A Japanese conversation

Had to write this post quickly, and also update you guys on my progress.

The last two weeks haven’t been the most productive i’ll admit. What I do when I don’t have much time to learn new words is to just do reviews of words I know already without adding any new words. This way I will still be reading some Japanese during the day and then when I am less busy I jump on my usual system of doing 50 new words at a time. Presently, I’m a little more than halfway between step six, and it’s not so bad.

But something pretty awesome happened last night. I was chatting to a friend of mine last night and somehow we switched from English to Japanese. (she is French but speaks pretty good Japanese. What baffled me was my level of comprehension and how much better I got at being able to “try and say” what I was thinking. I found that because of the vocabulary I had in my mind, I:

wasn’t focused so much on “what to say” versus “how to say”.

This shocked me because like I have been saying for a while on this blog, I do not really practice Japanese output all the time. I am learning words, I read when I can and I am doing this to build a base of strength for attacking grammar and speaking so I will have more tools. But every now and then i get an opportunity to chat and I felt that my armour is getting a little thicker.

Yesterday, I was able to somewhat explain some ideas I that I want to work on in film. I also kind of “winged” some statements explaining the background of what I wanted to do. I was chatting about Jamaican culture and I said the following in my chat:


“From the time of Bob Marley until now, Jamaican culture has increase globally”..

now this isn’t a perfect sentence by any means… but in reading a person can sort of get what i’m saying. In hindsight, I should have put

ジャマイカの文化の効果が - the effect of Jamaican culture

(jyamaeka no bunka no kouka )

Now here is the thing with speaking like this. It may not always be 100% correct, but when I was in Japan I would simply STOP. I wouldn’t even try to say more things, or get very far in conversations because I had pretty low vocabulary. In my present situation, I can ask someone what would be a better way to express what i am saying, (and why) and when they explain the grammar points to me I can work on using that next time.

So basically, a huge base of vocabulary is like padding when you are learning how to box, you can get hit with a grammatical situation, or maybe a situation where you are trying to express your thoughts and then you have to use other words and another phrase to get it acrosss. 

Also what’s cool is that when I was reading what my friend was typing to me, again, I was focusing on the entire sentence, versus focusing on individual words. I also saw some a few cool expressions that I am not used to using. Like i was speaking about wanting to work on a film relating to Jamaican music in the world and my friend was asking what is the film about, etc.

人間関係について?- ningen kankei ni tsuite? (about relationships?)

若者に確かに (certainly the young)

I forgot “tashi ka ni” meant something along the lines of “of course”. I had learned it, but the meaning wasn’t solid in my head because I’ve never had a chance to use it. Seeing my friend write it down helped me get a very strong context to base its general usage on.

What I like about this is that this was a plan I had engineered in my mind a long time ago, but never executed. Hell, I’m not even executing my currently plan 100%. But there was a good saying I heard that went something like:

an imperfect plan properly executed is better than a perfect plan that is never executed. 

Ideally, if I was doing this sort of thing everyday, meaning putting myself in situations where I have to use common grammatical patterns over and over and over, then you can see amazing conversational growth skill in only weeks. But in a recent blog post, I said that my goal right now was to really get a handle on the vocab and then attack learning grammar with the same energy I’ve put into learning new vocabulary.

I’m going to write another post on the “problem of balance and goal setting” that focuses quite specifically on the issues of being burnt out, keeping focus, rewarding yourself and reastically gauging progress.

Today’s post just gave me a good insight into the power of having vocabulary and some basic grammar skills. The more I work on trying to say what I think, the better I will get!



About marcusbird

Writer, Designer, Filmmaker
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4 Responses to A Japanese conversation

  1. Paul Nogas says:

    “an imperfect plan properly executed is better than a perfect plan that is never executed.”..love it.

    Also, this post reminds me of a conversation I had with another English teacher. He argued that Japanese schools shouldn’t be teaching English grammar before high-school. That vocabulary is more important and that grammar would just come with time and exposure.

  2. marcusbird says:

    that’s interesting. When I start learning my third language I will really test this properly, “arming” myself with as much vocab as possible while operating with functional grammar. I think I might agree with the pre high-school sentiment in some cases, although I have taught Junior High school students grammar excercises by giving them lots of context heavy situations and games… but they need vocab definitely

  3. Hi Marcus,
    My name is Sunu…..I have just stayed at Kanagawa and join the beginner Japanese class. I found that your website is extremely useful for me, since you log your japanese learning progress. I will keep my eye on your newest post. Hope to see you sometime in Japan. Iro-iro doumo arigatou …..

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