Grammar, Kanji, Vocab, and Reading are four points of the language I can confidently take pride in considering the amount of time that I’ve been studying. (roughly 2.5 years with a half year hiatus)
Since August of last year I have been living in Japan through the JET Programme. While I have certainly made progress in most areas of my language ability and will be taking N2 this July, I still find myself struggling with speaking and conversing in Japanese.
There is a significant gap between what I can comprehend vs. what I can actually produce. If given the opportunity to write, text, or email, I can express myself very clearly. But If am forced to speak, my head goes completely blank. This is especially the case in impromptu interactions.
A majority of what is spoken at me is understood, but I simply do not know the proper ways to respond or formulate my sentences in a natural way. Because of this, I hesitate or stutter. I cannot properly employ fillers or aitsuchi… And while I know I should I feel embarrassed attempting to fake my emotions or trying to add emphasis on something I am not actually passionate about.
I get really overwhelmed with wanting to express my thoughts to the extent that I can write them. Because I freeze up and get anxious, or take too long to respond, or answer a question in an unnatural manner sometimes, my coworkers think I cannot understand a lick of japanese so they avoid interacting with unless they have to.
I take speaking lessons for conversation practice 2-3 times a week on Italki and with a tutor I can usually converse 30-60 mins no problem. But those teachers tend to have a firm grasp of the materials that Japanese learners tend to use, therefore they can guide the conversation within certain parameters and make you feel comfortable (while not necessarily utilizing the most natural Japanese .
Basically, I’ve mastered textbooks thinking I was doing myself a service, but I cannot actually express myself or match my mouth with the content I have studied. Because my speaking level does not match my comprehension level, I am unable to get proper speaking practice to fill my gap due to my partners not understanding my ability.
Does anyone else struggle like this? how do you go about tackling this problem?
I want to communicate more with people I meet going out, my coworkers, and my elementary school students, but at the same time, I have no clue how to continue a conversation with them.