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Getting over that confidence hurdle

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Getting over that confidence hurdle

Postby Tesu » Mon 07.02.2007 11:21 pm

Hey guys,

So here I am, been in Japan 9/10 months and could probably pass JLPT 三級 if I was to take it. However, my actual speaking ability is quite probably less than someone who is only around 四級!!

My problem is, I just can't build up the confidence enough to just go out there and talk to people enough! Sounds quite crazy, as I can actually be quite chatty once I've got a few drinks in me. That and I realise that the *only* way to really improve is to use it as much as possible. Whereas now I do make time to study every single day, and surround myself with the language as much as possible - It's all in vain if I'm not willing to use it!

Has anyone else here ever really had this problem? Any pieces of advice for just *getting over it*? Anyone got any clever techniques to just force myself into such a situation .... and somehow enjoy it? Any relevant/interesting experiences?

Ta :)
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RE: Getting over that confidence hurdle

Postby Dehitay » Tue 07.03.2007 1:45 am

I have the problem; but for me, it's more laziness than fear. It takes some effort to think of something you can actually talk about in Japanese at your skill level and then talk about it. Doing a basic introduction the first time is almost standard, but then it requires some effort. I've tried translating anime, but there's always 10% of their speech that I just can't make out. I just downloaded Rosetta Stone Japanese and I'm curious if it will actually help me with my verbal Japanese.

Even with my own failure at jumping the hurdle, I can still offer advice. If you're like me and just have more of a problem with laziness, try finding somebody who's level of English is worse than your Japanese (which is an annoyingly difficult task). They'll tend to start the flow of conversation while some one who can speak English well will keep talking in English. If it's a fear of talking to somebody 1 on 1, start with Japanese chatrooms.
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RE: Getting over that confidence hurdle

Postby katafei » Tue 07.03.2007 2:57 am

Hm, I live in a middle-sized town and there is an actual Japanese community of about 6000 people living here as well. Mostly expats, young families that spend about 3 years here.
So basically I should have plenty opportunity, but I haven't plucked up the courage to start any conversation just yet. I hope to do that soon, though, because slowly I think I'm getting ready for it.
There's actually a baseball team (the J's) and I plan to start watching their games this summer, so who knows, I might get to talk to someone.
Unfortunately, I'm not all that good in socializing.... :(
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RE: Getting over that confidence hurdle

Postby Mike Cash » Tue 07.03.2007 5:34 am

I put myself in a situation where I had no choice but to get over the confidence hurdle; I entered a 100% Japanese workforce and made the rent and groceries absolutely dependent upon functioning in Japanese. Works wonders.
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RE: Getting over that confidence hurdle

Postby spin13 » Tue 07.03.2007 9:06 am

You live in Japan. You have problems talking to the people whom you have surrounded yourself with but you have no problem talking to a bunch of strangers on the internet?

See that button? It's the one labeled "power" on the big beige thing you stick disks into. Push it. Just kill this thing and walk away into the dark and don't look back or you'll turn into a pillar of salt. I'm not kidding.

-Eric
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RE: Getting over that confidence hurdle

Postby two_heads_talking » Tue 07.03.2007 10:17 am

when I was increasing my vocabulary, I made an effort to speak to people every day and to include the new words in the conversation. even if a certain word is odd, by using it, you will be able to remember it. find words that you are interested in (in your field of work) and say hello. if you are able to, converse with high school kids, they love being able to speak the english they are learning too..
Last edited by two_heads_talking on Tue 07.03.2007 10:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Getting over that confidence hurdle

Postby Pork Chop » Tue 07.03.2007 11:46 am

You could also spend 90% of your time walking around in an alcoholic stupor in order to overcome confidence problems; confidence in a bottle, so to speak. I wouldn't recommend it though as the damage to your brain cells and your liver might be irreparable.

Think of it this way: when you mess up, then that means you've become aware that there's something you need to improve. By messing up you're actually improving your Japanese. If you spoke perfect from the get-go, then what's the point of learning? Embrace your mistakes & failures. Use them as motivation to try harder. Take your ego out of the equation. Nobody ever got anything done by not trying.
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RE: Getting over that confidence hurdle

Postby punkgrl326 » Tue 07.03.2007 12:09 pm

One way I try to overcome this problem is by talking to myself in Japanese. For example if I'm looking for my shoes, instead of saying "where's my shoes?" I'll say "kutsu wa doko ni aru?", or if I'm hungry instead of saying "I'm starving" I'll say "onaka ga pekopeko". It sounds weird when you're starting out at first and if people catch you doing it they might look at you funny, but soon you'll be able to do it without even thinking about it. Btw, if people do ask what you're doing you can just tell them you are practicing Japanese :D
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RE: Getting over that confidence hurdle

Postby tanuki » Tue 07.03.2007 12:55 pm

You build up confidence for talking to strangers by talking to yourself? :/

----------

1) Forget your English.
2) Go for a walk.
3) Tell strangers (in Japanese, of course) that you're Hungarian and don't speak English.
4) Practice Japanese!

;)
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RE: Getting over that confidence hurdle

Postby stevie » Tue 07.03.2007 6:31 pm

Hm I can understand this since I'm kind of the same (though there are substantially less japanese people here in Edinburgh than there are in Japan, go figure). I don't really lack confidence or self-esteem, but there's a certain shyness in me that tends to make it hard (but not impossible) for me to talk to someone I haven't met or been previously introduced to... once I've met them I'm just fine. For me it's not a language thing. I'm not really scared of making mistakes. Once I can do that first hurdle on my own I could probably talk to anyone in the world. Heck, we do it all the time online anyway (of course there are big differences in this method of communication). And hey, don't be afraid of screwing up if you're trying to speak Japanese - either the person you're talking to made a lot of mistakes of their own when they were learning their second language, or they haven't learned one and thus don't have much of a grounds for non-constructive criticism.

