My very first speaking experience: surprisingly positive!

So some background: regarding my Japanese ability, I’d put myself at probably around N4 in reading and listening. Other than WK, I use Bunpro and Cure Dolly for grammar, and I’ve lately started to tackle native material. Prior to last night I’d literally never spoken a word of the language to anyone. Maybe more importantly, I also have intense social anxiety that is by far my most difficult challenge to deal with, which has hugely affected my everyday life.

Last week, I decided on a whim to book three Italki trial lessons with different teachers. This was extremely out of character and I have no idea what came over me. Well, come last night I hadn’t cancelled, so I guess I just had to do the lesson…and it was good! Well, good in the sense that we didn’t switch to English for the whole half hour, and I wasn’t panicking. My Japanese was sh*t (even though the teacher "nihongo jouzu’d me to death lol) and there were a lot of long pauses. I was surprised by what I could actually use in conversation and what I forgot.

Things I remembered:

  • すみません (oh boy did I remember すみません)
  • That one sentence construction “verb stem + 直す” to mean you re-did something
  • 返事?

Things I forgot:

  • Almost my entire vocabulary, which consists of the whole N5 and N4 lists and everything on WK up through level 17
  • Basically every other sentence structure - I mean I struggled to form XはYです sentences
  • The verb 言う, apparently??? (I overused 話す instead haha)

Overall it was a positive experience and I’m actually tentatively excited for my next trial lesson tonight! It was really valuable to see just how much more difficult it is to output Japanese than input, and enlightening to know which things from my studies stuck to the point where I can use them actively. So I guess this is a post of encouragement to take the plunge and speak to someone if you have the means, I wish I’d done it earlier! If I could do it, you definitely can! :slight_smile:

Wow, I’m so flipping motivated now that I’m thinking about starting a study log haha. Maybe I just want to vent about how I finally learned 光栄 and 栄光 today and OH DEAR GOD WHY

Anyway, speaking! You should try it! Even if you’re shy!


Sometimes it’s like every other word lol

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget that one.

Great to hear your experience was good. :smiley:


That’s amazing! I’m not sure if the courage I admire most or the fact you managed to speak for a half hour at N4 level.

Looking forward to your report on the next couple lessons.


Congratulations, and keep it up! I remember the first time I had an extended conversation in Japanese: a friend pranked me into speaking to a half-Japanese girl, because he knew her and saw her nearby. ‘Hey, he speaks Japanese!’ I panicked and all that, but luckily I had some story in my head about how I started learning Japanese, so it didn’t go too badly.

In any case, I know I wouldn’t be as fluent as I am (not that I’m brilliant, but I’m finally no-subbing a decent portion of Shield Hero after watching it maybe 3-4 times with subs) without regularly sending random little text messages in Japanese to my fluent friend and getting corrected. Communicating is really the moment when everything comes together. :smiley:


Lol I mean I didn’t think I would either…at least I probably won’t next time!

Is it a big deal to speak at N4 level? I guess I was under the impression that having simple conversations was fairly common, but I don’t really know. In any case it was a very broken conversation haha. Definitely going to be posting here again after the next lesson!

That’s a great story! I can’t imagine having to suddenly speak Japanese without having mentally braced myself for it, haha. I guess communication really is the point of this whole Japanese-learning exercise, huh? I’m a pretty academic person so I probably would have been happy continuing to study just for interest in the language itself, totally isolated from human interaction, but having a conversation has really motivated me in a whole new way that I didn’t think it would.


It is totally an excellent idea to have a prepared speech to answer “why/how are you studying Japanese? For how long?” This is nearly always anyone’s first question of a foreigner speaking Japanese, and you can really impress people (or get yourself in over your head if you practice that a little too well). And I had a good laugh with someone when I ended up saying “fifty years” instead of “fifteen years” - it was like 35 C out and I’d just climbed a few hundred stairs to this castle, so I probably wouldn’t have made any sense speaking English, either. :wink:

Also, you’re doing great if your conversation partner didn’t switch to English. You’re already at the unofficial second level of conversation skill.

  1. “Your Japanese is very good!”
  2. "日本語は上手です” spoken very slowly and clearly :wink:
  3. "日本語がうまい” or “日本語ペラペラ”
  4. …nothing at all. Or, in my recent experience, people telling me it would be a shame if I didn’t get into professional translation/interpretation (I don’t think I’m that good but I heard it a lot last trip).

I’ll never forget the day I got my first "日本語がうまい” in Hida Furukawa. That may have had more to do with the dialect/attitude (significantly less formal than the big cities) than my skill level, though…


It depends on how you learn Japanese, but it’s fairly common for people to achieve high JLPT levels without being very fluent in conversation. The JLPT has no speaking component, after all.

