How to achieve conversational level japanese in a few months?

Hi! As of the moment I’ve only just finished learning Hiragana and Katakana, so you could say that I’m a complete noob. My question is basically what the title says? From a self-study standpoint, what strategies do I have to take to achieve at least conversational level Japanese in a few months?
My family is planning a trip to Japan around March-April next year, and on top of that there’s a chance I’ll end up studying there for college, so I’d like to learn enough so I at least don’t end up embarrassing myself.
This is the first time I’ve posted something here as well, so any suggestions or advice would be helpful!

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Find a personal tutor and study a lot? Use iTalki?

I guess it depends what you’re hoping to achieve.

I don’t consider myself very good at speaking Japanese, but then I remember that there are days when I only speak Japanese (i.e. weekends with my Japanese girlfriend). It has taken me years to get to that point, and like I said, I still make mistakes all the time.

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But you can’t learn without embarrassing yourself and making mistakes. Even if you do screw up people will really respect that you are even trying. Although if you want to focus on talking its best to make some japanese friends and embarrassing yourself and making lots of mistakes and ask them to correct you. I’ve found drinking really helps aswell initially to finally take the shy edge of being afraid of mistakes away

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Looking at the initial comment, OP might probably be underage. But on the other hand, it’s true that any mean is good to take that shyness away, because worrying about mistakes is a large wall to overcome on the road to fluency.

To OP : even though I always considered 6 months to become fluent in Japanese a great (impossible) fate, I remember that video from Abroad in Japan that was discussing the feasibility and the means necessary in order to achieve it. Some of the tips may interest you.

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By “conversational Japanese” I don’t mean becoming fluent in a matter of 6 months because even I know that it’s pretty much impossible. I mean like, learning enough so that I’d at least be able to read signs, menus, books/magazines and hold conversations without embarrassing myself too much. Just at least the bare minimum for someone who’s going to take courses there for college. I probably should’ve clarified my initial post sorry :frowning: You’re right when you say that I’m underage though-- I’m still in high school so sorry to Owl for that…

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You could take a look at NHK Easy Japanese
https://www.nhk.or.jp/lesson/english/learn/list/

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Try to go through 8020 Japanese (paid) or Tae Kim (free) (please feel free to Google); and then practice-practice-practice for each chapter.

Yeah, the way to learn Japanese is to start with spoken Japanese. Kanji doesn’t really matter that much.

After a month or two (or a week or two) on spoken, you can start written properly.

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Speak as early and as much as possible.

And I’d say distribute your time spent on Vocab, Grammar, Kanji in a way that you are “good enough” in everything. No need to cram thousands of words into your head just for simple conversations.
Study common expressions.

Lastly, learning verbs is more important than nouns. With nouns, you can always point to something and ask how it’s called.

がんばって

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This will take around 6 months to 2 years. Menus are actually kind of hard because they often contain lots of kanji that learners don’t see (like the names of different kinds of fish).

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I kind of wish I’d done this. I think I’ve focussed far too much on the written side of Japanese, in particular kanji. As result, despite having already learned a fair amount, I’ve been very passive in my learning and I haven’t really been trying to produce anything much. I’ve covered a lot of key grammar points and I’m finding that I can read more and more these days, but I don’t feel I could hold even a basic conversation without major rehearsal beforehand. I think at least from an external perspective, you learn much more “useful” Japanese if you just focus on being conversational with set phrases, basic grammar and common vocab than by learning kanji or drilling more complex grammar.

Anyway, I’m sorry for hijacking the thread with my moaning, but you just kind of confirmed to me that I really need to shift the focus of my study towards speaking now. :slight_smile:

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FWIW, if you are going to a big city most signs will be written in both Japanese and English. Also, I think even if you were fluent in Japanese most waitresses would hand you an English menu… it was always in my hands before I even opened my mouth.

