How should I efficiently learn from my speaking mistakes?

As the question states, how should I efficiently learn from my speaking mistakes?

I feel that I can shakily hold conversations with natives, but I do notice I have a lot of issues with my output, such as:

  • Incorrect usage of particles (both in writing and speaking)
  • Incorrect verb tense or form at times

Is it something that just gets better the more you do it? When does it make sense to get a teacher or tutor on iTalki? I’ve sort of accepted that native-level fluency is not reasonably feasible, but I do care a lot about speaking (and generally using Japanese) at a proficient to advanced level.


If you still can’t accurately use grammar and hear the mistakes in your own speech, I suggest practicing written output. That way you have time to think about and construct correct and proper thoughts. That’s much easier to show to natives and get corrected on.

Once you get good at that, I would suggest talking, either to yourself or natives, and record it. Listen back and check for your own mistakes and make mental notes on how to fix them.

I would say those two things will get you to a reasonable level, but depending on how natural you want to sound you will need a lot of input along the way. Speaking, in my experience, is a product of your ability to internally construct and think in japanese multiplied by your ability to produce the required sounds. If your language ability is highly lacking, you’re bottlenecking yourself. In my experience, the language ability is the more time consuming one of the two to improve as well. If your speaking mistakes happen while you write too, they’re not a product of your speaking as much as they are a problem with your ability to produce thoughts in the language in the first place.


I try to remember that feeling of “oh, wait” I have after the fact. Like, that feeling when you come up with the perfect comeback five minutes later, except in this case it’s when you remember the corrrect Japanese five minutes later. If I focus on that feeling, then (hopefully) next time I don’t make the same mistake again.

I remember one conversation where I accidentally said that something happened (past tense) 来月, instead of 先月. The guy I was talking with gave me a funny look, but didn’t really comment. And five minutes later, I went “oh, wait”.

Though obviously that didn’t work, because I still typed them backwards just now…


If you don’t even know what you are doing wrong it’s an input problem, not an output problem. Input solves 95% of output problems.

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Thanks for your input, this echoes a lot of the scrambled thoughts I’ve been having.

I feel that my writing ability is much better than my speaking ability, but I do take a decent amount of time to craft a reply. At least, that’s what I notice from my experience with chatting on HelloTalk. I tend to use more complex grammar and have a better sense of where to use particles correctly in writing than I do in speaking, presumably because I have more time to put my thoughts together.

In your opinion and/or experience, did you find that speaking, even if it was shaky or poor, helped improve or bolster your language ability at all? Or did it only serve to reinforce bad habits at that level?

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I live for those “oh, wait” feelings :slight_smile:

When you experienced those “oh, wait” feelings, did you personally just make a mental note of it, or did you try to transcribe onto paper or a flashcard to study later? If I put it another way, how did you personally take that sudden realization and turn it into long term knowledge?

Could you help me understand why you personally think input solves 95% of output problems? I’m somewhat with Krashen’s input hypothesis, and I understand that exposure to input effectively builds up a “scaffolding,” if you will, to understanding language and how to use it correctly.

However, where I begin to disagree is that I believe language is effectively a collection of 4 distinct skills - reading, writing, listening, and speaking. They all influence each other, but if I only consume input, am I magically going to be able to output like that? Isn’t there an element of output practice that is necessary to actually output?

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Because I’ve done it before with English.

I’d agree this is essentially true, but the speaking-specific skills are things like getting vowel length differentiation correct, pitch accent (if you’re trying to go there…), not stumbling over sounds at a natural pace, confidence in speaking, etc. Input weights heavily still because you can’t output beyond what you understand, and a lot of language use at a sufficiently comfortable level is retrieving chunks of words that you know sound natural together through being exposed to them over and over. The kinds of errors you are making ultimately mean you haven’t internalized the particles, tenses, etc or the things they pair with well enough just yet.

