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Benny’s Japanese: Skype conversation over the half-way point [+ new language discussion channel]


Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. ?

[Quick aside: Starting next year, I'll be making a series of videos focusing entirely on language learning concepts, resources reviews, interviews, tips and tricks.

Since my personal Youtube channel is actually for my own learning progress and travel updates (I pretty much never discuss language learning in my videos, despite how much I do it on the blog), I'll start making separate videos to answer the many questions you all send me, on the new channel when I've finished my Japanese project.

So the channel “Benny Lewis” will be for videos in all languages, showing me using my languages naturally and for real with people (including the next month and a half of Japanese updates, and then the cultural updates from Japan in January, and never really discussing how to learn a language. The channel “Fluent in 3 months” will be almost only in English and all about the how, and focus much less on demonstration or natural use videos like the other channel does. I'll continue making videos on both channels though.

If you are interested in the “how” much more than me demonstrating me using my languages, subscribe to the new channel below (or alternatively, its Google Plus page), so that you don't miss those videos starting in January. Thanks!]


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This week, I can finally do what I had wanted to do last week and give you a full example of how my conversations tend to be going, right now a little after my half-way point in the Japanese project!

At this stage, I can handle straightforward question and answer exchanges pretty well, but my grammar and vocab still need serious improving, and will continue to be the focus for the next weeks. I'm also not so confident about explaining a concept for a few minutes and did a really poor job at describing what “Couchsurfing” was, especially when the lack of important vocab held me back.

As well as this, my accent and pronunciation need lots of improvement. I'm aware of such issues, but they will definitely take the back seat to higher priorities for now.

Despite this, I have a level that I'm pretty happy with (having said that, I was hoping to be at this stage about 2 weeks ago and still have to catch up on time lost due to being sick and having to work over 2 weeks), and can push myself onward.

This was the first ever conversation I had had with Adzsa, which also adds a new dimension to how the talks can go.

As always, this is nothing but a snapshot of my current level, and I will continue to push myself forward!

Question about comprehension

Since those subscribed to my channel(s) see the videos before they are shared on the blog, people had the chance to ask me some questions and one that came up was how I deal with improving comprehension.

Here is a copy of the answer I gave in the Youtube (technically Google Plus now) comments stream, but it follows the spirit of this blog post.

To improve comprehension, I do a LOT of in-context thinking. So for instance, you'll notice in this video she said the word “nature” and I still wasn't 100% sure about this word, so I didn't understand it the first time. However, she then said that the X was beautiful, and I was thinking to myself (logically) WHAT can be beautiful from a photographer's perspective in Ireland? The list of possible things X could be was dramatically reduced thanks to the addition of the word “beautiful” and then I remembered that it must be the word “nature”. I do this a lot; I don't necessarily know my words 100% confidently, but I think logically about the context and take the words I DO know and make a confident guess with their help to see what the words I'm not sure about could be.

Other than that, listen as much as possible. I'm all about “speak from day one” because I feel people's lack of confidence to speak is a major issue. but when that's no longer a problem, and it's comprehension, then the more you listen to native material and REALLY try to understand it (so not just hearing noise like a TV or radio in the background you aren't focusing all your attention on), you can get better and better and comprehending.

I hope that helps! Keep in mind that you shouldn't aim for 100% perfect comprehension, but instead “pretty confident” comprehension that you can work to improve. Trying to understand 100% of what you hear as a beginner learner will drive you insane.

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I hope you enjoyed this update! After next week I will finally be in the last month of the project and am going to see if I can make these videos a little more interesting, so that you can see my progress beyond an on-the-fly Skype chat.

author headshot

Benny Lewis

Founder, Fluent in 3 Months

Fun-loving Irish guy, full-time globe trotter and international bestselling author. Benny believes the best approach to language learning is to speak from day one.

Speaks: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Esperanto, Mandarin Chinese, American Sign Language, Dutch, Irish

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