When to communicate?


First of all, forgive me if I’m a little rambly, and I hope I posted this in the right place cause I wasn’t sure.

Anyways, hello~ I’ve been trying to learn Japanese for… Years now, technically, but I’ve barely made any progress. The primary reason is that I’m painfully shy and anxious and stuff, with no friends also interested. I really wish I had someone at a similar level to me to learn with, but anyways…

My primary consideration here, is that I’ve been seeing resources to find speaking partners such as HelloTalk and the like, which have a usefulness that truly tempts me, but I feel somewhat anxious to join them now, as I feel like I should be able to hold at least the most basic of conversations. Problem is, I’m not actually sure how to tell when I use that much, it at least feels a touch like I need to communicate to know if I know enough to communicate?

I guess my main questions are- how far along do I really need to be to use such resources, and are there any other or better resources that a beginner can use to practice and learn in a more practical setting?


Getting better at a language is about making mistakes and fixing them. It’s never too soon to start doing that.


You don’t need to be very far.

People like Benny Lewis (from fluentin3months) (edit: and @Leebo apparently) even recommend to start speaking from day 1.

That being said, it does not work very well when you are shy. (Been there, done that).

What did work for me was to make a cheat sheet. I would plan the conversation ahead in my mind, with multiple branching paths or whatever I could think of, then prepare sentences/ look up vocab to make that conversation as smooth as possible.

Anyway, the first conversation you have with someone always end up the same: you introduce yourself, your hobbies/work, why you want to learn Japanese etc.

It gets harder after a few conversation with the same person, but by then you are more comfortable talking with them, so that you can kind of default to the previous recommendation of talking as soon as possible.


I don’t enjoy smalltalk and am not good at keeping in touch with the friends I already have so I have 0 interest in HelloTalk. It would just increase my stress level further.

If you have some money available that you can spend on this I can recommend iTalki and finding one or two tutors that you click with. I think it is quite affordable and I got to speak and write from the very (“今は何時ですか”) beginning. I can get writing practice by doing essays for homework and I have someone who corrects my mistakes and really has the time to explain what I could have done better and which grammar points I was missing. I also started doing transcripts of audio files and I have someone to explain to me what the things I didn’t catch were supposed to be. And of course a lot of speaking practice with someone who is used to talking to beginners. Just lots of things that I don’t think I could bother someone with for free.

Just wanted to mention it as an alternative. But if your question is “when to communicate?” then I would say “immediately, but have you considered a teacher?”.


Not a huge fan of that guy, but my point is basically that waiting until you’ve improved to a certain level before trying to communicate isn’t particularly efficient, because failing at communicating is the most effective way to achieve said improvement.

You just have to accept that it never really stops becoming painful and embarrassing to make mistakes.


I’m not a fan either, but I guess he is one of the most vocal (“vocal”, heh :smirk:) promoter of that approach.

I think it’s about level of pain tolerance. It will be painful at first no matter what, but the more prepared you are, the less painful it gets.
Now, I agree just preparing is inefficient, but so is going headfirst into a wall (i.e. trying something that is above your skill/tolerance level). It’s important to find a balance.

That’s also why I mentioned cheatsheets. That’s very little preparation for a lot of effectiveness, especially since stress will make your brain go blank at times. You just have to luck at the paper, and it will jolt your brain back into motion.


Sure, what constitutes an appropriate goal depends on your level. If you had your first lesson this week, then you should just be satisfied with greeting people and maybe commenting on the weather. After a bit longer you can do an introduction. And so on.

But I think some people set that first goal too high almost as a way to avoid having those embarrassing situations.

You might think “I’ll study more until I can have a proper conversation because I don’t need to practice saying よろしくお願いします to people” and then the first time you have to say it your tongue will be tripping all over itself.