Tips on producing more Japanese (without being in Japan)?

Although my general understanding of Japanese input has improved a great deal in the last few months, I still have immense problems actually outputting Japanese. As I do not know any Japanese speakers personally and I can’t afford any sort of iTalki sessions, I’ll be putting the actual speaking part on the back-burner for a bit. I’m also deathly embarrassed by the sound of my voice, so using it talk to strangers online is most definitely a no-go. :frowning: Instead, I would like to focus on my ability to output Japanese in text form, which is sorely lacking at the moment…
I always find my self getting caught in the different ways to write things, and even though my understanding of Japanese grammar is around N3, I am still unable to “think” in Japanese, even if I know all of the words. It’s rather frustrating. :frowning: This is likely because my brain is stuck translating from English to Japanese, rather than starting from Japanese and creating the sentences. I also get pretty terrified of completely messing up and my sentences being unintelligible, so that might also be why I held off on producing Japanese for so long. (Can you imagine a Japanese person telling you that your 日本語 is 下手?! The horror!!) I’ve used apps like HiNative to ask simple questions in Japanese before, but that usually took me 30+ minutes to make a 5 sentence long paragraph, and constant checks with Google Translate to make sure that my Japanese translated back to English with the desired meaning. (I know that this is VERY BAD, but I’m mentioning it here to help everyone understand how badly I’m fairing with my produced Japanese! :laughing:)

Does anyone have any tips on how I can improve my Japanese output? I’ve seen some people create Twitter accounts for the sake of posting in Japanese for practice, or creating a daily/weekly journal, but I am clueless when it comes to effective ways to practice producing Japanese without actually living in Japan, or having a teacher to guide you every step of the way. 手伝ってくれませんか? :cry:

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Have you looked in the Japanese only section? Try to respond to the beginner questions. You’ll get corrected as well. Or post in some of the diary like threads in the advanced section.

Other than that, practice with specific grammar you’ve already learned, by just writing the same format (with different words) over and over. Try to automate it, then you might get a feel for it!

Don’t focus on choosing the right kanji, or being able to write the kanji for now, if you are handwriting. Get some fluency by just writing what you know, without pausing to check if you put that line in the right place. Kanji writing should be a separate study to grammar, I think.

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There’s an app called Tandem you might want to try, it’s a language exchange app. I’ve talked to a bunch of Japanese native speakers there. Some people are even willing to send voice messages and video chat.

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As Saida mentioned, in the Japanese only section here, especially for beginners, Mami-san really helps a lot! She posts questions almost every week (I think, I don’t keep track) and she checks your grammar. You can also get help on how to express certain things. It helped a lot in my Japanese output :smiley:

When I first started replying on questions in Japanese only (beginner) section here, I think it took me an hour to make a whole paragraph of my reply (along with google translate, repeated grammar checks, etc). You’re not that bad :wink:

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Are you OK with your intention not exactly matching your production? Because we can simplify or reword to fit what we know how to say/write :slight_smile: I find this makes it a bit easier to get the words out! Every mistake we make is an opportunity to learn something, because people will usually be helpful and correct us.

If you’re too embarrassed to actually speak to strangers for now, have you tried just “thinking” to yourself? Like throughout your normal day when you think of something to yourself, try and imagine how you might try and say something similar in Japanese? I started doing this all the time when I had to learn French urgently :sweat_smile: This “private” production can help us get used to quickly translating ideas into something!

My tutors usually set a small writing task for homework, which we correct in the next lesson. Like the others above said, the Japanese section on these forums is a great place for this kind of exercise :blush: Or just random posts on HelloTalk will catch the attention of native speakers too – you can set a “please correct me” tag and people will post corrections.

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Maybe you can try Pimsleur? If it’s available in your local library, you can try it! :slight_smile: It’s a 30-minute speaking and listening lesson, in which you can do it alone, no one will judge you. :grin:Basically, the speaker will asks you questions (pre-recorded) in Japanese and you have to answer back in Japanese.