Your profile says you are in Tokyo. Do what I did - just say hi to people on the metro (after all, what the heck else are you doing on there?), ask if you can practice your japanese with them for five minutes. Worst that'll happen is they'll say no, you might feel bad or embarassed for a while but just keep doing it and eventually you won't care. If they're doing something it's probably better not to interrupt, but there's always somebody just standing or sitting there staring into space. I found that not many people say no and when I was in Japan I honestly took about twenty seconds to string a very basic sentence together - yes, I felt like an idiot, and no, no-one else cared. Girls around my age (I'm 24) and old guys tend to be into it I guess. Some of them have never even talked to a foreigner before. Just make sure to smile and maintain eye contact, try to appear laid back (even if you're a little nervous - the nerves will disappear anyway). This stuff sounds almost trivial but it really does make all the difference and you might be surprised how receptive people are. Oh, and be polite obviously.

If you haven't been talking to Japanese people for the 10 or so months you've been in Japan I assume you've just been talking to other westerners. If you have Japanese friends, practice with them and talk to them about your predicament. If any of the people you hang out with have Japanese friends find out where they met or whatever. If you hang out with people who like clubbing gowith them and just have a good time, have a couple drinks (not too many that you can't keep your head in check, obviously), dance with and talk to people. I find talking to people a pain in the ass in clubs just cause you have this huge soundsystem to try and talk over, but it's always strangely fun to do anyway.

If it makes it easier for you to find an initial few Japanese friends to get started, find some online, get to know each other a bit so that you're comfortable and go meet up in Starbucks or some other neutral place with lots of people around so you can all feel comfortable. This is feasable to do since you're in Tokyo, though I'd call it a last resort just cause of all the hassle involved, not to mention that often people don't like the social stigma attached with meeting someone online. Nevertheless, I did this before I went to Japan (partly because of my aforementioned shyness, but more because I was jumping at the chance to speak with people that actually lived there before I went) - as a result I met two great people (one of whom I now count as a close friend) and was able to spend a few days in a Japanese home with a Japanese family, which was just an awesome experience for me.

And that's what it's all about really - don't forget that people are fun - so have fun getting to know them. Let them have fun getting to know you. You don't have to take it too seriously.

Anyway, back to the metro (or anywhere) - If you're stuck for things to talk about to get going...
Ask where they got their stylin' coat or if that keitai was as expensive as it is cool. Ask where's a good place to pick up x (some item you're looking for). Or what do you do to de-stress after work. Ask if they like to travel and where they've been or want to travel to. Ask what that kanji is on that ad, what's their favourite place in tokyo, or outside of tokyo. if they've ever been to kamakura, nara, kyoto, sapporo.. anywhere! where do they like to go on vacation?

even when you only know a little japanese there's so much to talk about. sure it might all seem like small talk but who cares? take it step by step. and don't get flustered or panic if you don't understand the responses well (or at all - I often didn't at first!), just say so. but make an effort to understand, and reflect that. honestly, more often than not I think people would really appreciate that you make the effort.

Oh hey, if you're really having problems, just talk about food. The majority of Japanese people I met all had the same enthusiasm for food that I do so this was always a good icebreaker. Where's a good sushi place? Do you like soba and udon? ever go to mosburger? What's your favourite non-japanese food? Just ask stuff, and talk about their answers.

It's all basic stuff (or can be expressed using fairly basic sentences anyway), but even if you don't learn anything new you'll probably tear your confidence barrier down and then you can start experimenting. And the listening practice is awesome as well. So hey, give it a go tomorrow. Then report back !
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RE: Getting over that confidence hurdle

Postby Antonious34 » Wed 07.04.2007 12:38 am

Stevie among others that have replied have some excellent points. I would definitely follow their advice.
Always remember that it only gets easier. After your first conversation, whether it's about food or Einsteins' theory of relativity, the next conversation will come just as easy, if not easier.
There is no reason to regret the conversation regardless of how much of a 'failure' you perceived it to be.

Go get 'em.
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RE: Getting over that confidence hurdle

Postby keatonatron » Wed 07.04.2007 5:20 am

I think you're only problem is that you're still (comparatively) a beginner. When I was at the 3-kyuu level, I was pretty much limited to ordering food and asking where to find things at the store. I did have real conversations with anyone. Once I got around the 2-kyuu level, I realized I could handle doing things like signing up for an internet connection and/or cell phone, an explaining what I want at the hairdresser's and explaining what's wrong at the doctor's.

It's important to motivate yourself, but at the same time it's important not to push yourself too fast. If the only thing you're capable of doing is ordering food, then... go order food! It's also essential to spend time with Japanese friends at an Izakaya and just chat. If you have one friend who speaks pretty good English, make them take you out with their friends who don't speak English. That way you get a chance to listen to normal Japanese without having the pressure of keeping up.
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RE: Getting over that confidence hurdle

Postby katafei » Wed 07.04.2007 5:30 am

keatonatron wrote:
Once I got around the 2-kyuu level, I realized I could handle doing things like (...)an explaining what I want at the hairdresser's (...)


I think hairdressers have a secret language of their own....
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RE: Getting over that confidence hurdle

Postby stevie » Wed 07.04.2007 11:10 am

yeah no joke, I have a hard enough time getting my hair cut in English.
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RE: Getting over that confidence hurdle

Postby Oracle » Wed 07.04.2007 11:30 am

Nothing is harder than getting your hair cut exactly the way you want in a foreign language. The JLPT should have a practical section where you have to do just that.
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