Having Internal Conversations with Yourself

Your inner monologue, or that semi-constant dialogue that you have in your head with yourself, is a vital key in mastering Japanese conversations

Having Internal Conversations with Yourself

How changing your inner monologue to Japanese will benefit you:

Usually your inner monologue is unending throughout the day (and night).  This means that you will be practicing Japanese unending throughout the day and night.

Trying very hard to create an immersion environment, but find that during a large part of your day, such as work or school hours, you are not able to keep it up?  With the inner monologue, your immersion will never end and you will be able to keep it up 24 hours a day.

You will be getting closer to way Japanese people think.  Seems to obviously make sense, since Japanese think in Japanese.  This will improve both your speaking and your listening.

Your inner monologue is usually semi-automatic at a subconscious level.  There is no “Ok begin inner monologue . . . now!” or “Ehh, I’m too tired to do my inner monologue tonight.”  This means that your Japanese studying will occur throughout the day on a semi-automatic subconscious level.  If that doesn’t sound appealing as a study method, than nothing will.

How to change your inner monologue to Japanese:

I’m sure you didn’t need convincing in the first place, so I think this is the more important part of the post.  Some people may think it is hard, some may think it is impossible.  This is crazy talk.

While creating a semi-automatic subconscious studying machine isn’t per se easy, changing your inner monologue language is all about creating a habit.  Do you wake up at an alarm?  Do you check your e-mail first thing in the morning?  Do you check your phone more than once a day?  Do you type without looking at the keyboard.  These are all habits that you built up over time, for better or worse.

Since your inner monologue requires Japanese knowledge you must input new words slowly based on your Japanese level.  The most important point to understand is that the dialogue has to be natural, and can’t be forced. For example, yea you can try to make an effort to say object noun names in your head when you see them.  Ooo there’s a pen, I’ll think “ペンで書きます” (I will write with a pen).  I’m watching TV, so I’ll think “これはテレビです” (This is a TV).  You must input Japanese to what you would normally say in your inner monologue.  These are explanatory phrases, which do not occur in your inner monologue naturally (unless you have one boring as hell inner monologue).   This is why the Japanese should be very casual as well, because no one talks politely in their own head.

To get started, think about some phrases that you probably say all the time in your inner monologue.  Since everyone thinks in slightly different ways, and reacts to things differently you’ll have to be a little creative.  I find that most of the inner monologue falls into 2 categories:  1) Reactional and 2) Reasoning/Decision Making/Worrying


Reactional, as it sounds, is reacting to any kind of situation, and usually involves some kind of emotion.  This is the more common, easier element, and you can probably input easy Japanese words from the beginning.  Some easy examples:

–  腹減った: I’m starving.
–  Any adjectives describing weather: 寒い(It’s cold), 暑い It’s hot).
–  Adverbs modifying adjectives are very important, because you would never say “It’s cold” in your head if it was cold.  You’d say めちゃくちゃ寒っ!(It’s freaking freezing)
–  やってよかったな:  I’m so glad I did that.
–  もう疲れた:  I’m tired.
–  最高: Awesome, this is the best.
–  もう嫌だ:  I give up.
–  ああ~行きたくないな:  Ahh, I don’t want to go
–  お前、マジでつまんない:  Goddamn you’re boring
–  楽しみだな:  I can’t wait
–  むかつく:  You are pissing me off.
–  やった!I did it!

Reasoning/Decision Making/Worrying

This is slightly more difficult, and probably requires a little higher level of Japanese.

Some examples:

–  どうしよう:  What should I do?
–  これでいいのかな:  I wonder if this is okay.
–  これで成功するのかな:  I wonder if doing it this way will be successful.
–  授業に出たくないな。でも行った方がいい:  I don’t want to go to class, but I probably should go.
–  宿題は今やらない: I’m not gonna do my homework now.
–  できるかな・・・:  I wonder if I can do this.
–  Counting: one of the easiest things you can immediately convert to Japanese.
– You will find some expressions that you will repeatedly use because they represent self-reflection.  For example ~かな added at the end of a sentence makes a sentence start “I wonder if . . .”

Time it takes to make the change

Don’t expect your inner monologue to change over night.  It is a habit that you must build up over time.  Your inner monologue is built up as your Japanese gets better and your Japanese is built up as your inner monologue gets getter.  So you can see the power of this cyclical process.  Start off with what you know, that naturally would fit in your internal monologue.  Then add new things as you learn them.

When you first do it, it will not feel natural and you will naturally switch back to English.  Right now your English internal monologue is king, and it will laugh at your attempt to introduce some new monologue into its kingdom.  But continually put pressure on it, ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist, and pamper your Japanese internal monologue.  Watch as your English internal monologue becomes dethroned.


This may sound kind of silly, but once you finally achieve a natural Japanese inner monologue, switching back is not so easy.  Because Japanese has become your habit, and is now the go-to semi-automatic inner monologue, you will have to work back in the habit of using the old English inner monologue.

This is not to say that you need to, because even without a constant English inner monologue, your English won’t be affected.  And regardless of your Japanese inner monologue reigning supreme, your English inner monologue will make an appearance every so often.

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


Having Internal Conversations with Yourself — 15 Comments

  1. Really? Are those the typical inner dialogues? How about: Reactional, “Wow, she’s cute.” Reasoning/decision making, “I wonder if she’ll talk to me.” Worrying (you left this out): “Will I be alone forever?”

  2. Oh, but negative inner dialogues are so juicy, and funny, and what most of us think about. But you’ve cheered me up! I like your changes.

  3. I have been trying to change my inner monologue recently, and while I don’t completely think in Japanese yet, I have started to notice the change.

    I sometimes think in Japanese at places like work, but I mainly notice it when I listen to my iPod when I’m walking around and things like that.
    It’s probably because I’m already listening to Japanese so it’s easier to try and think in Japanese than to mix English in my head with the Japanese in my ears.

    Also if what I am listening to isn’t Japanese, I find myself trying to translate English songs into Japanese as I listen to them, which is quite a fun task.

    • It definitely takes time, and you are right, if there is already Japanese in the background, it makes it easier at first.

      And it’s great that you are mixing Japanese even into your English time.

  4. I have had some of the basic phrases as internal monologue. Sometimes I blurt them out loud and surprise myself because I didn’t have to think about it. It’s such an exciting feeling. A lot of the phrases you posted will help my monologue improve. Thank you!

  5. I notice my inner monologue tends to immediately go Japanese only when a Japanese person situation comes to mind. When I spend a whole day speaking no English whatsoever English doesn’t run through my head at all, but all it takes is one person coming up and saying “What’s up” to start breaking that pattern.

    Getting into the habit is easier when you avoid your native language and immerse yourself as much as possible. Otherwise it takes constant effort.

  6. I agree with what you said about the result. As a native speaker of Arabic, when I learned English though English dominates my monologue, my Arabic monologue still makes a comeback, especially when I’m in my primal moods (anger, sorrow, happiness, and excitement).

  7. This is a great technique that really works. Last night i had a dream in japanese and woke up thinking japanese

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