I’m now in Lesson 21, and even though some q&a are basic, I’m surprised my though process in Japanese is quite slow. I literally pause for a while before I can answer. I think if you do this often, your thought process will improve significantly. :blush:

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I second this and highly recommend it. On a major plus side, you don’t have to show your face or reveal your identity, so you can be completely anonymous. I’m mentioning that, since they have a voice record function where you can record yourself speaking and upload that for people to correct as well. You mentioned having fears of speaking, very understandable, but unfortunately the only way to get better at speaking and become more confident, apart from therapy/psychology related solutions, is to just speak more.

Here’s my tips:

-Speak to yourself as often as possible. Start with anything, say anything, it doesn’t matter. Do you see a window in your house? Great! Say: これはまどです。In the shower? Perfect! Practice there too, I do that a lot as well. Have fake conversations with people. Even if it’s only はじめまして levels. The more you speak, the better you will become.

-Shadow tutorials. Japanese Ammo with Misa and Dogen on YouTube would likely be places to start. (There are so many more, but I mentioned shadowing tutorials specifically since it can simultaneously get you used to speaking more advanced while understanding what you’re saying. You can 100% shadow anything you want though, and it’s highly recommended in general anyway.) This goes along with things like Pimsleur. Shadowing is where you repeat what is said by a native speaker. I recommend doing it several times, and not just once, but once is obviously better than nothing if you’re short on time.

-Speak to your reflection and/or record yourself speaking. These will be more difficult to someone who has trouble already with their voice, but it’s still good practice. Remember, only YOU will be there in front of the mirror and only YOU will have access to your recordings. If you can, try listening back to your recordings. It sucks, but it’s helpful to figure out where you are at in terms of your level. How accurate are you pronouncing things? What words did you mess up? Where could you improve?

-Write! (Or think! xD) Any production makes a difference. I’ve found that the more my brain has to work for me to type out sentences or replies on HelloTalk, the better I am later on when speaking to my Italki tutors. I still 1000% recommend speaking, but if you find yourself especially tired or otherwise unable to sometimes, still take advantage of writing/typing. (Places like HelloTalk are so great because you can get corrections!) The process will be slow at the start, but just like any other skill, the more you do it, the faster and better you’ll be at it. Everyone is there to learn, so don’t worry about making mistakes. Making mistakes is super important as it’s how we learn! <3

-Plan scripts. Start simple with a self introduction. I got this idea from ‘Fluent in 3 Months’ email newsletter that I signed up for years ago but never read any of them until like last month LOL. But here’s what he says:

When I start learning a language, I use what I call “Tarzan Speak”. Tarzan’s the guy who was raised in a jungle, so he wasn’t too hot on grammar.
Imagine for a moment that I’ve just started learning English. We meet, and I say:
“I Benny. I blogger.”
It’s terrible grammar. Truly terrible. But you’d understand me, right? And I’d be practicing my English.
That’s Tarzan Speak.

He recommends starting with an introduction of yourself, a bit about your family, your hobbies/job, and then adding sentences starting with, “I am…”, “I like…”, and “I have…”. The idea is to memorize this script so you’re able to use it if you need to.

-Your idea of a journal is a good one, and one I’d recommend too! I used to do it more often, been slacking recently, haha, but I would treat mine like a sort of diary. I’d make a few sentences about my day and write them down. “I went to the grocery store today. It wasn’t surprised, but disappointed with all the toilet paper still being sold out. People are stupid.” Or just keep it to one sentence at the start. “I went shopping today.” It doesn’t have to be complex, again, the more you do, even if it’s simple, will start to get you going places :wink:

-Once you gain some confidence, it might be a good idea to look into a partner. Italki doesn’t just have tutors, it also has a set up for language exchange that’s free. (You can do this on HelloTalk too, but I don’t think they have video chat?) You can talk to someone who wants to learn English (or whatever language) and is around your Japanese level. Split the time in half, half your language, half their language.

