Poor Conversation Retention

Hey guys, not sure that the title really fits what I mean, but hopefully it’ll make sense in a second.

As my ability to communicate recently has gotten better and better, I find myself having a lot more frequent and meaningful conversations with my coworkers both at and outside of work. Due to this, I’ve also noticed that I find it much more difficult to recall details of conversations I’ve had with people in Japanese than when I talk with my friends in English.
I’m assuming it’ll get better as my comprehension improves, I just find it very strange and honestly it can be quite frustrating at times. Does anyone else experience this?


That is an interesting phenomenon. I wonder if your recall would improve if you tried thinking in Japanese and then trying to recall? (maybe you’ve tried this already?)

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I have a similar experience while reading, I’m trying read a grammar book for middle school students in Japanese to get both reading practice and learn grammar. While reading is quite smooth now, the content doesn’t really stick despite understanding most of it (and knowing the rules already). I can’t really “play it back” as a memory.

My idea is that I just have to practice more, maybe understanding the content and actually storing it as knowledge are not connected yet.


I imagine it has something to do with focusing on understanding the things you’re hearing instead of treating them as a simple conversation. (different part of the brain or whatever)
I also have trouble sometimes recalling information in other languages, but that’s mostly because of the mode I get in when speaking in them. (and my bad memory in general)

Now that I think about it, this happened to me in the listening part of the JLPT.
I understood most of what I was hearing, but I had to write it down because I wasn’t going to remember after hearing more sentences of the same problem.


Are you saying you can’t recall the actual content, or the way it was delivered?

I definitely have the second problem. After quite a bit of reading fiction in Japanese, I’ve finally just recently gotten to the point where (sometimes) I can recall the Japanese wording instead of a mental English translation (even if I wasn’t actively translating in my head while reading). The same often goes for spoken conversations. I assume there’s no way around that but practice and time.

If you’re struggling to remember the actual content–mental translation or otherwise–maybe you’re focusing too much on trying to understand in the moment and that’s preventing it from entering your longterm memory as actual information? I’m not sure. I suppose in that case, mental translation might actually help.


That’s interesting, I don’t have much time logged in reading things so I can’t speak to that, but I wonder if they’re in anyway connected? Growing up we had a program in school that required us to read and take comprehension tests on a number of books per year, so I wonder if it’s purely a lack of experience in the new language, and somehow it being a second language changes how the brain processes the information.

This is a really interesting theory. It’s definitely an accurate statement, especially with how different Japanese and English are. This just makes me wonder even more if the brain somehow treats secondary languages differently. Guess I know what I’ll be doing with my free time today lol

It’s a bit of both, really. I can remember bits and pieces of the conversations, and the general idea of what we talked about, but when I try to retrace my steps through the conversation and figure out how we got from “topic A” to “topic C” sometimes there are just full on blanks and I can’t remember for the life of me what was in between.

And you know what, in hindsight I’m sure it’s in no way helpful that most of my opportunities to speak Japanese happen at drinking parties. I promise it happens other times too and I’m not just an alcoholic.


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