You know that homeless guy standing on the corner yelling angrily at his invisible friend about nuclear kitten proliferation in the USSR? That’s who I want you to become (the crazy one, not the completely sane invisible one). Learning Japanese is about the consistent things you can do every day (that’s exactly why I wrote the ebook “30 Days Of Becoming A Better Japanese Learner“). It’s also helpful to think way outside the box. We’ll do both of those things with this “technique.”
Over time, you should see your Japanese getting better as well (or at the very least you should feel more confident about conversation). First step? Go insane… or at least act like it.
You Talking To Yourself Bro?
The “technique” I’m going to teach you isn’t really much of a technique at all, though we’ll go a little deeper into this subject than you ever thought possible. In a very basic sense, the “technique” is simply the following:
“Talk to yourself in Japanese.”
Whew. That was intense. But, it’s a little more complicated than that (just a little bit). There are a few rules to go along with this. Rules are good – they’ll keep you from falling all the way into the depths of insanity… well, for some of you anyways. I’ve seen some of your comments – you know who you are.
Rule #1: You have to be alone. You can’t feel like anyone else is around to see or listen to you.
Rule #2: Whatever you’re doing while you’re doing this “technique” shouldn’t require much concentration or thought. Things like showers, driving, watching TV, and so on might be good (please note that if you crash your car into something while doing this it’s your own fault. Be careful, hokay?!)
Rule #3: You have to speak (or yell) as loud as you possibly can without being heard (otherwise it breaks rule number 1).
Rule #4: Never, ever, talk about Fight Club
So, now you know basically what you need to do. When you’re alone and doing something that doesn’t take much concentration you want to talk to yourself in Japanese. I can’t just leave you there, though. I should show you how to do it. Let’s take a look at some specific examples that you can use to do this technique.
So you’re driving along in your car being all like “I’m gonna listen to some Weird Al on the 8-track machine” (or whatever you kids do these days). Instead of doing that, why not spend some time talking to yourself like a crazy person in Japanese?
Time in the car is absolutely perfect for this. Maybe you have to drive to work in the morning. Maybe you have to drive to school. Whatever. If you drive alone in a car (or you’re in the back of a sound-proof limo), this is one of the best opportunities to try out this technique.
I’d imagine it going something like this:
- Yell something unintelligible. Get it out. Stop feeling bad about yelling.
- As you drive around, you see things. Talk about those things (to yourself) in Japanese. Actually, don’t talk. Yell. You’re in a car. Nobody can hear you, maybe.
Talk about the weather. Talk about people you see. Talk about that dumb Oregon driver in front of you who doesn’t turn on their blinker then turns really, really slowly. It doesn’t really matter what you talk about – the only important thing is that you continually change the topic as you see new things. I’ll find myself even taking both sides of the conversation using different voices (yes, it’s embarrassing). I’ll have entire conversations about what someone is wearing or what I recently listened to on the radio. It’s like having a language partner but you get to have both sides.
Some of you ride bicycles. Compared to a car, the bicycle has a lot less in terms of sound-blocking aluminum and glass. Just go back to Rule #1. Talk as loud as you can without feeling self conscious. Once you feel self conscious you won’t speak as freely, and that’s one of the main goals. On a bike, I’d say you can talk in a normal voice and get away with it. Just like with “The Car” you want to talk about things you see and experience as you ride around.
If you’re a little ashamed feeling, though, try the next example.
One technique that you can use while your cycling, walking, or even riding a car is “the headset.” Wear a bluetooth headset or some headphones. When people see that, they’ll just think “oh, he’s talking on his phone, he’s not crazy.” That way, you can have the ability to practice your Japanese conversation no matter where you are! Pretend like you’re closing a multi-million dollar deal or something.
Most of you secretly sing in the shower. So, why not talk to yourself in Japanese in the shower? C’mon. I can hear you singing from all the way over here, so I know you’re not self-conscious. In the shower, just think about your day (or previous day) and go through it in your head. Since you’re not constantly seeing new things like you would in your car or on your bike, you’ll be responsible for coming up with new and interesting topics that push your ability to a higher level.
Making This Work
I’m not going to claim that this is the best technique in the world, but it does have some nice perks and advantages.
- You get to practice your speaking skills, which is something that most people don’t get.
- You’re taking advantage of times that are normally empty and wasted. With all that driving, walking, showering, and so on that most people do, I bet you could get in an hour or more of crazy Japanese talking time.
- You get to practice speaking freely without worry. When you’ve had a few daddy drinks, it becomes very easy to speak another language. This is because you’re not self conscious. This technique is supposed to emulate that feeling (or lack of feeling).
- Yelling makes you think differently about the Japanese language. I don’t know what it is about yelling, but everything is better for some reason. You can also hear your pronunciation and correct it more easily, too. Yelling has some kind of magical property that I don’t understand. You’ll just have to trust me that it does good things.
If anything, though, I hope this article helps you to think about Japanese study in a slightly different way. There are a lot of hidden opportunities to practice. You just have to notice that they’re there.
This technique won’t work for everyone (you’ll probably want to be at an intermediate level of Japanese to do this at least somewhat effectively), but it’s something to work towards. Even if you’re a beginner you can try to recite sentences using grammar you’ve learned using things that you see around you. It won’t quite be a conversation, but it’ll be good for you too.
So go out there and pretend to be insane. It’s for the betterment of your Japanese.