If you are at a university in Canada there are almost certainly Japanese students (although most likely postgrad). At the University here in the UK where I was working (until last week) the Language Centre matched up people looking for language exchange partners and found five Japanese willing to do so (although only two really worked). Maybe you have something similar? If not perhaps you can figure out how to find people another way eg do you have a Japanese society? Any Japanese food stores? Kendo/Kyuudo/other Japanese activity clubs?
As others have said there is no substitute for speaking and using the language.
Also - give yourself a break. You have only be doing it for four months. I have been studying fairly intensively for almost two years and my Japanese is pretty poor. I still can’t follow anime and can easily get lost when trying to converse. However I have made massive improvements. Just stick with it and eventually you will get there (at least that is what I tell myself!!)
It sounds like you’ve made great progress in 4 months. I don’t have much to add, just that I think you’re doing better than you may think you are.
Also, considering your current goals, it might be a good time for you to back off on some of your existing routine to make time for practice in those areas you want to improve in. For example you’ve learned a lot of kanji in a short amount of time, which is great, and I totally understand the desire to keep pushing forward there … but for the amount of hours you’re already spending studying, piling more on top of that for listening and speaking practice is probably going to burn you out. Maybe ease up (not necessarily stop) kanji/vocab/grammar points for a bit while you let what you’ve learned internalize as you spend more time using it for its intended purpose (communication!)
Same thing was with me when I learned English. I was fluently reading anything, but speaking skills was terrible. The only thing helped when I had a business trip to Canada 20 years ago I did not use any translator. So I started to speak English just in 3 weeks.
I am sure you need something similar for your Japanese.
Yeah, an experience like that would be difficult, but also very beneficial. Just wondering, what is your native language?
I’m not progressing as fast as I would want, but I’ve studied a bit longer (4 years) so I guess I’m a bit farther than you are, so this is my experience:
It honestly stays the same. Even if you improve a lot, if you tend to focus on what you cannot do, you will always feel like this. My tip is to keep track of what you can and cannot do, then if you look back on your progress monthly, you will realize that you definitely are making progress, just in small steps.
I often feel the same as you, periodically even, but after a month or so I feel motivated again (in the sense that I acknowledge my progress and what I don’t know, and start tackling it one by one again)
I don’t have any specific advice for speaking, since I’m terrible at it, and speaking really isn’t a goal of mine for the foreseeable future.
But it seems like you’re suffering under the weight of the Dunning-Kruger effect. When you first start learning something intensive like Japanese, you don’t know how little you know, so you feel overly confident. Once you learn a little more, however, you become fully aware of your limitations, and you feel consciously incompetent. This is the hardest part to get past, and it’s probably why you don’t feel so good about your progress right now.
You need to push on, though, because you’re well on your way to becoming actually fluent in Japanese. Don’t worry about what you’re doing, either. It’s all helpful. In fact, plenty of research suggests that reading and listening intensively are the best ways to improve all other language skills. So if you can read Japanese, read more. It can’t hurt.
Something that always keeps me motivated is occasionally checking sites like wkstats.com. It really helps me to visualize and sort of quantify my progress even when I feel like I’m treading water.
Anyway, keep up the good work. You’ll reach your goal eventually if you keep working at it.
So much bad advice…
Stop using HiNative, that’s a waste of time at this point. Use like 90% of your study time for listening to Japanese. You want to be able to understand spoken Japanese. Then when you get in a situation where you have to speak, you will find that the right words will just come out.
How do you expect to be able to speak if you can’t understand? You would need to somehow use your knowledge of grammar and vocab to construct sentences. That’s slow and painful and you’re prone to making lots of mistakes.
Ask all of us non-native speakers that got somewhere with our English abilities. Most of us will tell you that even after years of English classes we still sucked. Only after watching countless hours of TV and movies and using the English part of the internet we improved. The first time I spoke in English it felt a little strange, but I could do it quite fluently and if I made a mistake, I would notice it immediately.
Of course, to become really good at speaking you have to practice. But that is the second step.
