Lesson 4 - "60 Minute Japanese Conversation" with Runo

Welcome to the fourth installment of the "Cafetalk Diaries," where I will be blogging and vlogging about five lessons that I'll be taking on Cafetalk.com. 

My fourth lesson, as a monitor, was "60 Minute Japanese Conversation" with Runo.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the most useful style of lessons for me right now is free-talk. I really need to fine-tune my speaking. Studying Japanese has always been personal, and there was a lot of self-study that led up to passing the JLPT. Of course, I feel very fortunate that I'd been given a solid base from my teachers in high school and university. I've developed some bad habits along the way, many of which I'm not even aware of. That's where teachers like Runo come in.

Here is her profile: http://cafetalk.com/tutors/profile/?id=17177&lang=en

And here is the lesson profile: http://cafetalk.com/lessons/detail/?id=25973&lang=en

As the lesson name suggests, this is a 60-minute lesson. It's a very reasonable 1,300 Cafetalk points (about $14.44 USD). She has solid Monday-Friday availability if you're on Central European Time, but there is enough overlap so that those on Japan Standard Time or North American timezones can find a suitable time.

Runo is originally from Fukushima Prefecture and currently resides in the Netherlands. In addition to her experience with teaching Japanese, she's also worked at some prime hotels in Tokyo, so she can adapt for customer service purposes. Our lesson was conducted in Japanese, but she can conduct lessons in English. I had to reschedule our lesson a few days ahead of our scheduled time due to a narration job, but it was no problem!

Before the lesson, she send me a questionnaire to fill out. This saved a lot of valuable lesson time and helped her prepare.

Runo was exactly the kind of instructor I was hoping for. She wasn't afraid to point out my mistakes or weaknesses (in a gentle way of course). She helped me see the proper ways of saying things without breaking the flow of the conversation or decreasing my motivation. In fact, I think it's been years since I've felt this motivated to improve my Japanese. I asked her to help me polish up my spoken interactions with agencies and studios. I want to make myself as professional as possible while on the job. It's important that I make a good impression so that they'd like to work with me again. We went through everything, step-by-step, from entering the studio to leaving. I was able to confirm proper manners with a customer-service professional.

Although our lesson was focused on the areas I asked her to help me with, it was very interesting to hear about her life in Holland! I was coming off of a nasty cold and she was very patient with me. That's one of the great things about Cafetalk. I definitely would have cancelled if I had to commute, but I didn't have to worry about spreading my cold.

We were able to do some role-playing based on my studio interactions, as well as repeating practice to improve my speech. Her voice was easy to understand. If there was a word that I didn't know, I could at least hear what she said clearly.

My husband was sitting in the same room during the lesson, and he was so impressed that he wants to request a lesson from her, too! We were both saying that the lesson was really helpful, but if she could provide feedback to help solidify everything, that would put her on a whole new level.

Boy did she deliver! She sent two PDFs loaded with advice and examples. I know that I'll be able to fix my habits in no time as long as I study them. I feel that she will be a good long-term investment for keeping up my Japanese and confidence. Ideally, I'd like to get to the point where I could use Japanese in my YouTube videos and appeal to a wider Japanese audience. I feel that lessons like these will help me get there.

She said that I didn't need to worry about my speaking so much and that I should speak with confidence. She started off with pointing out some of my good points, which were vocabulary and verb usage. My messages were conveyed and I had a nice voice. I didn't have much of a problem with business Japanese, but I can strengthen it if I study her file.



Now here come the points that I need to study. The three main things that I need to work on are:
1. Enunciation. I've gotten really lazy with katakana English and sometimes I'll just go ahead and say the word in English!
2. If I want to sound more confident (and less childlike), I shouldn't elongate the last syllables of sentences. For example, ありがとうございましたー "arigatou gozaimashitaaaaaa" should just be, ありがとうございました "arigatou gozaimashita."
3. Don't speak too fast and enunciate each syllable. This is similar to the first point, but I even do this with Japanese words. Greetings are very important in Japanese, especially on the job. Not expressing greetings well can have a similar impression to a weak handshake.  

Here is a sample of just some of the specific feedback she had for me. The blue font indicates her advice or explanations on how to use (or why you shouldn't use) the phrases in black. The red font indicates a correction of the previous sentence. Her examples are ones that I can read aloud on my own time and they apply directly to me!

My achilles heel when it comes to languages - particles! She also pointed out a habit that I was completely unaware of that is going to help me sound much less "textbook Japanese." I use the 〜ます (masu) forms too often in the middle of sentences. I should use the dictionary form until the very end of the sentence (where I can use the 〜ます (masu) form if necessary. There were even cases where I was talking informally and would use that form in the middle of a sentence and end with the dictionary form! Oops! Since this discovery, it's been a difficult habit to break, but I'm very much aware of it now. I'm sure I'll fix it with a little practice.

Here is a more concrete example of what I said (with the situation where it would be appropriate to use the 〜ます (masu) form in the middle of a sentence), and how I should normally go about phrasing it. So much clearer now!

And finally, she sent me a second PDF full of useful business Japanese phrases with their normal Japanese counterparts. The photo above shows a sample from that PDF. Please keep in mind that all of the photos I'm showing you in this post are just a sample of the treasure trove she sent!

This lesson was crucial for me to understand and unpack my self-study adventure from a few years ago that was designed for a test, not my everyday life. 

Thank you, Runo! I will definitely be taking your lessons as often as possible. I think next time I'd like to get her help with talking to my neighbors while walking my dog. I'd like to have more confidence with that and make more friends! Stay tuned for the video version of my lesson, as well as my next lesson, "Conversation in Japanese" with Issei.

Don't forget to watch my "Cafetalk Diaries" intro video and contact me for a FREE promo code for 1,000 points on Cafetalk! (Until Jan. 31st, 2015)


Thank you for reading, and good luck with your studies!