I will cover the best, free places on the web to help you construct your Japanese sentences. And these sentences are completely usable and natural-sounding to native Japanese speakers.
This online dictionary is very annoying (lots of ads and bugs) but is very useful. Enter a word, and it will give you many translations of that word and variations of that word. Importantly, the translations are HUMAN translations pulled from their database.
This is a cleaner online dictionary compared to EJOD. However, it only gives you single word translations whereas EJOD gives word, phrase, and even sentence translations.
I tend to use EUdict more for when I need to look up a quick word and EJOD for translating whole sentences.
About.com - Japanese Language
I don't know who this Namiko Abe writer is, but she's the bomb.
Wikipedia - Japanese grammar
Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese
I'm skeptical of any Korean trying to teach me Japanese. lol, j\k.
Like the wiki link above, this site covers pretty much everything about sentence formation. However, it's written with a more "human feel" that's much more interesting to read. Additionally, the topics are organized and introduced with a student learner in mind whereas the wiki is more for reference and looking things up.
There are many other sites like this, and this is just one example.
Ultra Handy Japanese Verb Conjugator
The title says it all. Plug in your word and let the website make the verb work for you!
Also, you can probably find the verb you need from their "List of Japanese Verbs".
The exact opposite of Google Translate, Yahoo! Answers gives you 100% human translations. Of course, humans are imperfect, and the answers you get are only as good as the humans that give the answers (that's a weird sentence).
And... you gotta' loves those Yahoo avatars!
First off, AVOID Google translate for English-to-Japanese. It will translate your English sentence into a weird, Japanese sentence that no Japanese human being would ever speak or write.
But I still use it for:
- Double checking my already translated Japanese text, especially Kanji. It's Japanese-to-English translation works at least half the time.
- Romaji conversion. Very useful for reading Kanji.
- Using the "Listen" button to say the phrase for me. Although the speaker sounds robotic, the pronunciation is fairly accurate and helps me locate de-voiced vowels.
My Process for Writing\Translating Sentences
- Use dictionary (EUdict or EJOD) to find words I don't know.
- Use Yahoo! Answers or About to check if those words are appropriate.
- Optionally refer to Wiki or grammar site for help forming more complicated sentences.
- Use Google translate to double check characters.
There are many more websites I haven't tried out yet, as well as courses and tools you can use to improve your Japanese. I will go over them in the future.
Also in a future article, I will go over some ways to actually practice your Japanese with native speakers!