Help with learning method / vocal recall

Hello very helpful people,

I need help.

I started my Japanese class again last night and came away feeling like I hadn’t been studying for 2 years at all. I know there were a couple of other people in there who also were adjusting to returning after the summer, but I was utterly overwhelmed.

Let me explain what I think the issue is and hopefully someone or some-many can suggest a few ways to get me out of the mire and back on track.

So, I just started level 3, which is lower intermediate level. The classes are taught in at least 80% Japanese - all written material are in Japanese, questions from the tutor and answers form students should be in Japanese. English is only used to clarify new concepts and relate to grammar.

I can read/write in Hiragana and Katakana just fine and knowing ahead of time that this level introduces the N5 kanji, I started WaniKani at the start of this year to try and get ahead of the game.

Since I just started Level 12 (not the fastest, I know) I have learned over 1000 vocabulary words, plus we completed ‘Japanese for Busy People’ book 1 last course, which means I have learned around 500 vocabulary words from that.

The thing is, I can’t seem to remember any of it when I need to speak or write Japanese.

I know its going in my brain - when I read Japanese I can make sense of most of what I am reading (obviously a dictionary is not far away) and when I am doing WK reviews I mostly score higher than 80%.

I feel I have a good grasp of grammar for my expected level and know rules for particles etc.

BUT, compared to my recognition level when I see a word or kanji, my RECALL ability when asked a question in Japanese is almost non-existent.

So, this really long post (sorry) is really just me asking how to improve my ability to get the Japanese language to where my brain needs it for Listening, Speaking and writing under pressure (2 hours in a coffee shop with a dictionary makes homework easy, but “write about your summer holiday in 5 minutes” is impossible).

PS - I know a lot of people will say “speak more Japanese”, but I don’t know how to go about that really as the only Japanese person I know is my tutor who I share 2 hours a week with 15 other people.

PPS - I am going to Japan in 2 weeks and I was feeling pretty confident until last night. Now I have massive anxiety about talking to anyone or doing anything.

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Yes being able to practice speaking would be ideal for practicing production + building your confidence, have you tried something like HelloTalk? :thinking:

For general recall practice, I highly recommend doing something like KaniWani or KameSame alongside WaniKani. It’s one thing to do well with recognition (JP --> EN), but recall (EN --> JP) is an entirely different skill that requires consistent practice too – I know this all too well because when I first started KaniWani, my percentages were pretty awful despite doing well here on WK :see_no_evil:

Maybe even trying to read your responses out loud as you’re doing KaniWani/KameSame reviews to get used to vocal recall could help, and then of course putting everything into practice through speaking whenever you can (talking to yourself can be okay practice too!)

Don’t let the apprehension of properly speaking hold you back from trying to talk to people when you go to Japan though, you may be pleasantly surprised at how far you can get with what you do currently know :slightly_smiling_face:


You process input while it comes in. For output, you need a critical mass of words and grammar first, else it’s painful, and it’s absolutely not needed to force yourself to do it before you feel ready.
Sometimes some critical puzzle pieces are missing, and stuff will suddenly make much more sense once you have acquired them.

I didn’t speak any English at all for 30 years, but when I had to, I didn’t have the slightest difficulty.

Try this link, it might help you understand what’s going on better.
Stephen Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition


As you have certainly realized, recognition/input and production/output are on two different tracks. From the way it sounds, you don’t have many opportunities to practice output or you’re not taking advantage of the opportunities to speak when given the chance. I am saying this in regard to what you’re currently doing with your classes. In any event, creating new opportunities will also benefit you because you’ll get exposed to different styles of speech and etc.

Here’s some suggestions in helping to create output opportunities:

  • Use a language exchange app like “Hello Talk”
  • Ask your teacher to help connect you with someone who you could do language exchange with
  • Practice language shadowing --> either by using special shadowing books or using your favorite things you watch or listen to as a model
  • In class be more proactive to ask questions, even if you know the answer. Sometimes getting that extra feedback not only help you but it may help others in class too intimidated to ask for themselves
  • Write a journal in Japanese
  • Talking to yourself and narrate your life at home in Japanese
  • When you’re reading, read aloud

I’m sure there a many more things you can do to help with recall when producing language. And I’m also aware that quite a few of those suggestions many not be doable in your case, but the goal is to get you to think creatively about solving this issue too because the most successful solution will be one that is the most appealing to you and your circumstances.

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Everything that @LucasDesu said!

It really is a kinda critical mass thing. at some point (sorry that’s vague) when you try to think of a certain concept the japanese will just “be there”.

I would make one additional suggestion:
Memorize and repeat texts. Either dialogs (from anime or drama) or (my favorite) songs. It seems kinda artificial, but once you memorise something, you can just repeat it to yourself all the time and that practice of saying common constructions over and over can give you alot of confidence and ease in your ability to produce.

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