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? 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?
● 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.
● 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.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.