It is entirely possible to go to Japan and speak absolutely no Japanese. Would it be fun… maybe not. But I wouldn’t stress yourself out about becoming conversational or some other specific goal, just learn as much as you can now and you’ll be learning a ton while you’re there, too.

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To be fluent in Katakana, I think, take a course on Memrise, read a lot of random Katakana words. I mean, it is better to read a lot of real words.

For Hiragana, just reading a lot of Japanese sentences can make you fluent.

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It sounds like you need a regular conversation partner who is a native speaker?

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My advice (and I’m new here too, so take this with a grain of salt):

Learn the kana well. Hiragana and katakana are invaluable. Then, really focus on talking and listening as much as possible. These are skills you can master in a reasonable amount of time. Talk to everyone. Find friends online or in person who speak or are learning Japanese. Don’t worry so much about grammar or pronunciation while you are “in” a conversation with those people. Though those things are important and you should work on them later, they often bog people down and make them second guess themselves. Just focus on being understandable and then–depending on the situation and your level of competence understanding grammar–either ask your friend the correct usage or go home and review the tricky grammar and vocabulary that you faced on your own.

Japanese people are by and large very forgiving with language learners, so the mess ups you make will be brushed aside. This is good and bad. Don’t rest on people always saying 「ペラペラですね!」and don’t be afraid to ask them to help.

I actually spent some time in Japan and all my foreigner friends who were brave enough to talk to people a lot became relatively conversational. The shy people struggled more.

Best of luck!

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I think having a decent textbook or online learning platform (there are plenty of suggestions if you poke around the forums) plus practicing speaking what you’ve learned in turn would do it. There’s an article floating around Tofugu where Koichi talks about interleaving as a more effective means of memorizing Kanji, but this applies to interleaving different study methods as well.

I haven’t used iTalki before so I can speak for that but if you have a smartphone, Tandem is a decent free option to do language exchange. Basically you can find native Japanese speakers who are looking to improve their English (and there are many languages on this platform) and help each other out, with chat, audio, and video options.
If you want to use something like that:

  1. I’d keep a few topics you’d like to focus on in mind so the conversation isn’t meandering or awkward, and agree with whoever you speak with on how you want to do the exchange (ie do you want to speak in one language for 5 minutes then switch)
  2. Don’t be afraid of setting boundaries and sticking with what you’re really looking for. There’s nothing wrong with not interacting with people who don’t seem to have the same goals as you.

Good luck! 頑張ってください。

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That’s true, but if I’m going to actually live and study there I’m going to need more than just dishing out stock phrases from a travel dictionary. I’m also going to inquire at a few universities while I’m at it too, and it would look awkward to be stuck at the help desk reading out words in broken japanese with wrong pronunciation, then not understand if they reply.

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Paging that one guy with the cat face avatar who insists he went from zero Japanese to passing the N1 in 12 months.

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Obviously if you are doing speaking practice with a partner the listening practice will be a given. But otherwise, from my personal experience, I think listening practice will do you a lot of good.

I went to Japan last year and as an avid reader, I thought I knew way more Japanese than I actually did. But…I could barely understand anything anyone said since there were no words in front of me to help.

You can learn a lot from listening and it will automatically help stick phrases in your head and get you used to pronunciation and accents.

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While we’re on the subject of speaking practice, is there any prerequisite to using language exchange programs like iTalki or Tandem? :frowning: Like do I have to learn verbs and grammar before attempting to hold conversations?

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For conversation,

Just learning basic grammar, namely Genki 1 or Minna no Nihongo 1-2, should be already enough to start speaking portion.

For listening portion, obviously the partner will adapt to you anyway, so you don’t have to worry. But for more random and passive listening, you will need a lot of vocab and Jukugo. (So, Kanji and WaniKani help after all.) Also, a lot for grammar to help breakdown sentences.

I haven’t done so, though; although, I can speak Japanese while holding a dictionary. In doubt, I just show my smartphone screen.

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