Right now, I’m in bed with the flu, so travelling isn’t really possible. But here’s a (very) short post on something I realized about learning Japanese. There are various levels in how people react to your skills and according to their reactions you realize how good your language actually is.

(Please don’t take this too seriously. These are just some general impressions I got from talking to Japanese people for more than eight years.)

Phase 1:

Their reaction: Smiling and nodding, but nothing more.

What is means: They didn’t understand anything, but appreciate you trying to talk in their language.

Phase 2:

Their reaction: Smiling and answering with a very basic sentence.

What is means: They understood parts of what you said.

Phase 3:

Their reaction: 日本語上手ですね! (Nihongo jouzu desu ne!) – Your Japanese is very good!

What is means: You produced a more or less correct sentence and they understood what you were trying to say.

Phase 4:

Their reaction: 日本語ぺらぺらですね! (Nihongo perapera desu ne!) – Your Japanese is fluent!

What is means: Your Japanese is a lot better than anyone would expect from an average Gaijin (foreigner).

Phase 5:

Their reaction: They don’t say anything about your Japanese skills, but just start a conversation with you.

What it means: You made it! They accept you as an equal.

Myself, I think I’m somewhere between phase 4 and 5. People still tell me my Japanese is fluent, but I’m actually able to hold up a conversation over a few hours if I want to. (Though still on a somewhat limited level at times.)

I guess you can identify similar phases for most other languages, too. The reactions might vary slightly, also due to cultural differences. But in general, not getting any feedback in terms of language skills is always where you ultimately want to get.