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It’s the debate of the century! (That, and people keep asking me on e-mail, so I thought I should just write a post about it). If given a choice, should you learn Japanese from a native Japanese speaker, or from a “foreigner” (aka non-native Japanese speaker). For a lot of people, I think the decision is already made to do everything they can to get a native Japanese speaker, though that isn’t necessarily always right. Both native and non-native Japanese language teachers have their pros and cons. Let’s figure out what they are.

[offtopic: Did you know that Tofugu has its own Japanese Textbook, specifically written for self-learners of Japanese? If you've always wanted an excuse to start learning Japanese, now's your chance]

The Native Japanese Language Teacher

I think a lot of people automatically assume that native Japanese language teachers are the best. Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s not. Really, it depends on the individual (duh). Let’s go over the pros and cons of a native Japanese language teacher.

PRO: They speak Japanese really really well
This one’s a given. They’ve grown up speaking Jpaanese, which means they’re really good at it. They know a lot of kanji, they know the obscure words, and they know how to read and write. No matter what question you have about Japanese, chances are they know it and already use it.

PRO: Their pronunciation is perfect
Of course their pronunciation is perfect (unless they have a speech impediment, or something). Native Japanese teachers are great because you can try to mimic how they speak. They can also more effectively figure out when your pronunciation sucks and needs work.

PRO: Conversation practice is great
Why wouldn’t it be?

PRO: They don’t make that many mistakes
Native English speakers make mistakes when they speak English, and Japanese native speakers make mistakes when they speak Japanese. Even if they do make mistakes, though, they tend to be small and fairly limited to unimportant things.

PRO: Better for advanced learners of Japanese
If you are an advanced student of Japanese, native speakers tend to be better, hands down. There comes a point where (for the most part), native speakers are going to be the only ones who can consistently answer your advanced Japanese questions.

NEUTRAL: Learn more about culture
One thing I’ve noticed is that native Japanese speakers tend to focus a lot more on cultural aspects of Japanese. Sometimes this is important for learning “Japanese-only” words / grammar, and sometimes it’s just interesting (definitely important to learn culture + language!). I’m putting this as neutral because it seems to be pretty random whether a teachers does culture lessons or not, so it’s hard to generalize.

CON: They don’t really know what it’s like to learn Japanese
Because they grew up with learning Japanese, they have no idea what it’s like to learn it. Native speakers will teach you Japanese the way they learned it (or make things up along the way). That’s not to say that all native Japanese teacher are like this, but for the most part native speakers don’t know how to teach non-native Japanese learners how to learn Japanese. They just didn’t have the same experiences as you, which means it’s really hard for them to make things simple.

CON: Can be overwhelming for beginners
It depends on the teacher, but sometimes native Japanese teachers can be a bit overwhelming when they don’t know what a student is going through. Also, there seems to be a tendency for native teachers to teach things that don’t actually build on each other.

The Non-Native Japanese Language Teacher

The non-native Japanese language teacher is becoming more popular, I think. I see a lot more Japanese teachers who aren’t native Japanese speakers (but they’re good, they spent some time in Japan or studied Japanese in school). Like native Japanese speakers, there are pros and cons to non-native Japanese language teachers as well.

PRO: They know what it’s like to learn Japanese
When you’ve done something before, and you had to do it yourself, you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t. One of the biggest problems with the Japanese language learning industry today is that they haven’t really made any improvements in the last 50 years. Most of the time, you end up learning Japanese sort of like Japanese school children learn Japanese. You drill, you bang your head on a curb, then you drill some more. This is because native Japanese speakers have set everything up. When it comes to simplifying the learning process, and eliminating a lot of the usual hurdles a Japanese learner faces, non-native speakers know how to do it. They have a fresher (though not always, it depends on the person) perspective that lets them make changes that will ultimately help you learn more effectively.

PRO: They can explain things more clearly, simply
For a lot of native Japanese language teachers, Japanese just works because it works. Go ahead and try to explain why a verb works in English, or why we do anything in English, really. It’s tough to explain something you grew up with. Non-native speakers of Japanese have had to break the language apart and put it back together in a way that they can understand it, and if they’re smart, they can pass that information along to you. So, instead of something just working because it works, it now works because of A, B, and C.

