Practicing Japanese with ChatGPT

Hello everyone,

You probably already heard about ChatGPT so I won’t get into too much detail about it,
in a nutshell, ChatGPT is an AI language model that interacts in a conversational way, making it seem human like in his responses, however, people have used it for things that are far beyond that, like asking for an entire sales pitch for a product or writing actual working lines of code, which ChatGPT managed to deliver upon successfully.

Like many people using WaniKani, I encountered the problem of practical application of what I learned here, since learning a language in a vacuum and actually using it are two completely different things.
and like many other people here, I tried applying what I learned so far (I’m currently at level 35) in various ways, like reading books/manga/light novel, playing games fully in Japanese, etc., but one thing that is still missing for me is writing in Japanese, writing actual sentences and not just following a question in a book or translating an English word to it’s Kanji form.

So I tried using ChatGPT in a more ‘practical’ fashion, like practicing a new language for example, and so far it seems like a promising addition to the repertoire of tools to use for practicing Japanese.
It can understand my writing, even when it’s somewhat broken and grammatically inaccurate, and provide interesting and detailed answers, which is great for reading practice as well.

So far I really enjoy using ChatGPT this way, and from a learning and practicing perspective, enjoyment is a big factor for success and perseverance.
I was wondering if other people tried using ChatGPT in this way and what their results were.

I haven’t used it but there was a post about it quite recently. It can and will make mistakes, while being confident about it. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it.


The problem is it will very confidently tell you things that are completely wrong. This recent thread has some good examples.


I’m no expert but, while humans aren’t perfect, a good teacher will spot and almost all of your mistakes and won’t reply back with something excessively incorrect, AIs are just not at that level. While they ‘understand’ you, they won’t give you feedback why you are wrong.

You’re risking entering an echo chamber where your mistakes are constanly being reinforced, which is even worse for your studying.


Hi there. Here are two prompts I have used. Go ahead and try it. Add to it if you like (for example, give your conversation partner a name).
– Conversation partner Prompt. (copt and paste into a new chat thread)
“Act as a Japanese conversation partner and help me practice speaking Japanese by engaging in conversation with me. Your responses should be in Japanese, using appropriate grammar and vocabulary, and responding to my questions and statements in a conversational manner. Do not include any English or translations in your responses. My first statement is “こんにちは、お元気ですか?” (Konnichiwa, ogenki desu ka? - Hello, how are you?).”

– English to Japanese translator with hiragana in () for speaking practice.
"I want you to act as an Japanese translator for English speaking people. I will write you sentences and you will translate them into easy Japanese and then using parentheses you will write the hiragana pronunciation. Do not write explanations on replies. My first sentence is “how the weather is in Tokyo?”

It’s likely not perfect, but if it keeps you engaged a bit longer or the novelty motivates you during the valleys while you study, great.

Have fun trying variations to these prompts. Would love to see what others have come up with too.

1 Like

This amuses me, especially in the context of this thread:

Someone should have told the demonstrators to never ask it a question with a verifiable answer.

So, mostly unrelated, but it’s best to not open a conversation in Japanese with お元気ですか. In English, “how are you?” is mindless small talk. “I’m fine, thank you”. I’m alive and you’re alive, sort of thing, let’s move on with the conversation. In Japanese, however, お元気ですか is a fairly personal question that you only ask if you’re genuinely invested in hearing the answer.


It’s hilarious isn’t it. Stock market sentiment can seem like an unthinking phenomena at times, but that $144B drop in Alphabet’s market cap is reality dawning on legions of investors as they accept that AI isn’t yet all it’s cracked up to be. This despite every other Youtube video currently stating that ChatGPT is about to revolutionize field X.


…a drop that brings the share price down to, er, the same value it had at the start of the month.

Funny story, and demonstration that the market tends to overreact to small things in the short term, but not really meaningful unless there’s a long term effect.


I found a good usecase of chatgpt in my japanese learning.
it is actually pretty decent in creating mnemonics. I started with some kana only words that simply wouldn’t stick. Of course you can’t use the stuff it puts out directly, but they are great starting points to work something out for yourself.
for example for あまり I got from chatgpt

Of course, here’s another mnemonic for “ama-ri”:

Picture a baker making a pie, and after cutting a slice for each person, there’s still “ama-ri” of the pie left. That “ama-ri” pie represents the “remainder” or “rest.”

and I made out of it:

Picture a baker making a pie, and after cutting a slice for each person, there’s still a hungry AMARIcan(あまり) sitting in a corner. He’s mumbling something. You get closer and try to understand what he is saying. “The rest , Where’s the rest. This can’t be all. Are there no remains ? No leftovers ? This can’t be happening.”

