【John’s blog】僕の日本語が上達した理由

How I Became Fluent in Japanese

When I came to Japan for the first time in 1997, I could speak very little Japanese.I could say my name, a few greetings, and the things I liked. I had a very small vocabulary and couldn’t understand about 95% of what others were saying. When I first came to Japan, I began working as an ALT at 4 junior high schools in Yame City. Everyday I went to school, I heard more and more Japanese and my vocabulary began to increase. Everyday I wrote new vocabulary and phrases in a notebook and I reviewed it everyday.


After about a year, I was able to use short sentence to communicate with people. Then I began to learn new sentence patterns. I remember wanting to say “I have to go shopping” and “I should buy a new notebook”. Once I learned the basic sentence patterns I was able to say much more and much more easily. After 3 years I became fairly fluent in Japanese but at the same time I felt frustrated because I still wasn’t able to express my feelings and complex thoughts clearly.  But I kept at it.


After living in Japan for about 7 months, I found a Japanese girlfriend! Perhaps, this more than anything helped me become fluent in Japanese. Constantly listening and speaking everyday was the real key.
I know that many of you do not have English speaking  friends or an English speaking partner. But there are other ways to immerse yourself in English. You can constantly listen to English music you like or listen to English speaking programs on the radio. You can watch English speaking on dramas and movies. You can find people to chat in English with for free on the Internet. You can read simple English books or English newspapers. You can take trips to English speaking countries and use English with the people there. If you are single, you can seek out English speaking people to date and maybe even get married to one day!


Becoming fluent in English takes time. It takes thousands of hours of listening, speaking, and interacting. You can’t learn to speak a language over night. There is no quick fix. It’s much like a marathon. You need to pace yourself and learn consistently over time. Enjoying the process is a big part of success.
But even when you become fluent, the learning process never ends. There is always more to learn and room to grow.


Every time in class, I am trying to build up your vocabulary much like I did. Also, I am taking you systematically through verb conjugation and creating short sentences.  I have you answer questions while trying to form your own sentences to get you to think and help you remember both the vocabulary and sentence pattern. As we advance more and more each month, I hope to process more to speaking more naturally rather than simply drilling. We will take things step by step on the road to fluency.
Thank you for coming every week and trying so hard in class. I know sometimes it is frustrating or embarrassing making mistakes in English but this is all part of the journey to fluency. If you can continue on this path and endure, one day you will be fluent.


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