Why can I read, write, listen but not speak?

I have been in Japan for 6 months and have learnt hiragana and katakana and learning kanji and vocab now. When I am at work I can understand what my teachers are saying to the students, however I am unable to repeat the sentences back even though I understand the words and what they are saying.

Why is speaking the hardest part?!


I have the same issue, I think the biggest reason is that it’s the hardest aspect of the language to practice, as you need a partner to help you. The other 3 skills can be done entirely by yourself.

Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are each different skills and while there is obviously knowledge overlap in terms of grammar and vocab, each one requires practice before you’ll feel comfortable with it. Try to practice as much as you can and keep at it! Being in Japan for 6 months is a huge opportunity that not everyone gets so try to make the most of it while you’re there.


Thanks for the reply, I am lucky to be here. I am planning on staying forever so I’m not planning on leaving so I want to practice. I have heard its the most difficult aspect of the language. I don’t seem to struggle with anything else but the speaking and sentence structures.
I’ll keep at it!


Try saying the very simplest of phrases out loud when you’re by yourself. これはペンです. Could you say that? Also, maybe shadowing would help? Try speaking along with a tv program, copying what a character is saying, while they’re saying it.

Also, this video was shared in my Japanese school’s Discord. It might not be exactly what you need, but it might help?


I do think it depends on the person, some people are naturally very outgoing and don’t have any anxiety about getting things wrong. I have social anxiety so speaking is definitely the hardest part for me. (I can’t even do it in my native language half the time). But yeah it’s definitely like any other skill, it’s never going to feel comfortable until you just start doing it and suffer through the awkward period where you’re not very good at it. One thing I do is singing in Japanese, which helps with pronunciation and hearing myself so I can correct errors, but not so much forming my own sentences. You can also try reading out loud, which is especially nice with something like satori reader where there’s a recording of a native speaker reading it out loud so you can check yourself against it. (It helps to record yourself if you can).


Thanks I will check it out.

I am trying for the JLPT N5 in December if its still going on so I think I should pass the written and writing and listening its just talking that I continue to struggle with… its so bizzare


Honestly its all about practice practice practice. This was one of my weaker points and then I focused on it more than reading for a couple months. My speaking has improved drastically. I think once you understand a few grammar points you can begin to communicate more than one might believe. My level isnt anywhere near where I want it to be but I can have conversations with people and have fun at bars. My grammar lacks at times when I speak but that is the point in continuing to practice. So, how to practice.

  1. Put yourself out there and just meet people. Start basic conversation and know when to finish so you don`t get too awkward.

  2. Repetition- Practice making your own dialogue and them speak them aloud. This can feel odd at first but it does help.

  3. Listen and repeat from beginner podcasts. Nihongo con teppei for beginners is great for this. They are short and easier to understand.

  4. If you have the money and can`t handle talking to random people right away.get a tutor or use italki. I know many people who enjoy using the platform just to have someone to speak with without judgement.

  5. Another repetition exercise. Just continue to write out as many sentences as possible. Then repeat them. Challenge yourself later to produce some of them without needing to read again.

At the end of the day you just need to find a method that works for you. Combining different things can help and not kill yourself with some of the boring repetition. Embrace the little victories and don`t be hard on yourself when you make mistakes. I have found that people really enjoy me trying to speak with them in Japanese. They understand I am learning and I have yet to have someone mock me for making a mistake. Just be confident and give it a go.


If you havent signed up for the JLPT in Japan yet, then you need to by 5pm today. They close applications as of then.


Like others have said, you have to practice to be able to do it. Part of the issue is building the muscle memory and dexterity in your mouth. Other people have already recommended shadowing, so just consider me seconding them.

If you’re ok with the older video and use of romaji, I recommend Let’s Learn Basic Japanese (on YouTube). The video series has ample practice for shadowing, has practice for producing sentences on your own, goes over the sound of each kana, and is all at native speed. If you can understand what your teachers say, then it should be a breeze to understand. Although if you’re not having any trouble with comprehension, you might already be beyond N5.


Shadowing is definitely the best option in general. Especially with no partners to practice with.


Sorry I’m a little late, but what is shadowing?

Shadowing is listening and trying to immediately repeat what a person is saying, in their same tone and inflection. So it’s not quite repeating - it’s more like trying to be a half-second lag on that person’s speech. At first it sounds incredibly clumsy and silly, but it’s a skill you develop with practice.


oh I see, tysm!!

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I’ve experienced this too. First of all, it is standard and natural progression of learning to be able to understand better than we can speak. It’s been well documented when studying foreign languages, so you’re not stunted in any way! Even babies have this stage in their language learning. Babies learn to understand an impressive chunk of vocabulary before they start taking the initiative to speak themselves.

However, I noticed two different hurdles I needed to cross to get out of the mute stage. One was the tongue twister element - my mouth isn’t used to pronouncing the words. The biggest help I found with this was actually learning and practicing the lyrics to my favorite Japanese pop songs or anime openings. This lets you practice the same sentences until your tongue gets used to it, and forces you to increase speed in order to ultimately keep up with the rhythm of the song. It also raises your spirits and the time flies quickly when you’re singing. You’ll learn a nice chunk of vocabulary with it as well!

The other hurdle was shyness. This I put off until just recently. The only solution for me was to start talking to a real Japanese person. I was absolutely terrified, but after one or two hangouts with a language partner, this actually went away very quickly. You can find a language partner quickly and easily at Conversation Exchange. You can specify your level of fluency, what you’d like to learn, your interests, and the gender or age of the person you’d like to talk to. Just make a profile for the person you’d be least terrified of to get started. If you keep your google translate open on the side while you talk, it will be easier than you think to get past obstacles in the conversation.

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