Getting into the habit of Speaking (English/Japanese-speaking Couples)

So I feel like recently I am not really able to make myself speak Japanese with my wife 100%. I have been using Japanglish forever, saying things like かな、と思う, etc. after saying something in English, and while I have moments where I try, I seem to always revert back to English and my wife doesn’t have that same impulse with Japanese. She will even talk to me in Japanese and I will answer in English.

Some background, we took the opposite approaches to learning our second languages. My wife took the communication route and I took the book route. So my Japanese reading and listening are fine, but my speaking is terrible. While my wife is pretty good at speaking and writing, but not good at reading. When we started dating she was further along with speaking English so that became our default language.

I guess I am more specifically looking for advice from couples, married, living together, or otherwise. However if you single people have ideas I am open to suggestions.

**EDIT: If you have advice for raising kids in a billingual household, post it somewhere else.

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No real advice, just sympathy.

My wife’s English has always been better than my Japanese, so we also tend to speak less of the latter when together.

Since the onus seems to be on you, only you can solve the problem, but “try harder” rarely succeeds.

About the only thing I can think of is to put yourself in more situations with her where a third party is speaking Japanese (a Japanese only conversation), then try to participate in the conversation. This is easier if you reside in Japan, of course.

I think we automatically speak with whatever makes the conversation most efficient. Adding a non-English speaking person to the equation might help.

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That’s the biggest challenge. We only have one friend that isn’t bilingual (in our area). When we are with family, unless the topic is completely out of my Japanese depth I opt to use Japanese. I guess I am looking for tricks to kind of start flipping us over to Japanese as a possible default.

My partner and I both speak Japanese and English (she is Japanese). You said you are better at reading and writing – I’m not sure if you text each other a lot but it might be easier to start texting in Japanese. I have noticed the more I text her in Japanese the more my mind thinks about things in our relationship in Japanese. This usually leads to me communicating more verbally with her in Japanese too.

No matter what though you are always going to use Japanglish sometimes. It easier to express things sometimes in English and sometimes in Japanese. Especially with someone you are so close with like your wife. I think to really get better you will need to make friends outside of your relationship who primarily speak Japanese (or even just spend time with her parents or siblings without her).

Either way, I would communicate your desire to her (if you haven’t already) as she is probably going to be more helpful to you then us ;D

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She’s aware, she just has a very different idea of how to make it happen. But I like the idea of texting in Japanese more. I do that about 50/50, but maybe I should up it a bit more.

I don’t have personal experience with this, but I like how Rachel and Jun communicate. Since Jun speaks near fluent English, they mostly communicate in English at home. However out and about it seems more mixed, and if one of them says something in Japanese, they’ll switch to that for a bit before returning to English. They pull it off super naturally, effortlessly switching probably due to years of doing it.

You could try and find certain situations where you try and use Japanese by default, like when you’re out, you’re just asking a basic question, or you’re talking about something Japanese. Just anything small and light you can casually throw into English conversations.

(linking their second channel since they actually post somewhat regularly on there opposed to their very inactive main channel)

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Not married but we have been together for three years now.

We both did language degrees relating to each others language so are both fairly fluent for day to day speaking. However, the way that we have improved our skills more recently has been by speaking regardless of mistakes and having the other either repeat back the sentence with a correction or two OR finish a sentence that had been left incomplete because of gaps in our individual knowledge.

Once we got over the slight embarrassment of always making mistakes in front of each other It became natural.

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I think this is where we both mess up. We tend to correct each other on the spot and fix everything as opposed to fixing after the other person finishes. It goes both ways pretty 50/50, so I am sure applying this might help a lot too.

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I am both single and without any suggestions or advice, but I had some questions reading your post. Maybe the answers will help others give more tailored advice.

Do you think your quality/quantity of communication would decrease if japanese was the default language? The reason I ask, is because personally when it comes to people who I care about having a good relationship with I notice we just tend to use whatever language is spoken best. There are people I don’t think I’ve ever spoken in english to, and theres people I don’t think I’ve ever spoken in japanese to. Do you think you or your spouse also has that tendency? Or is it more of a mental barrier.

Do you want to use japanese more just to practice it? Does your wife feel the same way about wanting to practice english?

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If this isn’t something you do regularly, get used to saying 「~ は英語で何というか?」or 「~ って何?」when you’re trying to find the right word in Japanese or when you want your wife to translate something you don’t understand. It sounds like you need to use the first one in particular if you’re throwing in English in place of Japanese you don’t understand.

Make a habit of asking her to do things and showing appreciation in Japanese. Not only will this be good in making you think in Japanese, but it will benefit your relationship in the long run.

Japanese is especially really good at showing appreciation because of the てくれる form. 「今夜、なべを作ってくれない?」feels like you would be grateful if she made nabe because you like it when she makes it. 「今夜、なべを作ってください」is just please make nabe for me.

My husband used to just say 「~カレーを作ってよ」not because he’s a jerk or anything. He values gratitude very much but asking for things directly is just a normal speech pattern for guys that they don’t put much thought into it. And I think that’s one of the things wives like to gossip about when bad talking their husbands. :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

You can also watch a Japanese movie or any movie in Japanese and discuss in Japanese. Does she have a favorite actor or director? Watch a music video or other media in Japanese and discuss. Play a game or read a book if that’s a hobby you share. Then do the same for her in English.

Dedicate a day to only Japanese and stick to it. Maybe a day when both of you stay in if talking in Japanese in public is a problem.

Download the Line app and use it to text if you don’t already. You can download various stamps in Japanese. Even if you don’t say them, they’ll make you think in that language.

