Is conversational Japanese possible in a non-Japanese speaking context?

I’m re-starting my kanji/Japanese learning again after a hiatus. I originally started learning Japanese because the person I was dating is Japanese. I’m no longer with them and decided to get back into the language learning for myself because I really enjoyed it and the progress I made. Do people think it’s possible to obtain conversational Japanese in a non-Japanese speaking context with self-study? I’m doing this program, as well as Kevin Marx’s “Speak Japanese in 90 Days” book.
Thanks for your feedback in advance!

  • Shawna
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I’m not quite sure what you mean by ‘non-Japanese speaking context’. Do you just mean not getting any speaking practice?

In order to be properly conversational, you’re going to need speaking practice. When you’re in a conversation, you have to think up what you’re saying on the fly, so If you’re only used to remembering words in a review style context, you’re going to struggle both listening and comprehending what the person talking to you is saying, and trying to think of what you’re going to say next. There’s no way to really get around this though, without actually speaking to people in Japanese. Personally, I wouldn’t worry too much about having poor speaking skills to begin with. Japanese people don’t expect foreigners to be able to speak any Japanese, so being able to speak it, even badly, will be impressive to them.

One thing I do sometimes is, If i’m in the shower for example, I’ll try talking to myself in Japanese. Doing this should give you a good gauge of your abilities with being able to actually conversational produce sentences.

I’m going to stop editing this, I’ve edited it like 6 times now


I sure hope so =P
I don’t know anyone to talk too IRL, though I dream of visiting one day. I aim for reading capability though, I’m horrible at speaking and listening (since I don’t practice it at all)

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I’m in the same exact boat as @Toyger. My focus is reading. Eventually I’ll get to listening but it’s not my top priority right now. I doubt I’ll ever really practice speaking, honestly. At least not for a few years. And I still feel like I’m doing pretty well in my studies. So it really just depends on your goals. If your goal is to speak conversationally, then you’ll need to practice speaking, yes.

You absolutely need to practice speaking to become good at speaking. It’s a very chicken-and-egg type problem.

I’ve found that friends who are shy and scared to try speaking “until I get better at Japanese” are the ones who never actually get decent at speaking Japanese while the people who jump into every chance to practice speaking – even if make mistakes many times – are the ones who end up getting good at speaking!

Personally, I am fortunate to live in a big city with a sizable Japanese population and numerous language exchange events, but this wasn’t always the case – However, In the age of the internet there is zero excuse not to practice speaking Japanese with Japanese people online. Here is a quick list of some easy to use language exchange websites that either have built-in voice chat or the ability to exchange Skype/Line/etc. (app for iOS and Android)

Good luck!


Thanks so much everyone for your input, I appreciate it! I guess I definitely have opportunities, as I live in a large city and am starting to venture out into the in-person language exchanges. Yes, for me this was hard too because I’m quite shy and self-conscious of my abilities in Japanese. You really have to force yourself. When I did this program the first time, I got up to level 13 because I convinced myself I couldn’t speak until I knew ‘enough’ (whatever enough means, I don’t know), but never had the confidence to try to speak it. Now, I’m trying to focus on speaking, but live alone - so yes I will try speaking to myself and put myself out there more. Thanks for the advice everyone!

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