Japanese grammar, although it has its share of irregular forms, and can be a challenge to master, often has a logic to it that makes it suited for learning through pattern practice. Pattern practice is a way of remembering a certain grammar form, not by remembering where the verb and noun go and how they work together, but by remembering a pattern and doing substitution of one or more of the parts.

Pattern practice is especially useful for learners who remember best by “doing” or “speaking” or “acting” on the language. The repetitive nature of this type of study can also be of great benefit to learners who learn through rote.

With many languages, pattern practice usually means replacing the subject or verb or adjectives in a sentence. When speaking Japanese, there is often a predetermined grammar pattern that only requires changing the form of the verb and fitting it in.

Examples of Japanese Pattern Practice

As I mentioned above, there are often mouthfuls of predetermined grammar or wording in Japanese that only needs a properly formatted verb in it to work.

One example of this is how we say “You HAVE TO…” or “You MUST…” in Japanese. There are many ways to say this, and most of them work well with pattern practice.

A common form is, using the verb “suru” or “shimasu” which means “to do”, would look something like this:

“…suru hitsuyo ga arimasu”

In this case, the dictionary form of “suru” is used followed by “-hitsuyo ga arimasu” which doesn’t change no matter what verb is used. The ending part literally means “– there is a necessity.”

Now using the pattern, a Japanese learner can make as many sentences as verbs they know, and even more with the help of an English – Japanese dictionary.

Here are some examples of this pattern in action:

Given that “to work” is “hataraku” or “shigoto suru”, we can say:

“Hataraku hitsuyo ga arimasu.” Or “Shigoto suru hitsuyo ga arimasu.” Both of these mean “I have to work.”

Any dictionary form of a Japanese verb can be used in this place from “love” or “ai suru” to “sing” or “utau” to “dance” or “odoru”.

Using Patterns When Teaching Japanese

As valuable as pattern practice can be to people learning Japanese independently, it can be an indispensible way for teachers and tutors to add a little fun, action, and practicality to their classes. With speaking exercises, a teacher or study partner can show a flashcard with a written word on it and the student can then substitute it into the trend.

A list of words can also be provided for students to substitute in. Trend practice is also a great way to teach new Japanese vocabulary by giving students a chance to use new words in an actual sentence. An example of this is if the class were practicing with adjectives, all that is needed is a base sentence and a list of adjectives to start.

Words can be given to make students use the trend making their own creative changes…

“Chocoreto wa amakute oishii desu.” = Chocolate is sweet and delicious.

If the word “wasabi” is thrown out to students, they could respond:

“Wasabi wa karakute oishii desu.” Using the adjective “karai” which means spicy to correspond with the given word “wasabi”.

A series of vocabulary words pertaining to foods and flavors can be reviewed through pattern practice, while also practicing adjective lists as well.

Pattern Practice for Learning Japanese Independently

Another great use of the trend sentence is that it can be done individually to practice grammar and vocabulary. All a person needs is a good sentence and a list of words that might fit the model, and a great, quick, and highly effective study session can be had. Even if the grammar formula and substitution makes for some non-sensical sentences, often it’s enough to be using and becoming accustomed to the language fast. For this, pattern practice is invaluable.

Conclusion and Applying Pattern Practice in the Real World

When learning Japanese, you can’t prepare for every situation you might meet when actually speaking with people or using Japanese in the real world. However, experience with patterns can prepare learners to use new or unfamiliar words effectively. Native Japanese speakers can often guess the missing word based on the pattern used and the context of a conversation.