8 Phases of Transition from Immersion to Fluent Japanese Speaking

Immersion is complex. You study on your own and you immerse yourself in as much Japanese as possible. Yeah, your listening is probably improving, but when are you going to be able to speak? Everyone wants to be able to speak. Now. Waiting and hoping that it will happen one day leaves you with nothing.

8 Phases of Transition from Immersion to Fluent Japanese Speaking

I want to simplify it. You listen, listen, listen to Japanese. When will you speak?

Your ability to speak coincides naturally with your ability to understand.

Immersion Chart

Natural speaking trails very far behind listening. To be able to say something, freely, and without forced effort, you need to have:

1. Heard it
2. Understood it
3. Heard it again and again and again

So next time you are watching a TV show, and wondering why your speaking still sucks, ask yourself how much of that TV show you understand.

Have any of you experienced this and want to share your story? Or has anyone experienced something completely different?



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Adam

Adam

Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.

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8 Phases of Transition from Immersion to Fluent Japanese Speaking — 17 Comments

  1. I had a very similar thought while reviewing my drama deck recently. There are cards that come up and I can listen to them and have perfect and instant comprehension, then there are other cards that if I take the time to think about what’s being said I can understand it, and of course there are cards that have new vocab that I’m not yet familiar with.

    However what I realized is that some of the expressions used in cards that I can recognize instantly are not part of my active vocabulary. Even more telling is that when I am able to use words learned from that deck I’ve found that I usually have 3 or more cards that use those words.

    Thankfully the solution to all of this is painfully trivial. Keep watching dramas and keep adding cards to the subs2srs deck!

  2. I just find it frustrating when people find out I have been learning Japanese for several months, and then instantly ask me “what can you say in Japanese?” “Can you have conversations yet?”

    Even my wife keeps harassing me to speak more so that I can talk to her parents on Skype etc.

    It can really start to effect my confidence, and I start questioning if I am studying the right way etc.

    Posts like this are a real motivational boost. Thanks Adshap.

    • I agree with you! I just finished doing RtK, took me 6 months, and now I’m at 50 sentences, and I almost want to tell people that I haven’T started yet because when they ask me to say something I just can’t

    • There’s definitely not any wonderful shortcuts to being able to have full conversations and learning from TV and movies does help massively. (You just don’t get the same information from reading dialogs in books.)

      However I feel like, “Even my wife keeps harassing me to speak more so that I can talk to her parents on Skype etc.”, has nothing to do with learning Japanese per-say. For this you should just memorize a few small things to say every month or so. Just asking them「げんき です か?」will make everyone involved much happier. It’s much easier to be a son-in-law as a foreigner because a little goes a long way!

      As far as people asking you what you can say; it never hurts to learn something specifically for the occasion. For now just answer that you can’t saying anything:「何もない」:)

    • This can be frustrating, and I’ve been there as well.

      I agree with Tokyostyle that learning just a few set phrases to appease them may work well.

      But I guarantee you that once you build up enough listening, and conversations flow more beautifully than any other foreigner they’ve heard, they will completely forget that you didn’t talk much for the first year or so of studying.

      They will then brag to all their friends that their son-in-law speaks ridiculously awesome Japanese. And I’m sure they’ll add something like “it happened out of nowhere! He couldn’t speak at all, and then one day he was having amazing conversations.”

      Just hope that they don’t add at the end, “it must be some natural talent!”

  3. I’m so glad I stumbled across this post. I’ve only been studying properly for around 5 weeks now and I often ask myself questions and look to my mind for the response in Japanese. The answers are almost always polite, short and grammatically incorrect.
    I’m 1000 into RTK and am just about to begin the final stage of Jalup Beginner. I immerse about 10 hours a day at the most and I feel like my girl friend thinks I’m wasting my time as I have seemingly nothing to show for it.
    I’m clinging to the hope that one day I’ll wake up and just start spouting natural Japanese!

    • That’s the struggle every initial non-traditional learner faces. If you can’t say it, it feels like you aren’t learning it. And when Japanese people learn about this way of studying there is a lot of doubt.

      Just keep faith and one day in the near future, when everything starts flowing naturally out of your mouth, you’ll get the sudden reaction of “how are you suddenly able to speak so well! You must have been born with language acquisition talent!”

  4. I actually find listening more difficult than speaking, although my speaking is slow and awkward. I am able to form barely understandable questions when in Japan, but can almost never understand the answers!

    • I’ve heard this from a lot of people. I think from a traditional way of studying that doesn’t invocle all the input that the JALUP version does. In most classes or formal education its focused on output, but this method focuses a lot on input in order to make the output better.

      • Yeah, I still have trouble even comprehending the audio on cards in the Beginner deck that I can read and understand perfectly (I’ve seen 70% of the cards so far). I signed up for a premium trial on JapanesePod, based on the JALUP review from a while back, and I think the upper beginner/intermediate dialogs could be a lot of help. They also have practical, real world scenarios that I may need for an upcoming trip to Japan. Being in a hurry is not ideal :).

    • This is due to the fact that anyone can pick up absolute basic speaking really quickly and most traditional learning focuses on it from the beginning. You are in control and create the pace.

      However unless it is artificial (as in textbook slowed down non natural talk), there is no basic listening. As long as the Japanese is coming from a rea Japanese source, you are listening to the same thing someone born and raised in Japan is.

      So this can cause it to feel like your listening is worse than your speaking.

      You will start to notice the opposite when you understand what someone says, but don’t know how to respond (don’t have the output for it), or when if you hear it you’d understand it, but when you want to say it the language doesn’t flow to your mouth.

      • This kind of thing happens to me all the time. I hear people in a show say something and I understand but I think, “what would I say back to that?” Then the other person says their response and I’ll understand that too but I would never have said that haha

  5. Its interesting to read this post as I can wholeheartedly agree with everything Adam has said including what others have said.
    In my case I have been working with Japanese for 14.5 years, the majority of it being self study. Small, but consistent steps will do wonders for your overall ability. In my case I didn’t focus too much on gaining a well rounded grasp over the first five or six years, which led to a major disruption in my listening comprehension. So as you can imagine I’ve been diligently working on fixing that issue and enjoying scoping out posts like these for any additional ideas or tricks I haven’t thought to try out before. Patience and not getting discouraged are key.

    Many people give up literally after the first brick wall they hit and claim its impossible. Its not, anyone can do it if you push yourself. Good luck everyone

    • I agree with you that patience is key. As long as you keep studying, you can’t help but one day becoming fluent.

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