before with particles during listening practice. I am not sure whether I got better at catching them or whether I was just "reconstructing" the particles. (For example, if one hears 銀行...金...預ける, one knows it has to be 銀行に金を預ける.)

If the latter possibility is the case, am I developing a bad habit? I mean, depending on whether native/fluent speakers do the same, I could be heading closer to or away from becoming fluent. Native/fluent speakers, if hypothetically you are given a dictation test with plenty of verbs, nouns and adjective that you do not know, will you still be able to accurately note all the particles with ease?

Edit: This post is of course for the benefit of me as a learner. But beyond that, I hope that a discussion on how native/fluent speakers process languages can be of general interest.

  • 1
    This is just part and parcel of learning a foreign language, you often don't have all the information until you've heard the entire sentence. Consider the use of prepositions in English with numerous verbs where the meaning dramatically changes with the change of a preposition that may not come until the end of a sentence: take up, take off, put up with, put out, etc. The more you practice the language, the less these matters will cause you problems.
    – A.Ellett
    Oct 7, 2021 at 22:41
  • If you cannot hear some, you might reconstruct them, but why would you filter out those you do hear?
    – aguijonazo
    Oct 9, 2021 at 16:44

1 Answer 1


If you are starting to ignore particles and rely on guesslation, that's a bad habit. For example, if you ignore the difference between は and が, you will easily run into a trouble like this. But if you are becoming less conscious of particles (or grammar in general) while listening, that's a good thing. Native children speak fluently without even knowing what particles are. Of course particles are often omitted in casual speech, but it happens under certain rules. If a particle is replaced or removed inappropriately, native speakers definitely notice it and get confused even in hasty conversations.

When listening to a long sentence, native speakers do (unconsciously) remember each particle they hear until they get the matching predicate. See this for example: https://japanese.stackexchange.com/a/44447/5010

Note that there are also deeply nested sentences in English, and fluent English speakers parse them without thinking. When a sentence starts like the following, you unconsciously keep track of how deep you are at, and "wait" for the matching expression.

(Although (the moment (I heard (there was a mountain (that has a huge cave at the...

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