Speak Japanese Fluently in 1 Year Challenge (Part 2)

This is a step-by-step guide from complete beginners who want to challenge themselves to speaking fluently within 1 year.

This is aimed at beginners but these techniques can be picked up by anyone who wants to speak Japanese fluently.

These tips and tricks focus on speaking only although knowing how to at least read hiragana and katakana is necessary.

 

NOTE: This guide is broken down into 4 parts for every 3 months of studying!

  1. Speak Japanese Fluently in 1 Year Challenge (Part 1)

 

Here’s the challenge: to be able to speak Japanese fluently in 1 year!

Ok… but what do you mean by fluent?

I mean be able to hold a conversation with a Japanese person without consciously thinking about translating English into Japanese.

I don’t know any Japanese! How am I supposed to do that?

Well, let me tell you….

 

Some Things You Need to be Willing to Do

If this is something you want to be able to achieve then you have to be willing to put the time and effort in. You also have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone.

  • Talk to strangers.
  • Go outside your comfort zone.
  • Willing to make mistakes.
  • Study AND practice (they are NOT mutually exclusive)

HOWEVER: IF you find there is too much studying every week for you -that’s fine! You don’t HAVE to stick with what I’ve laid out. With my methods you’ll be learning about 20 new things a day and that can be a lot. So find a pace that works for you, but keep studying!

What you DO have to do is practice speaking at least twice a week! With a teacher and/or speaking partner. The speaking part is more important that the studying part.

 

You can do this entire challenge without spending a penny! But I have included some paid for suggestions to help give you a boost!

 

Months 1-3 Recap

After the first three months you should already:

  • Have a teacher and/or speaking partner(s) you meet regularly with. (Either in person or through italki)
  • Pushing yourself to study regularly and speak with more confidence.
  • Have covered about 800 words and basic grammar 1.

NOTE: If you use this referral link for italki you’ll get $10 free!

  • It does not matter if your Japanese is awkward or full of mistakes right now! The point of speaking every week is still to practice the grammar and vocabulary you’re learning. And to learn new words, mannerisms and to work on your accent!
  • Make sure you tell your teacher/speaking partner in advanced the subjects you want to talk about. I have suggested topics but it’s entirely up to you so long as you’re have a conversation in Japanese.

 

 

Month 4 Week 1

This week we’re going to start focusing more on speaking exercises you can do without a speaking partner.

You can use this time to go back over the vocabulary and grammar you’ve been learning.

[Article] Techniques to Improve Speaking Fluently (For ALL Levels)
[Article] Techniques to Improve Japanese Pronunciation 
– Read these articles and use the following websites to shadow some Japanese:

 

  • TIP: Try to focus on mimicking the pronunciation you hear.
  • TIP: Don’t try to memorize the phrases. Focus more on getting speed, flow, pronunciation and confidence.
  • TIP: Record yourself and listen back. – Use this to improve your speaking!
  • TIP: Practice shadowing just 15-30 minutes a day! (It’s not that much but will make a big difference in the long run.)

 

[Speaking] Practice with your partner(s)/teacher
Suggested Topic: Seasons. What are the seasons like where you live? What’s your favorite season? What do you like to do during that time?

 

Month 4 Week 2

[Memrise] JLPT N4 Vocabulary (Levels 8-13)

[Memrise] Beginners Grammar 2 (JLPT N4) (Levels 1-9) – Warning: JLPT N4 Grammar contains kanji. (This was due to popular demand). This may be tricky at first but it does help your Japanese in the long-run.

Optional: [Memrise] JLPT N4 Kanji – If you want to boost kanji (which will help with the grammar levels) I suggest doing as much kanji as you can manage in a week. Each lesson has about 20 kanji based words a level and would take 5 weeks to complete if you were doing 1 level a day. But it’s important to go at your own pace.

With the JLPT N4 vocabulary you should be studying about 20 words a day plus reviewing at least 50 words. You should also be learning 1 grammar point a day.

If you’re keeping up with the teacher and speaking partner then you’ll start to notice words and grammar that have come up in your conversations.

[Speaking] Practice with your partner(s)/teacher
Suggested Topic: What you would do if you went to Japan. Where would you go? What would you like to do?
(Optional: recap [Article] How to Talk About Hobbies)

 

Month 4 Week 3

[Memrise] JLPT N4 Vocabulary (Levels 14-19)

[Memrise] Beginners Grammar 2 (JLPT N4) (Levels 10-14)

Optional: [Memrise] JLPT N4 Kanji

[Speaking] Practice with your partner(s)/teacher
Suggested Topic: School. Talk about what you do/did in school. What you want to/did do at college. Why do those subjects interest you?

