Don’t Play The Comparison Game — 11 Comments

  1. I have to be honest: when I saw “JALUP” under the Troll section, I thought it was me being perceived as such. This is despite the fact that I’m coming from the complete opposite direction.

  2. this isn’t part of the “fearsome four”, but it is a form of comparison.
    Only compare yourself to your previous self & to Japanese people you respect or look up to.

    • Very good advice! Sometimes, the Japanese learners you looked up to give up on their study and slowly forget their Japanese or you just simply surpass them. It’s pointless to compare yourself when both of your Japanese abilities are fluid and changing all the time. But a Japanese native speaker is a role-model of what you’d want your Japanese to be like, and should be your only role model. While your Japanese in the past can be an encouragement to how much you’ve improved! And if you haven’t improved or have gotten worse, a motivator to get yourself back up to where you were and better.

  3. The role model is, of course, native Japanese people, but when you are at a near fluent level, hearing other foriengers speaking higher level Japanese is a good kick in the butt. For example, people like Peter Barakan and Dave Spector who have lived in Japan for the better part of their lives and I consider to be pretty much on level with normal Japanese people. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

    With that being said, everyone is at a different point in their language learning journey, so it’s pointless to look down on others or compare yourself to anyone else.

    • Perhaps for competitive people, seeing a person who is fluent or even near native level in Japanese can be a huge motivator to kick it into gear. But for me, it’s only an excuse to make myself feel worse about my Japanese and doesn’t motivate me. I think it depends on your personality type. I’m an easily jealous person. So it’s a healthy reminder to not compare myself.

      However, there can be something said for looking up to a fluent or near native level Japanese learner in their methods and trying to learn from them. As a Japanese speaker grew up in Japan and learned it naturally, while that fluent or near native speaker had to work at it like you and can give their own personal experience, which you can learn from.

  4. There’s a great quote along these lines from Nido Qubein: “Winners compare their achievements with their goals, while losers compare their achievements with those of other people.”

  5. This is excellent advice. Especially seeing as Japanese learners seem to be ridiculously competitive in general.
    There are a lot of people who are, admittedly, very good at Japanese, but seem to feel the need to show off how good their Japanese is in front of other non-Japanese, or to constantly prove that their Japanese is better than anyone else’s.

    When I went to job training for my first job in Japan (as an ALT), there was a guy who, when practicing introducing himself, talked for about 10 minutes in Japanese about all of his hobbies and all about himself… which just would not be acceptable when introducing yourself in a morning meeting at a school, which is what most teachers have to do. And then he decided that my Japanese was obviously crap and gave me a lecture on how I could improve, even though mine was better than his (well, okay I shouldn’t really be comparing, but it was, dammit!), I just didn’t feel the need to have everybody praise me or show off about it.

    It would be nice if the Japanese learning community was more friendly, and less about proving that you’re the best. Interestingly, I’ve only seen this with people from America, Australia, the UK and some other European countries. I have many Thai and Korean friends who have various levels of Japanese ability, but I’ve NEVER seen any of them show off about it, or put anybody else down for their lack of Japanese ability.

  6. Adam,

    I know this post is from a while ago, but you may want to know that you were just quoted by Khatzumoto in a “Nutshell Nugget!”

    “There are people who focus on only one specific talent. Only reading [comics] or only speaking casually. And they will be pretty good. The time it takes to achieve singular skills is much shorter than to round out everything.”
    [Don’t Play The Comparison Game – Japanese Level Up]


  7. I feel like I’m an exaggerator. I’ve been messing with the language for nearly a decade and made almost no progress – probably didn’t pass A1, but I discovered my current methods about 5 years ago and didn’t apply them until about 2.5 years ago. So I had time to get used to things like listening because I’ve been doing it so long, but I didn’t start acquiring vocab and kanji seriously until 2.5 years ago, so I tell people that’s how long I’ve been studying. I think it’s pretty believable. I even know a guy who speaks better than I do even though he’s been at it for 6 months, but my focus has been on reading/writing. Ultimately, it doesn’t feel like much of an exaggeration because a motivated student could do more than I did in that time, but I can see how the cultural context and listening practice over the last 10 years could give me an advantage. When people ask more specific questions, I come clean : )

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