PRO: They usually have better methods for learning kanji
The way that Japanese kids learn kanji is dumb and doesn’t make any sense for everyone else. This, however, is the way that most people end up learning kanji. Repetition, repetitions, curb+head, repetition. A lot of non-native speakers still follow this method, but I’m starting to see a little more variety and flexibility coming from the non-native Japanese teacher side of things, which is great. They’re starting to solve some of the biggest mistakes kanji learners make.

PRO: More flexibility to try something new
A ton of “traditional” Japanese learning methods just don’t work (but people use them anyways because that’s the way it’s always been done). Non-native speakers tend to have a lot more flexibility when it comes to teaching Japanese than native speakers do, which often means more innovative (and effective) ways to learn Japanese for you.

CON: Pronunciation can be an issue (but not always)
There are a ton of non-native Japanese speakers who have great pronunciation. Still, though, pronunciation can be a concern with non-native Japanese teachers. It’s not like people won’t understand you if you have an accent (I understand people from Texas… sometimes), but if you’re striving to be perfect in every way, this is something to look out for.

CON: Non-scripted conversation practice can be wonky
This is especially true when you’re at higher levels. Non-native speakers just can’t think on their feet quite as well as a native speaker can, when it comes to non-scripted conversation practice. That’s not to say that a lot of non-native speakers can’t get pretty darn close (and definitely be more than adequate), but native speakers will always have the upper hand on this one, which is more and more true the higher the level of the student.

In The End…

Seriously, though, both are great, and both can contribute plenty of things that the other one (probably) can’t. And yes, this article is a huge generalization on native and non-native speakers, so make sure you take that into account as well. No two Japanese language teachers (native or non-native) are the same. In the end, I think it comes down to inspiration and teaching methods. If the students aren’t engaged, then nobody wins in the end.

On another topic, I do know that I’d never want to make anyone have to learn English from a Japanese native-speaker in Japan… English teachers in Japan tend to be… pretty bad.

P.S. Why don’t you tell me what you think of this article on Twitter?

P.P.S. Why not let me spam your inbox with the occasional e-mail by signing up for Tofugu’s newsletter?

  • Ana

    My native teacher was too hard to understand. Not only he couldn't understand why this kanji was hard to memorize, or why I was asking something bizarre (have you ever read “nihonjin no shiranai nihongo”? like that), but also he didn't know how to speak Portuguese, so his translations were all based in dictionaries and they were very… creepy.
    The best teacher I could have classes with was brazilian, but her family came to Brazil from Japan. So her both Japanese and Portuguese were perfect, and she could teach details I would never imagine before.
    And my completely “non-japanese” teacher was great too, he used to make fun of himself being a “non-japanese” Japanese language teacher and how Japanese culture can be freaky sometimes. His accent was very good too.

    Huge comment, poor English. Sorry guys, we speak Portuguese in Brazil, I did my best ;_;

  • JM

    Beginner : Someone who can speak your language really well and know target language well
    Advanced: Someone who can speak the target language really well

  • http://twitter.com/tonysensei Tony Gonzalez

    As a nonnative Japanese teacher myself, I would like to add an additional perspective to this discussion. Personally, I think that success in learning Japanese will actually have little to do with the quality of the teacher, and everything to do with the quality of the learner.

    Nobody can “teach” you Japanese. The best that someone else can do is show you how to learn Japanese. Students who come to me with an attitude of “here I am—fill me up with Japanese” end up being poor learners. Students who come to me with an attitude of “I really want to learn Japanese. Show me some good ways of doing so” tend to do very well. In fact, this year I've stopped calling myself a “Japanese teacher”, and now instead call myself a “Japanese learning guide”. Aptitude for learning foreign languages definitely plays some role in determining the pace, and perhaps even to some extent the depth, that one can learn Japanese, but far more important than that is determination, motivation, and an attitude of self sufficiency.

