So I was scrolling through my twitter feed and came across a few tweets in Japanese. “WOW!” I said to myself,”I can actually read and understand that! I didn’t even have to look up any kanji.” While I’m still a total newbie when it comes to kanji learning, I have a few hundred under my belt and I was feeling quite confident at that point.
Fast forward to a random outing with friends.
“So, how do you say this in Japanese?”
“Well… you… it’s… no wait it’s not that, it’s this. Yeah, this. I think?”
*Facepalm* I totally knew that! How could I screw it up.
While reading, writing and understanding Japanese is quite a feat, these skills seem to come much easier to us than spoken Japanese. But why is this? When you read, the words are obviously being provided. All you have to do is make sense of them. Once you get the hang of kanji, most of the clues are there in the meanings. When you write, you have more time to gather your thoughts and are able to visualize the words. But when you speak, you’re all on your own.
Sometimes it may seem like we’re alone in this, especially if you’re an independent learner like me. But this is extremely common and it happens to language learners all around the world. Honestly, I don’t think anything can replace the experience of being immersed in a language by travelling to a country with native speakers. However, nothing is impossible.
How can we get over this? No, I’m not an expert. Far from it. But here are a few methods I plan on implementing into my Japanese learning routine.
1) Read EVERYTHING out loud. Tweets, textbooks, signs… anything you are studying. Don’t just say it in your head, actually speak up! You may want to be alone for this and not in say, a library.
2) Be a parrot. This elaborates on the last point. If your textbook comes with an audio cd, play it and repeat after the native speaker. If you’re watching a drama or listening to a podcast, pause it and repeat certain phrases and sentences over and over until you are at native speed.
3) And most importantly. INITIATE CONVERSATION. It would be most helpful to talk to native speakers. This is probably the most difficult thing to do, in my case at least. I am friendly, but also an introverted person. I am TERRIFIED of making mistakes while speaking in front of a native speaker. And this is something I will need to work on. Some less scary tactics would be to speak to fellow Japanese learners, or to yourself. Make yourself recall information and say it out loud. It works your brain in an entirely different way then when you read and write. “I’m going to the store to buy an orange.” “スーパーにオレンジを買いに行く!” Nothing is too ridiculous. Say it loud, and say it proud!
I can’t truly speak from experience since I’ve been admittedly too lazy to try these methods. It’s much easier for me to practice my reading and even writing than it is to make myself speak out loud. However, just repeating after recordings is a good and SIMPLE first step. We can do this! Even I can do this!
If you have any additional tips or input, I’d greatly appreciate it 🙂 Leave a comment below.