Language barrier presents one of the biggest challenges for most overseas students who are studying abroad in Japan. For those of you who have been in Japan for a while, sooner or later, you will realize that your Japanese language ability is the key to improving your life, social relationship as well as your academic accomplishment. I believe that every one of us, at some point in our stays in Japan, have dreamed of a point where we are fluent and are able to use Japanese to communicate effectively. For every one of you studying Japanese, hard work and dedication will certainly take you to your goal, however, you might still encounter some struggles and hardships during your study. One hardship we may face is the lack of opportunity to use Japanese in practical conversation. Although this issue could be less significant for those who have taken Japanese language study before entering university. Even though you are capable and have enough language proficiency to communicate in Japanese, still you might need more experience and encouragement in order to increase your confidence to interact in Japanese. If you want to overcome your language barrier, increase your language skills, and be able to confidently use Japanese, here are some tips and suggestions for you to try.
For a student who only began studying Japanese recently, the most important thing you must have is your confidence to speak. You can start accumulating your confidence, little by little, by trying to speak use phrases and greeting your friends in Japanese. If you want to go a step further, some useful things you can learn included some simple grammatical rules, vocabularies, and some common Kanji. Understanding some common kanji can be very useful in your daily life. For example, many of the restaurants do not provide English menu. Having some grasp of basic Kanji knowledge will make your life a lot easier. Using reference books or Japanese textbooks would also be very helpful to your study; For some common textbook, I suggested using “Minna no Nihongo” (http://www.3anet.co.jp/english/books/books_01.html, the most popular Japanese textbook series which has translation version in more than 24 languages) is one of those reference books which you can use for self-study. Otherwise, you can also use your textbook provided by your university or language school.
Dormitory, friends and opportunity
If you are staying in a university dormitory, your stays in these dormitories can prove to be very valuable, living in a dormitory provided great opportunity to enforce your Japanese conversation skill. You are welcome to interact with your neighbors and Japanese friends who live in the same dormitory, do not be shy to start a conversation even in any language. Living in a dormitory provided you with a sense of community, therefore, making it easier to make Japanese friends and giving you the opportunity to interact in Japanese. Some of your Japanese friends might want to practice their English skill too, so let’s use this opportunity to create a friendship that stands the taste of time even when you leave the dormitory. In the case that you live in an international dormitory, you are encouraged to form a study group with your friends and neighbor who usually came to Japan in the same period of time and often have the same level of Japanese knowledge as yours.
Step outside for activities and support
Apart from self-study, dormitory, and university, “Local International Associations” are impressive places to look for and joins a community, both foreigners, and Japanese. For those who live in Tokyo, almost every district has their own international association. For other prefecture, there are also the international associations in each area. You can search for nearby international association in the following link,
In the website, you can find the list of associations and their websites which have their own independent programs including Japanese language classes, events, language volunteer, and other fun activities that are worth to try. It is very recommended to subscribe or apply as a member so that you can receive a lot of useful news and information.
Homestay and Home visit
Also, in those local international associations, you can find homestay and visit program for foreigners to live or visit Japanese host family for half day to several days. This is also a great opportunity to use Japanese and understand more about their culture and daily life. At the end of the program, you do not only get the opportunity to visit and talk with Japanese people, but you also get a sense of comradery, friendship, family, and a memory that will last forever. You can find the information about homestay and visit event on the website of each association or search for general homestay is also possible.
In the end, still, the most important thing for the development of your Japanese skill is your courage and your confidence to talk and use it practically. There is nothing wrong with non-perfect Japanese when you speak with your university friend or acquaintance. Sometimes you might feel embarrassed and scared of even start talking; Just think that you do not have that much time to feel anxious about yourself. What you should do is start using Japanese and you will get familiar with it. Keep in mind that every Japanese understand that you are just trying to learn and communicate with them. At the end of the day, you are also making friends! I hope that everyone has good experience and success with their journey in Japanese study!