I wouldn’t say this means don’t practice speaking if speaking is particularly important to you though – there’s no actual shame in going out there and making a bunch of mistakes while you learn. But if you want to go that route and keep working on speaking more right away I think finding a tutor or other source of feedback would be invaluable. Someone telling you what you said/wrote is wrong is, in itself, a sort of input.


Not really.

I’m a bit of an oddball case, but all improvement I have really felt in terms of language ability came from other places. The only thing I would attribute to spoken output is when I’ve had things I couldn’t find the words for, it made it easier to spot them in my immersion. I think speaking output really has only helped with the actual act of physically producing the sounds I want.

Of course, the act of trying to speak can lead to language improvement though. Realizing you don’t know how to say something and looking it up or corrections can directly lead to language improvement. Copying the thing your conversation partner said as well. But the act of speaking itself only really gets your brain better at expressing what it already knows. So your understanding of the language really won’t improve. For people who already have a great grasp of the language, this is exactly what they need. For people who are at a level where they can’t watch sol anime with JP subs and understand like 95%+ of sentences on average with 0 guessing, honestly I think it’s a bit early. It might lead to bad habits, yeah, but in my personal opinion it just looks like people shooting for a target that they cant see. If you don’t have a desire to output asap and talk with japanese person, I personally suggest not rushing into it


Honestly making the mistakes is the best teacher, but if you want to avoid making mistakes, writing and working with someone who is willing to fix your mistakes can help drastically.

Use shadowing execises. The Pimsleur Japanese books are pretty good to put on while doing chores. It is just a slow burn of very simple conversations, but the conjugations will be solidified in your head. Another thing is to use is Japanese subtitles with anime or movies. If your reading level is too low to actively watch and read, just use the anime dialogue as shadowing. There are a few different extentions for chrome which allow you to add subtitles to amazon prime video, crunchyroll, etc. You can change the speed and have access to readings and definitions. The one I use is subtitles for language learning(LL).

Last bit of advice, you’ll never feel like you are improving while speaking, at least from my experience. I still feel like I speak the same, slow pace. However, I used to leave in Shizuoka. While I was there, I became a regular at a classy cocktail bar and got most of my Japanese practice speaking to the bartender. (Lovely and patient man) I moved to Hiroshima a year and a half ago. I went back to the bar to visit and he could not stop commenting at how much faster and clearer my Japanese was. So keep going. Its a climb uphill but you never get to look down to see how far you have climbed. The worst part is, the top is covered with clouds.


100% agree with this. Shadowing and reading aloud correct grammar can really help get your mouth around making the sounds correctly as a habit (and brain, but you want to more get to the level where it feels like the words come naturally without thinking about it too much).

I’m not sure what level you are at right now, but a few things that helped me:

  1. Reading dialogues from textbooks aloud. My school used “Japanese the Spoken Language” which I DON’T recommend as a textbook because it’s all in romaji, but it was good for being able to quickly read dialogues. Genki or another textbook I’m sure would be equally good.
  2. Getting a dedicated “shadowing” workbook (I used Shadowing: Let’s Speak Japanese! (Intermediate to Advanced Level) - w/2CDs, and there’s also a lower level New Shadowing: Let’s Speak Japanese – Beginner to Intermediate Edition)
  3. If you are consuming Japanese media (manga, books, anime), try to occasionally pause and read / recite the dialogue aloud.
  4. Try pausing a little more when you speak and thinking about how you want to structure the next thing you want to say. Maybe use it as an excuse to try out all those “えと、あの、…” that native Japanese speakers love. (I totally don’t practice what I preach with this one, I just talk nonstop a lot) :smiley:
  5. Just generally practice speaking more with others. Even if you don’t realize it, you will be improving slowly just by practicing speaking more. When I lived in Japan for a year and came back, I barely felt like my speaking had improved at all, but everyone I spoke to (my old Japanese teachers, my classmates) said my speech sounded much more fluid to them.
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