I’m really academic about how I study languages too, but I’ve found that it’s so much fun to see people’s faces light up when you can speak their language. And you also get this sense of achievement when you manage to get your point across. In any case, don’t worry about mistakes. I remember being asked if I read manga or watched anime. I ended up mixing the two verbs up without noticing, so the conversation went something like this:

  • 漫画を読むの?アニメを見る?
  • えっと、アニメを見ていますが、漫画はあまり見てー
  • 読んで
  • えっ?
  • アニメを見る、漫画を読む。(She made some gestures.)
  • あ、そう。そう、そう、そう。漫画はあまり読んでいません。

So yeah, I basically thought, ‘Wait, did I really just say I don’t really “watch” manga? Help!!!’ :joy: But eh, the rest of the conversation went ok, and it was good practice. She ended it off saying 「すごい!アクセントは結構…です。」To be honest, I’m still not sure what the ‘…’ was. Could have been something I didn’t catch or a pause (I think it was a pause/trailing off – could how been that she realised I had been formal, so she ought to mirror), but anyway, it went well. :smiley: I was so surprised that I could converse and explain how I started learning Japanese. And on top of that, I kept using polite language – which was so awkward – because I didn’t know at the time if I could be casual. (Ironically, in French, I would have been casual automatically.) The answer is though: yeah, you can. If you’re both university students of the same age, casual language is the default, so I probably made the conversation more stilted than it should have been.


Just had my second lesson! I already notice a huge improvement in how quickly I can form sentences - very simple sentences, but still. This teacher definitely spoke more quickly, and with more words I didn’t know, than my previous teacher. I had to ask her to repeat herself a lot more often, and I wasn’t getting any “nihongo jouzu” this time, but that’s probably for the best, haha - 上手じゃない!

Even though there were parts of the conversation that seemed to flow okay, I kind of felt worse about the awkward pauses this time? It felt like rather than not knowing what to say in Japanese, I just didn’t know what to say period. I mentioned that I watch anime sometimes, and then proceeded to completely freeze when she asked about my favorite shows. That should have been easy! It was definitely a social anxiety response, which really sucks when speaking Japanese is so difficult already.

Ah well, 仕方がないね。Two down, one to go.


I first spoke Japanese at an International Festival to two different people. I had practiced the night before what I thought I might need to say and then said it the next day. Both a woman and an old man who was teaching my nephew how to use chopsticks both were very surprised that I could say anything in Japanese. The man’s face just burst into a big smile when I said “こんにち は”. He asked how long I’d been studying, etc. It was so motivating.


I just had my last lesson and I’m completely and utterly exhausted. Three days in a row was really more than I bargained for! I think this speaking experience has been really valuable and I’d like to continue with a tutor in the future, but something like once a week would definitely be much less stressful.

Today’s lesson was with a professional teacher, and it had a totally different style from my other lessons. We did a formal evaluation that covered a mix of skills - identifying kanji, self-introduction, reading a paragraph aloud, roleplaying ordering food at a restaurant, etc. It was pretty tough, and my internet cut out in the middle, which didn’t help!

It definitely felt like she was less interested in me personally than the other teachers, and honestly? That kind of helped with my anxiety, haha. At the end of the lesson she sent me a whole document with my evaluation results, as well as a bunch of corrected sentences from our conversation. The results were actually pretty interesting - she was impressed with my reading ability (thanks WK!) and put me at around N4 level overall. It’s nice to get some validation for my totally self-assessed abilities! She gave me a 4/5 on communication ability but a 2/5 on fluency - I’m not totally clear on the difference?

Anyway, I’ve booked another lesson for next week to see what she’s like when she’s not doing a test. Even though the last few days have been overwhelming, I’m really glad I tried this! I’m a lot less intimidated by the idea of speaking now, and I absolutely recommend it to anyone who’s been on the fence so far.


Generally communication ability would mean getting your point across, such as if you’re looking for toothpicks but don’t know the word, you can ask for “little wood for teeth.” (This remains one of the few things I can still say in Bahasa Indonesia.) Whatever works!

Fluency, when contrasted with communication ability, is how your speaking “flows.” If you spend a lot of time searching for a word, then you’re not going to sound fluent. It’s quite possible to sound fluent without really knowing the language well, such as a French actress speaking Italian by rote for a film role (such as Bianco come il latte, rosso come il sangue).

These are two separate metrics and both are separate from vocabulary and knowledge of the language - each refers to how you can put it together, but in different ways. It’s possible to be pretty good at getting your point across, or sound pretty fluent, with a relatively small vocabulary if you practice speaking a lot, or focus on learning common phrases and patterns instead of isolated words.

I’d say that communication ability can really only be improved by practicing speaking on the fly, and it’s transitive across languages - that is, I come into learning a new language with pretty good ability to communicate because I have a lot of practice in getting my point across with a limited vocabulary (though you wouldn’t know that from my writing in English). Fluency can be improved by techniques such as shadowing, reading aloud, and studying phrases and patterns.


