Start Making Sentences
Though I work hard not to be, I'm a pretty shy person. As such, I'm great at finding excuses not to study in a face-to-face lesson with a Japanese teacher or language exchange partner.
Because of this, in the first few years of my studies, my comprehension was astronomically higher than my productive capability. I'm pretty sure it always will be, to be honest.
In short, I wish that I had started getting speaking practice right away, and I'm recommending that you do the same.
The main excuse that I typically give myself for not practicing speaking in a new language is that "I'm not good enough to have a conversation or say anything meaningful yet."
This is my brain trying to find a way out of doing something it doesn't feel comfortable doing.
At the end of the day, however, producing a language requires entirely different parts of your brain than just understanding one does. It might help to think of learning new words according to certain levels.
Stages of learning a new word:
- Can understand it when seen or heard.
- Can recall it from memory.
- Can use it accurately in a sentence that you have created.
That last item means not only being able to use the word in a (somewhat) accurate sentence, but also being able to pronounce it correctly inside of a sentence.
This is not required of all words. I'm sure there are a lot of words in your native language that you come across and understand but would not be able to readily drop into a sentence of your own making. So sometimes we'll just get to Stage 1 or 2 of learning a new word. For the most common Japanese words, however, we want to reach Stage 3 — being able to use those words in our own sentences.
Doing all of that requires practice. You need to build up the muscle memory in your mouth required for forming Japanese sounds. You need to connect the neural pathways in your brain required for forming Japanese sentences and saying them simultaneously.
My point is, even if we suck at Japanese at first, we should still start getting speaking practice as soon as possible.
As such, the last task required in Phase 1 is completing our Caveman Convo Course:
In that course, we walk you through the process of scheduling your first face-to-face interaction with a Japanese person. We also introduce a number of survival phrases to help you make the experience enjoyable and just slightly less intimidating.
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