(now some people will probably point out all the mistakes I made in this post and say “see, it doesn’t work!” :D)
I don’t think the advice above is necessarily “bad advice” even though I mostly followed the same trajectory as you while learning English - I had an insane amount of exposure to it before I started having proper conversations with native speakers. It’s definitely not a fast way but it also doesn’t create problems such as incorrect speech patterns which become ingrained and then insanely hard to get rid of. 4 months of study is a very short time for learning a language and being able to understand simple news in that time is amazing progress. Ultimately though, you have to be prepared for a lifetime of learning if you want to truly master a language, it’s just that every hour of study makes it a little more fun as it gives you more possibilities. But since it’s a very long term commitment you should also try to enjoy the process as much as possible and not just concentrate on results as otherwise you are setting yourself up for a lot of frustration.
I’d like to echo a few people above - listening/speaking and shadowing could be really helpful at this point! <3
I recently downloaded the Advanced Context Sentence userscript, which provides audio links for the context sentences when you learn vocab.
I use it to practise shadowing: I’ll listen to a sentence a couple of times, then try and sound out the words along with it, until I can say the whole sentence at the same speed and roughly the same intonation as the example. This is an opportunity to get a feel for how to say Japanese sentences, and get a bit more practice and confidence with the pronunciation, so it will feel more accessible and natural when it comes to speaking with people
(I know it’s from google translate so it’s not perfect human intonation or anything, but it gives a much better sense of the feel of the words than me just having a go haha)
If some of the sentences are too long or advanced, I’ll skip them, but usually one or two of them are a manageable length for the level I’m at.
Could be another tool in your belt for your studies
You could also combine it with conversation practice: you could get a bunch of sentences together, say them to your conversation partner, and see if they have any feedback on your intonation, if it sounds natural, or the contexts where you could use that vocab or grammar point.
I do agree that listening a lot, even to materials that are too difficult, helps a lot with getting used to normal-paced Japanese. I used to be forced to (lol) watch a lot of japanese tv shows that were completely incomprehensible to me, but when regularly doing it you really notice that you get used to the speed
Haha, just as I thought. I’m actually Russian as well, I came from Russia to Canada when I was 10, and I still use Russian at home to talk with my parents.
This post clearly and exactly expresses my feelings too. I am studying japanese nearly a year. To be fair, I feel the progress a little. But it is very slow. It feels like it will take another 10 years.
Since the beginning of my learning ventures, my stress has been on enjoyment of learning, so, make sure to have fun, if possible. Life has a way of being demonstrably “serious” and that foreboding nature can be cumbersome on the spirit/psyche.
As an actor-type, I enjoy an occasional impromptu Japanese exercise that dramatically differs from traditional learning methods. Whatever that means to you, maybe wiggle a test run in to jive things up. Or not. Up to you!
I’d recommend trying to get ahold of the first set of the Pimsleur CDs. Lots of libraries have them. They are a good jump start to speaking Japanese, even if they might seem a little “basic” in terms of grammar and vocab to you right now. But as other people have noted, they get you over that hump where your mouth just isn’t used to making the Japanese sounds.
I felt this way when I moved to Spain. I had a ton of Spanish under my belt, but suddenly I felt like I couldn’t say ANYTHING. I hit a wall and couldn’t get past it. Then I realized I no longer needed to speak Spanish the way I had - interpreting everything in my head, formulating a response in English, interpreting it into Spanish. I was thinking in Spanish, and trying to use English to process Spanish was holding me back. I switched my perception and strategy, allowing myself to think Spanish, never using English. I had achieved a level of fluency. Soon I was even dreaming in Spanish. It was awesome. I’m not sure if this helps, but if it doesn’t now, it might in the future.
If you need help trying to find people to practice your speaking with, maybe you can find a Japanese speaking practice event in your area on Duolingo Events. There will probably be some in Canada, especially if you live in a larger city.
I go to any Japanese event or festival I can find. I practice sentences I know I may use the night before. Then I am much more confident when I arrive at the event. The people I meet are so encouraging when I speak, so it makes me feel more confident.
When I first started studying Japanese, I took an eight month intensive class with a native Japanese speaking teacher. It met for an hour a day, five days a week. It provided a solid foundation for grammar and vocabulary and conversation. It also provided a framework - study enough to learn the material that the class was covering and don’t worry about studying more. Now when I study on my own, I feel like I’m making progress. I can’t even imagine trying to learn Japanese without having that foundation - it is just too different from English.
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