You get this image in your head: You are the Japanese student. You learn from the Japanese teacher.
They provide knowledge. You absorb it. Even if this isn’t the typical structure you are used to, if you had a question about Japanese, what order would you trust the answer from the following people you could ask?
- Japanese teacher
- Japanese person
- Fellow learner of Japanese
But how accurate is this?
Teacher Teaching Student
The classic model. A Japanese teacher is not only a native of the language, but has studied how to specifically teach you. They know the most about the Japanese language. They know the most about how people learn Japanese. They know the most about how you should learn Japanese.
This might be true, but there are a lot of variables that completely change the value quotient.
- There are good and bad teachers.
- The Japanese language is incredibly fluid and changes rapidly. What needs to be taught or should be taught isn’t the easiest thing to follow, even for teachers.
- It’s nearly impossible for Japanese teachers to keep up with all the new ways students want to and are learning.
- They don’t know you. They don’t know your hopes, your dreams, and motivation, and how to incorporate their teaching to accommodate this. Even if they do, they might not deem it worthy enough (“…you’re studying Japanese merely to learn anime…?”)
Student Teaching Student
Bad first impression with a set of apparent problems. Students come in all forms and levels. They aren’t masters of Japanese. They make mistakes. They suffer from “thinking they know more than they actually know.“
However, their major redeeming quality should not be passed over lightly. They know you – they are you. They have gone through the exact same things you are going through. They haven’t merely read about your struggles, trying to solve the problem as an outsider. They share your frustration. And from real personal experience know how to overcome your adversity.
You trade 100% accuracy for something else. A Japanese teacher may be able to explain something better. But a student knows the source of your confusion and struggle better. This is big.
Which is better?
Answering this question directly would cause my bias against classes to surface…
But if there is one thing I can tell you, it’s that you should not make it about race (as in – you will learn Japanese better if you are learning from someone Japanese). This concept is very common in Japan. There is a popular impression at English language schools that if you truly want to learn English, you need a native English speaking teacher present. There are too many factors that affect whether this is specifically true to the student’s circumstance.
What’s important to know is:
- Japanese teachers (native or non-native) provide value
- Students of Japanese provide value
Which provides more will be dependent on who they are and who you are.
Who do you want to learn from?
Do you find yourself preferring one over the other? What made you choose?