Speaking Mastery is a Long Drawn Out Battle

Have you developed a love-hate relationship with speaking in Japanese yet?  Speaking is one of the most fun and pleasurable aspects of learning the language, yet at the same time it is the area that will cause you the most frustration and annoyance.  We all want to sound better in Japanese.  We all want confidence in our mastery of the spoken word.  But how attainable is this?Speaking Mastery is a Long Drawn Out Battle Why it is hard to gain confidence in your speaking ability?

1. Speaking is the hardest skill to practice.

2. Speaking will always be unbalanced when compared to your other abilities.

3. People tend to judge your full Japanese ability based on your spoken Japanese. This unfortunately results in your overall ability being judged on your weakest skill.

4. Smooth speaking takes a long time to develop.  It may take you a few times to understand something after hearing it.  It then takes a few more times to hear it before you have the ability to say it.  It then takes a few more times before you have the active ability to throw it into a conversation.

5. The more your other skills improve, the worse your speaking ability feels to you.  Similar to the way you become your best teacher due to your listening ability far exceeding your speaking, you also become your worst critic.  You will always hear what is wrong, what sounds unnatural, and what you need to fix.

6. Speaking is the hardest ability to achieve native and above status.  While there are a number of foreigners who will achieve the top levels of listening, reading, and writing, there is a much smaller number who will achieve speaking mastery.

What can you do to improve your speaking ability?

● Change your inner monologue to Japanese.

● Start having conversations with inanimate objects (c’mon, I know you probably have yelled at your computer a few times), and just speak as much as you can, as often as you can.

● Listen and read.  Read and listen.  Repeat.  Repeat some more.  Better listening and better reading will eventually result in better speaking.

● Sleep more.  Lack of sleep effects your cognitive abilities in so many bad ways.

Read out loud when you read anything, and do it until you get tired.

● Talk in correct, but simpler Japanese.  While you may want to try to sound more advanced and fancy, keeping it simple is often just as natural, and you can pretty much change anything into a simpler version.  It is much better to speak in correct simple Japanese than it is to speak in incorrect difficult Japanese.

But let’s face it, you probably are already doing a lot of the above.  You are just going to have to accept that speaking is hard.  It is hard for everyone.  This will be a memorable challenge.  It is one of your final bosses.  Where would the fun be in overcoming it so effortlessly.  As with all difficult challenges, always keep in mind that the rewards of speaking well will be incredibly gratifying.  Speaking like a pro is an unparalleled feeling, and will be one your life’s greatest accomplishments.

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


Speaking Mastery is a Long Drawn Out Battle — 6 Comments

  1. Agree agree agree. I’m still trying work on talking to objects. Still strange for me to do even though I’m by myself in my room.

    • You’ll get used to it. You might even start doing it in public. I’m sure you’ve seen a number of オバハン that talk to themselves!

  2. I talk to my dog in Japanese all the time. She always gives me a confused face haha. I always beat myself up for always sticking to simple sentences and not branching off, but now I feel good knowing I was doing the right thing all along. ^^ I will work harder on my inner monologue.

    • Maybe your dog will start learning Japanese from listening to you all the time. Don’t beat yourself up anymore. You are doing the best thing you possibly can for your Japanese.

  3. “The more your other skills improve, the worse your speaking ability feels to you.”

    This is exactly what I’ve been experiencing! Just as my reading and writing have been increasing, I felt like my speaking had gotten worse. When really, it was just that reading and writing were finally getting better.

    Another tip: Repeat what you listen to (it’s like reading aloud a book), and listen to the same material often (to catch things you didn’t catch before).

    This has really been working for me during my commutes. This semester, I more than doubled my listening material for my commutes and listen to them constantly. Suddenly, I’ve been speaking a lot more in class, with my husband and in internal monologue. Unlike a book, it also teaches you natural rhythm and other qualities that don’t come out in a written language.

    Another reason my speaking has been improving is because I’ve been Skyping with my mother-in-law every Friday, and my husband and I speak Japanese in the car. I also have a Japanese-only Japanese class three times a week (amounts to 50 min per class).

  4. I’ve noticed that with my English speaking as well. I tend to mix up the syntax a lot whilst speaking English. And I’ve been studying English for 10 or so years (only passivle through immersion in recent years) and I’m still terrible at speaking English.

    In short, I am fairly aware that speaking another language is difficult when your not in an environment where you can constantly practice speaking it.

    My only Japanese speaking practice is reading anki cards aloud, and I listen to an FM Tachikawa online stream at least for a few hours every other day.

    Some friends of mine are planning to go to Japan for a week or two next summer, so I’ll join if I can afford it.

    /incoherent rant

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