Oh, that makes sense! Yeah, even though I felt like I generally got where I was going in the end, I definitely had to pause a lot while constructing my sentences mentally. I guess my score sounds about right, then. Thanks for the explanation!


A personal staple of mine is もう一度言ってください :slight_smile:

Anyway, congratulations! It will get easier if you stick to it! (I used to be red as a tomato, sweating profusely. Now I mostly just treat it like any old conversation… even if my Japanese is still often weird)

If you ever plan on going to Japan, I personally found it super helpful to have gotten to the point where I could at least speak without hesitation, even if what came out wasn’t perfect.

In fact, more than improving your Japanese as such, I think that learning not to be bothered by your mistakes and just talk is what’s the most useful!



(You might be thinking, “What do you mean?,” but eventually, you’ll come to realize that you often say 言う)


I’m gonna try my luck explaining the difference, but I have to say that even as a Chinese speaker, I haven’t got these down pat. Could be a testament to how much my Chinese has deteriorated, but even the dictionary says that these two are (apparently) equivalent in Chinese, just that one can be used as a noun, while the other is more common in poetry.

Anyway, so… see, the problem is that 栄 (traditional form: 榮) itself can carry the idea of honour or glory, and that’s why it’s so unclear… it’s actually associated with ideas like ‘prospering’, ‘thriving’, ‘having a reputation/status’. I mean, look at the traditional form and imagine the energy and vigour of the blazing flames. That’s what it’s like.

So how can we tell them apart? I mean, I tried using a Japanese dictionary, and when I started from the definition of 栄光, with a 1-2 clicks on words I didn’t know, I ended up on definition that used 光栄, so it’s obvious that they’re really close. What I’m going to do is to concentrate on parts of the definition where the same words were used, but in different constructions, and then try to link those words to the kanji. Here are the relevant bits (my translations may be literal at times to avoid contrived associations with ‘honour’ or ‘glory’ that don’t use the kanji for justification):
光栄: …名誉に思うこと。= an abstract thing thought of as one’s reputation/fame
栄光: …大きな名誉。= a big/great reputation/fame

So it seems that 光栄 is something that can be thought of in a manner that contributes to one’s reputation, or as something that gives one a reputation, whereas 栄光 is that reputation. Why is that? Well, generally (though not always), what comes before modifies what comes after. In other words, in the first case, 光 describes 栄, whereas in the second 栄 describes 光. In addition (though this may be more confusing that helpful), in Chinese, 光 can be a verb that means ‘to cause to shine/become brighter’ (figuratively, usually), whereas 栄 isn’t a verb at all. Thus:

  • 光栄 is a bright state of thriving and prosperity, a sort of shining status or reputation. Admittedly, that sounds like both ‘honour’ and ‘glory’, but if we take the ‘光 is a verb’ interpretation, we’ll realise that something that ‘makes one’s reputation shine’ has to be an honour, whereas glory is the result of that honour. I personally tend to think of 光栄 as an adjective more than a noun, because if I say 光栄です, I’m more focused on the fact that something is ‘honourable’ than that it is, for instance, ‘the highest honour that the nation can bestow upon…’. More importantly, (and this should help clear up the confusion)…
  • 栄光 is the light of fame, of a good reputation, of prosperity, of thriving. That’s what the 光 in second position indicates. That means that 栄光 is something that shines upon others and draws their attention. Only glory does that. Honour is more of an internal thing, and someone who is honoured does not necessarily ‘shine’ upon the world because he or she may not be honoured publicly. Therefore, 栄光 is glory.

That’s my analysis anyway. But how I personally remember it is: 光栄 feels like an adjective, while 栄光 feels like a noun, specifically a kind of light. After that… I work from there. What’s more like a light, and what’s more like an adjective? I mean, we don’t say ‘it’s been a glory’, do we? Only ‘it’s been an honour’. :wink:


I think you have them backwards こうえい is honor, えいこう is glory

1 Like

I had a similar experience in Tokyo except it was an old lady serving at a tofu restaurant who chattered away to me in Japanese and didn’t seem at all surprised that I was replying in japanese but was AMAZED that I could use chopsticks :rofl: :rofl:


That sounds hilarious since Japanese people are stereotypically really surprised that foreigners can speak Japanese. Still, I have to admit that I’m often quite surprised when I see people of non-East Asian origin using chopsticks proficiently (unless they grew up in a multicultural area where chopsticks are common). It’s obviously not an eating implement exclusive to any one culture, but I tend to think there’s no incentive to learn if everyone around you is using forks, knives and spoons. I grew up in a place where Western and Eastern utensils were common, and I sometimes find chopsticks too finicky to use (even though I carry a pair in my suitcase) e.g. when you have a container with many grooves and you just can’t get that last grain of rice. In any case, congratulations on your chopstick prowess. :stuck_out_tongue: :smiley:


Don’t remind me of that nightmare. Now that they are out of my queue, I think I’ve forgotten them again.

Congratulations though.


はい、そうですねと言うと思います :wink: