It’s difficult to learn Japanese when you don’t have someone to practice with or correct your pronunciation. Before I moved, the only language service I had to practice with was watching copious amounts of dramas, variety shows, anime, movies etc and listening to equally copious amounts of Japanese music. I mimicked how they spoke and pronounced phrases, adopted some of my favourites (you know, stuff like “baka” and “majide” and “uso“). Speaking Japanese was difficult though, I could never bring up the courage to say anything even if I knew it.
I did try by making an italki account, posted some stuff and even had a Skype call with a Japanese user to practice (which ended up being a one-off thing) and then I never used the service again. I figured I didn’t need to since I had classes in school and friends to converse with, but now that I have ended my Japanese language classes and barely interact with most of my friends my Japanese practice has become zero. Zeeeerooooooo.
I haven’t touched a textbook since last December and I can feel my proficiency dropping. I AM SCARED.
Then the other day I was contacted by Wasabi about the launch of their new online Japanese language service catered to help improve your speaking skills. They offer 50 min 1 on 1 lessons, once a week, with native speakers, priced at 5,800yen a month.
They’ve got a contest where you can WIN A FREE TRIP TO JAPAN!!! So keep reading for the details 😀
They let me take a trial lesson, over Skype, and emailed me all the details and materials I needed, which was a pdf of the lesson worksheet and a quick profile of who my teacher would be.
I was paired with the friendly Kantou-san, and at the start of the session we did a quick self introduction to break the ice and I fumbled a bit, trying to make sure to remember to end my sentences with desu and masu and not the informal forms.
We then moved onto the content for the session, which was the ～（さ）せる causative form. I’d learned it in school but it is the most confusing thing because I can never get the causative, passive and causative passive (whaaaaattttt???) forms right. It’s all a mix of sa, se, ra and rus (saserareru? saseru? how many rarerus?).
The lesson was broken into 3 parts.
1. Reading and repeating the two-sentence conversation after the teacher
2. Filling in the blanks and reading the sentences in the proper form
3. Replying to the question with the correct sentence and grammar form
Ａ：お昼を何を食べ（る / ますか）？
I’ve done similar practices in school where we would come up with our own responses or create our own conversations. We tried doing a free response but I felt the questions asked and the contexts of the conversations made it difficult to come up with my own response that also included the required grammar form. Or maybe I am just bad at thinking on my feet but I ended up improvising and replying with a garbled form of the example responses.
Ａ：どこかにあの資料を作れる人（いない / いませんか）？
A: Where can we find someone who can make these documents?
Ｂ：試しに彼女に作らせて（みようよ / みましょうよ）。
B: Let’s try asking her to do it.
I had NO IDEA how to come up with a different response for this that also included the causative form. In the end I did a cop out and changed “kanojo” (her) to “kare” (he). There’s no English anywhere on the worksheets though, I just added the translation so you’d understand why I was clueless haha.
Kantou-san pointed out when I had weird intonation or too much fluctuations in the tone in which I spoke or when I didn’t listen and replied in the formal form when he had asked the question informally and vice versa. We had to do a quick run through of how to change words into the causative form when I messed up later on, and when he sped things up I kept forgetting to reply in informal or formal because I was too focused on getting the causative form correct.
Phew! I was actually a bit glad when it was over because my brain got a bit tired and I felt bad for messing up and also because I just wanted to return to thinking in English again. Bleh, that’s bad, I know.
But there is a difference having someone practice with you than when you self-study because your mistakes start coming out, things you don’t realise you do and you can’t lie and get away with pretending you did good. When you’re put on a spot to answer a question correctly you actually have to work and think really hard instead of just googling the answer or forgetting it exists.
I often try reading or translating something in Japanese to English but then abandon it cause it gets too difficult. No running away when you have a human staring back and waiting for your response! Also because you’re paying for lessons so you want to get your money’s worth right?
I mean there are really so many free ways to learn and practice Japanese online, so many YouTube channels, so many apps, articles, and hey, even Google-sensei who I turn to for help a lot. Why pay when you can get for free?
I still prefer not paying for things as much as possible if I can get it for free, but sometimes you really do need a class where it forces you sit down and focus for that 50 minutes or so and actually study. Lazy people like me who procrastinate like time isn’t money find it so difficult to motivate or even force ourselves to open that textbook or do a worksheet because no one gets on our back if we don’t. There isn’t a “cost” we see in deciding to do work “tomorrow” and watching a YouTube video instead.
And on italki the guy who I tried practicing on Skype with ended up wanting to speak in mostly English and even when I’m with friends (or any Japanese people, really), no one tries correcting my grammar or my weird vocabulary. It’s a lot of jouzu desu ne and being complacent enough with being able to communicate and when I can’t think of the Japanese phrase I end up switching to English because my friends understand it. (Or you know, katakana versions of English words)
So if you’re serious about wanting to improve your speaking you might want to consider Wasabi’s Japanese learning service. It’s designed for intermediate and above Japanese language learners so it’s recommended that you have a JLPT N4 level and up so you can make the most of it! Any lower you might be struggling with the material and pace.
Ok, ok and now to what you’ve been waiting for (YES BERNIE FINALLY UGH)
WIN A FREE ROUND TRIP TO JAPAN
in the Wasabi Japanese Speech Contest!! You don’t have to be a Wasabi member to take part! The speech topic is given to you after you sign up. Then all you do is write your 4 to 6 min speech, record it and submit!
Applications are NOW OPEN!
You have till 15 August to sign up, then till 15 September to record your speech and submit it!
All the full details are on their website!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to playing Pokemon Conquest….in Japanese okay! That counts as practicing right???