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How fast did it take for you to learn Japanese?

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Conversation comes quickly. Maybe a year or so. Mind you, it probably won't be fantastic, perfectly framed or articulate conversation. But everyday, conversational, "advanced survival" level Japanese is probably not as difficult as many people think.
Your mileage may vary.
 
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For me spending a few weeks with the right people (they spoke hardly any English) did more than the Japanese minor I took in university. However, I felt that I got stuck at a certain level of speaking when I did not expand my vocabulary, and improved my grammar by studying. You will notice that you can have a fluent conversation at a bar when you introduce yourself and talk about your background, but haven't got a single clue what other people are saying to each other about the news and work. For this more practice and studying is required, and that might take months/years.
 
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It really depends on what you mean by everyday conversation. Every day in English I have conversations I couldn't possibly have in Japanese (politics, social issues, etc.), I also have conversations I can easily have in Japanese.

Superficial requests which revolved around my own wants and needs were easily acquired. With the couple of months of once per week lessons I took before going to Japan I had enough to get around. Food, drink, asking simple questions about things (price, "what is this called?", etc), asking simple directions, greetings, "nice weather, isn't it?" interactions, etc.
 
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This is something I have thought about, too. I have studied for a year, and I don't reckon I could hold a meaningful conversation outside the usual introductory sentences. Everything I am learning seems so random and direct to a situation at the moment. There is no articulation yet, although I guess that will come with practice. I do wonder how advanced I would be another three years down the line.....
 
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This is something I have thought about, too. I have studied for a year, and I don't reckon I could hold a meaningful conversation outside the usual introductory sentences. Everything I am learning seems so random and direct to a situation at the moment. There is no articulation yet, although I guess that will come with practice. I do wonder how advanced I would be another three years down the line.....
I think this will greatly depend on whether you have spent a considerable amount of time in Japan or not.

I believe you really need to be in Japan to go from "I know what to say" to really speak. There are many ways to say something (synonyms, politeness/slang), various accents, everyone speaks at a different pace, etc. Things will feel more natural and start to make sense or fall into place better in Japan than from abroad.

Of course this does not mean that you cannot progress from abroad!
 
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I think this will greatly depend on whether you have spent a considerable amount of time in Japan or not.

I believe you really need to be in Japan to go from "I know what to say" to really speak. There are many ways to say something (synonyms, politeness/slang), various accents, everyone speaks at a different pace, etc. Things will feel more natural and start to make sense or fall into place better in Japan than from abroad.

Of course this does not mean that you cannot progress from abroad!
It is most certainly an ambition of mine to visit Japan for a time - but I am worried about being lost in translation, so I shall continue to study before I contemplate visiting. Thanks for the advice.
 
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