Breathing when speaking Japanese

I am very new to Japanese so I’d like to fix pain points as they come up sooner than later and this has been bothering me for a few weeks now.

I feel like I am not breathing correctly when I try to speak Japanese. Like I’m blurting everything out on one held breath to achieve the short syllables and rhythm, and find myself only exhaling when done speaking. I was wondering if anyone else has had this problem? I imagine it won’t be sustainable in the future.

Mostly this happens when I practice shadowing with LingoDeer exercises, since at this point in my language journey that’s the only time I’m typically attempting to match the speed and native pronunciation for the a longer stretch of syllables (maybe a 1 long phrase, or 2 standard length ones)

Anyway, is it something that will become more natural as I get used to the language or are there any tips or exercises I can try to help and break this habit?



I didn’t think I had this problem until I started reading NHK Easy News articles with my tutor. Prior to that, sentences were short, or I was coming up with them on the fly so I was taking pauses as my brain caught up to my mouth, haha. I don’t remember what article I was reading, but for some reason there was a particularly long sentence (like over 2 lines) with one comma. I really wanted to get to that comma to take a breath, but my tutor told me to stop and breathe because I looked uncomfortable, haha.

The way she explained it to me is there are natural pauses in sentences, particularly prepositions. If you see が, と, etc. take a breath after them. As you practice reading out loud, you’ll subconsciously find them. For me, I still pause after reading really long words, which is more or less for me to reset haha.

I dunno if that helps at all but I think with continued practice you’ll be able to breathe normally!


This is probably part of it too. I mean, finding times to breathe in English is something I do completely automatically (though I’m not sure I want to think of how I do that, or I’m gonna asphyxiate the next time I open my mouth to say something).


can always up the true japanese experience and throw in えっと。。。or あの。。。to give you a brief respite to catch up.


My main advice is to take a breath after a particle and not before :smiley:
For example, in the sentence I made up:

If you want to take a pause halfway through the sentence, maybe pause after 猿は・さるは rather than saying さるbreathは. Keep the particles close to the words they modify and breath afterwards :smiley:


Sorry to make light, but this is the first time I’ve heard this particular concern.

Yes, please continue breathing when speaking Japanese! :smile:

Sounds like it’s just nerves to me. AFAIK there’s nothing unique to speaking Japanese regarding pauses for breath. If nothing else, nodding almost continuously is pretty common throughout a Japanese conversation, and it gives you time to breathe.

This was well written, and thinking about it more I see what you mean. As @Belthazar said, there’s time for a natural pause after almost every particle (it tends to emphasize what preceded).

I think breath pauses (nodding and uhms and errs) are easier during real conversation, but I think its harder when you’ve got a lot to say in one burst.

Watch this ancient clip (or any NHK news broadcast) and pay close attention to her breathing: (may not stay up long – this show is well known for seeking out any unauthorized copies). The initial intro is said all in one long burst without a breath, then resumes to a more normal cadence with a breath after most particles, です and ます.


Haha, omg. I guess they know its a thing!

When thinking about what your tutor said, it really makes you think about all the “あ,” and such also used in natural Japanese. In theory maybe Japanese speakers use that is a time to gather thoughts and subconciously breathe? I’ve typically thought of it as the equivalent to English filler like “ummm and uh” which is not preparing to talk whatsoever and more of spacing out and filling the empty space.

Anyway, thanks for sharing! I will try to keep particle breaths in mind to practice!


True, now that you mention it, I have absolutely no idea how I manage to breathe in English either. Feels just like Pokemon, learn a skill, forget a skill.

… and I apologize in advance for everyone in this thread becoming annoyingly aware of their own breathing.


No worries. I am surprised, and not surprised—since searching for breathing in this forum before posting turned up nothing.

I thought that too, but I’m able to somehow breathe as I speak my “forever stuck in elementary Spanish.” So there’s something about the syllablesyllablesyllable of Japanese that at least, for me personally, that’s causing me to tense up. I suppose time will tell if its nerves.

