One of the holy grails of speaking a foreign language is thinking in your target language, a process that seems unattainable at first, although it’s really not. Like most Japanese people, my wife has a great knowledge of the inner workings of English grammar and structure, having studied 8-10 years before she went to Wisconsin and California to study in the U.S. She made a Japanese friend in Los Angeles who knew almost no proper grammar, who got by with half-formed sentences that weren’t grammatically correct, and often my wife would think to herself, “What is she saying? Doesn’t she know she needs to use the past perfect tense there?” when hearing her friend speak. The funny thing was, her friend got much better at English, able to use the language more naturally in a short time, while my wife was stuck over-thinking and translating in her head from Japanese — so it seems there’s something to be said for not over-burdening your brain with a lot of grammatical rules. In my own case, I found memorizing “base sentences” that I could swap out the subject, object, verb etc. in was helpful, and I treated each new kind of sentence as a mathematical formula until my brain had internalized it naturally, which helped a lot. If you want to make 2011 a year of learning Japanese, browse our Japanese study supplies.
It’s every language learner’s goal to think in their target language.