In a relationship with a Japanese guy or girl? Having trouble getting him to talk to you in Japanese? Welcome to a common problem. Even after years of your Japanese ability improving, English may still be the dominant relationship language. The issue usually stems from one or more of the following issues:
1. His English is better than your Japanese
2. You met and developed the relationship speaking English, and that is what the person has grown accustomed to, and most comfortable with.
3. He really loves English (just like you really love Japanese)
Now this is a sticky issue, and one that must be approached carefully. After all, you are not with him so that you can have a conversation partner or a Japanese teacher. But it is a good discussion to have at some point, especially when your Japanese starts getting good and you want to talk more in the language.
However, regardless of the outcome, and what you guys decide to do, there are some great and non-pressured ways you can enjoy Japanese together.
Watch movies, anime, and J-dramas together, no subs needed!
When you are with a native speaker, no subtitles are needed! This is something that often prevents you from enjoying the same thing with non-Japanese friends. In addition, you can go off of his reactions to help you understand the content more, and you can ask him questions if you missed something like a joke. Not just language-wise, he will also understand cultural references you don’t get and know things such as other movies certain actors have been in that you can follow.
Ask him to go over studying with you
Often he will be willing to help look over something you’ve written in Japanese or something you don’t understand. If he cares about you, he will be kind and willing to help. But remember, don’t go overboard. Think about it if the situation was reversed.
Share secrets in Japanese (if you don’t live in Japan)
This doesn’t have to be secret talk about someone in front of them (though it can!) It can just be things that you’d rather not have everyone listening in on such as private conversations or inside jokes. Knowing another shared language gives you the ability to be yourself anywhere, without having to worry about what the next person in line is thinking about you. This is a huge benefit.
Although he may not speak only Japanese to you on a daily basis, it doesn’t mean you can’t set times to speak Japanese together in. One idea is to go on a date that is strictly Japanese, or to have a full weekend of just Japanese. That way, you get to know his Japanese side, without pressuring him to give up speaking in English forever.
Hang out with other Japanese people together
If possible, have frequent outings with other Japanese people. Often people tend to want to talk in their native language together (and will eventually slip into it), which will give you a chance to use your Japanese.
Even though the person you spend time with on a daily doesn’t speak much Japanese with you, there will be someone who will. There’s always the Japanese friend who hardly knows English, or who just is more comfortable with Japanese. And if you’re lucky, actually cares about your Japanese and wants to help you improve. For me, that person is my mother-in-law, who has been adamant about speaking only in Japanese with me, despite her English being good, from the beginning.
Keep it all in the proper perspective
Even though my husband prefers to speak in English, he still cares about my Japanese. He shows me this by willingly correcting my Japanese, and insisting on watching Japanese TV together (even when I feel lazy). He shares in my improvements, and is supportive of every step forward I make.
Not conversation partner.
It’s all about figuring out what you both are comfortable with, adjusting, compromising, and deciding things together.
Have you felt the English-Japanese struggle in a relationship? What have you done about it? Do you have any good suggestions or advice?
Pictures taken from the manga/movie ダーリンは外国人
Writer and Educator. Learning Japanese using immersion, currently soaking up as many novels and manga as possible in hopes of one day writing her own novel in Japanese. Also because she loves Japanese books.