Your inner monologue, or that semi-constant dialogue that you have in your head with yourself, is a vital key in mastering Japanese conversations
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!
This is slightly more difficult, and probably requires a little higher level of Japanese.
– 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.