Japanese people speak fast. If you’ve been learning this language for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed. It’s not that I didn’t see this problem coming. I knew that sometime in the future, speed would be a problem, but I didn’t think the realization that I speak too slow to be understood would hit me so hard. Hard enough to want to examine if this language is really for me.
This past weekend, I was working with my Japanese tutor and she had me read passages. She basically told me I was reading too slow for my level and speaking too slow to be understood. She gave me a challenge of speed reading all Genki textbook dialogues this week and see how I fare during a group lesson with other Japanese learners. The problem has nothing to do with my grammar. I’ve been studying hard lately and my teacher has praised me for having perfect structure. But as soon as I’m asked to read a line in Japanese at a natural speed, depending on the difficulty, my head starts to hurt.
The day of the lesson, I came home and felt completely dejected. She was right. I have a lot of trouble saying anything without pausing mid-sentence to make sure I’m using the right particle or verb conjugation.And when reading more difficult passages, sometimes I’m reduced to sounding staccato as I read words kana by kana. Drop me in Japan right now and I’d survive, but wouldn’t be understood beyond that. I don’t know many other Japanese learners, but the ones I have been introduced to don’t seem to have this problem. Is it just me? When speaking English, I wouldn’t say I spoke abnormally slow, but I do overthink everything I’m about to say most of the time. The same thing happens when being asked simple questions in Japanese. Not to mention, I’m forgetting grammar all the time if I’m not constantly using it. Do I just have too terrible a memory to learn a language? Is it because I am living outside of the country?
I’m not throwing in the towel just yet. As a preliminary step, I will put more focus on reading Genki dialogues, as requested, but have also sought out easy manga and other reading material to read aloud. I’d also like to meet other Japanese learners. Are others having the same problem? How did they get over the hurdle? Luckily there’s a local meetup group in my city and I will be meeting other learners later this week. Hopefully I will gain some insight regarding this problem.
If in fact after doing some research and working harder I realize it’s probably just me or something out of my control, I don’t think I’d give up the language completely. I might stop paying as much as I am for my tutor and find a cheaper skype partner and take it a bit slower, as I previously was. If there’s one compliment I have continuously gotten from my tutor is that I’m a hard worker and push even harder when challenged. Will my work pay off? I will certainly post an update.
If anyone has any suggestions or comments about my situation, I’d greatly appreciate it. Until next time!
Update: For others struggling with the same issue, I found another resource I’ll be trying out this week that looks very helpful. Check it out if you’d like. I’ll be posting an update on whether any of my methods were helpful!