Heyyy people, I’ve started talking to people on Hello Talk and so far I’ve kind of made a list of sentences with different topics but it annoys me because obviously i want to make my own sentences from my head. What did you guys do to start thinking in your target language? (apologies for the stupid question lmao)
I don’t think it’s a stupid question at all! To me, it’s kind of like when I’m taking my online Japanese class & it’s time for me to speak… but I’ve already written out the sentence (with google translate ) and I’m ready ! to go! (but like… i’m so sad on the inside because i needed help to do it).
My first smol piece of advice is… it’s okay. Fall in love with not knowing stuff. Ask how to stay stuff… then write it down & make sure you grind on it (in your own way… some peeps do SRS, some do flashcards, some ask their friends to quiz them, etc) until you’re confident that you know exactly how to use it, in any situation.
Over time, all these little (but mighty) grind sessions build up! and voilá! You can speak!
It’s not a dumb question, and I think it’s something that a lot of people find challenging at first, regardless of what language they’re studying.
I think asking for help on the forums or on HelloTalk when you want to say something but don’t know how is fine. That can be a first step. Another possibility is translating: try finding a sentence that interests you or which you’d like to be able to say, and see if you can find out how to translate it as accurately and naturally as possible. Again, you can ask for suggestions here or from teachers/native speakers.
That aside, I think immersion and study is helpful. Some patterns don’t feel natural until you’ve used or heard them many times, and so you’ll need a way to get familiar with them. Watch some anime or something else you enjoy in Japanese and which you can understand (at least to an extent). Don’t be afraid of using subtitles now: just listen out for the words you know while understanding the overall meaning using subtitles. Going ‘no sub’ can come later.
Finally, don’t worry too much if you can’t think entirely in Japanese just yet. Thinking in a target language comfortably only comes when you’ve reached a certain ‘critical mass’ of vocabulary and grammatical understanding, and even after you reach that point, you’ll find that you’re more comfortable thinking in your target language when certain areas are involved, and less comfortable in others. Language acquisition is a gradual process, and even if it’s fine to want to go faster, don’t get too frustrated if it takes a while because sentences start flowing. (I was raised bilingual in English and Chinese and learnt French to native fluency. I’ve also studied German and Spanish – albeit less seriously than Japanese – so I’ve had the chance to experience this a few times.)
Honestly, it was surprisingly easy for me, I watch lots of anime and one day I was supposed to translate something in my french class and I couldn’t stop thinking in Japanese.
I guess just hearing the language spoken like in real life helps a ton.
jklafdsaklfjlkasdjfalkdf IT WAS THE ANIME FOR ME TOO THAT’S SO FUNNY ALDSJFLAKJDFLADFJ
One thing that has helped me formulate sentences has been writing a journal entry every night. I just write(well, type in my case) about what I did that day, using words and grammar structures I learnt that day etc. At the start, you can keep it simple and as you learn more words and grammar, start to incorporate more and more.
I used to do an exercise like this with a French tutor at the start of every session, and I have to say that it helped with constructing sentences more fluidly. I think it sounds like a good thing for OP to try.
For starters you can take a simple sentence and practice swapping out words. For example, “I like cats / I like dogs, I like fish” or “I read books / I write books / I see books.” This helps reinforce grammar and build flexibility.
A little more advanced, wander around your house narrating what you are doing in Japanese.
“I’m looking at my computer.”
“I’m practicing WaniKani.”
“I’m going to the kitchen.”
You can do this in your head if you like.
If you get stuck (for example, you can’t say “I’m hungry”) try to find another way to express it (for example, “I want food”) and just keep going. After you’re finished narrating look up whatever words or phrases you wanted to use but didn’t know how to say.
Three things have helped my thinking/speaking on the fly:
I am not a fan of Tae Kim, but he makes a good point that you should try to understand things without translating them. If you have to convert something into English (or whatever) then you need to go back and study more.
I took some one-on-one conversation classes. This really broke the mental barrier I had that said “You can’t make up sentences in Japanese”.
I was ‘tour guide’ for a group of friends for two weeks in Japan - Having no choice but to come up with things on the fly like “There are no taxis here” or “can my tattooed friend go in the onsen?”.
Accept that you will make absurd, terrible blunders on a regular basis. Did I say “I’m fine” or “I’m married”? Who cares
Practice makes perfect and if you’re anything like me, speaking is the most difficult part of learning any language (I know some people find it super easy - damn you!)
I started learning Japanese when I actually lived in Japan so I had to start making sentences up pretty early…and enjoying all the mistakes/awkwardness that comes with that.
But keep at it, even though its embarrassing, because standard sentence structures will start to become part of your muscle memory and you can use these as the foundation for more complex sentences as you progress your study (this is where you shouldn’t neglect brushing up on your grammar)
hmm…my approach was was basically to just try and say stuff without worrying if it was correct or not…
find some people who are patient and encouraging, and just keep trying to say stuff until you get comfortable with it. if you don’t know the word, ask etc. etc.
my first time trying to speak was a lot of fun - I panicked and my mind went blank at the 自己紹介 but it turned out the girl I was speaking to knew the odd turkish word and by the end I was teaching her turkish in (very broken) japanese
so yeah, basically I’d say don’t even worry too much about making sentences at the start. just try and get the right nouns/verbs out, and
letmake people put them in correct sentences for you. that’ll get you over the mental block of speaking without preparation, and then you can learn to do all that other stuff
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