When you’re too Tired to Talk in Japanese

Ever say the following to a Japanese person or a friend you study Japanese with?

“I’m too tired to talk in Japanese right now.”

Many people feel they reach a point where the switch that allows them to speak Japanese is sometimes turned off. They’ve had a long day filled with the typical stress of life. The last thing on your mind is speaking a foreign language that is going to tire you even more. So you resort to English. But are you really too tired to study Japanese?


I used to see this all the time with Japanese friends who spoke English. They’d speak up an English storm, but the second they got tired, they immediately reverted to Japanese. It was so predictable that you could almost turn this into a method. Have language exchanges with tired salarymen, and I guarantee you that the conversation will be mostly dominated by Japanese. That’s a win!

I always made it an effort to speak Japanese as much as possible, wherever I was, and regardless of whatever condition I was in. I would be asked by friends who were talking late into the night with me in Japanese, “aren’t you tired? Doesn’t speaking Japanese tire you out?”

“Nope. It doesn’t,” I would reply in Japanese… and then pass out.

Does speaking in a foreign language tire you out?


Yes, it does. Just like any mental activity, the more you use your brain, the quicker you mentally get tired. But I find the “I’m too tired to talk in the language” problematic, and something that should be overcome.

By blaming tiredness, you are making yet another excuse. It’s not that you can’t do it. It’s that you don’t have the energy right now to do it. You are placing an artificial limit. If you are going to claim tiredness, you better be too tired to speak at all, regardless of whether it is Japanese or English.

Talking in Japanese when you’re tired allows you to engage in a specific type of training. The unfocused, tired, spoken Japanese practice, which is surprisingly more valuable than you think. When your eyes are heavy, it’s harder to tap into your Japanese potential. The only way to overcome “too tired to talk” is to talk when you’re tired.


At first your memory will be weaker. Your sentences won’t sound good. You will make more mistakes. However, by pushing through Japanese when you feel you can’t, you are changing your perception of what it means to use the language. You will be able to access your Japanese ability at any time. Having trouble with this? Pretend that you have no choice, and have to speak in Japanese. Or better yet, speak with someone who can’t speak English so you don’t have an escape route.

Eventually “tired Japanese” becomes second nature. I learned how to speak Japanese with my eyes half closed. Then I dream in Japanese. And finally I sleep-talk in Japanese (still trying to fix that…)

Talk when you’re tired. Talk when you’re fully awake.

Does speaking Japanese make you tired?

What do you do about it? Do you continue on anyway despite being a little sleepy?

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


When you’re too Tired to Talk in Japanese — 16 Comments

  1. Ah so this is the post ;) What about studying when tired? I feel like when I do that, I dont retain the knowledge much and kinda botch it, so that’s why I always try to do everything before I get tired.

    • Yeah, I had actually written this before the discussion on the other post, so it doesn’t address the topic exactly.

      Studying when tired is a little bit different, but I think it depends on how tired. I always found that watching something on TV in Japanese was the best way to study when tired (since you can just kind of fall asleep to it anyway)

      • That’s a good point! I should get some shows on my phone to watch as I drift away (or maybe some japanese ASMR so that I dont have to give that up as my falling asleep ritual haha)

      • I feel like any studying is quite tough when tired. It doesn’t really matter whether it is math, literature or Japanese you study. And you have to be aware that studying while tired is way less effective.

        I think a good way to think about questions like this is to compare it to other things you do. What are you normally doing while tired if you don’t sleep? I could be watching TV or reading or something like that. So I find it natural that I could watch Japanese TV or read in Japanese despite being tired :)

        • That’s a good way to look at it! I will continue trying to do my studying when I am not tired & use my tired time for watching (japanese) youtube videos then, or even passive listening (when I’m just TOO exhausted I cant even focus enough to watch a video haha)

  2. A good read as always :’) I watched a blogger, Abroad in Japan. In one of his videos he said he needed to use the restroom too much to speak in Japanese. That got me thinking a bit. I’m likely to find myself in similar situations. I have considered the possibility of intentionally putting myself in stressful situations and practicing Japanese in them. Say for instance, taking a cold shower or bath and practicing Japanese. This way, even under the most stressful situations I would still be able to speak what little Japanese I know. I haven’t tried it yet… its just a thought for now.

      • haha I remember that Abroad in Japan video. He said, ” I can’t speak Japanese when I’m in pain.” I often read when I’m tired because I have no other time to study than at the end of my busy day. Maybe it will make me stronger?

        • That sounds like a joke about the pain.

          I think there is a slight difference between studying (ex. a textbook, or doing Anki reviews) when you are tired and engaging in Japanese (watching a movie, reading a book) when you are tired. The latter comes more naturally and makes more sense (and will make you stronger).

    • Hahaha, it’s worth a try. But I think those emergency situations, where you are under extreme stress, still can be done in Japanese. It’s just a matter of how naturally connected you tune yourself with the language over the years.

  3. > Eventually “tired Japanese” becomes second nature.

    I have very occasionally felt too tired to continue conversing in English. In fact when I go back to America I almost always get this and just end up blaming my lack of interest in talking on the jet-lag.

    > And finally I sleep-talk in Japanese

    I don’t think I sleep-talk at all, but I have heard Japanese girls do this and it cracks me up every time. Once it was the first time I had ever heard them speak English which was a pretty strange way to find out.

    • I fully agree that when you are too tired to talk, you are too tired to talk period. Just the “I’m too tired to talk Japanese, but not too tired to talk English” that can be worked out.

      You should practice sleep-talking :P

      • I think my language fatigue when going back is purely cultural anyway.

        No, I really don’t know what you are talking about and I don’t have time to catch up on the past few years of culture in order to understand. Oh, also, what do you think about Becky’s career ending because of her affair. How can you not know who Becky is?!

        ╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻


        • Ahh okay, gotcha. How are you going to end up working at the US embassy in Japan if you can’t keep up with the culture :P

          And you should share the chronicles of Becky with the world.

  4. When I realized I could talk in japanese when I was furious, sad or tired, I felt great (even though in that moment I wasn´t happy at all). I think when you reach that part, you had overcame a big hurdle

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