How to Improve Speaking (Specifically, the improvisation of sentences)

I saw other resources on the forums, and at least from what I could find, most focused on shadowing, practicing with native speakers, and pronunciation, but I definitely could have missed something on this.

I’ve used shadowing resources, and I have iTalki lessons. They correct my pronunciation or at least make a face that indicates what I said was garbage, haha. I think my biggest problem is the ability to generate sentences in conversation- If I have time to think, I can write a little more detailed sentences. Or if they give me an example to say the Japanese equivalent, I mostly do okay (at least at my more beginner level). But I struggle making the sentence in response and then just say something really basic. My listening comprehension is okay for my level, assuming I don’t accidentally start buffering on a word I don’t know instead of listening to the rest of the sentence.

Is there any resources that anyone here has used or methodologies that helped with that?

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When have you started taking the iTalki lessons?

I’m taking 1:1 speaking lessons with a Japanese native live since about a year and only after several months started noticing improvements. It takes time to develop habits and create building blocks for conversation :slight_smile:

What level are you in general also? If you’re still a beginner you might just need more time to get better at grammar, sentence building, word choice, etc. All of these things come with practice/experience.

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Practice.

Really. It’s that easy and that difficult.

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I think there’s some confusion- Speaking with my tutors isn’t improving this problem. What kind of practice?

I have been doing iTalki for about 5 months maybe. In the last two, I’ve had it 5 days a week. Is there something particular you focus on with your lessons that you think have helped? For example, are your lessons more free conversation?

I’ve started learning N3 material, but my skill levels are all over the place. Since I study on my own, my reading is a lot better than my other skills.

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You get better at speaking (or any other language skill) by doing it.

If your tutors aren’t helping, maybe your conversations with them are too scripted? Maybe they are too willing to tolerate inadequate responses? Or, on the other hand, maybe their expectations are more realistic than yours?

Do you have any opportunities to be around native speakers who are not teachers? For instance, large cities often have conversation meetups. Some are focused on language learners, but others are primarily intended to let native speakers talk to each other. Choosing one that’s a bit above your level and then spending most of your time listening might help. (And more listening generally might help, too.)

How have your studies been doing outside of speaking practice? Speaking with natives is the best way to practice, but if your level of knowledge of Japanese is following up to the speaking, you’ll be struggling to improve for sure.

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Internalize a bunch of sentences from media to the point where you can just regurgitate them when you need them. :sunglasses:

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Here’s a specific exercise for developing speaking fluency:

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I’ve rewritten this a few times, unable to put into words exactly what I think, so this is about the best I can do. Sorry if it’s kinda weird.

I personally believe that in order to be able to just start speaking in Japanese without thinking about it, you need to be able to think in Japanese first without using English. You have to stop using the bridge that goes brain → english → japanese → mouth. When you look at an apple, for example, you have to slowly train yourself not to think, “Ok, apple is リンゴ in Japanese.” You have to just look at it and know it as リンゴ, and I think this just comes with repetitively putting yourself on the spot to use Japanese where you don’t have time to think of the English word first, whether that be in conversation or in your own head.

I think this in junction with speaking with natives is really what helped me to break free of having to translate what I wanted to say into Japanese and instead simply speak Japanese.

Edit: I forgot to add that this was most certainly not something that developed over the course of a couple months. This is the result of years of work. Not saying that things like in the video above may not work, but I can’t stand “get fluent in 7 hours” or “the fastest way to speak 30 languages (not clickbait!)” shit. It doesn’t matter if it’s not happening fast if you’re seeing progress. /endrant

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i feel like this is actually a very valid strategy. :slight_smile: Instead of thinking, I want to be able to say this English sentence in Japanese, I think it’s much better to read something and go: This is a new sentence pattern that I want to be able to use when speaking! What kind of situations could I use this in?
You don’t need to come up with completely new sentences yourself. Just look at native sentence patterns and try to copy and adapt them. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you could just change out some nouns. That way, you’re also more likely to pick up on natural ways to say things in Japanese and not sound like an English → Japanese translation machine.

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Thanks for the advice! I’m definitely working on stopping translation in my end. I know there’s no quick and easy way to become fluent in a language (or at least I don’t have that particular skill). It’s just felt like despite an insane amount of varied study/practice, I wasn’t seeing improvement in this area. Even though I have iTalki lessons every day, switching to English for work and things has made it a bit harder to truly immerse, if that makes sense. So, it sounds like it’s just more running in my hampster wheel until I get a breakthrough.

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It doesn’t happen often, but it’s easier when you can talk about things you like or care about.

Usually it’s my teacher forcing me to write an essay and then grinding me down for the mistakes I make :joy::joy::joy:

Sometimes my lessons are more about usual day-to-day stuff. I think these are most valuable. Speaking about things that surround you, are important to you.

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I think everything else is going pretty well. I can read and write with what I know fairly well, outside of some general mistakes like not yet being able to distinguish between word nuance and some of my particles can get mixed up. I do a fair amount of listening comprehension, so even that is better than my speaking.

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Ah, this actually looks like a pretty interesting type of exercise to try- thanks!

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Something that might help with the transition is abusing the fact that you can sort of use whatever ordering of words you need to get your point across and then work on cleaning it up afterwards. Don’t aim for perfection off the rip.

For example, don’t stress about trying to say
アパートの隣にある公園を歩こうか?

and at first just try to blurt out
歩こうか?公園。アパートの隣の

tbh the second one is not too far off from how my wife talks sometimes lol. (often followed by やば、日本語めちゃくちゃ)

Usually whenever I end up with a garbled sentence like that, once I’ve said all the words, I’ll resay the sentence with a better structure. Easier to think about the order of the words after I already know what words I’ll use. Eventually it just gets easier.

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Imho, totally legal in spoken Japanese :joy:. I also sort of use short sentences when talking to my teacher.

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I’m more posting to validate your struggle as someone that feels speaking is my weak area too! So I don’t know that I have a good answer, but one of my tutors encourages me to focus on easy topics to speak about (where I’m less likely to get stuck thinking hmmm how do I translate or say this….). Like talking about weather, your job, what you do with friends, hobbies, where you live, etc.

I think I agree with those posting that you gotta work towards thinking in Japanese as opposed to trying to translate everything. For me it’s a struggle as I’m a perfectionist, but I find it’s easier when I can relax and not be afraid to make mistakes. So for me it was important to find tutors that I feel comfortable with and are easygoing and encourage conversation.

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While there’s no secret to any of the 4 pillars of language, speaking is good to start with a tutor. iTalki regularly is gonna get the language juices going and create an environment where you can experiment and learn and then when the real deal comes you’ll be ready.

I think I did 2 session a week for the first month than dropped down to once a month because it can get expensive.

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This is how textbooks and other kinds of formal instruction do it, FWIW. They introduce progressively more complex grammar patterns and have you use them to make sentences using a limited group of vocabulary words. It’s boring and tedious and it’s why people dislike textbooks, but it’s useful practice.

Edit: Along the same lines, you can find all kinds of collections of sentence patterns, from the classic tourist phrase book up to very extensive guides aimed at foreigners working in Japan.

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