Trip in 2 months. What's best to learn in this short time?

Hey guys,

Just wanted to get your opinion on something.

I’ve studied Japanese for 3-4 hours a day during the pandemic, consistently for about a year and a half. I nearly completed the Wanikani program and my speaking was not great but the basics were there. I stopped studying because I lost motivation due to my trip getting cancelled year after year.

Since then, 3 years have passed and I finally get to go to Japan in two months to sightsee. My skills are still there but definitely need some heavy brushing up and I lost pretty much all skill to speak. My listening is still fine though.

In this short time, what should I prioritize? Currently I’ve been doing all my reviews on WK and reviewing burnt items. On top of that, I’m listening to podcasts. Is there anything else that could give me a big benefit in a short amount of time just so I’m ready for my trip?

All answers are appreciated :slight_smile:

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I’d recommend conversation practice, but it’s hard to make recommendations without knowing your goals. What do you want to get out of your trip? What do you plan to do? Sightseeing? Language school? Exploring the countryside? :slight_smile:

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Should have specified. I’m going for two weeks just to sightsee. I’d want to talk to some locals if possible but also I just want to be able to understand what’s going on around me, i.e. take in information from everywhere I can.

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Conversation is hard but I recommend focusing on directions, general adjectives and responses. Bonus: Study what store clercs typically say so you don’t have that awkward exchange over whether or not you want a plastic bag or not. Other than that have fun and just enjoy what you can.

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An idea to try production, is with talkgacha.com and try to speak your best in 5 minutes.

Conversation / dialogue may need a tutor? Not sure about the value of the return and costs.

Listening skills sound like JLPT workbook exercises? Maybe also some YouTube?

Place name kanji. Definitely learn how to recognise all the places you’re planning on visiting.

How to catch buses. And ワンマン-operation trains. More often than not, you board through the back door and disembark through the front, though in Tokyo it’s the other way around.

Definitely focus on practicing hotel interactions and booking train tickets at the ticket office - pretty much everything else you can accomplish with minimal Japanese.

Though definitely teach me the secret of how your listening ability is “fine”. :stuck_out_tongue:

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“Fine” enough to understand the podcasts I listen to, I’m sure I’ll get smoked as soon as I start talking to a local :joy:

Thanks for the suggestions though!

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I’ll second the alligator tsunami on this one then but add in maybe getting used to train announcements if you plan to use trains/the metro. There should be recordings/examples on Youtube of train announcements, conbini dialogues, etc

and seconding Belthazar too.

sorry, had an emergency midpost

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One tip: it’s not オレンジは右側で, it’s お出口

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Potentially controversial opinion, but I would focus more on reading. Food names, place names, and other stuff you’re bound to see a lot of.

Reasoning is pretty straightforward. If you’re going to be in touristy areas, you really don’t need to speak much of any Japanese to be fine. You’re probably going to struggle regardless, so a couple months won’t change anything.

A couple months is a very decent amount of time for memorizing specific Japanese words that you might see, though. Whereas you will probably never really miss out on anything because you couldn’t speak well enough in Tokyo, you can certainly miss trying new foods because you didn’t realize what was written on the menu.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been living in Japan for almost 2 years, and before that I visited Japan 4 times for tourism over a total of 4 months…and I really have never needed Japanese speaking skills at ticketing offices, trains, tourist spots, karaoke, restaurants, etc… I’d just get your reading vocabulary up for the things you specifically want to be able to read and I think you’re set.

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This is absolutely true – tourists everywhere get by without the local language – but as a language learner I found it a fun challenge to be able to successfully get through some of these little interactions like “buy stuff in a konbini” or “order coffee and cake” without falling back to English. They’re generally pretty stylised interactions so with a little “what am I going to say” planning it’s definitely doable even at the beginner level.

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Really cool you can go practice all you’ve learned!

If you can listen to podcasts ok, then I imagine you will understand a lot. Probably speaking will help you the most. Maybe talk to yourself in Japanese.

If you meet people they are gonna ask you:
Where are you from? What is your hometown like?
How did you learn Japanese? How long? Where are you visiting?
etc etc. Basic small talk stuff.
I would be just practicing talking about yourself for these simple questions. Do it out loud if you can. Pick random things to monologue about. Talk out loud about how or why you learned to speak Japanese, What school was like in your hometown etc. What your hometown is like? If you’re cooking, or doing anything explain what you are doing out loud. Don’t worry if it’s perfect. No one will care.

Not as important:
Stores and hotels might keigo you a bit, so maybe listen to keigo stuff on youtube. Maybe search for interactions like people checking in to hotels, buying tickets etc.

Old people can be hard for me to understand, so maybe watch old people talking on youtube. This isn’t super necessary, but talking to older people in bars or hiking etc can be super fun, especially if you’re in the inaka.

TLDR: Use the mouthbox to make the words come out. Have fun on the trip!

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Conversation practice, I would recommend. If you go through your plan for the trip you’ll no doubt brush up on place names, amenities, transportation, etc. since you already learned a ton of kanji through WaniKani, but from personal experience, speaking is something one needs to work extra on.

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Thanks for the great suggestions! I used to talk to myself in Japanese a lot, it is a little difficult sometimes just because I don’t have any way to correct myself. It’s probably the best I can do though.

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When you are there people will almost definitely talk to you in broken English, but you probably wont mind at all. They can butcher it badly and you can still understand. Embrace it!

If someone looks confused at what you say, just say it again another way, you can rapid fire it at them. Don’t give up. Dont say “sorry my japanese is bad” just keep rephrasing the best you can, use gestures, rephrase stuff. You forgot the word for “ticket” so you start saying “train card” “train paper” “train pass”

This is really good to practice when you’re chatting with yourself. If you can’t think of the word, dont immediately get out the dictionary. Ask the person you’re talking to or ask yourself “what’s the word for…?” 何と言うんだっけ?そのなんか。。。電車に乗るための必要なもの。。。その紙。。。
Good luck!

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Gotta agree re: prioritizing reading for a shorter trip. You might have a few conversations if you really seek them out but unless you already know someone here, you probably won’t have too many chances to go beyond everyday conversation. But you definitely will want to be able to try all the different foods! And that means reading menus, sometimes handwritten, some food-specific kanji, some food names in kana, lots of stuff worth learning in advance. If you want to practice, you can check out places on google maps and check out the photos of the menus and see if there’s any foods you can’t read / haven’t heard of. Just pulled up one from an izakaya nearby and this is a pretty good sample of what a lot of places are like. Of course there’s places that are easier, but being able to read these kinds of menus and p handwritten daily specials will unlock a lot of really great places and meals you couldn’t have otherwise.

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Get on Italki and get a few conversational lessons there (as many as you can afford). I have done it for the past year and my conversational skills have increased significantly. Travelling in Japan is so much fun when you can talk to the locals.

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