6 Japanese Speaking Practice Activities to Make You More Fluent
Speaking a foreign language can be difficult.
Whether you’re just starting your Japanese studies or you’re a seasoned student looking to cross the fluency threshold, it takes a concentrated effort to get your speaking skills where you want them to be.
But here’s the good news: There are plenty of ways to incorporate Japanese speaking into your everyday life, no matter where you are or your proficiency level.
Here are six ways to get your Japanese speaking practice in.
- 1. Do a Language Exchange (or Two or Three!)
- 2. Find a Japanese Roommate
- 3. Attend Japanese Events in Your Community
- 4. Practice with Other Japanese Learners
- 5. Talk to Yourself in Japanese
- 6. Use Your Study Resources Fully
- Why Is Japanese Speaking Practice Important?
1. Do a Language Exchange (or Two or Three!)
If you live in a reasonably-sized city, it should be easy for you to find Japanese speakers who are interested in a language exchange.
As the name implies, a language exchange involves a native speaker helping you with Japanese, in exchange for you helping him or her with your native language. It’s a straightforward, affordable way to practice real-life Japanese conversation.
If you’re already quite advanced, you might be able to offer tutoring services for your native language with Japanese as the language of instruction (you could charge for this, or think of it as an opportunity to practice Japanese while paying it forward… or you could do what this author did, and combine both models by getting paid in coffee and/or ramen).
You can check your local online classifieds for language exchange opportunities. You can also put up a notice on the bulletin board at your local university, ESL school or Japanese restaurant.
Common sense safety measures apply here—don’t agree to meet a stranger in a dark alley in the dead of night, obviously. But as long as you take the normal precautions this can be a fun way to study and make new friends.
If you’re having trouble finding a native Japanese speaker, don’t panic. You can organize conversations online via social media or a number of other sites.
The language learning app LingQ, for example, can help you find Japanese speakers to chat with, and you can take advantage of learning tools and track your progress as you go—it’s like a leveled-up language exchange. Learn more about LingQ here.
2. Find a Japanese Roommate
Living with a Japanese speaker means you have opportunities to speak Japanese every single day! Hang around with your roommate and their friends enough and you’ll be getting Japanese immersion without even going out the door.
If your roommate isn’t fluent in your native language, you can even incorporate a language exchange element by agreeing to, say, speak English at breakfast, Japanese at dinner, etc. (With any luck, they’ll even help you up your game with Japanese cuisine!)
Your city may have Japanese-language classifieds where people seek accommodation. Otherwise, go to the places you’d usually look for roommates and see if any Japanese speakers are searching. You can even tell your local university that you’d welcome Japanese exchange students to your apartment for a semester or more.
3. Attend Japanese Events in Your Community
There may already be a thriving Japanese community in your city, with cultural festivals, meetups and more, where you can practice speaking the language.
Meetup and Facebook are great places to search for existing Japanese language and culture groups. Your local Japanese consulate can also probably point you in the right direction, and may host 会話 (かいわ, conversation groups) of their own. Local universities and cultural institutions are also great options for events in or about the Japanese language.
As examples, check out the New York City Japanese Language Meetup Group or London’s Japanese Conversation Group.
You might be surprised how much is already on offer, making it easy to meet new Japanese friends so that you can broaden your social circle and become more fluent at the same time.
4. Practice with Other Japanese Learners
You don’t have to only practice your speaking with people who are native in Japanese. As long as they’re of a similar or higher proficiency level than you, you can still enjoy valuable Japanese language practice.
Whether you’re introducing your favorite Japanese songs at karaoke night, role-playing conversations or using verbal games to reinforce your Japanese studies, practicing with someone else is like going to the gym with a buddy. Even though neither of you is likely to become the next Hulk Hogan, you will both be more likely to stay the course.
Again, Meetup and Facebook are great places to meet people, as are Japanese language courses—you can catch up with your classmates for extracurricular language practice. Your Japanese and theirs might not be perfect, but the benefit to your fluency that those practice sessions offer shouldn’t be underestimated.
