Getting In The First Word
You’ve been studying for months, maybe years, and are finally visiting Japan. You know what you want to do more than anything else? Unleash a barrage of Japanese speaking. Whatever practice you got in your home country is never enough. You are ready to talk for hours on end to whoever is willing to listen.
You arrive at Narita airport, are about to get into full Japanese mode, and approach your first “real” Japanese person.
And then it comes. Your heart is crushed.
They are speaking to you in English. Fluke? Maybe. But you’ll start to notice in many places (especially the touristy places you are likely to visit), you can’t seem to get any Japanese out. Responding to their English in Japanese is one possible solution, but sometimes just results in more English.
You are in hell.
Well time for a possible escape. The trick to get away from this tear inducing situation is to take control of the conversation. The solution is simple but requires quick action.
You have to talk first.
By starting to talk first in Japanese (and make sure it’s good Japanese, even if just the beginning), you are showing initial dominance over the conversation. Just like it is hard when someone speaks in English to swerve the conversation to Japanese, so the reverse is true.
Step up. Speak first. Take control.
Unfortunately it doesn’t always work. You may still get an English response. You can either roll your eyes and accept your fate, or have that uncomfortable Japanese-English battle. However, this tactic raises the percentage significantly that you’ll come out triumphant.
Try it out. You have nothing to lose. Or maybe you have an even better technique you want to share (besides telling them straight up “speak Japanese!!”)
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
Drop a phrase in German or French and pretend you don’t speak English. :3
Or something around the line “あ、すみません、英語が話せないんですけど…”
Even if I speak English I may just pretend I don’t (my native language is Spanish after all), so that way I can force the conversation in Japanese.
Same here, that’s so much more convenient to do.
Also try responding in Japanese even though they are speaking in Japanese. When I was in Japan I would always say 日本語が大丈夫です when people were struggling with English. My last resort was to pretend I did speak English and speak Spanish. When comes in handy since I can speak it XD.
すみません、英語が話せないんですけど日本語で話してもいいです or even 日本語で話して頂いても構いませんよ Then wait for them to obliterate your hopes and dreams with crazy fast high level Japanese haha.
The struggle here is real, I’m both exited and scared to encounter this.