Language Confidence Shift

Confidence in your Japanese ability: we all want it. Little of us have it. And even when we get it, it is often shaken up as fiercely as two people friending each other on LINE for the first time.

Acquiring Language Confidence

When people talk about why little children gain natural prowess so quickly at languages, one of the powerful reasons is that they aren’t concerned with how they look or sound or act. They haven’t gotten to the point where they become super aware of the self and what other people are thinking of them. You have. Confidence is something built over years of life experience. Then you jump into a new language. And that language life experience is 0. So you have to start gaining confidence from the very beginning again, and don’t have the benefit of being a child.

Confidence in Japanese is strange and works in rather annoying ways. While it is built up slowly, it can take rapid shifts in all directions. You can be at 10% confidence, and 90% self-doubt. Maybe you think every week there is a 1% shift of improvement (11% confidence, 89% self doubt). But often it just takes one event to completely change things around. Something that allowed you to realize that you had the power and ability all along, and there was nothing to fear at all.

Language Confidence Shift 1

The biggest noticeable confidence shift event takes place in conversations. Everyone lacks confidence when they start Japanese conversations, especially when they’ve never done them before. But sometimes after just a few sessions, your confidence increases exponentially, and remains at new heights.

This all benefits you to no end. Regardless of how little confidence you have now, it won’t necessarily take years to build that up. It may just be one moment waiting. One title match you have to face to bring you to the plains where you want to fight. One sudden Japanese ability.

Your Confidence Shift

Was there any moment in your studying where your weak confidence suddenly was boosted permanently, and all it took was one event or something you changed to bring that on? Share it in the comments!



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Adam

Adam

Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.

Comments

Language Confidence Shift — 14 Comments

  1. I had an interview for a job that involved Japanese consultancy yesterday. Didn’t get the job unfortunately. However, half of the interview was conducted in Japanese, and I didn’t get very nervous at all. They were really impressed in some ways, but I think we all came to the conclusion I needed to refine my speaking just a little bit. The job was advertised through a recruitment agency as needing ‘proficiency’ and a ‘great way to practice your Japanese’. That sentiment was change of pace from all the other companies that required ‘business level fluency or native fluency’.

    Unfortunately it was a bit of misleading advertising, as can happen when you outsource your HR. The role actually required as much fluency as any of the other positions… Supposedly you were dealing with high profile, senior businessman. I was told (both in English and in Japanese) that if you even stumble more than once they will tear you a new hole to do your business from, they are completely unforgiving. So it was the kinda place where you had to come in legs running. My real problem was A) if I missed a single word I’d have to pause to think, and ask what it meant. I think the two I missed were punctuality and a word for a multiple prefectures. Also they need you to maintain unfaltering 尊敬語(sonkeigo)which is a super polite level, in which I completely understand but I’m sure I’d slip out of constantly to basic polite form 丁寧語.

    No skin off my back though, was good to try for something. Hard to find a job (especially professional) that you can practice your Japanese at and not already be at a business fluent level. I think I could’ve walked away from the experience wounded, but luckily I was able to take the rosey reality away from the whole ordeal. The native English interviewer was so impressed with how far I’ve come in such a short period of time. They were both extremely impressed when I demonstrated reading and listening fluency (though the Japanese interviewer was skeptical I could understand the old Japanese man way of speaking). So much so that he was happy to speak to me again in 3 months or so when I’ve brushed up a bit.
    I probably won’t take them up on the offer, but it was nice to know at least to some extent my ability was recognised haha.

    Most of the foreign candidates they get that acquire positions have done 4 year + degrees as well as having lived in Japan for a set number of years working. I guess trying to compete against that with 2 years of experience, and little to no speaking experience was too lofty a goal!

    The only industry I can think of that would allow you to really grow as a speaker are low end hospitality jobs like being a waiter. Though I’m sure there are others that I can’t think of.

    Nonetheless, it was a good bench marking tool and confidence building experience. It was good to see how far I’ve come, based on the judgement of someone else. I guess the next time I go for a position (if I ever do) that requires Japanese, I’d best make myself fluent at speaking! Real hard to clock business style Japanese language hours without you know, actually being in a business. Either way, happy to have my Japanese as an entertainment tool, rather than anything financially related. That would just be a sweet sweet inevitable bonus somewhere down the line.

    • Hey that’s great that you went for it. I’m sure it was a good experience in itself. The hardest part about the interviews is your Japanese skill is often completely judged solely on your speaking. So if your speaking is your weakest skill, it doesn’t reflect your true ability.

      But that sucks that they presented themselves as a place to practice your Japanese but really wanted someone who already had perfect business talk.

      You’ll get there soon.

    • Dude! Just the fact that you made such an impression is really awesome. Proud of you man, way to go =)

  2. My confidence shift happened when I started my job as a chemist here in Tokyo. I started training on my first day of work and found myself understanding all the technical words that were being thrown my way. Not because of having studied chemistry words in Japanese (I hadn’t) but because I had read the necessary kanji to create science words when I read 限りなく透明に近いブルー by Ryu Murakami, a book about the main character having drug and sex orgies in the 60s.

    So every time I find myself in these situations (new environments, not orgies), I give myself a little pat on the back. For example when I went to the museum and could read all the panels about how the villagers harvested silk worms. Or when I joined an orchestra here and realized I had no problem knowing what the conductor was requesting.

    It’s the huge advantage of being an adult learning a language. You’ve already read these things and experienced these things in your own language, so all you have to do is use context to learn all these new words that aren’t really new at all, just… translated. A wonderful feeling.

    Still though, I have been slacking on studying to perfect my Japanese. I still want more!

    • You just made my day a whole lot better with that comment “(new environments, not orgies)” :D

      Besides that it is a great feeling when you understand something you didn’t expect to!

    • That’s a great experience to have. You’ve come a long way.

      And who wouldn’t want to be able to understand about villagers harvesting silk worms :P

  3. My most recent shift was when I started reading Attack On Titan. I have had it collecting dust on my shelves for about 6 months before I started, and when I bought it, I could hardly read a full sentence. When I picked them up again this month, I could read about 90% without any problems. That was quite a confidence booster.

      • Yeah, I’m sure that even if I understood 99%, some of it would still be lost on me :)

        I do enjoy the style of it, though, so I am quite enjoying it.

  4. I got a sudden confidence shift when the Jalup LINE group was started. When I first entered and was actually able to chat about simple topics in Japanese. I didn’t expect that at all and it really boosted both my confidence and motivation for studying even more. Because of that motivation boost I can say as of today that I completed Jalup Intermediate in half the time it took me to get through beginner (6 months vs 1 year) – an amazing feeling!

      • I plan on taking a month or so off from adding new sentences and instead get up to speed with Kanji Kingdom. When my sentence review count is a bit down I’ll start on Advanced. 4 months for advanced sounds like a challenge, but I’ll take it! With one month break then I should be finished end of October and then have November for cramming for JLPT, sounds perfect to me.

  5. This is sooo true! I generally have low confidence on my skills, and I seldom talk to people in Japanese, but when I do, I feel so proud of myself and I feel so good for understanding what they are saying and for being able to respond without thinking for too long. If only I can conveniently meet a Japanese person from somewhere and talk to them everyday, I can imagine how beneficial that could be.

    • You can always simulate the experience online, or try to see if locally there are any places to meet Japanese people.

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