Any tips on how my Japanese significant other can better help my language learning

I’m lucky enough to have a native Japanese girlfriend (soon to be fiance). I decided to start learning Japanese because if we’re going to have a life together, I want be able to communicate with her, her friends and her family in their native language. I was hoping some of you in a similar situation could give me some tips on how you used them as a resource for learning the language, especially in the early stages.

I did search of the forum, and I couldn’t find anything similar. If there are other topics you could point me to, that would also be helpful.

Thank you in advance! Also, this is my first post, so hello all.


Thread title sounds really bad, you might want to alter it a bit. (Like, add “for language learning” or sth)


Added, but I thought that was implied since it was under the Japanese Language section.


Don’t “use” them and keep a respectable boundary between ‘spouse’ and ‘teacher’ is my advice. In this case the semantics matter and if you treat them at your convenience as an in-house teacher, it eventually gets disrespectful and wears thin.


I think some better wording would be “Some tips on how my Japanese (significant other) can better help my language learning” or something like that. “Using” them indeed sounds pretty bad, even if that’s not your intention.


Title made me laugh. It does sound strange, which is why I was expecting people to get mad.
But you can tell OP has no bad intentions. I would even say he is a great partner for learning the language!

To answer the question: How about just talking in japanese from now on?


Thank you. No, I didn’t have any bad intentions, and she “uses” me all the time for help with English when needed even though she speaks English really well.


Depends on how determined they are. I am in a very similar situation and basically we have times during the day when we try to use the others native language for a few hours.

To start just have her speak only Japanese for an hour or so. For me at least forced immersion with things you can actually point at helps a lot. You stop linking the language with your native language and instead link it with actual things.


That’s a great idea. I thought about one day a week of only Japanese, but that seemed like too much.

Edit: Thank you!


At this point for us, we have a coin we use to flip to determine which language we have to use for the next length of time. It is a game (which might also help as it becomes more entertaining)

  • Start speaking asap. Even if you don’t know much, make sure to use what you know. No one will be more patient to help you with that than your SO. A lot of us that are self-studying struggle to find a language partner that will actually actively help us improve. You have this at your advantage.
  • Ask questions whenever you don’t know what it’s being explained to you (grammar points, word nuances). Even if she can’t help you, she’ll be able to search better (and in Japanese), analyse what actually makes sense, and simplify the explanation to you. That’s native powers.
  • Ask her for guidance in your learning plan.
  • Make it fun. Try to impress her. Learn about things that are part of both your daily routine. Not only you reinforce your new knowledge so much better, but she gets to see more of your progress. Nothing better than a SO that’s working hard for you.

This is great and really what I was looking for. Thank you so much!

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One thing to note: a native speaker isn’t a language teacher so sometimes they’re not able to explain a grammar point (or whatever) because that’s just the way they know language as a native speaker. Also, sometimes the language you learn via a class/book doesn’t make “sense” to a native speaker as it’s explained to a language learner.

I’d suggest finding some sort of tv show that you both can watch together to encourage discussion. This is something that my spouse and I did at the beginning of our relationship.

My perspective comes from having a Japanese SO. These days I do my language study on my own though versus together because once you’ve been married for awhile, sometimes you do your own thing as time and needs shift :rofl:

Anyway, good luck! Her family will love you for your effort. Also , if they are on LINE, you should get on there too and participate in the conversations. I am in like three different family chats.


Since she speaks English I would suggest talking to her as much as possible in Japanese and when you encounter a word or concept that you can’t express in Japanese switch to English for that and then return to Japanese. It will help identify gaps and then you can ask about those specific gaps.

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:rofl::rofl:…umm, no. More like no one will be more ‘honest’ with you. Sounds like they are in the honeymoon phase so I’ll try not be too cynical here :grin:

This is not always easy if there is an imbalance in abilities…more often than not, the path of least resistance wins and this is true with language. There is are plenty of nuances in relationship dialogue and day to day life… it doesn’t always work. I would recommend talking with extended family as much as you can when there is no choice but to ‘swim’. I started Japanese MUCH later after we met and she speaks English very comfortably so I think it really depends on the relationship. Of course if there are only native speakers present such as extended family, it only makes sense to keep it in Japanese.

No doubt I ask questions (and I’ve learned alot) but many explanations end with “that is just the way it is”. Sometimes you will not get a satisfied answer and you have to go into the depths of grammar explanations on your own. It’s hard to explain sometimes too for natives. I really try to make an effort research my question before asking…as I said before, if you get lazy and treat others like a dictionary, it’s not always appreciated.

My wife doesn’t understand any of my methods whether it’s WK, BP or whatever. She knows it make me happy in a weird way and that is good enough for her. I suppose digesting ~2000 kanji in a relatively short period compared to natives is not exactly perceived as ‘natural’. But the single most important thing (or inspiration) I’ve learned from her that language is more about spirit of commitment more than anything else. Also, learning how to be concise, pronunciation, fundamentals, colloquial …stuff like that comes up.

Wholeheartedly agree. It’s something to share together so make it fun. Beyond media sharing, writing letters to extended family/friends helps alot and I usually have a pile to do every New Years. She used to proofread and give sentence advice but now I just write whatever. Texting only in Japanese is certainly practical.

Edit: BTW, @jdgalaway, I recommend keeping ます polite forms with your future in-laws. If you are super beginner, all is forgiven. But it’s generally impolite to keep plain form tense for this relationship (especially when you know the difference) people even though you are technically ‘inner circle’. It’s an easy mistake I find.


This is amazing. I don’t have time to thoroughly respond right now, but this is amazing advice. I appreciate this so much, and I’ll follow up tomorrow!!!


Once a week worked well for us! We were both simply trying to upkeep a language. We picked one day a week where we spoke exlusively in the target language, and we also made it a drinking game on nights where we would hit the town or get our drank on.

You could totally modify the “one-day-a-week” thing for ability by aiming for one or more decent conversation topics per week instead of wrestling through the whole day. Use free time throughout the week to prepare all your guns (ie. do some prep on on your own time surrounding relevant vocab and tense, what you think you’ll use, etc) and see how well you can carry a conversation come whatever day you pick. You must absolutely honour and adhere to the day you choose!!

As for modifying language learning as a drinking game, there are heaps you can do. Rhyme-time, categories (ie. name verbs back and fourth, or list words that surround a particular subject), 20 questions, etc.

Good luck to you, I hope this helps!


I think this is key. I can think of several cases when people I know had to stop learning a language from their spouse because of other “baggage”, brought into the lessons.

I would personally recommend taking a class or hiring tutor, and just practice speaking with your significant other.


This. My missus has flawless, fluent English, while I have yet been able to string together a single coherent sentence in Japanese. She’s a natural language learner, I have all the language-learning abilities of a brick. So, of course, we speak in English all the time.

  • Why not get your wife to talk to you in Japanese?
    Because she might as well be talking in Swahili for all that I’d understand what she’s saying.

  • Why not get her to talk slowly and teach you as she goes along?
    Yes, that’s just what she needs after 12 hours in the office and an hour’s commute, to come home and teach her husband a language!

Of course we have tried speaking in Japanese, but it is exhausting for us both and rarely lasts more than five minutes!


I feel like you’re trying to hardflex on us by saying you have a native Japanese girlfriend