How to cheat your way through any Japanese conversation [Your Free Guide]

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Start Speaking Japanese

In theory speaking any language seems pretty simple.

You learn new words, then use them in a sentence. What could go wrong?

 The truth is… a lot of things.

How to start speaking Japanese and get unstuck

You see– Most people learning a language (like Japanese) get STUCK.  There’s just so much to learn, and in the heat of a conversation all the grammar, conjugations, and vocabulary go out the window.

From absolute beginners to 2-3 year students everyone struggles with making the jump from studying to real life speech. You will never be  100% “ready” to start speaking Spanish

It feels like there is always a gap between what you know and what you say.

Because of this gap most Spanish learners tell themselves, “I’m not ready, I just need to study a little more before I can speak…”.  

A week goes by, a month, then a year…

Even with hours of memorizing, verb drills, and sentence writing they still can’t have a basic conversation.

And like we said before, they feel stuck.

……….So how do you make your Spanish stick? That is, how do you learn it in a way that you can use it in real life conversations?

How do you take the leap and get unstuck?

Simple–you cheat!

Cheating your way through Japanese

Here's a language hack that can be used for any language not just Japanese

And get works even if you've never studied Japanese before.

This way of “cheating” is best used during a one on one practice session with a native speaker, either in person or online via language lessons or exchanges.  

You can click here for more info online lessons or language exchanges.

That being said, let’s dive in and start cheating our way through Japanese!

The tools and the method

To survive your next Japanese conversation you will need three tools: a couple personal phrase lists, an online translator, and a Japanese-English dictionary. 

Some of these tools seems like a no-brainer, but it is the method you use along with the combination of all three that really produces results.

The 3 Essential Tools for Cheating Your Way  Through Any Conversation

Phrase lists

Phrase lists are a powerful tool, and they can get you speaking quickly even if you're new to the language. Try this phrase list for starters

Online translator

A valuable tool for any student. An good translator helps you fill in the gaps when you get stuck. Try Google translate or DeepLTranslator

Japanese-English dictionary

Another indespendible tool for your Japanese learning. For a powerful and free online dictionay, check out Jisho.

The Method


Build a List of Key Phrases

The first step is to make two lists of key phrases to help guide you through your first Japanese conversation. You can write them on paper or in a word processor on your computer.

The first list will be one that is specific to the conversation you want to have.

If you are preparing for your first ever conversation in Japanese then expressions like "Hello, nice to meet you", "what's your name?", and "where are you from?" are great places to start.

If you already have the basic phrases down then you can try making a list of questions or sentences that center around a specific aspect of Japanese that you need to practice such as speaking the past tense or talking about your job.

The idea is that you can use this list as a sort of conversation “script” while you are speaking so you don’t get stuck.  Think of this first list as your “Japanese training wheels”.

The second list should contain some troubleshooting phrases for when the other person says something you don’t understand.

 Things like “Could you repeat that?", "speak slower please", and "could you describe it?” are great to have for when the need arises.

While it is definitely a good idea to go over your lists a few times before your first conversation, it is important to remember that you don’t have to memorize the list (Remember this is a guide for cheating)


Have your online translator on hand

The next tool you will need will be an online translator.

You will use the translator when the other person says something you don’t understand and can’t figure out.

Simply ask them it type it out, then you can put it in the translator and figure out the gist of what they are saying.

Online translators are notorious for not always translating things 100% accurately. But for our purposes they will do just fine. The fact that their translations are usually off a bit can actually help in the learning process.

The figuring out part is what can help you remember the context and use of an unfamiliar word.

Going through the experience of having to solve the puzzle of what someone else is saying will make it much easier to remember the new word or phrase in the future.


Ready your Japanese-English dictionary 

You will use the dictionary when you are speaking to the other person and you either can’t remember a specific word or don’t know it at all.

A good dictionary will give you definitions and some example uses of a word, whereas a translator will have less contextual information.

You can also use Jisho as a translator, it just works a little slower than Google translate.


Start Speaking

The combination of these three tools will help you keep a conversation flowing in Japanese, even if you are brand new to the language.

You never have to worry about getting “stuck” because you will have the answers, or at least some really good hints, right there in front of you. 

“Cheating” your way through conversations will speed up your Japanese learning

As you meet new people in language exchanges you will notice that most of the phrases and words you used with one person will be used again with another.

After practicing with a native speaker 2-3 times a basic conversation will begin to feel very predictable,  and you will find yourself saying the same thing over and over, which is great!

You will be surprised at how quickly you will be able to hold a basic Japanese conversation for 10-15 minutes if you use this method.

Pretty soon you won’t need a cheat sheet anymore and it will feel more natural.

You can then use the same technique to talk a little longer and add some new phrases to your cheat sheet.

From there you can rinse and repeat, changing your cheat sheet by adding words you’re uncomfortable with and taking out the ones you know well.

You might amaze yourself at how fast you can start speaking Japanese!

See it in Action

There's polyglot who'd internet famous named Benny Lewis, and he (among many others) uses this method when learning a new langauge.

Here’s a video he made of himself using these principles for his first try at speaking Polish after only an hour of studying.

Polish is a notoriously difficult language for English speakers (not unlike Japanese)

Now Benny does have some distinct advantages over us average language learners.

He’s already learned over 10 languages and some of them share similar grammar or phonetics.  Your average English speaker wouldn’t have this edge.

But the same principle applies whether you’re an expert or a newbie, and it’s a great example of how you can use basic words and speech to start communicating in Japanese.

Still not convinced? Thousands of people have used Benny’s approach which focuses on speaking right away, to learn languages.

There’s thousands of learners who have become “unstuck” and taken the jump into clumsy speech (you gotta start somewhere).

One cool thing Benny does is ask new language learners to record a video of themselves speaking some basic phrases in their target language and then upload the video to Youtube to get feedback.

If they can do it then so can you.

So it doesn’t matter your age or whether you can already speak multiple languages. You can use these tips to start speaking Japanese right away!