What are you talking about?

After studying Japanese for almost two years, I started making more and more Japanese friends because it was critical to my development to have actual conversations with native speakers so that I could practice what I was learning. Recently, I shared with my Japanese friends how English speakers learn Japanese. I was met with a mixture of puzzled looks and confused glances to say the least. Why? I’ll try to keep everything brief so as not to bore the reader with a long-winded explanation.

Basically, verbs and adjectives are divided into two groups. For verbs, there are ru-verbs and u-verbs; for adjectives there are i-adjectives and na-adjectives. Why do verbs and adjectives each have two categories? The answer is that they are conjugated differently (for tense, polarity, etc.) based on what category they fall into. Grouping the verbs this way makes it easier for English speakers to learn how to conjugate a verb or an adjective. Interestingly enough, adjectives are conjugated for tense and for polarity.

My Japanese friends didn’t know what I was talking about because ru-verbs, u-verbs, i-adjectives and na-adjectives are not concepts that exist for native Japanese speakers; the groupings were created to teach non-native Japanese speakers. Japanese people all grew up speaking Japanese so the conjugations come naturally for them, much like conjugating verbs in English comes naturally for English speakers. In any event, my friends and I had a good laugh after I explained everything. It does make me wonder if English is taught to Japanese speakers in a way that English speakers would find interesting. 🤔

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