If you’re learning Japanese, chances are you plan to use it. You want to be able to read, watch anime without subtitles, or get out there and converse with Japanese people! Sometimes textbooks, useful as they are, just aren’t the best way to apply your Japanese-language skills. Here are some ways you can get out of your textbook, move beyond the classroom, and put your new language skills to good use.
Immersion is just a fancy word for really getting involved and surrounding yourself with the language, culture, and native media. The key here is to enjoy yourself. Whether you like J-Pop or anime, comedy or game shows, crazy Japanese advertisements or dramas, find something that allows you to hear nothing but Japanese, spoken with native fluency, for at least 30 minutes each day.
If you can, designate a specific time of day, such as right before class or even right before bed. Personally, I like to watch anime right before bed, and I have lots of crazy stories about waking up speaking Japanese instead of English!
2. Talk to Yourself
Talking to yourself may make you feel crazy, but it’s an excellent way to practice your Japanese. It may not help you prepare perfectly for real conversations, but it will definitely help you get one step closer.
Once you’ve been doing this for a while, kick it up a notch and start talking to your pets, or even inanimate objects, in Japanese. This may sound weird but it’s an excellent suggestion. I ask my students, for example, when they learn how to make requests, to ask their pets to do things. Ask your dog to sit or fetch in Japanese. He probably won’t . . . but it’s good practice for you.
3. Ask, Ask, Ask Questions
The absolute best way to prepare to use Japanese outside of the classroom is to ask your teacher a lot of questions. A good teacher will do his or her best to prepare you for real-life situations, but students who come prepared with questions, will learn more and be able to use the language more effectively.
I find that my students are better at conversing when they ask me “how do I say this?” and “I heard this word while watching anime; can you tell me how to use it?” My best students, however, will tell me, “I have a question, and I’d like you to teach me to ask my question in Japanese.” You’ll improve so much faster if you take the initiative to learn new things, and your teacher will love it, too!
4. Remember, It’s Natural to Be Nervous
Many students feel nervous or anxious about speaking a new language. While this is normal, it can hold you back both from improving and enjoying the language you’ve put so much work into learning. Even I get nervous sometimes when I talk to people, but what has always helped me to get the ball rolling is preparation. You can’t prepare specifically for every conversation, but you can prepare for the beginning of the exchange.
Just like a sales pitch, prepare and practice how you will start a conversation. It’s a lot easier to keep a conversation going once it’s started, so make it easier on yourself.
Try some or all of these things and watch your Japanese speaking skills improve. I hope these tips help you use and enjoy the Japanese language
If you have questions, ask your Japanese teacher for help, and share your experience in the comments below!
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