[Speaking] Pronunciation Training – Again, spend this week shadowing, recording yourself and try to boost your pronunciation and confidence. You can use this time to focus on the subject you’ll be covering with your teacher/speaking partner next. (But remember DON’T try to memorize the Japanese like a robot! This actually won’t help you speak fluently in the long-run.)

 

Month 4 Week 4

[Memrise] JLPT N4 Vocabulary (Levels 20-25)

[Memrise] Beginners Grammar 2 (JLPT N4) (Levels 15-21)

Optional: [Memrise] JLPT N4 Kanji

[Speaking] Practice with your partner(s)/teacher
Suggested Topic: Talk about the show you watched for your listening practice. What’s it about? What did you like about it?

[Listening Exercise] Watch 1 Episode of a Slice-of-Life Drama/Anime – Pick a slice of life drama or anime (can be something you’ve already seen) and watch it without subtitles.

  • TIP: Parrot words/phrases you hear that jump out at you. (DO NOT try to parrot the whole thing!)
    Parrot LOUD and CLEAR (no point if you whisper or say it in your head.)
  • TIP: DO NOT pause – try to watch the whole thing in one go and see how much you understand.
  • TIP: Focus on the meaning based on the situation. What do you think is happening? (You don’t need to understand 100%!)

NOTE: Pick a slice-of-life or a romance show! (No comedy, no history, no sci/fi fantasy). Slice-of-life/romance will more likely have grammar and vocabulary in it that you’ve been learning. They also help you start to pick up phrases and interactions which are common in daily life.

Speak japanese fluently 1 year challenge anime

 

Month 5 Week 1

[Memrise] JLPT N4 Vocabulary (Levels 26-32)

[Memrise] Beginners Grammar 2 (JLPT N4) (Levels 22-28) – Giving & Receiving: This is a little tricky because it’s a concept that is not directly translatable into English. But it’s used all the time in Japanese!  [Article] Maggie Sensei has a great summary of give/receive.

[Memrise] Beginners Particles 2 (Levels 18-21) – ONCE you’ve finished the Grammar levels do these levels on Beginners Particles 2! They cover the particles you need to know for あげる・くれる (which people often get wrong).

Optional: [Memrise] JLPT N4 Kanji

[Speaking] Practice with your partner(s)/teacher
Suggested Topic: What people do for you and what you do for others. Use what you’ve learnt to start incorporating give and receive into your conversations!

 

Month 5 Week 2

[Memrise] JLPT N4 Vocabulary (Levels 33-38)

[Memrise] Beginners Grammar 2 (JLPT N4) (Levels 29-32)

Optional: [Memrise] JLPT N4 Kanji

[Speaking] Practice with your partner(s)/teacher
Suggested Topic: Explain something that you feel is important (i.e from the news). Try and use the vocabulary from Level 38 of N4 Vocabulary.

[Speaking] Pronunciation Training – Again, spend this week shadowing, recording yourself and try to boost your pronunciation and confidence. You can use this time to focus on the subject you’ll be covering with your teacher/speaking partner next. (But remember DON’T try to memorize the Japanese like a robot! This actually won’t help you speak fluently in the long-run.)

 

Month 5 Week 3

[Memrise] JLPT N4 Vocabulary (Levels 39-45) – The END of JLPT N4 Vocabulary! That’s an additional 700(ish) vocabulary learnt!!!

[Memrise] Beginners Grammar 2 (JLPT N4) (Levels 33-37) – Passive, Causative & Causative Passive. This is another set of grammar that can be hard to get your head around. So here are some more article to help explain these:
[Article] Passive – Maggie Sensei
[Article] Causative – Maggie Sensei
[Article] Passive, Causative & Causative Passive – Tae Kim

Optional: [Memrise] JLPT N4 Kanji

[Speaking] Practice with your partner(s)/teacher
Suggested Topic: What someone let you do/what someone did to you – try and use passive, causative and causative passive in your conversation.

About Intermediate Vocabulary (JLPT N3)

By now you should have completed all the vocabulary for JLPT N4 and N5. That’s about 1500 vocabulary!!!

On Memrise it can often be hard to keep up to date with all the reviewing at this stage. I suggest you don’t worry too much and just review 50-100 words a day. Whatever you can!

These beginner vocabulary will come up again and again in your studies and hopefully by know you can remember most of them because of your conversations with your teacher/speaking partner(s).

I suggest using materials intended for the JLPT but you don’t need to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (unless you really want to). As I said, the point of this challenge is to master speaking above anything else.

However, we will continue to use resources made for the JLPT because they’re useful!

