So you think you’ve learned a sentence. You can look at your SRS card and read it perfectly every time without hesitation. However, have you really learned it – completely? More importantly, do you understand it?

In many cases, probably not. Allow me to explain. There are some criteria that come to mind when stating a sentence has been fully learned. For starters, you should be able to:

  • Read the sentence out loud from the card, without hesitation (for the most part). Easy peasy.
  • Write the sentence correctly the first time while looking at the card.
  • Speak the sentence from memory without needing to look up part of it.
  • Write the sentence in its entirety from memory without having to look up any part of it (including kanji!).

The last two are the real test. If you have gotten this far, that’s awesome. However, there’s still one more thing:

  • You should understand the idea of the sentence in its entirety – not just be able to recite it at will. Anyone can parrot a sentence. Perhaps you can paraphrase it, because you understand the general idea.


By understanding the idea, I mean that you understand each part of the sentence and how they affect each other. Having a solid understanding of the idea of each sentence becomes a much more powerful tool. It allows you to modify the sentence to fit your needs, thus forming new sentences – or new ideas. New ideas lead to more new ideas. Your brain’s fuzzy logic will begin to pick up on this concept and apply it at some point. Sooner or later you might not even need to study sentences, once you can pick up on the idea of carrying on a conversation. However, that’s jumping a bit ahead, so I’ll table that topic for now.

To illustrate what I mean, let’s consider the following example:

それは新聞だ。 That is a newspaper.

In this case, you are basically saying the object near the person you are speaking to is a newspaper. However, let’s say that you are holding the newspaper, and want to tell the other person that it is a newspaper. You could modify the sentence by swapping a word:

これは新聞だ。 This is a newspaper.

While this is a rudimentary example, my point is illustrated clearly. Understanding the sentence gives far more power than just memorizing it as a whole. So when you study your sentences, make sure to understand it.