When you don't know the word, for say "dark," but you remember 明るい is "bright," you can not only improve your vocab, but keep the conversation going with just a quick pause to ask 「あれ、明るいの反対は何だったっけ。」
A problem that I've come across in Japan though, is that my conversational partner isn't always the best at helping me find the right word.
I suspect this is because the Japanese language doesn't put as much emphasis on identifying concrete opposites as English does. I seem to remember doing opposites worksheets in school, and playing opposite association word games with my brother when we were little.
But if you've lived in Japan for a long time and tried the "opposite" approach, I guarantee you have had a similar exchange:
Japanese person: あの子、酔っぱらっている？
Is that girl drunk?
No, she's alway like that, even when she's totally... uh .... Wait.「酔っぱらっている」という言葉の反対って何？
What's the opposite of drunk?
Japanese person: 酔っぱらっていない。
And they're not joking.
I've also had more than one conversation where people have told me that the opposite of homosexual is "not gay" or even 普通 ( ふつう；normal) which is all kinds of problematic in terms of labeling.
So I don't know how often it'll happen, but anytime I come across a HARD-WON new opposite set, I'll try to share it with you.
The two we've covered so far are:
the technical term for homosexual
And the one that I came across recently that sparked this post is:
to be quenched
to be quenched
Have you had any of these experiences you could tell us about?