Long Sentences Giving You A Headache?

Everyone loves easy. A simple sentence to tell a simple point. Once you see the dreaded Japanese comma 、your head starts to spin. With each subsequent comma, your head spins that much faster until the period. Where does the sentence start and end? Who is saying what? What is the subject, object, and the point?

Long Sentences Giving You A Headache

One Jalup user put it well:

I’m not sure how to get used to longer sentences/monologues/whatever you call them. The ones that could be like a paragraph, but it gets fit into what seems like a really long line? The kind where if you remembered the start point and the end point you wonder if you fell into a black hole or coma during the interval? I can’t think of an English equivalent. Maybe like something out of a David Foster Wallace book where he packed so much information into a single sentence you get thrown because it seemed like a normal if slightly verbose sentence and you wonder why your ears are suddenly bleeding.

You are going into a higher level dungeon than you should be.

Long Sentences Giving You A Headache

And then this happens.

Long Sentences Giving You A Headache 2

For an idea of these kinds of sentences, here’s a quick excerpt (ignore the heavy topic) from the Wall Street Journal Japan:




Long Japanese sentences can be brutal

They make extensive uses of commas, and the order of all the parts is nothing like English. One sentence that is 3 lines long can feel like a giant puzzle. This happens until you reach a high level.

A simple solution

The best way to handle this is to increase sentence length slowly. Some material will have longer sentence length. Stick with 1 or maybe 2 lines max when you are low level. Going above that just adds a lot of frustration that you don’t need right now. If you see a long sentence, fight it another day.

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


Long Sentences Giving You A Headache? — 8 Comments

    • There is no joke. The message of this post is that when you are lower level, you are better off avoiding the struggle and fight with long sentences.

  1. Kyon constructs a lot of these as the narrator of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi light novels, starting with the very first sentence of the first novel. Might be worth a look if you’re struggling with Japanese run-ons.

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