  • ティム

    I've had both types of teachers and I agree that they both have their strong points. My first semester studying Japanese, I had a teacher from Brazil who spoke fluent English and Japanese (and Portuguese). I feel like having him helped get the class through the initial shock of learning grammar that's very different than English and his pronunciation was very good (seeing as he lived in Japan for 17 years and spoke Japanese at home). He was also very helpful in explaining some aspects of Japanese culture (from a foreigner's perspective). Since then, I've had native Japanese speakers as my professors. Both of them speak very, very good English and could answer all of our questions, but I did get the impression that they don't really get what it's like to learn Japanese as a foreign language (especially with regards to kanji). I think that it can be helpful to have a non-Japanese teacher in the beginning, but that having a native teacher later will help you develop better conversational skills.

  • haliros

    Tony sensei!!
    Ummm…hey 8D You've met me once, I promise. It was a couple of years ago at Atlanta's Japan fest (I completely understand if you don't remember.) But anyway, you teach my friend, Jenny! I was NOT expecting to see you on Tofugu…
    But I completely agree with a post you said (actually, I was about to add a similar comment before I saw yours,) and I think that anyone who leaves their language learning in the hands of the teacher is bound to fail. That's what I did the last 4 semesters of Japanese I took at school, and I can barely have a basic conversation. I've only recently begun to take things into my own hands…but the point is, I know exactly what you're talking about, and you bring up a very excellent point.

  • http://twitter.com/lloydvincent Lloyd Vincent

    Great post on this issue.

    When I was in university, I had both native and non-native Japanese teachers. The major difference seems to be that while non-native teachers try to give learners what they are ready for, native teachers want to focus on what learners need the most. (Most of the time what learners need is kanji.)

    As an ex-English teacher, I know how tempting it is to try and correct Japanese students' pronunciation, which I would imagine is as difficult for them to grasp as kanji is for English speakers. So I urge learners not to fault their native Japanese teachers for being too strict, they're just more language-centered than learner-centered because that's what they know.

    I basically agree with your conclusion, though. More important than whether the teacher is native or not is whether the learner is committed to learning, and whether the teacher is committed to teaching. And I would add that expecting a teacher or a class to be the thing that makes you proficient in Japanese is a big mistake; not one teacher, not ten or a hundred teachers will help you if you don't take the initiative to learn, review and improve on your own.

  • jrabernethy

    About native speakers:

    Don't you think that native instructors who have studied Second Language Acquisition can overcome some (if not all) of the “don't know what it's like to learn Japanese” issue? I think people who have a background in linguistics and SLA have a better metalinguistic awareness, and are able to convey certain differences in language.

    Then again, as a native English speaker who teaches ESL, I do know that I have some problems explaining things that I have taken for granted as a NES (like articles). However, I don't have the experience that some of the more seasoned instructors do.

  • puppy

    I'm an English teacher in Japan (native) teaching at one of the big eikaiwa companies. At my company, students studying English are encouraged to take both a class taught by a native speaker and a class taught by a Japanese teacher. Of course that's partly for business purposes…

    But native and non-native teachers can teach different things. We non-native teachers don't really teach grammar. I certainly can't explain what tense to use when in an easy way off the top of my head. What we do teach is natural-sounding sentence structure, vocabulary words that come up in conversation but may not be in the textbook, pronunciation, etc. The Japanese teachers handle the more technical stuff, and they can explain it in Japanese if need be. So, the student benefits the most from learning under both native and non-native teachers.

  • puppy

    Er, I meant “we native teachers.” That's the thing about living here and teaching English, your English starts getting weird…

  • http://twitter.com/untmdsprt Jenny

    Being an ESL teacher in Japan, I have to agree with the native Japanese being very bad in teaching English. Most have the attitude of it's my way or the highway, and more often than not they're wrong.

    All I've had were native speakers for learning Japanese. Most spoke to me in English and wrote romaji on the board, the good ones spoke in Japanese, and only in English when I requested it, and then the only excellent one I had spoke only in Japanese, and when I didn't understand something she still spoke in Japanese but in a different way so I could grasp the meaning. Unfortunately, she only teaches the beginners, and I'm above them. >_<

    As for my preference, I'd prefer natives only for the better pronunciation aspect.

  • j2theoshgosh

    well i'm just starting, 1 month in, and it feels like i'm over my darn head already. I do not have the money to learn in a classroom setting but i have the desire, i need someone who is at my level to relate to, seems everyone is more advanced than me. It really stinks that when you really first start learning, there is very little help for those at the very bottom, i shall paddle on however, ignore this hole in my boat and see what happens.

