Speaking Practice Advice


#1

Anyone have any ideas/tips on how to improve speaking?

I know the main advice going around is ‘practice speaking more’ which I completely get. I book several lessons on italki a week and I talk to japanese friends every day, so I get as much practice as I can afford.

I mean more in terms of when you are practice, do you have any tips/recommendations on how you should be attempting to improve? For example, do you pick a grammar point and just practice forming sentences?

Currently I just have normal conversations, but it seems to be always limited to travel, food and so I dont really feel like im ‘improving’ apart from those areas.

In short, does anyone have advice, apart from ‘practice speaking more’ for when you are actually in conversation that they found helped them improve? Thanks!


#2

Have you looked into language shadowing?


#3

Nope I havent! Any advice?


#4

This book does a great job at structuring shadowing practice.

Apart from that, it seems like you’re going to have to bring up topics in areas you’d like to improve in. It sounds like between the friends and paid speaking practice, you’re having the same kind of conversations. I would recommend using the paid practice as way to get that started. Perhaps you can read about things going in the world and bring it up in a conversation to get the other person’s opinion. Or just ask the person you’re talking to about something that you’ve always wondered about Japan or Japanese culture. Out those conversations you’re going to be pushed to the point where you won’t have the vocabulary to be able to express concepts or ideas you hold. It can get very frustrating especially if the person you’re speaking to wants to move the conversation along, which is the reason why I suggest that it’s best to bring it up during your more “structured” paid speaking practice. I’m assuming they will help you express your thoughts in an orderly way. That’s just one idea to get you moving.

Another thing I often do is ask the same thing to multiple people, because everybody explains things so differently. plus they hold their own personal beliefs about things. That way if you feel like you can’t continue one conversation, you can bring up later with another person after you’ve digested the first conversation.


#5

I have a couple of things that I do outside of actually conversing that are basically speaking-related.

One is I just try to explain a topic or describe my surroundings in Japanese, in my head. If I run into roadblocks, I can look up how to say what I want to say, or make a note to ask a native. This allows me to have more of those embarrassing dead sentences that give you chances to improve without anyone else seeing them.

Another thing I do is I practice defining everyday objects or concepts like a dictionary would. I do this by myself, on WaniKani, and also with native speakers. What it allows you to do is get comfortable with filling in those gaps where you forget, or never learned, a word the same way you would in English if that happened.

“So I was on my way to the… what the hell is that called… you know, the doctor that checks your skin”
“The dermatologist?”
“Yeah, yeah, so anyway…”

Another thing to remember is that flubs happen in your native language too. Every flub you make in your second language isn’t a sign of your failure as a language learner, some of it is just you being human.


#6

I do a language exchange with a Japanese speaker. One exercise we did for about a year or so was practice readings.

I would find a short Japanese reading (i.e. News Web Easy NHK or something from one of my textbooks) and send it to her ahead of our chat. She would read the article a paragraph or so at a time and I would repeat the paragraph. I’d have her critique my pronunciation. To make it interesting for her I’d make her translate the reading to English after I said each sentence and critique her translation.

It spurred all kinds of conversations on use of expressions and meanings of words.

We would also do the reverse - she would send me a short reading in English appropriate to my level. I’d make her read it and help her pronunciation. And I would try to translate the article into Japanese.

We’ve gotten out of doing this so much because my conversational Japanese has gotten much better and we want to talk about other things, but in many ways I miss doing it. I found it really helpful.