Last week, we discussed how you could add Japanese speaking practice to your studies, without even going to Japan! Today, we pick up where we left off, introducing more great methods to get you speaking Japanese right away – in your own home!
Japanese Speaking Practice At Home
Last week’s article explained the importance of speaking practice in your Japanese studies. We shared methods you could do from home, and some you could even do by yourself!
Today, we focus on Japanese speaking practice you can do with others. That’s right, REAL conversation practice, with REAL people. (And you can do these from home, too)!
The Best Japanese Speaking Practice Method
The best way to get effective Japanese speaking practice is by far, language exchange! Let’s face it – talking back to your favorite drama may be fun, but they won’t give you feedback or correct you when you’re wrong!
Engaging in actual conversation reduces the time you have to search your memory banks for the right word. This develops your brain’s ability to recall and produce words in a natural way.
Listening also becomes an active skill when speaking with a real person. Unlike watching TV, speaking to a person who can observe our reactions subconsciously forces us to listen actively in order to prepare a response without embarrassing ourselves.
Japanese Speaking Practice Isn’t Scary!
This may seem daunting at first, but it’s an important and necessary hurdle to overcome to improve speaking Japanese. You WILL make mistakes. You WILL embarrass yourself. But please trust me when I say… it really isn’t that bad!
Wouldn’t you rather make mistakes and experience embarrassing moments with a friend rather than at a fancy restaurant during your trip to Japan? Real-time conversation prepares you for real-word situations you may experience when traveling abroad.
The Benefits of Language Exchange
The benefits of language exchange apply not only to yourself, but to your language partner as well! You’d be surprised how hard it is for native Japanese English-learners to find legit native English speakers online.
As we’ve covered previously, Japan doesn’t have the best English education system. Many institutions even prefer hiring non-native speakers simply because the students find “katakana English” easier to understand. This may help pass exams, but it won’t help with practical use. Because of this, many people in Japan are also seeking native English speakers to practice with.
How to Choose a Language Partner
So how do you find a good partner willing to help with your Japanese speaking practice?
Well… it’s like going on a date!
Native language ability doesn’t always mean a person will make a good teacher or exchange partner. Just like physical attraction doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good date.
In any relationship, people do better (and are happier!) when their partner has things in common. Compatibility is just as important when choosing a language partner. As this blog for Japanese English-learners says, the best teacher is one who is easy to talk to!
Best Sites & Apps for Japanese Speaking Practice
Finding a compatible partner ensures you’ll always have things to talk about, and you’ll also be more motivated to continue practicing with them! Luckily, many tutoring sites allow you to view teacher profiles before signing up for a lesson, and choose based on common interests and goals. You can’t do that in a classroom!
Lang-8 was a site for blogging in your target language. Native Japanese speakers would read your blog, correct you, and offer feedback. Likewise, you could read and correct their blogs in English. Friendships were built on exchanges about common interests when reading each other’s blog. If someone wrote about your favorite TV show, you could chat about the latest episode over Skype!
This was my favorite site, where I met my very first exchange partners. Unfortunately, they stopped accepting new sign-ups a while ago (though veteran users can still access their accounts). However, if you weren’t lucky enough to grab an account while it was still around, a new language-blogging site has appeared – LangCorrect!
I don’t have as much experience with LangCorrect as I did with Lang-8, but the concept seems similar. By writing every day and reading each other’s blogs, you should find yourself making new exchange pals in no time!
HelloTalk is an app specifically for language exchange. After completing your profile, you can post short updates in Japanese, and comment on posts by others. You can even join conversation groups. (Imagine a mix of Twitter and Discord, but for Japanese speaking practice)!
See someone you want to talk to? Send them a message! You can chat by text, voice call, or even leave voice notes. The app is free to install and use, and offers a VIP plan with perks.
We mentioned Preply last week, but it is worth mentioning again!
Preply offers one-on-one lessons with native Japanese speakers. The interface is similar to Skype with a feature that lets tutors share materials. Because Preply offers actual lessons, there are no free options. However, lessons are relatively inexpensive. You can browse for tutors by specific goal, such as for class, for the JLPT, or for travel. Their site even has language challenges you can sign up for, in case you need more motivation!
There are so many great apps nowadays that have streamlined language learning, there’s no excuse to neglect your Japanese speaking practice! So pick up your phone, download an app or two, and… start speaking Japanese!