Avoid Evil Japanese Learners — 36 Comments

  1. I once met an actual Japanese teacher who was like it. He told me not to bother trying to do anything with Japanese. The reasoning was that whatever I can do in Japanese, there will be a native speaker who can do it better. He said that even for him, teaching Japanese was an ‘on the side’ and not his staple income.

    It took me from that day to the day I found the JALUP method to touch Japanese again- about 14 months. I actually dealt with it by deciding I just wanted to learn Japanese as a hobby and get a ‘day job’. So even after all that time I was still listening to that one negative comment.

    It’s taken five years to really get my confidence back. In the process, Japanese has once again become more than a hobby for me. Hopefully I’ll have a success story to share soon.

    In terms of actually ‘dealing’ with these people… Definitely taking yourself out of the firing line, but sometimes you can’t avoid it. I mean, who would have thought an actual Japanese teacher could be one.

    Sometimes you need a dose of ‘yes that’s your experience and that’s very nice, but I’m going to go away and have my own experience and make my own mind up’.

    • Why would someone go out of their way to teach Japanese if it wasn’t for the income if they didn’t believe anyone they were teaching could do anything useful with the language?

    • He has some point. The thing is, it is not enough to only be good at Japanese, as you do realize that almost all native speakers are bound to be better than you at it. What foreign language learners have to do, if they are studying Japanese in hopes of economic compensation, is to offer some other skill aside from just their Japanese skills. For example, if you are a native speaker of English, this is already a plus because you now have an ability that most native Japanese speakers don’t have – you can speak English. Taking it from there, you can now fill a role that native Japanese speakers can’t. You can then become a translator, an interpreter, an English language teacher, a Japanese language teacher, a diplomat, etc.

    • I actually don’t agree that there will always be a native speaker that can do what you do better. Lots of native speakers are terrible at their own language. That goes for English, Danish (my native language), Japanese and any other language. Many people take their native language for granted and don’t really bother being good at it other than for daily communication needs. So if you decide the Japanese language is the one thing you want to do for a living, then figure out what can be done with the language and go for it! It is all about defining your goal (this might be more difficult than you think, since “I want to do something that involves nothing but the Japanese language as a living” is too vague) and then do whatever it takes to achieve it. That is one aspect of it.

      Joseph mentions another aspect. If you can do something besides the Japanese language, then you automatically rule out a whole lot of native speakers who can not do that other thing, and thus increases your chances of getting a job in Japan.

      A third flaw in your terrible teacher’s negative words is that chances are there will always be somebody better than you at ANYTHING. That’s not just for Japanese, that goes for any skill. Since there is only 1 person in the world who can be “best” defined by some specific set of criteria, there will always be billions of people who are not “the best”, no matter how good they are. You might achieve being “best” at something at some specific time, but chances are you will not retain that position forever. So you might as well get used to there being other people who are better than you :) that one “best” person can’t do all the jobs at once anyway, so the not “best” people will be needed somewhere.

      In the end it is all about increasing your chances of being able to do what you want, by spending time and effort getting better at the required skills.

    • Wow Stewie, that’s crazy that a Japanese teacher would go out of his way to say something so ridiculous and negative. Just remember that just because he is a teacher, doesn’t mean he knows what he is talking about. There are plenty of terrible teachers in this world (there are also good ones as well, but he is obviously not one of them). I’m really glad you found your way back to the language, and I’m sorry to hear it took you so long.

      I have to agree with Silwing on this, that you can most definitely be better than native speakers. Most native speakers of any language aren’t great communicators, writers, or speakers, which are 3 main principles of making up language ability. While it’s true that native speakers will often be better than foreigners in certain aspects (ex. pronunciation, cultural language), the opposite is often true. I’m sure you can find a large amount of foreigners living in major English-speaking Western countries that have much better written/communication skills than the average native.

      Joseph makes a good point about shining with additional non-native skills.

