Thinking in Japanese

I’ve read a lot about how important immersing yourself in the language you wan’t to learn is. One way I do this is by try to think in Japanese as often as I can. Though I have a very small vocabulary and understanding of the grammar so it is difficult. I also read a little bit about recall vs recognition. If I remember correctly, recall is what happens when you remember something and recognition happens when you see something that you are familiar with. I think recall is more beneficial when speaking and thinking in Japanese because you aren’t looking at any kana or kanji. When I am thinking in English I can imagine alphabet and put the words together in my head but when I try to do that in Japanese I only remember a portion of katakana and hiragana. How would I improve my recall? I recognize everything I’ve learned but I can’t remember any of it until I see it…


I would say that listening would be better for recall since you aren’t seeing the kanji while listening.

When I was a beginner, around 2 years ago, I always think about doing this but, as you’ve said, since my vocab and grammar is quite limited it was almost possible, but when you’ve gone to intermediate and above, it will just happen naturally. Word of advice, when you’re transitioning from beginner to intermediate and advanced, as much as possible, try not to use English definitions or translations when registering a new word. It’ll help a lot.


In the beginning it is easier to map things 1 to 1 from Japanese. Once you start getting the hang of how the language flows and start recognizing patterns is when things become a bit smoother.

I studied abroad in Japan 4 years ago and all of my thoughts in Japanese were translated from English. After being in Japan for a little while I started noticing I was thinking in Japanese or using Japanese without translating from English. It takes time.

At your stage I would say focus on traditional rote memorization and try to build a strong foundation around simple vocabulary and grammar. While rote memorization isn’t always the best, I still would recommend starting that way to give you a base to hopefully draw upon when you are not looking at the words (recall). Eventually you will be able to jump from only understanding Japanese from a different language perspective into understanding Japanese from a Japanese perspective.


Did you start thinking in Japanese because in Japan, there is no need for English if you know enough? Are you saying continue to translate to Japanese for now and when I know more it will come with naturally? I’ll try my best :blush:

For me it was a natural experience. It was very surreal the first time I noticed it. Same with dreaming in Japanese. I think I had a jump start on thinking in Japanese due to being in a, mostly, Japanese only environment. But even when I was back home and I stopped using Japanese, every now and again I would think in Japanese.

Keep trying your best with recalling information, I just suggest making sure you have a foundation in the language first.


Same. The dreaming in Japanese thing is weird.


Best part was when I first woke up I corrected my stupid dream grammar because I knew it was wrong. :laughing::laughing:


When I started studying. I started with talking to myself in Japanese around the house, or just saying random words related to things I was doing. Somehow along the way that turned into internal monologue and thinking in Japanese. I don’t have to think about how to translate things, it’s like flipping a switch. I did the same for English a long time ago and now I can basically think in 3 different languages if I wanted to… Lately it’s been mostly Japanese though, since I’ve been reading a lot more and my brain is in Japanese mode a lot of the time. For me, it’s a verbal experience, I don’t think about letters or characters or what not, the words just flow. The experience is just like talking to someone, only I’m talking to myself.


I watch a lot of Japanese language shows and listen to podcast. I try to translate some emails at work to Japanese and I speak some at home with my girls. Just greetings and a few things that don’t require a lot of actual grammar and sentence structure. I do find that I now think in Japanese more regularly.


It took about six months, but after I had studied Japanese for a while, I started dreaming in Japanese. I think it is just a matter of being more familiar with the language. Same with thinking in the language.


With english I just noticed one day that I could make sense of the ideas in my head in english. It took a lot of time because I didn’t practiced this skill consciouslly. At first this is hard because your vocabulary is limited, so you can’t make a lot of different sentences, but I feel like there are two approaches to this:

1- focus mainly on the recognition skill by SRSing, reading, seeing movies, series etc… until the recall ability comes along.

2- Just train recall directly by practice.

Some suggestions:

Whenever you learn a new grammar pattern, try creating your own sentences with it, then try making sentences in your head.

Shadowing and listening pratice seems great too, since the sound also aids the memory.

Just take it easy and eventually you’ll get there!

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