Degrees of Understanding – in Japanese

I know kung fu! Well, not really, but I now know how to express my varying degrees of understanding. Well, not really either, but it’s a start!

From MemeSuper - I don't understand


More on trying to remember words I just learned, so let’s use it here! From my latest NihongoMaster lesson… I’ll use what I learned on describing the lesson itself. If you don’t know much Japanese yet, わかりません means “don’t understand”, and the blue bolded words are the new adverbs to show just how much I don’t understand.

Before the Lesson

Sight unseen.

ぜんぜんわかりません。(I) don’t understand (anything) at all.  absolutely nothing.

After Skimming Lesson

I always do this just to see how much I know or to get first exposure to new concepts.

ほとんどわかりません。(I) don’t understand hardly (anything).
very, very little.

After slowly reading lesson

My first true attempt at absorbing.

ほんとうにわかりません。(I) really don’t understand.
not much.

After Lesson Drills

A few times with the lesson in drills, I can narrow in on the lesson and clarify.

そんなにわかりません。(I) don’t understand that well.
at least not THAT much.

After Taking Notes

I usually take notes after some drill experience with the new concepts, so I can highlight what I need to clarify for myself.

あまりわかりません。(I) don’t understand very well.
but still some.

After Lots of Practice!


And after all that, it looks like I’ll never learn Japanese at this slow pace of understanding! Most lessons I understand fairly quickly, it’s just a case of remembering new vocab and gaining experience with new, strange concepts. That’s the key, seeing it, hearing it, using it, trying it out. Explaining it in this blog is just one tool to pull it all together.


To recap, adverbs of degrees, red being only negative, blue being either positive or negative:

  1. ぜんぜん zenzen = not at all
  2. ほとんどhotondo = mostly, hardly (may be tempting to use in positive sentences, but don’t do it)
  3. ほんとうにhontouni = really, truly
  4. そんなにsonnani = not so much
  5. あまりamari = not very, not much
  6. たくさん takusan = a lot

I won’t be writing words in romaji very much, to be honest, they look more foreign to me than the kana/kanji. All my educational resources I’m using don’t use romaji at all.


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