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How can i improve listening and speaking skills?

hashy

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I am currently studying at intermediate Japanese level and well my problem is to do with speaking and listening skills. Whenever i listen to dialogues for my quiz it is very difficult to comprehend and well my speaking skills are worse. I can possibly speak basic Japanese but that is a difficult task for me to even do. I can understand written Japanese of my level, but other than that everything is too hard.

I am currently studying Japanese through distance education and well i have a test coming up in 7 weeks, which is a speaking test and i wish to prepare for it. So how can improve my listening and speaking skills?
 

nekojita

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Listen more, speak more.

I'm not being glib here - you're suffering a quite common problem which comes from (I'm presuming) residing in an area where you don't have regular chances to interact with other Japanese speakers. Most of your study comes from books, rather than audio materials, so you're better at reading than listening. Production (writing/speaking) always lags behind comprehension (reading/listening), and you do need to specifically practice production, it does not come naturally.

It's hard to recommend materials as 'intermediate' covers a lot of bases; I'd suggest speaking to your teacher and asking for additional material/drills. Drills that involve practising writing/grammar production (i.e. forming grammatical sentences, conjugating verbs) may also help you with speaking.

I can't recommend one in particular, but you might also consider getting a tutor over Skype or similar, just for conversation practice.
 

mdchachi

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At the risk of stating the obvious, you need to practice listening and speaking. Find somebody you can talk to regularly.
 

jborchardt

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There are services out there such as italki, which will connect you to a teacher or tutor in a one on one session (paid) or the app HelloTalk, which connects you to tandem partners (first language is free). Since you are already using distance education, maybe the latter would be a good complement for your learning.
 

madphysicist

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Search online for "japanese penpal" or similar to find someone to talk to?

Listening is much easier, watch some Japanese TV or films.
 

hashy

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My main concern would be speaking. My listening is ok i guess, but my speaking skills are just down right awful. It is near impossible for me t put a sentence together without thinking over it in my head for at least 1 minute or 2, for beginner material i can think of the sentences quicker.

Also any recommendation for retaining grammar points and sentence structures that i learn every week. for example i just learn't how to express opinions and hearsay (と思う、と思っている and そう です・だ。) I went over these grammar points 2-3 times and i still have trouble with them.

Thanks to the people who replied with all the helpful info.
 

madphysicist

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My main concern would be speaking. My listening is ok i guess, but my speaking skills are just down right awful. It is near impossible for me t put a sentence together without thinking over it in my head for at least 1 minute or 2, for beginner material i can think of the sentences quicker.

Also any recommendation for retaining grammar points and sentence structures that i learn every week. for example i just learn't how to express opinions and hearsay (と思う、と思っている and そう です・だ。) I went over these grammar points 2-3 times and i still have trouble with them.

Thanks to the people who replied with all the helpful info.
This may be a bit unusual, but how I improved at speaking over the past year or so was not actually by speaking to anyone out loud.

What I did was find some online penpals/tandem partners who I could text chat with on LINE (a messaging app popular in Asia). I preferred text chatting, because it didn't matter if it took a few minutes for me to write out a sentence. I even found a couple of Japanese people who basically didn't speak English and just wanted someone to talk to.

I also started watching a lot of Japanese TV. I nearly always watch with English subtitles, but it still helps you get used to the pronunciation.

You might have thought these things wouldn't improve my speaking ability much, but they really did, as I found out recently when I met up in real life with one of the guys who didn't speak English. I think my main problem was that I didn't have the confidence to put together a sentence, and I felt too "on-the-spot" when I had to speak to someone.

I don't know if this will work for you, but that's how I did it. Maybe not the "best" way, but it works if you're not in an environment with native speakers or always end up defaulting to English when speaking to your Japanese friends.
 

hashy

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Just one question, what level of japanese were you at when you were messaging people. Because i am currently not able to express myself as i would in english. For example i cannot express "want" in japanese cause i have still not covered that in my unit.

just for reference to show you were i am at, this is how my subjects go:
Intro 1 - Intro 2 - Intermediate 1 - Intermediate 2 - Adv 1 - Adv 2 - Adv 3 - Adv 4
I am currently in intermediate 1 which will be equivalent to in between n4-n3 once i finish it according to my lecturer.
advance 3 and 4 are just extra subjects you can take if you wish to be at n1 level or higher.
 

madphysicist

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Just one question, what level of japanese were you at when you were messaging people. Because i am currently not able to express myself as i would in english. For example i cannot express "want" in japanese cause i have still not covered that in my unit.

just for reference to show you were i am at, this is how my subjects go:
Intro 1 - Intro 2 - Intermediate 1 - Intermediate 2 - Adv 1 - Adv 2 - Adv 3 - Adv 4
I am currently in intermediate 1 which will be equivalent to in between n4-n3 once i finish it according to my lecturer.
advance 3 and 4 are just extra subjects you can take if you wish to be at n1 level or higher.
It's pretty hard to say what level I was at because I was learning by myself and didn't take any tests. I'd guess about N4? But my kanji skills and grammar knowledge were very good compared to speaking/listening and vocabulary.

Even if you can't express everything you want to, you can try to speak to the other person using as much Japanese as you can, only going back to English if you're sure you couldn't work how to say it in Japanese (another good thing about text chat - you have time to look things up). Often I would exchange longer messages and emails writing half in Japanese, half in English, so the other person had a chance to practise English as well. Maybe you won't have the most interesting conversations at the beginning, but it's all good practice.
 

Timelyn

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What I do to improve listening without spending time on purpose on it (at home) is I download radio apps on my phone and listen to Japanese radio stations on the subway or on the train. Most of them have downloadable podcasts which I listen to over and over again. There are several that are labeled as 'news in slow japanese'. I use only those ones as I am far from understanding the Japanese radio for natives.
 

mdchachi

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What I do to improve listening without spending time on purpose on it (at home) is I download radio apps on my phone and listen to Japanese radio stations on the subway or on the train. Most of them have downloadable podcasts which I listen to over and over again. There are several that are labeled as 'news in slow japanese'. I use only those ones as I am far from understanding the Japanese radio for natives.
Can you include links to any of them? I'm sure many people would be interested.
 

Timelyn

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Can you include links to any of them? I'm sure many people would be interested.
I don't really remember most of them, but I'll try to guess the ones I've used.

Right now I'm using the app Japanese News - Android Apps on Google Play (this one I'm sure about, lol)

I recall having these ones on my phone, which I eventually deleted for whatever reason. But I'm not saying they're bad necessarilly.

Radio Japan - Android Apps on Google Play
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aovill.language.e2l.ejn
Japan Radio - Android Apps on Google Play (you can add stations to this one)
 
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