I was in the store the other day picking up some knives that I had bought as a wedding gift for my friend. Initially I was a bit nervous because I managed to forget the receipt for the knives that I had just purchased the week before. So I was afraid they wouldn’t let me pick them up. But, low and behold, all I had to do was announce myself and the kind store clerk raced off to retrieve my knives.
I had been waiting for the knife craftsman to etch the year into the handle. Commonly in Japan, when you buy a knife they etch your family name into the handle. But since my friend’s family name was just one character too long for the handle, we opted for the year of their marriage.
Anyway, the lady brought it out for me to inspect and everything looked nice of course, and then began the elaborate wrapping process, which takes a good amount of time actually. We struck up the regular conversation about where I was from, easily the most asked question for foreigners.
If you live in or visit Japan, this is one of the best places to get some good conversation practice with a native. You’ll bump into people everywhere from the shops to the street and they are genuinely curious about where you are from. So it helps to be prepared with something to say, otherwise you might just end up staring at each other as you struggle to come up with something interesting.
Be Prepared by Doing some Writing
A good number of conversations revolve around some very universal topics. Topics like travel, your hometown, movies, culture, etc… that you can prepare for. If you lay down a little bit of ground work you can get over that initial shyness and have a healthy conversation and maybe even learn a few new words while you are at it.
A lot of people emailing me asking me how to get conversation practice without a regular conversation partner or outside Japan. Well, there are a few tools to get around with that like Skype or HelloTalk, but you can also practice stump conversations that you can whip out if the opportunity ever comes up. Because you never know when you will meet someone you’d love to strike up a conversation with.
You can do this by simply brainstorming on a common topic like ‘Travel’. First, think of 3 questions that people might typically ask about the subject or questions that you would like to ask or be asked. In my case, I came up with “Where did you go last?”, “What do you like to do on vacation?” and “Where do you want to go next?”.
最後に どこに 行きましたか。
Where did you go last?
I went to Vancouver with my wife and daughter. I visited my friend. We went to the science museum and saw many different kinds of exhibits. My daughter had a lot of fun. The museum was downtown, and the view from behind it was amazing. And then, we ate barbecue and ice cream.
旅行で どんなことを するのが好きですか。
What do you like to do on vacation?
A few years ago, I used to want to just see sightseeing spots. I would run around to many spots and take pictures. Recently, I’ve gotten slower. I don’t concentrate on seeing all the spots. Instead, I relax. Also, I try different kinds of food.
Where do you want to go next?
Next, I want to go to Costa Rica. I think it has great hiking trails. It is known for its rain forests and beautiful scenery. For example, Arenal Volcano has an almost perfectly round shape. Also, They have a special kind of hippy culture. And, I want to relax on the beach.
How about you?
Give it a try. Write a journal and get it checked by a native or lang-8.com for free. If you need a little more feedback and a quality proofread of your writing, you might want to check out JapanesePod101’s Premium Plus.