Trying to Achieve the Perfect Skill Balance
Upon your character creation in Japanese Quest, you have 4 major attributes which all start at zero: speaking, writing, reading, and listening. Every experience point you earn from day one will be distributed between them. However, as you progress, what started as even begins to diverge. You will start noticing with increasing frequency that your attributes are becoming unbalanced.
What should you do to solve this concern that troubles all Japanese learners?
If you are like most, your skills will fall under the following order of proficiency:
3. Writing (this refers to typing)
If this is what your skill ranking generally looks like, you have nothing to worry about. This is the setup that is most beneficial to you. There are two reasons why this trend occurs and why you shouldn’t mess with it:
1. The more proficient skills improve other skills in addition to themselves. They are doing extra work for you so you tend to go heavier on them.
– Reading: also improves speaking, writing, and listening.
– Listening: also improves speaking and writing.
– Writing: also improves speaking.
– Speaking: only improves itself.
To simplify this: passive skills improve their active counterpart.
2. It is easier to enjoyably improve the more proficient skills.
Reading and listening can be done almost anytime, anywhere with purpose and enjoyment. Writing usually requires some sort of purpose for it to be enjoyable. Speaking usually requires someone else to be enjoyable.
So go ahead and let your skills naturally progress unevenly.
*Note: The above ranking is just a generalization, so it may not 100% match you. This will be especially true if you are studying Japanese for a different reason besides achieving overall fluency, or you have a specific goal in mind you are trying to reach first. It is perfectly fine if your ranking is different.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
Thanks. This whole ‘some abilities are lagging behind others’ thing worried me somewhat. Nice to know it’s normal.
I was kind of worried too. When I went to Japan this winter, I noticed my speaking was behind my other skills. My mother-in-law said that some people are better at reading/writing like me, and some people are better at listening/speaking. However, that striked me as odd, because the last time I came to Japan two years before, she said I was better at speaking than writing, even though my Japanese was a lot worse back then. So I didn’t know if what she said was actually true.
I came to the conclusion that being in America, I don’t get much opportunity to speak in Japanese, so naturally my reading/listening/writing will improve. When I actually move to Japan and live there for a while, my speaking will catch up soon enough. It’s not that some people are more skilled at certain things than others. It’s just about the given opportunities to use each.
Thanks for the reassurance.
I’ve been fretting about my speaking skills a quite a bit lately, all my other skills are okay (well sort of, I kind of drive myself crazy when trying to write but I also do that in English) but lack of opportunity means my speech seldom advances. Like many others I lack easy opportunities to practice and the disparity between what I want to sound like and what I actually do end up sounding like rather large.
Lately I’ve come to realise that much like my writing this ties nicely into my English. Most people would call me well spoken (perhaps due to my “received pronunciation” accent) and I have a fairly large vocabulary, but despite (or perhaps because) of that I tend towards shyness when first meeting new people and am not as outwardly social as some (other native speakers) with less developed English language skills. It makes sense that this side of my personality would impact my Japanese the same way as it does my English, and therefore I probably shouldn’t worry about failing to be outgoing in the rather contrived environment of and infrequent language exchange.
I know you said in this article you generally shouldn’t mess with the order, but what if I really wanted to improve speaking? What would be the best ways to boost this whilst still doing JAPLUP ? I am at university so I have Japanese friends and will be meeting the exchange students who will be coming here soon so I really want to improve this skill. Also any tips for getting a Japanese accent and good pronounciation?
A few suggestions:
– Read all written material out loud (books, manga, websites, etc)
– Really focus on changing your inner monologue to Japanese.
– Whenever you are listening to anything passively, try to repeat phrases or words that you hear out loud.
– Start mimicking out loud how actors that you like talk (also do this when passive listening). Start with simple words, and move up to sentences/phrases they use.
Good accent/pronunciation are a product of constant combination of listening and mimicking.
My goal is perfect reading and listening, and really good writing and speaking. I don’t mind having an accent. I think people with accents are charming; Maybe Japanese people think accents are charming too?