Forgetting grammar and words when talking with natives

So I try to talk to a native each day as well as learn new vocab from Wanikani and new grammar but I find when I talk to these natives that my mind goes blank and I feel like I’m repeating the same few grammar points and same few words :sob: Anyone else?


That’s fine. Mistakes are a part of learning. Just make yourself understood one way or another, doesn’t have to be pretty at first.

I remember my first lesson with a Japanese tutor. I could understand the teacher but couldn’t say a word. It was extremely embarrassing and I never spoke to that teacher again.

Now I can speak to anyone. Why? I stopped caring about making mistakes. If I mess up too much and the don’t understand me, no biggie! I just try to explain it in a different way.

It took me a few years of practice. And I often felt dumb for not being able to express the nuance in my thoughts but it’s the only way :wink:


Production (speaking, writing) and reception (reading, listening) are separate skills and may need individual training. Some people are able to remember a vocab in both directions while only actively practicing one direction, but I for example am definitely not among those lucky ones :woman_shrugging: Therefore I practice most of my vocab twice, as J->E and also as E->J. This has helped me enormously with my speaking skills. I‘m using an Anki deck for this but there are also 3rd party apps that allow you to do that.


That, and in addition to production and reception being different skills, I also find that remembering a word when prompted on its own (WK, anki…) is different from remembering to use it on the fly in the context of a conversation. So, just keep at it, keep practicing conversation, and eventually you’ll get better at conversation.
And as said before, don’t worry about mistakes, that’s all part of the journey. Plus, it’s perfectly fine to just use the same few words over and over again to describe a more complex word you maybe can’t remember/don’t know yet. Not just perfectly fine, I’m pretty sure that’s what language teachers want you to do, cause it’s great practice. Eventually you’ll be able to use those more complex words.
So yeah, don’t worry, perfectly fine, and yes, probably everyone else too :slight_smile:


The first time I was pushed into a conversation in Japanese, it was with a Japanese waitress in Australia. We were on holiday, and my mother had decided to tell her that I had been studying Japanese, and so I needed to say something to keep the conversation alive. I literally had just one sentence:「本当に美味しかったです。」Couldn’t say anything else. I wondered if I should try telling the story of why I started learning Japanese, but I wasn’t sure I would make it all the way through, so I froze.

I think panicking or struggling to recall the right thing to say during a conversation is quite normal at first. It’ll get better as you get used to the flow of Japanese and the process of pulling something out of your memory banks. Keep at it, and it’ll eventually get better. I struggled quite a bit to express myself for the first week of my French immersion programme in Paris, but at some point, I felt like a switch had been flipped, and in the second week, I was much more comfortable and had an easier time finding words. Just keep practising and give your active knowledge some time to become more fluid. :slight_smile:


I’ve been studying for a while now and, although I can read news and speak with natives through chat, actually speaking is pretty tough for me.

I realized that most of my practices were reading and writing, so when I need to form a sentence I usually make it in small pieces while writing. Like, I think about the first part of the sentence, start writing and while I’m writing I have time to think about the rest of it. When you are speaking you don’t have that time.

So now, since I don’t have someone to speak to, I’ve been practicing using my phone’s voice keyboard in japanese. It is quite good on identifying what I’m saying and I’ve started working more on forming complete sentences in my mind before speaking.


it gets better with practice. as others have said, production is a different skill

also, I wouldn’t feel too bad about not remembering WK vocab/book grammar. in many ways I feel like it’s better to “relearn” everything for conversation, since I think that way you’re less likely to use stuff in an unnatural way

just don’t get caught in the trap of not feeling like you’re improving! it’s often really hard to judge for yourself…


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