5 Ways to Practice Speaking Japanese on Your Own
If you have already read our “best way to learn Japanese” guide, then you know that I highly recommend you practice speaking Japanese with a teacher or tutor. There are so many great Japanese teachers online now that it’s easy to find someone who you can click with.
However, this takes time, courage, and money. What if you are shy, and you’re just not ready to talk to people yet? Or what if you just can’t afford to pay for an online tutor? Not to worry!
Here are effective ways to practice speaking Japanese alone. Having a private teacher is best, but these methods can take your Japanese to the next level.
1. Record Yourself
When it comes to pronunciation, it’s hard to know if you’re saying something correctly or not. When you speak, it is very difficult to judge what we say objectively. It may sound like we are saying something correctly when in reality, we are completely butchering that word. We simply cannot judge our own voices when we speak.
However, if you record and listen to yourself on tape, you’ll be able to clearly hear the things you are staying right and the things you are saying wrong. It’s so easy to do this nowadays.
Virtually every smart device has a voice recorder, or at the very least, a video camera. You can easily record yourself saying different words and phrases in Japanese.
Play it back, and you can immediately hear the difference between you and a native speaker. This is really, good practice for improving your pronunciation, rhythm, tones, and flow of speech. Seriously, try this. It can improve the flow and pronunciation of your Japanese very quickly.
Yes, it can be embarrassing to hear yourself speaking Japanese. Heck, I hate listening to my voice even when I’m speaking English. But you can do this in the privacy of your own room with headphones too.
I highly recommend this method even if you hired a private teacher. Listening to yourself can seriously work some magic with your spoken Japanese. This is one of the best ways to practice speaking Japanese alone.
Keep practicing words, sentences, or even whole dialogues until you can match the speed, flow, and pronunciation of a native speaker. Find some Japanese drama or TV shows on YouTube, and choose a sentence or two that you hear someone say. Record yourself saying that phrase over and over until you come close to sounding like the native speaker.
2. Speaking to Yourself
Of course, when you’re studying Japanese, you should be saying the material out loud, repeating it several times. This is not what I mean by speaking to yourself.
I mean you want to have full conversations with yourself. Yes, you might not want to do this in public, unless you want to be put in a straight jacket and be carried off to a padded room.
Imagine you’re having a real conversation with someone, or even with something (like an anime character). Image them talking to you in Japanese. You will reply to them out loud in Japanese.
The great thing about this is that you don’t need to know much Japanese to have full conversations with yourself. Have you ever had a dream where you or other people were talking in a completely different language that you can’t speak in real life? However, in your dream, it all makes sense?
That’s exactly how you should practice speaking by yourself if you are at a lower level of Japanese. You can say total gibberish, even using made up words and sounds, as long as you try to match a native speaker’s tone, rhythm, and smoothness of speech.
That’s right, at a lower level of Japanese, don’t worry about saying the correct grammar or words. Concentrate on the speed, flow, rhythm, and tone of a native speaker. When you ask a question, are you raising your tone at the end? What about emotions? How does a native speaker sound when they are angry? Sad? Excited? These are the things you will try to copy when you speak to yourself.
If you want to say “I just went to Las Vegas and won a million dollars! Isn’t that cool?” It would literally sound like “blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah! Blah blah blah?”
The words are not important. Remember to concentrate on matching the tone, rhythm, and smoothness of speech. Just like you would do if you were to hum the tune of your favorite song.
If you use audio or video lessons, you can try to repeat dialogues from your lessons. Or you could go to YouTube to find some cool Japanese videos (anime, dramas, talk shows,etc.) and try to copy what the actors are saying. Remember to concentrate on the rhythm, tone, and flow of speech rather than the actual words.
When you improve, then try to work on pronunciation and incorporate the actual words into your speaking practice.
If you are at an intermediate level or higher, you should be able to start having imaginary conversations. Don’t just speak though. Imagine you’re having conversations with someone.
Maybe you meet some Japanese friends and are talking about your favorite Japanese singer. Or maybe you’re on a date and trying to have a nice conversation with someone. Whatever the scenario, speak just like you would in real life.
If the situation calls for you to stand up, then stand up. If you’re having a fun chat with your friends, speak loudly and get into that fun mood.
You might feel really stupid doing this at first. If you do it a few times, you’ll get used to it pretty quickly. The secret is using your imagination. If you can imagine yourself speaking to someone, it actually gets pretty fun.
I used to do this all the time driving back home from work. I really feel that this helped to improve my pronunciation, tone, and overall speaking ability. So let that imagination run wild and try it out!
3. Be a Star
This is very similar to method #2, speaking to yourself.
However, this time you’ll use YouTube to help you out. Search for interview shows in Japanese. If you have a favorite Japanese singer, actor, or comedian, search for them by name and you’ll probably quite a few videos about them.
You’ll pretend to be the star. When the interviewer asks the famous person a question, pretend that they are interviewing you. Pause the video and answer their question in Japanese.
If you’re a beginner, finding shows in English is fine. Just be sure to try and answer in Japanese. You’ll also want to prepare your answers. Listen to a few questions, then write out a script for your answer.
This is also excellent practice for improving all areas of your Japanese, and you’ll learn a lot by doing this.
Use this pre-written script to practice with, and eventually, try to answer the interviewer’s questions without looking at your script at all.
4. Check Your Pronunciation with Technology
Nowadays, there are lots of translation apps and websites that are not only free but can be used to improve your pronunciation.
These apps and websites use speech recognition. While it’s not great, it’s not so bad either. You can say words or sentences, and the software will type out what you said almost instantly. If the software doesn’t choose the right word or doesn’t pick up any word at all, there is a good chance that you are not pronouncing it correctly.
One of these is Google Translate. If you have a microphone, there is an option for speech to text. Just select the language from the drop down box and press the microphone button in the lower left hand corner of the text box.
Google Translate also has apps for both iPhones and Androids.
*Disclaimer: As I mentioned above, speech recognition software has improved significantly over the years, but it still isn’t perfect. There will be times where you are saying a word very clearly with the correct pronunciation, but it still might fill in a different word.
This doesn’t happen that often nowadays, but it still does happen. That’s why a private teacher is best. But using speech recognition software can be very useful to practice your speaking skills. I suggest that you only use this technique when you have a good understanding of the basics of Japanese. That way, you’ll know enough to judge if the software is incorrect, or if you are not saying something correctly.
5. Karaoke Time!
Singing karaoke is not the same as speaking, but it still can improve your speaking ability. Listening to and the signing Japanese songs is a great way to practice your speaking skills.
You must learn not only the rhythm of the song, but you also need to match the melody and pace of the song while keeping in tune. But what if you’re not a singer?
Not a problem. Go to YouTube (YouTube is our hero) and search for musical beats. If you search, you’ll find a lot of videos with just a beat and background music. Practice saying Japanese words and sentences in rhythm with the beats. This is an excellent way to improve the flow of your spoken Japanese.
You can’t beat speaking to someone one on one, but using these techniques to speak by yourself can improve your Japanese. You just need to open your mouth and talk, talk, and talk! The more you practice speaking, even if it’s on your own, you will get better.
If you have any other techniques for practicing speaking when you’re by yourself, let us know in the comments below!