Imagine this—you were walking down the street, when all of a sudden a foreigner came up to you, asking you for a direction. Excited by the opportunity to speak English, you grasped for words that you’d learn in your English class. You went on saying mumbled words, hmmm, ahh, but to your horror, you realized the words were nowhere to be found.
The foreigner waits patiently as you racked your brain for the right words. Finally, you give up and say, I’m sorry. No English. The foreigner left, and you stood there blaming yourself for your inability to communicate.
Does that sound familiar? Perhaps you’ve had that experience before, and you feel discouraged. You think it’s impossible, so why even bother learning English right?
Well, you’re not alone. I was in the same place. Like you, I’m not a native English speaker. But I learned, and I experienced what it takes to speak the language. No matter how old/young you are—or whether you have or no job, regardless of who you are, I’m confident that you can become fluent, too.
In this blog post, I want to share with you 3 things to help you become fluent in English, or Japanese if you’re learning it.
And the first one is this…
1.) Immerse yourself in an English/Japanese speaking environment
When I had moved to Japan, I neither spoke fluent English nor Japanese. In fact, I had literally zero Japanese literacy. That was about six years ago. I was 23.
During that time, I had been very passionate about Jazz music. And so I roamed the internet, searching for a Jazz bar that held Jam session(musician gathering) near the area I was living in.
I found one in Kannai, Yokohama. To no surprise, nobody spoke English. But they were a very welcoming group—middle-aged folks, mostly in their sixties. They loved Jazz and so did I.
By the end of the first session, I had practically become friends with everyone in the group—including the bar owner. How did we communicate? By gestures, by pointing at things, slowly saying the word or terms for things. They talked to me how they’d talk to a four-year-old kid. (I guess my Japanese level at that time was old enough to be considered a four-year-old).
I became familiar with their way of speaking, the vocabularies that they used, and how they had said it. All the while, during the series of sessions, I had brought with me a pen and a paper, jotting down the words that flew at me which I did not understand. I wrote down the words that they’d emphasized and words that stood out to me.
Then by the end of the year, I began to speak like them—which was more formal compared to the casual Japanese teenager speech. And from then on, as far as I could remember, I conversed with people with less trouble than I had started.
My point is, you gotta get yourself out there. You need to immerse yourself in the unfamiliar to become familiar. That’s how I build my vocabularies.
2.) Read/Sing in English/Japanese
In school, we’re often taught to memorize unfamiliar words, often a random word with a brief explanation what it means. And we’re expected to use them in a sentence—which is a good exercise if you want to get a good grade in school, that is. But learning English isn’t just about the getting good grades, is it? It’s about communicating well.
To communicate well, we need to understand the words in their right context and enforce them into our own expressions. In my opinion, we would do best to read a lot in English. With reading, there’s more room for observation—which I believe retains more useful information than just explanation.
To use a word well, you need to understand the nature of the word, its context and its different connotations. Combine it with an impeccable pronunciation—which you can practice well with singing—and you’re on your way to becoming not only an English speaker but to becoming a great communicator, as well.
Read a lot and sing a lot in English.
3.) Make English/Japanese speaking friends
This is where it all comes together. All the observation, learning, and practicing time you spend comes down to this moment—meeting new people, and using what you have learned.
There’s no better medium of communication than communication itself. You need to talk, listen to people, and you need to meet people to do that. There’s no other way around it.
This is one of the reasons why I just love Language exchange. Because it gives people the opportunity to meet people who want to learn a new language just like them. And best of all it’s all for FREE because it’s sponsored by a non-profit organization.
So if you guys are free, come and join our events.
Check out the link below for more details.
If you are…