[Course Forum] Japanese 1-7 by Memrise

Ok, something that is a little frustrating here:

The training consistently presents です as simply expressing politeness. To be honest, every time I see that, I have to fight the urge to ask for a refund.

です is “to be.”

Is, was, am, will be, is in, or at: it means all of these things depending on the context and conjugation.

Presenting it as being polite will lead not only to confusion as tho when to use it, but also inaccurate translations. :confused:

I’m working through Japanese 1 as a stepping stone, because I know I am not quite ready for Japanese 2, but when I run into something that is like super basic expressed in a way that is not useful or even accurate, it’s jarring.

The training session is basically done for the day as soon as I hit that question, because it throws me totally off track.

I submitted this through the feedback form as well, and the bot told me to post to the forum. Maybe I’m just missing something?

(I just submitted the feedback a few minutes ago, so getting a message from a bot isn’t a bad thing. :slight_smile: If a human sees the message, they may very well say the same thing)

Hello :slight_smile:

Is this for one of the official Japanese courses made my Memrise, or is for a user-made course?

The official Japanese 1 course.

I’ve not gotten into other user generated content yet.


All in all, most of my experience has been ok. I don’t like how the mobile version implements the speed drills, but the website is great. :slight_smile:

For feedback on the official courses, I suggest posting here, so it’s more likely to be seen:

If the official courses aren’t clicking with you, I would definitely recommend checking out some user-made ones. There weren’t even any official courses when I started learning with Memrise three and a half years ago, and with no disrespect meant to all of the work that I’m sure went into building the official courses, I’m glad I started with the ones that I did. I just like the format and the way they introduce things more.

If you’re interested, I posted a list of some beginner courses that I took and recommend here:

And while I haven’t taken any of them myself yet, Nukemarine’s courses are also very popular, and he seems to be very dedicated to building and supporting them.


To be honest, Japanese 1 is relatively well laid out. I’ve been interacting with the language for a while, but not studying seriously until recently, so I have started with Japanese 1.

As for some of your concerns:
は and が have different meanings. It is not inconsistency. It is different principles. They are trying to teach both. は points to the subject of the sentence. What are we talking about directly? が points to the object of the verb. What are we acting on?

I also have complaints about the rigidity of the answers. My problem stems from having developed bad habits while using the language. :slight_smile: They want to enforce formal language skills in most places. Sometimes it makes sense. Sometimes it results in practice phrases that you will never actually use if you are living in Japan.

As for あんたは and 私は, again, they want you to get practice with both. More importantly, they want you to see how THE REST of the sentence is impacted by who the subject is. BUT, in practice, actually using forms of ‘you’ and ‘me’ are not common in Japanese, so it is important to recognize and practice sentences without them as well.

In practice, you will use an informal “We” or “They” more often than you will use a formal “You” or “Me.” They still come up often enough to make it worth learning them though.

My main complaint is the speed drills in the app. O.o

Then again, it looks like the instructor agrees with you. :slight_smile:

Something that trips me up a lot is alternate spellings of words, especially places with an optional う.

は and が have different meanings. It is not inconsistency. It is different principles. They are trying to teach both. は points to the subject of the sentence. What are we talking about directly? が points to the object of the verb. What are we acting on?

I think you’ve got it wrong here. The particle ~は does not point to the subject of the sentence, but to the topic of the sentence. That’s an important difference. For example, let’s say someone asked you what your favorite food is. Your answer could be 「私はピッザです」. If the ~は were marking the subject, that would mean something like “I am pizza”. But the ~は actually marks the sentence topic. So your answer means something like “As for me, it’s pizza”.

In general, in Japanese (and other East Asian languages like Korean or Vietnamese) the subject is much less important than in western languages like English, French or German. Those western languages are also called “subject-prominent languages”, because the subject plays an important role in the languages “mechanics”. Almost every sentence in those languages has to have a subject, no matter what. Because of that, we say things like “it is raining”. Who or what is doing the raining here, who’s the “it”? As far as the meaning is concerned, there is no subject. But because English is a subject-prominent language, we insert kind of a “dummy” subject.

On the other hand, Japanese and other East Asian languages are what’s called “topic-prominent languages”. With them, the topic of the sentence is much more important than the subject. Often, the subject is omitted completely. The topic is also often omitted when it’s clear from the context what you’re talking about. For example, the following conversation doesn’t specify a subject nor a topic, because they’re obvious:

A: 「お元気ですか?」 (Are you well?)
B: 「元気です」 (I’m well)

(As a side note, the お in 「お元気」 is an example of honorific speech. A basically talks about B’s wellness in a more polite way than B talks about his own wellness.)

The ~が particle sometimes is called the “subject particle”, but it doesn’t necessarily mark the subject either :grin: I prefer calling it an “identifier particle”, because it’s used to identify something or somebody, for example after it has been asked for:

「誰が学生ですか?」 (Who is the student?)
「私が学生です」 (I’m the student)

So, you can express “I am a student” as 「私は学生です」 or as 「私が学生です」. The meaning is a bit different: 「私は学生です」 is more like “As far as I’m concerned, I’m a student”. 「私が学生です」 is more like “The student (that you talked about before), that’s me”.

For more information about those two particles, see for example Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese or Imabi (~は and ~が).


Your explanation of ~は makes a lot of sense. :slight_smile:

I think for ~が object works better than subject.

My explanation was awkward. I’m not used to explaining things about Japanese to English speakers beyond “Oh, this is how you say… Whatever.” :slight_smile: Thank you for the clarifications.

