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Garrulousness is next to godliness

You know the grammar. You know the words. So why the hell does it take you so long to speak?

This section is NOT referring to fluent in the general sense of how good your Japanese is. Rather, I'm referring to the narrower sense of how readily the Japanese in your head comes out of your mouth. Fluent as opposed to bumbling over your words.

This section is for people who find themselves thinking much more than talking. The answer to this is to...

Talk to yourself in Japanese

I stumbled onto this technique fairly early on into my first stay in Japan. I was watching the wife of a doctor friend of mine furgling around her bookshelf as she was looking for something, muttering to herself the whole time, doko e ittanokana? (どこへ行ったのかな? - Now where's it gone?) I'd been thinking to myself how long it was going to take for me to start thinking in Japanese when I thought, hey, I'll start my talking to myself in Japanese like she does!

Unbeknownst to me but I'd struck gold.

Over the next few weeks I made a pointed effort to talk to myself in Japanese as much as possible. If I misplaced my glasses, I'd come out with are?! doko e ittandarou? (あれ?!どこへ行ったんだろう? - What the...?! Where's it got to?) When I got hungry, I'd wail hara hetta naa (腹へったなぁ - I'm hunnnnnnnngreeeeey).

A few weeks later and suddenly the Japanese phrase would pop into my head without me having to say it out loud. By Joves! I had started to think in Japanese. A few weeks later I had my first Japanese dream.

Rules to Japanese Self-Talk

The trick with talking to yourself in Japanese is to be fastidious about being both accurate and natural.

It's no good if you keep repeating incorrect or unnatural Japanese to yourself over and over again.

That's about as useful as a fly-wire umbrella.

Listen to what Japanese people say to themselves and mimic that.

Be anal about it. This may add a fair bit of time to the process of your bilingual self-talk coming online, but spending time in the beginning will pay off later big time.