Feel like you’re having the same old conversations in Japanese? Join a Japanese or bilingual Toastmaster’s club. Toastmasters is a club with chapters world-wide (at this count, there are 13,500 clubs in 116 countries) where people give prepared speeches, evaluate speeches given by other members, and assign and give impromptu speeches. Imagine doing this in Japanese. If this is scary, it’s probably good for you.
Most clubs in Tokyo meet twice a month. I have been a long-time member of Tokyo Bilingual Toastmasters, but there are other clubs in Japan, even ones that meet for breakfast. The training that I got making presentations, organizing ideas, and speaking impromptu was immediately helpful for my sales job.
Make the move from observer to participant. Change from consuming content in Japanese to producing content in Japanese. Here’s what’s great about Toastmasters:
- Speaking in the target language is the reason why people are there.
- Make bilingual friends who encouraged me to study and learn.
- Learn quickly to speak about a new topic: Write a speech on it, then run yourself through the gauntlet by standing up in front of people and talking about it.
- It’s conducive to learning by being more relaxed than the workplace, more formal than hanging out.
- Make it part of your weekly routine. Routine means it’s easier to keep doing it, even when you’re tired.
- Get into an environment where you can speak about and listen to new topics, instead of trying to avoid the same conversations at parties.
- Videotape yourself speaking under stress and see how to improve your accent or mannerisms.
You will find that speaking, listening, reading, and writing reinforce each other.