    • I reread your entire comment, and I’m sorry if my first reply was too insensitive to what happened to you. I mean, it sucks that you lost confidence like that because of the irresponsible remarks of your teacher. But I guess you should still try to look at it positively, you know. Try to transform that harmful comment into something helpful and constructive.

      Personally, my first comment comes from my own experience with finding Japanese-related jobs. When I started learning Japanese, I have always been passionate at it – more than anybody in the class. Even as the years went by, I didn’t stop improving my skills and exploring the world of Japanese. My classmates, on the other hand, weren’t really into it as much as I am. In effect, I can confidently say that my Japanese became literally a thousand times better than theirs. Having said that, they are now working in Japan and I’m still here trying to find a job. Why is that? Because they are programmers, and IT specialists are in-demand in Japan right now. I, on the other hand, am a Liberal Arts major. When I said that it would really help if you knew more concrete skills in addition to your Japanese, I was just speaking from experience. I didn’t regret all those hours that I’ve put into studying Japanese – I LOVE Japanese, that’s why. But like other sublime things in life, love alone is not enough, sadly.

      • IT specialists are in high demand almost everywhere it seems. There is practically no involuntary unemployment for computer scientists where I live.

        Getting a job will always be easier if your skills are in high demand, whether trying to get a job in Japan or anywhere else.

      • I didn’t read anything insensitive into your comment :)

        I actually agree. Of course the more skills you have, the more competitive you are. The thing about what that guy said was that it was very much ‘don’t bother taking Japanese too seriously’ rather than ‘make sure you have vocational skills to back it up’?

        I think there’s also a timing thing involved. When that guy made the comment, I hadn’t found JALUP but I’d estimate I was pre-level 20. I was largely feeling my own way through Japanese and approached classes needing reassurance. I think you’re more vulnerable when you’re starting out.

        I’m currently around Level 53 and in the process of getting here, my shoulders have become quite broad. I trust the methods I use (mainly JALUP adapted to suit my style) and I’ve personally seen quite a lot of proof that they work.

    • That is pretty crazy. I was a teacher myself for about 4 years and the most important thing I learned was how to inspire my students. I realized pretty quickly they could learn faster than I could teach, so I tried to focus on motivating them as best I could.

      I’m glad you found the Jalup site. :)

  2. I encountered some. On this site as well. Including (maybe) one of the writers? Manam. (sorry if I mispelled).
    People were crazy on my post. I was saying I was going to achieve some goals within a month and everybody lost their minds haha
    On the “February Goals”. Unfortunately (to make everyone there happy), I didn’t even start what I intended.
    But I still want to do this…

    • I feel there is a thin line between being the evil learner and being realistic. I read the comments you talk about, and actually think that Manan wrote that he did not mean to discourage you, but wanted to give you some advice in case you really meant to power level.

      I don’t think any of the commenters will be happy to hear you haven’t started on your goals yet. At least I know that I don’t take pleasure in other’s failures.
      You will probably not be able to reach those very ambitious goals within this month, but that is no shame. Getting started is way better than doing nothing at all, however much or little you may achieve.


      • Thank you very much for this reply.
        It brings the game to a whole new level: The level where I have to admit I was wrong about the replies there. Maybe not all of them but some haha.
        I really don’t know what can be considered realistic or not. About starting, I think I can say I started. I started gathering books and resources in general. And I really intend to finish most of them by the end of this month and I’m pretty sure of it. Pretty sure.

        • It can be difficult to interpret how a comment was meant. I try to always give the writer the benefit of the doubt by interpreting in the most positive way possible. Even though it is difficult when emotions are involved.

          Gathering resources is a good and rather necessary first step for sure. I’m sure you can get far by dedicating most of your time to this. Remember to sleep enough, eat properly and get some fresh air every now and then, so the time you spend is effective! :)

    • I’m sorry to hear you felt that way.

      The people who commented actually really wanted you to accomplish your goals (the people here are supportive), so I think they were trying to give you a push to making them more realistic. Some people are more energetic than others in their support, but no one would be happy to see you fail. People here feed off the energy of each other kicking Japanese ass. Not watching others fall.