-While this tip won’t seem like it’ll directly help with speaking Japanese, I assure you it will–speak English/your native language. Do it in the mirror, watch yourself speak, record yourself and listen back to it. You mentioned having extreme embarrassment about your voice, which is why you can’t speak. Getting used to yourself talk, as hard as it might be, will eventually help you relax more when speaking. (I did this the hard way by making a YouTube channel years ago and having to edit the audio. Was really tough and awkward at first! And when I started including my face too, oooh, it was so bad! But now it’s much much easier, and I found that even in IRL conversations, I’m much better too! It builds confidence :slight_smile: )

Obviously being in Japan (and actively trying; people can live in Japan and never learn!) or having direct guidance will be the best bet, but there are still ways to go about studying and learning on your own. :smiley: I wish you the best of luck and hope my tips helped! ^^

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Another place you can try practicing output is LangCorrect, it’s a newer site where you can post writing (on pretty much any topic you want) and get corrections/suggestions on more natural language from native speakers (the expectation is that you’ll correct posts from people learning your native language as well). You can also write out what you were going for in English, so whoever’s correcting it can see what you intended (if they know English, that is). I’ve only just started trying it (I’m also trying to make more of an effort to improve my output skills because they are currently bad, like pretty much non-existent) but I’ve had a positive experience so far. The way it’s set up feels a lot less like social media to me than HelloTalk, which for me is a big plus - there’s no added pressure to respond to anyone or keep up a conversation, and whoever wants to correct you will (you don’t have to ask anyone specifically to correct you - that’s really the only purpose of the website, to get corrections). If you do end up going the journal route, it might be a good place to post those types of entries and get corrections.

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Neat. That sounds like a newer version of Lang-8 except that it’s open to new registrations.

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I was too late to ever get an account on Lang-8, but that’s my impression too, that they’re trying to provide a similar type of platform/service to Lang-8. ^^

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I think people have already posted some great resources here (I plan to look into some of these myself!). Tandem is the app I’ve personally been using and while I haven’t used it extensively, I’ve had a pretty positive experience using it occasionally for a month or so.

Instead, I wanted to pass along some advice I’ve found really helpful. I was starting to focus more on the daunting task of speaking and googling around in Japanese for advice for Japanese speakers trying to speak in English. I came across a story about an English class where they were doing 自己紹介. Student A tried to say a rather complicated phrase. “Hello. Nice to meet you. My name is A. I come from X. I am a Y student, etc, etc”. They kept stumbling over their words and getting overwhelmed. Then Student B afterwards just said “Hi, I’m B” and left it at that. They didn’t stumble. They were able to communicate clearly. The point of the story is that you generally have to start off very basic in your production skills then gradually build more complicated structures onto them. You don’t need to try to use all your N3 grammar, it’s okay to start with the basics. Production generally lags behind comprehension so it’s perfectly normal to speak in これはペンです level sentences when starting out. I felt like I was speaking like a toddler the whole time I was in Japan but people understood me just fine. As long as you can get your general point across, that’s all that matters :+1:

ありえない! I don’t believe this has ever happened :stuck_out_tongue: We are all 上手 or nothing.

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Thank you for all the tips, everyone! I haven’t had time to individually respond to everyone, but I definitely read and appreciate every post! :hugs:

@conan, @riya I heard a lot of good things about HelloTalk and Tandem, but I’ve also heard that quite a few people have had bad experiences with people looking for romance and such things. :frowning:

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On Tandem I’ve mostly talked to other women but the conversations with guys were perfectly normal too. They have options to sort people by gender so if you only want to talk to people of your same gender your profile won’t show up for anyone else. Granted, that doesn’t totally rule out people looking for romance, but it probably cuts down on a lot of it.

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I haven’t had any issue with HelloTalk personally, but they do offer a lot of features to both protect your identity (location, gender, age, etc. can all be private) and who you talk to. Blocking is also an option, but I’ve never needed to use it.

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I feel your point about nervousness when speaking. A friendly family of Japanese people literally live right across from me, and I can never muster the resolve to go over there and converse with the family in Japanese. I did it once because the wife’s mother came from Yokohama to visit and I wanted to welcome her to Oregon, but man my Japanese was not good in a one-on-five situation. That night I tried to speak in as much Japanese as possible, thought it would be fun I guess lol.

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