Advice for progressing to advanced Japanese and into near-native fluency

Seven slightly-crazy tips to progress to near-native fluency:

  1. Burn all bridges
  2. Extensive Reading
  3. Native Dictionaries
  4. Finding your Japanese clique
  5. Drill the basics, again and again
  6. Make mistakes
  7. Be born all over again in Japanese

Burn all your bridges:

If you want to progress in your “target” language it needs to become your ONLY language (at least for certain daily tasks).

It needs to become a routine to use the Japanese language to do things on a habitual, regular basis.

Extensive Reading (Tadoku):

Great input is the fountain of great output. So you need to read, read, read.

But it doesn’t all have to be serious reading. It should include skimming things like wikipedia pages and internet search results in Japanese. When you do these tasks in your native language you don’t read every word. Neither should you in Japanese.

Native Dictionary:

Put away the English – Japanese dictionary…

A native dictionary (Japanese to Japanese dictionary) will teach you how to describe words using Japanese.

This is super important for conversationality (*not a real word*) in the language. When you get stuck in conversation (i.e. you don’t know the word for something, etc.) you need to be able to describe it in other words.

The more time you spend with native dictionaries the easier this will be.

Find your clique:

Do your hobby in Japanese. Find a group of Japanese that like XYZ and contact/converse with them. (Seth Godin calls these “tribes”)

Just like you don’t necessarily talk to everyone (especially people you have nothing in common with) in English, why would you think of doing it in Japanese?

This is my clique (and unusual Japanese language level-up)

Drill the basics:

Throw out the myth of beginner, intermediate, advanced Japanese.

There is no such thing. Anything that is real Japanese (hey, even the fake stuff in textbooks) is all one level – it’s all Japanese.

Websites like the Japanese Ministry of Education’s Erin’s Challenge can be used to drill every “level” of Japanese, if you learn how to use them, like I mention in the linked post.

Even if you did it before or it is “a level below you,” I can pretty much promise you that you haven’t mastered all of it. I know I haven’t and I’ve done it a hundred times in my own study and when teaching Japanese.

Drill it again, Sam.

Make Mistakes:

A lot of people mention this as a language learning secret, but most of the explanations of it fall short in my opinion. Unfortunately I don’t think I can explain any better, but here’s a try.

When I say make mistakes, I mean a few different things.

  1. Know that you will fail and make mistakes and that does not mean that you aren’t a good language learner/speaker/teacher/etc. Throw away that imposter syndrome.
  2. Communicate by any means necessary. When I go to talk to someone in my third language (Mandarin Chinese) or a sign language (Taiwanese sign language), I use whatever I can to communicate. If I am buying something I always find a picture of it first and have it on my phone. Use natural sign langue, use body language, use whatever you can to communicate. To use a silly phrase, “fake it until you make it.”
  3. The Japanese have a saying “失敗は成功の基” – that’s basically failure is the foundation of success. To learn the ancient Chinese/Japanese game 囲碁 the common advice for learning it is to “lose your first 50 games as quickly as possible.” Language is about the same. Or maybe it’s not (but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it)

Be born all over in Japanese:

How did you become fluent in your native language? Do you remember?

In my case K-12 grade school, parents, and every activity I’ve ever done in English over the course of my life.

Here’s a secret. Want to be fluent in a foreign language? There is only one way to do it.

Take the above (minus the parents) and do it in Japanese. That’s k-12 schooling in Japanese (youtube and NHK’s kokosei no kousa – a free online high school TV program – are a good start). Plus putting as much of your life as possible in Japanese.

I hope that is food for thought.

This entry was posted in Yasuke Tips and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Trackback