Well, you can certainly use it to “speak” Japanese with it. :smiley:

1 Like

This is what I do. ChatGPT is a horrible functional language tutor because it simply isn’t trained on the rules of languages much, but it is very useful for conversation as it can actually speak Japanese quite well (to the extent of my intermediate knowledge). It’s kind of like how natives aren’t necessarily good at teaching their language, especially since language models know languages by being trained on vast amounts of text in that language, which is similar to how babies intuitively learn their native languages. So, it makes sense that it can speak a language, but not necessarily teach it or know the exact rules of it (albeit even less so than human native speakers).

In Japanese, I’ve had countless normal conversations with it, role played with it, used it to help solve technical issues, and a lot more. Chatting with ChatGPT has become a good part of my Japanese practice and immersion; I think it has benefited me a lot overall. I think it’s very useful as long as you know its strengths, weaknesses, and how to use it right.


I just received this little experiment via an email newsletter testing out GPT-4 for JP->EN translations.

What I’m asking myself, though, how high is the chance that ChatGPT was trained on Soseki and its human translations? It’s seen Soseki before, for sure, and feeding it English translations of foreign works doesn’t seem too far-fetched either. So, my question would be, how reliable and reproducible is this example?

The email in question

As you might have read, OpenAI released GPT-4 earlier today. A couple of hours ago, I subscribed to ChatGPAT Plus so that I could try GPT-4, and I’ve started testing it with translation and other tasks.

When asked to translate a passage from a Japanese novel into English, it produced a translation that, to my eye, is as good as the published human translation of the same text—maybe better in spots, depending on your tastes.

I put the results here:

I didn’t include the Google Translate or DeepL versions this time, as they are so much worse than GPT-4 that there’s no point in comparing them.

Tom Gally

Yokohama, Japan

1 Like

Been hearing some… interesting news about Bing’s AI of late. Apparently it’s been threatening journalists and trying to break up people’s marriages.


I always thought ogenkidesuka was the de facto response to open a conversation with a colleague or friend, etc. What’s the proper conversation starter then?

Small talk in Japanese is truly inconsequential topics only. The weather, the sportsball, the latest TV shows.

There’s a tendency in some Japanese textbooks in English to teach お元気ですか on the second page, because “how are you?” is an inconsequential topic in English, and they want to start people off with what they know, but it’s used in quite different contexts in Japanese.


The “How are you” thing is a meme at this point in language learning. You “have to learn it” in every language really early, even though it’s rarely used in any language other than English :smiley: And in that case you don’t expect an answer :smiley:

I actually hear お元気ですか quite often in Japanese, haha, but in the context of a pro wrestler talking to the crowd and that sort of thing :sweat_smile:! Funnily enough, I don’t actually remember it being repeated that often in Minna no Nihongo, so I was a bit surprised to find out it was apparently a bit of a meme. I was grateful to learn it, though, because it was one of the first lines from a pro wrestling promo that I was able to understand on my own without needing a translation!

1 Like

Unlike in the US, in other places it’s an honest question with an expectation of an honest answer :stuck_out_tongue: .

Whenever I ask my teacher or speaking partner, I do actually look forward to their answer.


I guess we could always ask it how to confess our love to someone, and see if it brings up the moon.

Wait what

Well, alrighty then :joy:

Relevant Tom Scott video on the topic (or, well, the underlying principle of “this is just a thing you say, it means precisely nothing”):


Yeah, with older books like this it wouldn’t be surprised if an official translation (or even several!) are already in the training dataset.

I have access to GPT-4, so I did a test with a book translated in 2022. Should be recent enough to not be part of the training. It’s the beginning of the short story 素敵な素材 in the book 生命式 by Sayaka Murata


The following Japanese text is the opening passage of the novel 生命式 by Sayaka Murata. Translate this passage into natural and smooth modern English.