Thanks! I’m also consciously aware that as an English speaker, we have a very breathy syllable output compared to most languages, so there’s also the chance I may be overcompensating for that. I don’t want any of my pronounciation to have breathy timbre. Except, well, as previously mentioned, か

Maybe that’s working against me?

also sorry for separately replying 3 times, still learning how to use this forum


one could argue the umm’s and uh’s and other pauses, such as that often at punctions like commas, semi colons etc; are natural pausing spots to breath. unless one is trying to be an auctioneer i suppose…that’s a whole other skill.


In addition to the points raised above, I suggest paying attention to native Japanese speaker’s breath and pauses. The more familar you become with hearing Japanese spoken, the more the cadence can sink into your subconscious. Then as you speak, you’ll get this sixth sense of “this sounds right / this doesn’t sound right” based on if it fits the patterns of what you’ve been listening to.

I recommend finding videos of native Japanese instructors who teach in Japanese. If there’s Japanese subtitles, you can compare what you hear with what’s written.

I find Tezuka-sensei from Meshclass Japanese on YouTube has a good balance of speaking slowly but still naturally. She oftens takes a breath after particles like knightnettie and kokopelli mentioned. The video linked below also provides other speaking tips. The fourth point is about breath.


Sounds like you’re just anxious to speak. Which is normal. I remember having butterflies in my stomach before iTalki lessons and being like “OH wait, I haven’t taken a breath this whole time!” Like most things with anxiety, its mostly the lack of exposure, so once you get more comfortable speaking you won’t be thinking about it as much. Good luck!


I definitely have this problem sometimes. In fact, I still have this problem occasionally while speaking long English sentences (and English is my first language). I’ve gotten better about looking for particles and taking breaths after them when needed, and I feel that I’m getting better with practice. I know some people have suggested it could be nerves or anxiousness, but I really don’t think that’s what I’m personally experiencing. It reminds me more of learning when to breathe while singing.


for english, particularly american english, there are a lot more nuances and variations derived from just different pauses and ways of speaking than most realize until you start really examining it. we get sort of blinded by the ‘standard tv’ english spoken on most media.


As I’m still a beginner, before my Japanese reading classes, I have a (probably bad) habit of marking pauses in sentences with bright orange dots when referring to the audiobook version of a novel.

My more advanced classmate from South Korea didn’t need it, and I’m impressed whenever he hits the right orange spots, but sometimes he misses, although not very frequently.

And then, compared with Sensei’s first round of reading, he hit more places to pause in comparison to the audiobook version (especially after prepositions like @knightnettie mentioned). This is probably to make it easier for a beginner like me.

I think it will be a while until I’ll be taking off the “dotting the pause” crutch for my read-out-loud reading class, but hopefully someday I’ll notice a natural pattern somehow. For now, I can see there are various ways one could pause, while also seeing that it seemed to follow a certain rule.

It’s probably similar to reading in English, where one doesn’t pause to take a breath at awkward mid-sentences, nor does one keep reading a long sentence in a book without taking a breather in between. Sorry, I don’t know how to explain this part, as English is not my first language.

@jhgoforth’s gave a good explanation with the spoken English comparison. Most likely a beginner English learner would notice this clearly when reading an English novel out loud: where the pauses that could be made aren’t obvious, nuanced, and varied—not just simply depending on the comma.

Oxford commas aren’t that popular to begin with in many writings, and I could see that one doesn’t necessarily pause reading when some Oxford commas are added too. Interestingly, I’ve noticed Japanese audiobook narrators skipping over some commas in the novel as well. I really empathise with beginner English learners now.

While procrastinating on my reading practise, I’ve stumbled upon this research titled “Pausing and Breathing While Reading Aloud: Development from 2nd to 7th Grade.” However, it’s not about Japanese reading, but oral reading by younger French-speaking learners in comparison to adults. Nonetheless, the findings give me hope that it’s something that could be improved over time with practice, especially with better comprehension of vocabulary and grammar.


for me, being born phys disabled, i learned to read much earlier than others my age plus my great grandmother was a retired english teacher. she went out of her way to teach us the ‘proper’ way to pronounce and write and what it all meant lol. she would be horrified at how people talk and write today (i grew up in the 80s/early 90s). People today do tend to talk much faster and less pausing during their speech. As someone that always had a weaker breathing, i’m sure my speech was always a bit slower by nature so I relied on those pauses more.


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