Practicing coming up with sentences on the spot


I’ve been studying JP for a little over 3 years now… I’ve recently started to become a little frustrated when I’m talking to a friend or teacher in Japanese where I can’t piece a sentence together. I know the words and grammar to make the sentence but it comes out really broken, which is fine because the meaning of the sentence seems to always get across! But I’d like to work on becoming better at piecing sentences together on the spot and being able to express myself more.

I’ve tried a few things like recording myself just speaking, keeping a daily vlog and diary, but I never really seem to improve all that much.

I work full time and spend maybe 1-2 hours a day doing reviews and some study, but I was wondering if any of you fine folk have any resources or ways you overcome this sort of thing?

I’d love it if there was a website or something that gives you an English sentence and you need to translate it or something like that. I’m not aware of anything like that though.

I use WaniKani, Bunpro & NativShark on a daily basis, but they’re all pretty heavy on just remembering what the saying/word is rather than forcing you to come up with your own sentence.

I could probably spend some time making my own Anki decks or something I guess, but thought I’d ask here for any tips/pointers first!



It sounds like you are actually looking to improve your applicative ability (speed of recall and ability to use it for creation), rather than your memorization.

I’m not so sure Anki would help much with this goal. I think that even if you created your own deck, you would end up feeling like it was, as you said, “pretty heave on just remembering what the saying/word is rather than forcing you to come up with your own sentence.”

I say this because SRS is very specifically designed to improve memorization. It’s not really a good tool for creation. These are different levels of learning, so it would be better to find a different tool.*

Something I like to do is “narrate” my day in my head in Japanese.

E.g., if I’m looking for something like my keys, I’ll ask myself かぎはどこですか, rather than “Where are my keys?” I’ll even explain where I found them to an imaginary friend. (They’re not just for kids! :grin:)

Or, I’ll think about how I would have said something if I were in Japan after visiting a store, or even right smack dab in the middle of the conversation, if there’s time enough when the other person is working up their response. Under this form, there may be times I don’t have the grammar I need, but even so, I try to figure out how I might say it with what I do know.

The idea behind these narrations, I think, matches the kind of thing you’re looking for. I’m forcing myself to create sentences, and I’m doing it as “on the spot” as possible when I’m not fully immersed in the language.

*See this thread for a much deeper discussion:


Duolingo has a Japanese course. I went through it at the earliest level and it’s expanded since then, but they have options to “test in” so you can skip the earliest levels that cover things like hirigana, as I understand it.

Thanks for this reply! Yeah, I totally agree with what you’ve said.

I do sometimes do the whole ‘narration’ thing in my head, but it’s usually really basic stuff. I’ll have a go at trying to apply myself to it more!

I haven’t seen that thread before either. Some awesome advice in info in there. Thanks for linking :smiley:

The thing that helped me the most with this (other than speaking a lot with other people) was simply just talking to myself in Japanese. It can be a hard habit to get into but it’ll really help with skipping English and just going straight to Japanese in your head, which is ultimately the goal. You don’t even have to do it out loud, although if you’re comfortable with it, it helps with speaking too.

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