I also have a bad tendency to gloss over particles when I talk about the language, unless the topic comes up specifically. That doesn’t help either.

It’s kind of like not focusing much on the word ‘a,’ when discussing English. It’s likely one of the most important words in the language, but we don’t actually talk about it. So… Explaining it isn’t always easy. Kind of vaguely handwave that it has something to do with singular nouns. :slight_smile:

I also have a bad tendency to entirely gloss over 敬語(けいご, honorific speech)… So, your explanation is a LOT better than mine. :slight_smile:

This pertains to the American English Japanese 1 course:

Ok, this one may just be me, but the training introduces みず as water, then おゆ as hot water, and then immediately starts presenting cold water as water (not hot).

That is a bit distracting, and when you are used to moving quickly, or are fatigued, it can cause a bit of a stumble. Especially dealing with timed exercises.

In American English, as with Japanese, the word water defaults to cool to room temperature water, and we specifically specify hot or warm.

It would make sense for the English in the exercises to be “Water” and “Hot Water,” rather than “Water (not hot)” and “Water (hot).”

The way it is currently implemented is unnecessarily complicated and confusing, and doesn’t actually match up to how either language works.

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Also pertaining to the American English course:

Using ~ in the middle of a sentence to represent a blank or whatever is fine for examples. It does not make for good answers to questions however.

“わたしのなまえは~です,” Is just fine to illustrate a point.
Expecting a student to type it as an answer is frustrating.

It’s not how we talk.
It is slightly jarring.
It has no actual meaning when written in that way.

It would be better to present an example with an actual name, and then use THAT as the translation exercise.

The same goes for other things where a pattern is being presented.

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Another comment for the American English course:

I’m not sure that having to search through walls of text is conducive to a pleasant experience when you are on a timer.

Especially if there are a large number of options and/or long sentences.

The same is true of the exercises where you are given a list of words to build a sentence from. If there is no timer, then it is fine. If there is a timer, and you have twenty words to search through, it is not fun.

I think that the typing ones are perfectly fine though, as you can just use an IME and the keyboard. At least on the website. I will try out some of those exercises on the app when I get the chance, but the ability to use direct input means that extra options are not as big of an issue there.

Also why so many proper names in kanji? Is there any reason for this, other than to make it more confusing for newbies?

Because, proper names have been around for a while and are most of them are written in kanji.

The kana have been around a while, but were always mostly used for informal stuff at first. It’s only been relatively recent that any names at all started to be written commonly in kana.

So, you may see a lot of first names in kana, but family names will always be kanji.

Oh I understand that, but I feel it has no place in a beginners course. If
you are teaching how sentence structure works, there really is little
difference between saying Ranma goes to the store , compared with Mr Satome
goes to the store. But the second one is far more confusing, because you
are teaching newbies kanji that is essentially useless clutter at the level
1 stage of learning.

Mr Suzuki you are a genius is in the first level of the first program? And
for the life of me I cant see a purpose to this.


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Learning the kana can take a matter of a few hours of study, with refresher study now and then as you go.

Learning kanji takes longer.

Learning kanji is a requirement if you want to be able to actually read modern Japanese, and the more kanji you learn, the easier the process of building vocabulary becomes.

In Japanese schools, they start teaching the initial kanji in first grade. Kindergarten and first grade focus on kana, but kanji starts as soon as kana is learned.

Kanji provide one other really major bonus. Kanji are tied to meaning as well as sound. This means that often, even if you don’t remember the pronunciation of a word, you can still read it if you know what the kanji means.

I was doing Japanese 2, just wanted to let you know in the ‘getting fed’ section you had the romaji incorrect. I hope you can change it so as to not confuse anyone. Thanks!

辛いです(karai desu)
displayed romaji: tsurai desu
Kana: からいです

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Hi @burlingk

Thank you for letting me know this. I have noticed this too, and as the new Japanese Specialist, my mission is to make the course more correct and practical, including this mistake you pointed out. The issue we have at the moment is that as soon as I make changes in an item, it is going to reset everyone’s learning history for that item, and since this word(です) is everywhere, the changes will be affecting many people significantly. We’ll figure out how we do this. Thank you for your report and telling us this matters! Bare with me for a bit whilst I make the changes please.



Thank you @KeiNagisa!
I’ve fixed this just now. You should see it there once you log out and log in again. Thanks!


I found some translation issues in the Japanese for German speakers courses:

In the new Japanese 3, Level 5:

昼食を食べます is translated as "frühstücken" (to have breakfast) but I think it should be "zu Mittag essen" (to have lunch).

In the new Japanese 3, Level 14:

The text says テレビゲーム but the speaker says ビデオゲーム

Same issue in the sentence 私の子供達はこれ…

In the new Japanese 3, Level 15:

私のお母さんも時計を… there are some words at the end that are probaly from another sentence

In the new Japanese 3, Level 16:

キロ is translated as “Kilometer”, but “Kilogramm” would be correct.

Text and audio: マリアさんは六十キロです、but it is translated as “sie wiegt 60 Kilo” instead of “Maria wiegt 60 Kilo”

Text and audio: 鈴木さんは一メートル… but it is translated as “er ist…” instead of “Herr Suzuki ist…”

In the new Japanese 3, Level 20:

私達のお母さんはいつもニュースを観ていますshouldn’t this be 母 instead of お母さん, as I’m speaking of my own mother?

In the new Japanese 2, Level 29:

The literal translation for 100 says "zwei zehn vier" (two ten four).
The literal translation for 24 says "vier zehn sechs" (four ten six).
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