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Speaking practice

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Speaking practice

Postby Triddz » Fri 03.06.2009 7:46 pm

I seriously hope that this is in the right forum :D

One of the big obstacles I am coming across in my pursuit of Japanese is the fact that I am completely unable to speak it. I can read, write, and comprehend to my level, but whenever I try and speak it, it sounds... forced, almost. Like, I'm putting too much effort into it. There is only one girl around me who speaks Japanese, and I barely know her, so practicing with a native speaker is not an option right at this moment.

I know there isn't a 'one size fits all' study solution, but I am curious to see what some of you did to practice speaking. Perhaps I can find something that works for me.
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Re: Speaking practice

Postby astaroth » Fri 03.06.2009 8:25 pm

What I do, without any native speaker around to practice with, is to repeat over and over the same sentence until I feel I get to a point of knowing what I'm saying without many "uh, um, ..."
It's not much I know, but at the moment will do.
I'm focusing more on listening comprehension and reading/writing. From my experience with English, speaking comes much later than listening and reading/writing at almost natural level.

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Re: Speaking practice

Postby ylime » Fri 03.06.2009 8:48 pm

I have the same problems too, lol, I'm good at reading and writing but my speaking is terrible. Truly, I sound like an idiot when trying to speak it, and also if I'm trying to speak it I usually can't think of words to use. :(

I haven't gotten much better but lately when I go through my Anki cards or through iKnow I'll usually try to repeat the word and/or the sentence out loud. Also sometimes if I'm watching a Japanese show (or drama, or anime, etc.) sometimes I'll repeat sentences right after they're spoken (I think it's called shadowing?). But I don't have anyone to practice with so I can't really tell if I'm getting better yet. :P
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Re: Speaking practice

Postby Mike Cash » Sat 03.07.2009 6:47 am

What I used to do years ago, even though living in Japan, was to constantly anticipate upcoming conversations I would have to have in the course of my work, figuring what I was going to say, what might be said in return, and how it would go on from there.

That was a continuation of a habit I started when learning Japanese outside Japan. During the course of my day, I would treat each situation as though I were in Japan and anything I had to say to someone else I would go over in my mind how I would handle it. It could be something as simple as looking for something in the grocery store and thinking what I would say if I had to ask a person in a Japanese grocery store where it was. Anything and everything was fair game. I called it つもり留学, deriving it from the phrase つもり貯金 I had heard in Japan. It doesn't matter whether you actually have an occasion to use Japanese or not; you act as though you do.

It worked really well, I think. I no longer have to do it and creating utterances on the fly comes much more easily as a result of having done it. I have just this minute returned home from a two hour meeting at work, conducted all in Japanese, during which I freely spoke up and expressed my thoughts and opinions on the matters discussed. I don't flatter myself that I did it perfectly, as I know full well I did not. But neither did I have to stop and consider what it was I wanted to say, translate it in my head, and then speak. The goal of all this learning, presumably, is to be able to create in your mind what you want to say and say it. The best preparation for creating utterances is to practice creating them. Whether you actually say them out loud or not is irrelevant; the effect and benefit are the same.
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Re: Speaking practice

Postby two_heads_talking » Mon 03.09.2009 9:41 am

through practice and diligence, as Mike Cash says, you will be able to stop the typical; Hear in Japanese, translate to English, think of English reply and translate to Japanese. You will, after much effort be able to Hear in one language and think and reply in that language. When you start thinking or dreaming in Japanese, you are almost there.

Good luck, anticipating, like Mike says is a good way to build up your vocabulary as well.
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Re: Speaking practice

Postby Triddz » Thu 03.12.2009 8:03 pm

みんな、ありがとう!

Sorry it's taken like a week to respond! I've been without internet for a few days. Mike, your advice is hugely helpful, and answers the next few questions I was to ask.

However, and I am sorry if I didn't make it clear, I am more concerned with the actual SOUND of my speaking rather than what is being said. Like, despite listening to quite hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of Japanese, my toungue can't grasp the correct pronunciations. Even though I know roughly how it is supposed to sound and flow, I can't do it (Yet, that is) It still sounds like I am forcing the sounds out instead of speaking naturally.

I've looked up shadowing quite a bit, and it seems like it will help. Any of you have an opinion on it?
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Re: Speaking practice

Postby richvh » Thu 03.12.2009 8:10 pm

I think you'd need something that gave you actual feedback on the sounds you were making (like spectral analysis or something.) Does Rosetta Stone provide this? Any other software package?
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Re: Speaking practice

Postby monkeykoder » Fri 03.13.2009 1:19 am

Rosetta stone does.
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Re: Speaking practice

Postby furrykef » Fri 03.13.2009 1:39 am

richvh wrote:I think you'd need something that gave you actual feedback on the sounds you were making (like spectral analysis or something.) Does Rosetta Stone provide this? Any other software package?


I'm extremely skeptical of the ability of computers to make an accurate assessment of such analyses. It's hard enough to get them to recognize phonemes correctly; whether you're articulating them properly is surely much harder than that.

I'm a fan of shadowing, but I haven't done it enough to evaluate it from experience. One problem I've run into is that often when I record my voice, my accent doesn't sound that strong while I'm speaking, but I play the recording back and the accent is a lot more obvious... part of it is probably the fact it's hard to listen to yourself and speak in a foreign language at the same time (at least not until you're very comfortable with that language), and part of it is probably that you hear your own voice differently than how other people hear it, because your voice resonates in your skull when you speak.

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Re: Speaking practice

Postby richvh » Fri 03.13.2009 7:20 am

The computer isn't doing the assessment; it's presenting you with a visual representation of the sounds you are making (which is objective, not subjective) and it's up to you to assess it and to adjust your speech to make the patterns made better fit the model.
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Re: Speaking practice

Postby furrykef » Fri 03.13.2009 7:31 am

But can an untrained human make an accurate assessment that way? For instance, "This graph doesn't look like that graph" doesn't always mean that they don't sound reasonably alike. (I've heard of people who can do apparently perfect imitations of other people, yet their perfect imitations will still fail a voiceprint test.)
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