If you’re interested in having kids, I’ll say it does wonders for the parent’s second language. My husband’s morning ritual is playing English songs to our daughter and singing her.

If that’s not a possibility, adopt a pet and teach it to understand commands in Japanese :stuck_out_tongue:

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My wife’s stated goal is she wants my spoken Japanese to improve. Which is what I want ultimately as well. I am getting by living here, but recently we went to her hair dresser and while he understood my intent, he was largely guessing what I was saying, which is fine generally, but living here I would like to level myself up a bit speaking wise.

However its hard when the other people I speak to also speak English better than I speak Japanese.

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I also don’t have any good advice. In my case, I actively avoided dating girls whose English was better than my Japanese. So then, surprise, surprise, I ended up in a marriage where the language between us is 99% in Japanese and now I’m “stuck” speaking Japanese every day for about the last 20 years. Oops. :sweat_smile:

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My wife and I live in Japan. I have two-stepsons and a child of my own. My wife mainly communicates in English with me (but also occasionally Japanese), and I speak mainly English (but also use some Japanese phrases). If there were no kids in the picture, I likely would want to develop a habit of speaking more Japanese at home than I currently do (similar to your hopes), as long as we could still communicate well.

However, with the kids… because we live in Japan, I know that it’s an uphill battle for them to acquire English. So, I speak in English as much as possible… and also try to encourage English speaking. If we lived in America, I would want our home language to have more Japanese. But in Japan, I want our home language - which is already primarily Japanese between my wife and the kids - to include a lot of English.

My advice is: Do what is comfortable for you and your wife. Improving each other’s listening abilities certainly won’t hurt your language development. If you want to have kids, consider which culture you live in and how much and to what extent you want your kids to be bilingual.

Edit: I realize that my Japanese acquisition is going slower because of this… but I’m okay with that…

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Did you mean Japanese?

Yes, lol. I’ll edit my response.

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First time posting here but I have to chime in. I had a friend at work who was a native English speaker and fluent in Japanese and German. Her husband was a native German speaker and also spoke Japanese. They decided to have him always speak German at home and she would always speak Japanese at home to give their daughter exposure to the three languages (her daughter got English from school, tv, and from them also in early language formation). A great scheme from the linguistic point of view, if you can swing it. Best of luck with your learning endeavors.

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When it comes to raising kids we already have our plan to speak our native languages to them when they’re young and eventually move to speaking the opposite language of where we live at home.

My issue is my own Japanese speaking ability right now.

Been married 20 years (next Tue) and although my wife came to the states to learn English, I was farther along in Japanese (having lived there a couple of years) and so we ended up speaking almost entirely Japanese. There was even a brief period soon after we married where I started forgetting a bunch of English, oops.

We have two kids who are bilingual conversationally, and can read a bit, but it’s mostly because we use Japanese at home and they get English at school and with friends. If we were living in Japan I suspect they would have had a much harder time with English. There was one point where my daughter was struggling with Japanese and if she hadn’t been forced to work through that to communicate with her mother I’m pretty sure she would have given up and not been all that fluent in Japanese… in other words, if my wife felt fluent in English herself they would have reverted to English to communicate and my daughters Japanese would have suffered.

My wife always wanted to learn English more, but it was pretty hard when I would switch to English, and she would reply with Japanese. I tend to revert to the language I’m spoken to in pretty quickly.

I can’t imagine the amount of discipline it would take to try and force one language over what comes naturally, I apparently don’t have it.

Just another data point I guess.

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I’ve been married to a Japanese guy for over 30 years and the communication thing has never really been an issue as such. We met back in '89, when I had backpacked to Japan, and got a job working as an English Teacher in Yokohama. At that time, I had no interest at all in Japanese and for the first 6 months I was only interested in my bank balance (that was when English teachers were well paid). However, I soon realised that I should put a bit of effort in and started studying Japanese for Busy people 1 & 2, while making use of Japanese lessons provided by Interact. I stayed in Japan for 3 years and when I met my husband I had basic Japanese, however, though my studies I did get to the level of being able to use Japanese with his family and friends etc, but at home the default was English.

Early 90’s we moved to the UK and have spent 26yrs in rural England, and really, I couldn’t care a jot about Japanese, and my husband was now using English 100% of the time. When our son was born, we had some half-hearted attempts to use some Japanese, but it didn’t really work out. Roll on to 2019, and how life bites you in the bum! My husband had to take a job in Japan, this was definitely not part of our life plan, so we had to adapt to changing circumstances. Then from March 2020 we hit the surreal times, the first thing to happen was I was made redundant while my husband was in Japan, and we couldn’t see each other. Suddenly, I had time and thought like millions of others umm what should I do? – penny dropped, learn Japanese again. I had to start right from the beginning, which was a complete ball ache, I genuinely had forgotten everything. Oct 2020, I managed to get a spouse visa and have spent the last two years travelling between Shropshire and Edogawa. Nowadays, I actually love learning Japanese however, re communication with my husband, this is never going to happen as he is not a teacher. I will use a kind of Japanese English with him, but as for real communication no chance. When we go out with friends or see his family, it’s 100% Japanese I just sink or swim depending on if my brain and mouth are aligned! (this doesn’t happen very often, unless I’ve drunk a lot and then I think I’m fluent)!

For daily life it’s English and I’m ok with that, we spend a lot of time bantering with each other and making each other laugh, something which isn’t going to happen in Japanese! For me, I pay teachers to talk to me in Japanese which is really enjoyable as you can make thousands of errors, and no one cares!

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You’ve made it to level 53 in WK though which is quite impressive. Most people in your situation wouldn’t bother especially considering if it was never one of your passions.

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