Tips for outputting the japanese ive learnt through self study

I’ve been deep into my japanese textbook, and i feel like I have a pretty good grasp of the grammar points and got quite a few words as well, such as when I read japanese I can pick it apart and understand it decent. But when it comes to trying to string a sentence through a conversation or speech its horrid. Anything I can do to improve within self study?

The only way to get better is to practice. Like most things: the more you do it, the better you’ll get.

I’m afraid you’ll have to develop your own tricks that work for you to get that practice, but here are a few thoughts:

Definitely continue to read, and even more importantly hear, as many Japanese sentences and phrases as possible. Lots and lots and lots of input. The human brain is amazing at pattern matching: with enough input, you’ll start to hear when what you say “doesn’t sound right”. Remember that “garbage in, garbage out” applies to humans, too. Try to find correct, proper sources of input that match the style of Japanese you want to speak.

Japanese samurai dramas won’t be of much use if you’re looking to improve your business communication (free tip: 吾輩(わがはい) is used much less frequently with the latter).

Ideally say the words aloud when doing vocabulary reviews, but just imagining saying the words and “hearing yourself in your mind’s ear” also works. I think this is more important than people realize. Proper pronunciation is part of it (make friends with Kyoko and Kenichi – the recorded voices on the vocabulary pages) but it also greases the skids, as it were. Your brain knows that speech is output and visually reading is input: if you don’t practice speaking the words it won’t bother lubing up the output tracks (forming the necessary synaptic connections).

Get in the habit of talking to yourself in Japanese. Just simple things: “I’m taking out the trash” or “My neighbor is talking to that orange cat”. It’s more important to build confidence and practice frequently than it is to push yourself with more complex thoughts (though it’s good to do the latter occasionally, too). You may want to use your imaginary inner voice most of the time, lest they come for you with nets.

The goal is to think in Japanese, by the way, not “translate in your head”. The latter is MUCH harder and takes too long. There’s a reason simultaneous interpreters tag-team for 5-10 minute stretches at most: it’s mentally exhausting. It’s hard to express but you want to practice CONCEPT → JAPANESE, not CONCEPT → ENGLISH → JAPANESE.

Recently, I’ve been spending more time with searchable online sentence databases: weblio and linguee in particular. It’s good to see how professionals would translate different thoughts. Try to find a sentence similar to the one you’re trying to use (you may need to pick a different subject or use a different verb with the same conjugation). Check to see if you’re constructing phrases correctly. You can search using either language. Once you’ve found something applicable, be sure to actually say the Japanese sentence out loud.

The best part of talking to yourself is that you’re always available and won’t try to escape, but the acid test will always be speaking to others. If you can’t pester any acquaintances or co-workers that speak the language, there are paid services. I’ve never used any, but have seen people here discussing iTalki.


I just spent the last 15min reading through weblios self description/front page
so thanks fort pointing that out, I guess ^^’’
it was quite interesting especially seeing my brain adapt to the content (as I don’t usually read anything in japanese online - even less stuff like that ^^’) and seeing how much I can actually understand if I’m just willing to try and don’t dismiss it as unreadable at first glance ^^’’

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You kinda just have to write or speak, or ideally do both. (Believe me, I can write really long sentences in Japanese, but I’m not at all spontaneous when it comes to speaking.) It would be best to have someone correct you as well, or at least to repeat your sentences back to you, but with more natural wording.

The other option is to consume a lot of Japanese content while paying attention to what makes it grammatically correct or makes it sound natural, and then to repeat your favourite sentences over and over until they’re natural for you. However, once again, if you’ve got absolutely no feedback, there’ll probably be misconceptions or simply things you don’t know in your mental space that will trip you up when you need to be right, or when you need to make an original sentence on your own.

In essence, I’d say that we all need to reach the point where we have enough knowledge of what’s correct and of when it’s appropriate to use it, and also have that knowledge at our fingertips when the time comes. That’s when we’ll be able to be spontaneous. Typical usage needs to be familiar to us. Case in point: I’m ordinarily as fluent in French as any of my French peers even though I’m an English speaker, and I write as well as or better than many of them, but throw me into a context where I don’t know the right words for everything (e.g. what do you call an adjustment knob on a microscope?) and I’ll struggle (and I have, in the past, even though I can comfortably read university textbooks most of the time).