Reading Out Loud to Practice Speaking
Most people find speaking to be the hardest practice to get, especially when you don’t live in Japan. There is also an issue that if you speak too much in the beginning when your Japanese is still improving, you reinforce errors that go uncorrected.
The idea of reading out loud is nothing new. You’ve probably tried it before with textbooks and listening tapes, and it brought back dull memories of elementary school and junior high. However, I find that if you slightly tune your mindset, you can make it quite an enjoyable experience. And since you are reading, rather than formulating your own speaking, for the most part, you are reinforcing natural Japanese.
Pretend you are acting out the characters
You’ve gotta put emotion into it and put yourself into the characters. Try to pick actors that you’ve seen off of movies or TV shows that you think might be a good match for the characters, and then mimic their speaking style. This is one of the reasons why I like characters in books that speak in Osaka dialect. It gives me a chance to act out some of my favorite crazy comedians.
Things to watch out for
– If you don’t know how to pronounce a word or kanji, don’t read it out loud. Just skip it. Depending on your level, you may be doing this a lot. Surprisingly, skipping doesn’t get in the way of having fun.
– Choose books with more dialogue and less description. While I usually read out loud all the text in between dialogue to keep the flow, pretending it is a narrative, books that have too much description tend to make reading out loud boring. This is good news for manga fans, because as you probably already know, manga contains zero description.
– Make it a habit. When you first start, you’ll tend to want to switch back to just reading in your head. It takes a few days/weeks to get into the habit of it feeling natural and comfortable to be reading out loud. Don’t give up until you get to that point.
– While this method works well, it only does so in short spurts. Reading out loud is tiring after a while. Regardless if you are enjoying it at first, in 30-40 minutes you will have probably tired yourself out.
And who knows, you may enjoy it so much and get so good at it that you will one day be auditioning for a role in a Japanese movie (I would like credit for this).
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
Haha… when playing visual novels or similar games, all the characters are voiced except for my own, so I read my character’s parts out loud. It makes the games extra fun~
I like that idea.
There is also an issue that if you speak too much in the beginning when your Japanese is still improving, you reinforce errors that go uncorrected.
I don’t really agree with this. I mean, yeah, you might get used to using the wrong grammar, but if you just speak enough and listen to other people you’ll notice your own mistakes, won’t you?
Also – even if using slightly incorrect grammar is the concession you have to make to be able to converse somewhat quickly and naturally, isn’t it still worth it?
I’d love to hear your your thoughts on this.
The older school of thought is speak from day 1. The newer school of thought is input before output. The reason why I favor the latter is that you often don’t notice your mistakes. And when you do, they take a long time to fix. You save a lot of overall time by preventing them from ever happening.
And while input before output takes longer to actually speak, when you do finally speak, you will sound a good deal better than the speak from day 1 person.
Of course this all depends on personality of the learner. Some people just love to speak and can’t wait and are willing to take a few negatives.
I see your point. Personally I’m mostly picking up Japanese by talking to a bunch of online friends, which, sure, it may very well be one of the worst ways to learn, but I love doing it. I do vocabulary/kanji flashcards whenever I have nothing else to do – toilet, train, before sleeping, etc.
Anyway, thanks for the response. Love the site.
I always read Japanese aloud. It didn’t start off as a conscious thing, I was just reading like a child, but makes it more fun when you don’t properly understand. I try to do impressions of Naruto characters while reading Naruto. And I do impressions of Sazazaki Mami from Scandal because I think her voice is cool. I never study Japanese silently. And if I can’t sleep before going to bed, I get up and give myself a pep-talk in Japanese about how hard I’m going to work to get better. Oh, and I sing along to Jpop.
This doesn’t mean I can hold a proper conversations – the height of my conversational practice has been one-line insult matches or cute Japanese school-girl impressions with my half-Japanese friend – but it’s great pronunciation practice.
Hey, you gotta start somewhere. Talking to yourself eventually turns into talking to someone else. It sounds like you have a great routine there.
Thank you. Yes, never underestimate the power of talking to yourself. Even if it’s something in English, saying it aloud really helps you to think more deeply about it. For example, if you have an idea for a creative project, just trying to explain aloud how you’re going to do it as soon as you think of it can highlight the flaws in your plan, and force you to think about the solution right away.