For those of you who came here to learn a few tips to speak more like a native Japanese speaker and then be on your way, make sure you read to the end. There is a bit of a surprise.
Okay, first a few tips to speak like a native Japanese speaker.
Make a ton of mistakes
You can’t expect to get everything perfect on your first try. To learn to speak well you are first going to have to suck at it. Let your pride go and just try to speak. Make mistakes, sound stupid, be goofy, have fun. You will make much more progress if you are trying again and again rather that not speaking because you don’t know if you can do it perfectly.
Be a copy-cat
Did you ever mimic someone as a kid or try to sound just like an actor. I did. I used to do Jim Carrey impersonations as a child. When I started learning Japanese, I put those skills to work. When I would hear a native Japanese speaker say something, I would repeat it to myself in the same tones, speed, inflections as the person who said it. Pretty soon, rather than stringing together Japanese words, I was stringing together Japanese phrases.
Make big mouth movements
Your mouth is used to making certain movements. When you are learning Japanese you will use different muscles. Exaggerate your movements when you practice. When you actually speak they will get smaller, so don’t worry. But if you practice regular they will be too small when you actually speak and you won’t speak as clearly.
A very important tip to Speak Japanese like a native
Don’t! What I mean is that this shouldn’t be your main goal. Yes, you should always try to improve your pronunciation as much as possible, but don’t loose sight of the goal.
Someone who can count to 10 perfectly in Japanese isn’t going to do nearly as well as someone who doesn’t have great pronunciation, but can converse with a Japanese speaker.
Just remember that the goal is communicating with a native Japanese speaker, not sounding like one.
For those who would like a little more information on this idea, check out this article on the Times website here.