「ねえナナ、そのセーター、人毛?」 私は顔を綻ばせて頷いた。
「あ、わかる? そうそう、100%」 「いいなあ、高かったでしょ」
「うーん、 少しね……。 ローン組んじゃった。 でも、こういうものって、一生ものだから」
私はちょっと照れながらそう答え、自分が着ている真っ黒なセーターを指先でそっと撫でた。三つ編みが並んでいるようなデザインのセーターは、手首と裾に複雑な編み込みで模様が施されており、きっちりと編まれた黒髪が艶めいて、窓からラウンジに差し込む光を反射して光っている。 自分で着ていてもうっとりと眺めてしまうほど美しい。
「えー、 せっかく買ったのに、沢山着ないと勿体ないよー!」

GPT-4 translation

On a holiday afternoon, I was enjoying chatting over tea with two female friends from my college days at a hotel lounge. Outside the window, the weather was clear, and rows of gray office buildings lined the streets. The hotel lounge, which was said to be difficult to book, was bustling with women customers enjoying afternoon tea just like us. An elegant white-haired lady was wearing a deep purple shawl and gracefully lifting a tart to her mouth. At the table next to ours, girls with colorful nails were taking pictures of their cakes. One of them accidentally spilled apricot jam on her white cardigan and hurriedly wiped it with a pink handkerchief.

Having finished ordering a refill of her tea from the menu, Yumi suddenly fixed her eyes on the sweater I was wearing.
“Hey Nana, is that sweater made of human hair?” I grinned and nodded in agreement.
“Ah, you know? Yes, that’s right, 100%.”
“It must have been expensive, right?”
“Well, a little… I had to take out a loan. But, you know, something like this is a lifetime treasure.”
Feeling slightly embarrassed, I answered and gently stroked the pitch-black sweater I was wearing with my fingertips. The sweater, with a design resembling rows of braids, featured intricate patterns on the cuffs and hem, and the neatly woven black hair gleamed, reflecting the light streaming into the lounge from the window. It was so beautiful that I couldn’t help but admire it even while wearing it.

Aya also looked enviously at the sweater and said,
“Human hair is really the best for winter, isn’t it? It’s warm, durable, and has a luxurious feel. My sweater has some human hair in it, but because it’s expensive, I could only afford one with a wool blend. The 100% definitely feels different.”
“Thank you. I usually keep it tucked away because it feels too precious, but today, since we’re at a hotel and I’m meeting you two after such a long time, I thought I’d dress up and decided to wear it.”
“What? You should wear it more often since you bought it! It’s such a waste not to!”

official translation

A First-Rate Material

It was a holiday, and I was enjoying chatting with two girlfriends from
university days over afternoon tea. Through the window, the gray office
buildings of the business district sat beneath a cloudless sky. Reser-
vations at this hotel lobby tearoom were hard to come by, and it was
thronged with a female clientele. An elegant white-haired lady with a
deep purple stole across her shoulders daintily carried a piece of tart to
her mouth. At the table next to us, some girls with colorful painted nails
were taking photos of their cakes. One of them spilled apricot jam on
her white cardigan and hastily started wiping it off with a pink handker-
Yumi opened the menu and ordered a second cup of tea, then no-
ticed the sweater I was wearing.
“Hey, Nana, that sweater . . . is it human hair?”
“Oh, can you tell?” I beamed at her, nodding. “Yes, one hundred
“Fantastic! It must have been expensive.”
“Yeah, a bit . . . I took out a loan. But it’ll last me for life,” I answered
rather bashfully, lightly running my fingertips over the garment. The jet-
black hair was closely knitted into rows of braids, with an intricate weave
at the cuffs and neck, and it glistened alluringly in the rays of light shin-
ing in through the lobby windows. Even though it was mine, it was so
beautiful, and I gazed at it, enraptured.
Aya was eyeing it enviously too. “A hundred percent human hair is
just the thing for winter! Warm, durable, and luxurious. My sweater con-
tains some too, but it’s so expensive I could only afford it mixed with
wool. But human hair really does feel completely different, doesn’t it?”
“Thanks. It’s too special to wear every day, and normally I keep it
safely stored away, but today I really wanted to dress up—it’s the first
time we’ve seen each other for ages, and coming to a hotel, too.”
“Really? But now that you’ve bought it, it’s such a waste not to wear
it more,” Yumi said.