Speak Japanese Fluently in 1 Year Challenge (Part 2) Nihongo Tango Speed Master

So now we’re moving onto JLPT N3 materials and there is a BIG jump between N4 and N3. (See here for more details on the JLPT N3.) Specifically an additional 2250-2400 vocabulary and an additional 120-ish grammar points.

This may seem like a lot but it’s do-able! We’re going to continue taking small steps everyday to reach our goal!

I have not made any JLPT N3 grammar or kanji Memrise courses so I will be referring to these:

These vocabulary lists are based on the book [Article] Nihongo Tango Speed Master (Standard) which I HIGHLY recommend you get in addition to completing them on Memrise. [$ Option]

With these Memrise courses you CAN do the kanji levels as well. However, as we’re focusing on speaking I will assume these are being skipped. I will be suggesting levels that mean you’re learning about 80-100 new words every week (which is similar to what you’ve been learning up until now).

Month 5 Week 4

[Memrise] Beginners Grammar 2 (JLPT N4) (Levels 38-45)

[Memrise] JLPT N3 Standard 2400 Part 1 (Levels 1 & 3)
Optional: Kanji levels 2 & 4

[Listening Exercise] Watch 1 Episode of a Slice-of-Life Drama/Anime – Pick a slice of life drama or anime (can be something you’ve already seen) and watch it without subtitles. 

  • TIP: Watch the SAME episode again – This will help you pick up on vocabulary and phrases you missed the first time.

[Speaking] Practice with your partner(s)/teacher
Suggested Topic: Talk about the show you’ve been watching! Talk about the story, the characters, what you like.

 

Month 6 Week 1

[Memrise] Beginners Grammar 2 (JLPT N4) (Levels 46-52)

[Memrise] JLPT N3 Standard 2400 Part 1 (Levels 5 & 7)
Optional: Kanji levels 6 & 8

[Speaking] Practice with your partner(s)/teacher
Suggested Topic: You friends. Talk about your friends and people around you.

 

Month 6 Week 2

[Memrise] Beginners Grammar 2 (JLPT N4) (Levels 53-58) – The END of Beginners Grammar 2!

[Memrise] JLPT N3 Standard 2400 Part 1 (Levels 9, 11, 13)
Optional: Kanji levels 10, 12 & 14

[Speaking] Practice with your partner(s)/teacher
Suggested Topic: If you had a house what would you like it to have? Do you want pets? What location would be good? Near the train station, in Japan? OR Ask them about houses in Japan and explain what houses are like in your country.

[Speaking] Pronunciation Training – Again, spend this week shadowing, recording yourself and try to boost your pronunciation and confidence. You can use this time to focus on the subject you’ll be covering with your teacher/speaking partner next. (But remember DON’T try to memorize the Japanese like a robot! This actually won’t help you speak fluently in the long-run.)

 

Month 6 Week 3

Intermediate Japanese Grammar 1 (JLPT N3) (Levels 1-5)

[Memrise] JLPT N3 Standard 2400 Part 1 (Levels 15, 17, 19)
Optional: Kanji levels 16, 18 & 20

[Speaking] Practice with your partner(s)/teacher
Suggested Topic: Ask if you can practice your casual Japanese with your speaking partner and ask them to correct you. OR If you’ve been talking casually with them already ask them to practice speaking polite Japanese!

 

Month 6 Week 4

Intermediate Japanese Grammar 1 (JLPT N3) (Levels 6-12)

[Memrise] JLPT N3 Standard 2400 Part 1 (Levels 21, 23 & 25)
Optional: Kanji levels 22, 24 & 26

[Listening Practice] News! – Japanese news can be really tricky to understand,  even at advanced levels. But it’s never too early to start practicing.

Pick 1 news video from either NHK News Web or NHK News Web Easy. These are often ONLY 1 minute long videos!

  1. Watch the video and try to understand what’s being said.
  2. Then re-watch it again, and again, and again.
  3. Note any words you pick up.
  4. Then try and read the written article that goes with it – this will help you pick out words you didn’t understand.
  5. Then re-watch it again!

The idea behind this exercise is to get you used to listening to more formal and FAST Japanese. It will be hard at first but you’ll find yourself slowly picking up more and more as you listen.

[Speaking] Practice with your partner(s)/teacher
Suggested Topic: Talk about the news article you watched for your listening exercise. This will get you using the vocabulary you picked up from it and talking about more complicated subjects.

Speak japanese fluently 1 year challenge video

 

6 Months Complete!!! おめでとうございます!!!

You’ve worked REALLY hard if you’ve gotten to this point! After almost 6 months of talking Japanese on a regular basis you should be feeling a lot more confident. Your Japanese is not 100% perfect, but that’s fine! You need to be making mistakes so you can learn from those mistakes.

The next 6 months will be  getting even more interesting! がんばりましょう!!!

 

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