      While the major principle of this site is to not concern yourself with people telling you how long it should take you to do things (, there is a limit.

      It’s hard to read into how people comment sometimes. People may have been confused whether you were a beginner who was a bit lost on how to start and setting extremely difficult goals, or someone who was just joking around.

      But I’m really happy to see that you started, got materials together you like, and are on your way towards completing them. Everyone here is playing the same game, although in different ways, so I hope for the best as you develop your own way of studying.

      • I absolutely do not believe in limits. And I know two short stories to support why I don’t.
        1 – I know a person (an engineer at his 50’s) that needed to move to Germany to learn how to operate some sort of engine (of course I do not know the details). He had less than one year to become fluent enough to take classes. he only had 15 minutes a day (while commuting). He made it.
        2 – A guy I knew (at his 16) who learned math to a point higher than mine (I am a mathematician, btw)in few months.
        But your comment was everything I needed to really start. And I’m starting right now. Not tomorrow. now :P
        Thanks for the last push!

        • Oh wow, I’m sorry. I don’t think anyone was looking to demoralize you. On the contrary, it’s definitely possible to achieve a very high level of proficiency in a very short amount of time if you’re dedicated. I love seeing people do awesome things like that because it inspires me to work harder as well, and I’m sure that goes for everyone else here.

          Honestly, I think Manan’s reaction was one of genuine concern, driven by the fact that he actually pushed through at ~1/3 the pace you were aiming for (~50 cards/day), and even at that speed ended up doing Anki for 5-6 hours/day. If you imagine what happens when you triple that pace, I think you can maybe understand why he felt compelled to advise you to slow down a bit.

          Nobody here’s trying to suggest that you *can’t* do it. But we also don’t want to see you push yourself so hard that it actually puts your health at risk.

    • I’m sorry if you interpreted my comment in this way. It was only meant to keep your goals realistic.

      You should definitely go for it and power level as much as you are able to. This site is all about achieving what most people consider impossible.

    • “But I still want to do this…”
      Then do it? I don’t get the problem here.
      It’s not like Adam stopped selling you decks the moment he read my comment…or did he?

      Here’s my point by point breakdown of why I am not an evil Japanese learner. I don’t even meet the evil learner criteria :

      I am level 60. Which is pretty high….but not level 65 (fluent)…I am high but not flu…next. I that it’s pretty foolish to reach level 65 in less than one year because that would require sacrificing your social life. Or maybe you don’t have an social life, you auti…wait…what’s happening. I love Visual Novels, so I would say it’s a pretty great reason. However, what’s the need for learning Japanese for anime and manga when 99% get translated?…honestly I believe the reason to be asinine…my left eye…next. I think that RTK->JalUp is the best and I suggest that you drop everything else, and do it my way you miserable, patheti….by left bum hurts…I don’t love to show off my superiority. Do you know any Japanese learners that have reached such a high level in such a short time, while simultaneously managing to stay humbl….I can’t take it…my left ball hurts…the 悪学指導眼 (my father sealed it away cause he didn’t want me to become a prick). It BUUUUURNS!.*epic anime scream*, *epic transformation*, *Rocky OST Playing in Background*…
      Oh, and on an completely unrelated note I recently started watching 中二病でも恋がしたい (Chunibyou demo koi ga shitai). It’s great but nothing groundbreaking. 5/7.

      • Already doing! Since my last message, I was studying JLPT vocabs… on memrise…
        Already did 410 words. I spent a few hours there and now I will rest for a while and get back to it. The idea is to finish the JLPT N5 deck as soon as possible

  3. Having a deadline and a clear goal is important. The greater a person’s force of will the better they can handle complex or vague targets, but learning a language is one of the most difficult tasks because the world seems set against you.

    There is a different brand of “evil” in the form of machine translation like Google Translate that lurks about now. Though it cannot even parse simple grammar, it is one more insult against beginners. “Just use an app.” they say. Avoid these people, because even at a mere level 20, it is clear that it cannot surpass even my own feeble skills.

