When I speak Japanese I want to speak natural Japanese. One part of this is using the right words and phrases at the right time. I may say something quite acceptable grammatically with words which are also suitable, but I want to say things the way a Japanese person would them.

Sometimes when you ask people to check your Japanese you can see an expression on their face. They can’t find any real faults with your sentences but the sentences don’t quite seem natural. I also do this when I look at the work of Japanese students studying English. I find myself helping them to rephrase their sentences to sound more natural.

Here’s an example from a ケータイ メール. Being an email explains missing particles – because it’s more like spoken Japanese than perfect grammatical Japanese. This is my reply to an email asking how I did in singles & doubles tennis matches earlier today (not good). Also, I was asked if I used the same racket as the other day as it wasn’t my usual racket.

x-さんは①シングルスをやったよ[not me]。同じラケットモデルを借りたけど違うストリングとテンション②で難しかった。それは負ける理由じゃないけど…試合のとき、やっぱり調子悪いね。がんばったよ!

After sending this mail I asked a friend if my mail made any sense and if there were any parts I could improve. He frowned, as I described above, said ‘hmm, there’s nothing wrong… but…’ before pointing out the parts I’ve written in bold. These were his suggestions:

① x-さんはシングルスの試合に出た
② のため、うまく (打てなかった・行かなかった)

These are the type of things I have to learn if hope to some day become a master of Japanese.