Plus, if you’re hitting a roadblock in pronunciation, comprehension or any other language skill, a fellow learner can likely offer new study tips and tools that worked for them.
You could also use resources like Reddit’s r/LearnJapanese or the JapanesePod101 forum to find potential study buddies who are local or who could reach you on Skype, even if they just offer advice about how they found other learners to practice with.
5. Talk to Yourself in Japanese
This may seem awkward, and you probably shouldn’t do it on the bus or in the middle of the grocery store, but talking to yourself in Japanese can be an entertaining exercise and effective language study tool.
Whether it’s difficult for you to meet native Japanese speakers for conversation or you just want an added language boost in your downtime, talking to yourself doesn’t have to feel like you’re a living personification of the #foreveralone meme.
The most productive way to go about this is to think of an everyday topic and record yourself talking about it. Then, listen to the recording and see what grammar or pronunciation errors you can catch, and re-record without them.
For guided pronunciation practice, the FluentU language learning program has personalized quizzes where you can vocalize your answers.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
When you do your speaking practice, it doesn’t really matter what you’re talking about, as long as you’re using words and expressions you’re likely to need in real-life situations. You could:
- Do a short recap of your day before going to sleep
- Talk out your opinion on something from the news
- Pretend to tell that annoying person at work what you think of them
- Role-play both characters in a 愛の告白 (あいの こくはく, confession of love)
- Act like your grandmother watching TV by yelling advice to ドラマ (どらま, drama) characters
- Engage in an Alice in Wonderland-esque dialogue with your cat
- Tell your 抱き枕 (だきまくら, body pillow) how much it means to you
The possibilities are really endless.
6. Use Your Study Resources Fully
Whether you’re using an immersion program, an online course, a textbook or something else, there are plenty of ways you can leverage your learning materials to get in some more Japanese speaking practice.
For instance, if you enjoy watching Japanese TV shows or movies, you can incorporate shadowing practice—trying to mimic the speakers as closely as you can.
Love Japanese music? Turn your favorite songs into full-blown lessons. You’ll be able to practice pronunciation while learning new vocabulary and grammar structures. Plus, by singing aloud, you’ll remember everything better when you want to use it in conversation in the future.
If you’re studying from a textbook, there might be an audio feature that you can play out loud and repeat after.
If you’re into manga or Japanese novels, read the stories out loud. Bonus points if you can find an audiobook to check your pronunciation against.
No matter what learning resources you use, there’s surely at least one way to use it for Japanese speaking practice. Really, you can be as creative as you’d like.
Why Is Japanese Speaking Practice Important?
As the expression goes: If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
It’s all too common for language students to be much more confident in the written word than the spoken one. Once you have a basic grasp of the language, it’s relatively easy to crack open your favorite novel, write an email or post on social media. But it’s not always so easy to find someone to engage with in a dialogue—or to get up the courage to do so.
However, conversing in the language is a very rewarding (and important!) part of your Japanese studies. You don’t want to reach native-level written fluency while hardly being able to say “this is a pen” when faced with an actual conversation.
The parts of your brain that process speech and oral comprehension are different from those that process reading and writing, so speaking truly is something you need to focus on deliberately. It won’t just come naturally as you’re working through your textbook or writing out characters.
By finding opportunities to speak Japanese every day, you can make sure you’re able to reach and maintain a high standard of fluency. With a bit of careful planning, you can have an active Japanese-speaking life, no matter where you are in the world.
Even if you’re shy about using your Japanese language skills out loud, you’d be surprised how quickly that anxiety dissipates when you give yourself some practice. You’ll feel more confident, grow your comfort zone, meet new friends and become proud of everything you’ve achieved.
With a little bit of strategy, research and self-confidence, your Japanese can become better than ever by improving your speaking skills with these simple methods.
And One More Thing...
If you love learning Japanese with authentic materials, then I should also tell you more about FluentU.
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FluentU has a broad range of contemporary videos as you'll see below:
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