    • Ahh yes, the people who say “why bother studying when you have google translate…”

      Occasionally I’m curious how far the tech has come and checked it out. I’m impressed that it allows you to do it live and talk in 2 languages back and forth, with fairly good voice recognition. I’m not impressed with the actual translation.

      It’ll be a long time before a translator will ever replace a language, and that still will never take away the value in learning it.

          • Perfect translations will not come soon, but good-enough-understanding will be ready sooner than you think. Google translate already does a pretty good job between major western languages. This is a major field of research and technology will definitely improve over time.

            Does this make language learning a waste of time? No, absolutely not! For instance, all Disney movies get dubbed into my native language Danish with great care and skill. It is still far less enjoyable than watching the original English version as it was intended by the producers. This is in fact my main motivation for learning Japanese. I want to enjoy the originals instead of translations.

      • LINE has this feature where you can invite a translator bot to chats and a buddy of mine was using it to talk to a girl and try and schedule a date. He was having a bit of trouble and the gist of the problem was that the girl was using かな and かも at the end of her sentences a lot. The bot translated かな into Kana and かも into duck and my buddy, who was only reading the English translations and not even trying to look at the Japanese, was asking me “Why does she keep talking about this girl Kana and ducks?”

        Luckily once they got together things went better but it only confirmed to me how much value there is in studying Japanese yourself.

        • Haha, that’s pretty funny. I think the further the language turns colloquial, and includes slang (especially grammar-wise colloquial and slang), the more it strays from accuracy.

  4. I think that the topic is a bit misleading. In reality, your chances of encountering Evil Japanese learners are pretty slim, and slimmer, if you visit established sites like jalup or koohii, because people are always keen on helping others. Even if someone tries to be evil, (s)he will ultimately be corrected by other users and so forth.

    On the other hand, there are people who genuinely believe that Japanese is really tough, and that doing RTK or whatever method you are using might be a waste of your time (looking at the above teacher comment). In fact, if someone asks me to teach them Hindi, I’ll probably decline politely, saying that it’s pretty tough to teach unless you have lived it (which might make be a hypocrite, I guess).

    As a content creator, separating malicious comments and genuine criticism might be tricky, but a rule of thumb is that good criticism is always be backed up by reason. That doesn’t mean that I’ve to AGREE with their reason, it’s the effort put by the other party that counts. It doesn’t mean that everything not supported by reason is automatically wrong, but it helps to know that the other person took a little bit of time for you.
    my previous comment was…

    • I wouldn’t say it was misleading, however experiences will vary. I’ve met many evil Japanese learners. And while an evil learner may be corrected or “banished,” damage to confidence is powerful and hard to repair sometimes, as Stewie mentions above.

      And I’ve also met learners who started off good and turned evil. The dark side can overpower!

      • When I read this article, I looked at it from the angle of things I needed to be careful of so that I didn’t do them myself. I don’t want to became that which we are trying to overcome.

        • You make a good point. I think the things that people some people can unconsciously fall into are:

          2. He tells you why you are foolish for thinking you can learn Japanese fast (especially if it is faster than he learned)
          4. He always explains that these are the hardships he had to go through, so you must have to go through the same
          5. He likes to point out all your mistakes when you aren’t asking for them

          These can start off with good intentions. You want to give someone reasonable goals. Your experience with Japanese was difficult so you want to prepare others to be ready to face that. And you want to help people with their mistakes.

          But these can quickly turn into unwanted attacks, and as Mike mentions below, are especially damaging to a beginner.

    • Established sites, especially the one you mentioned, are the favorite hangouts of EJLs. I have no doubt it is trivial at your level to filter them out, but as a beginner they can be very damaging.

      • Yeah, and really no long-running site is immune, including Jalup. We’ve had them here as well, and I’m thankful that they usually decide either to stop, use their time for better things, or to move on to other sites.

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