  • http://twitter.com/zikade zikade

    Non-native speakers tend to be more language-aware. They have to, since they actually and consciously have to think about their words before using them . I often experienced this when having foreigners as guests in one of the many shows I did. Their grammar tended to be more precise and even the pronunciation was better. What they lack is probably the cultural part: they are as foreign to it as you are yourself.
    Best having both of them available; remember to keep them in a dry place and feed them regularly.

  • basak

    Hmm, I've always had a native speaker teacher (5-6 so far) and I'd like to disagree with you that they don't make many mistakes. Even for simple things, I've seen them struggle and even change their minds about certain questions. This includes making many mistakes, followed by profuse apologising, and asking us to forget what they said. Especially the one I have at the moment can't make one full sentence (some people are simply bad speakers). I think being able to teach and being a native speaker are entirely different things. If I could just pick and choose, I'd choose solely on teaching ability.
    I've always thought a native speaker would suit me well, since I like to learn in the target language, only. I don't ask how grammar works, either. But I need to be explained where/when/ how a certain form/structure/word should be used very clearly. The lesson needs to have a very clear goal and structure for me, which is something that cannot be produced easily without extensive training plus super aptitude for teaching. The Japanese teaching outside Japan are hardly ever teachers by profession anyway.

  • Kevin

    After having been in Nagoya Japan for a year and a half now, trying to bang the language into my head, I would agree with the assessment of native-speaking japanese teachers in japan. However, when I managed to catch an instructor from the area who was back during her summer break from teaching japanese at a canadian university, she was awesome – the language just started to make sense (but, she also had a master's of linguistics, so it might just be the quality of teacher, over the native, or non-native issue.)

    My thoughts on this, if I were to go back and start again, would be to use a non-native teacher who had spent at least 3-5 years in japan for the Elementary 1&2 equivalent levels, and then switch over once the grammar basics were implanted in my head in a reasonable fashion to work on vocab, pronunciation, and situational nuance. Understanding the collorary to one's native language is a great value when trying to teach a language. I'm still going to not get the halfway between L and R, but closer to L sound to any reasonable level of proficiency in the near future anyhow. Let alone the pitch patterns.

    My brain can certainly attest to the pain of doing it the brute-force japanese way. However, that does give me motivation to go self-study, if only to get the pain over sooner.

    Cheers!

  • CelestialSushi

    Heh, when you mentioned the Japanese native-speaker teaching English not being very good, it made me think of Yukari-sensei from Azumanga Daioh XD But yeah, even though it's a generalization, there's something to think about here. I've been learning Japanese from two native speakers (I transferred schools after the equivalent of a semester of 101), and for the most part, I think they've both done a great job teaching. Learning about culture is definitely a fun aspect of the course too :D

  • Pingback: Should You Learn Japanese From a Native Speaker or a “Foreigner”? | TEFL Japan()

  • marillion

    I feel it comes down to the individual. I've had native and non-native teachers in a classroom setting. Some people are just better teachers. So far, my favorite person to help me learn Japanese has been a young Japanese woman (20 years my junior) who tutored me for a couple of semesters. She was familiar with the textbook I was using in my class and always had an understanding of how much I had learned. She focused on helping me get better at what I had learned at that point. She did teach me some new vocab and grammar, but didn't overwhelm me. I have found others (both native and non-native) sometimes talked too far above my skill level and because I couldn't grasp any of it, I didn't get anything out of it. On the other hand, a lot depends on the student. For some who learn things very quickly, this approach might be better for them. But, that isn't me.

    Just because you know something really well doesn't mean you can impart that knowledge to others (I wouldn't be able to help someone learn English beyond just practice) and just because you learned something doesn't mean you understand what it is like for someone else to learn it – my non-native teacher was very intelligent and very fluent in Japanese, but I got the sense she didn't struggle to learn it, so it was hard for her to relate to the beginners and to not throw everything as us at once.

    Wow, much longer than I had intended. Summary – it depends on both the teacher and the learner. There are different styles of each and it is important to find a good match (your ideal teacher may be different from mine).

  • http://blog.rainbowhill.com.au/ Rainbowhill

    I think many native speakers aren't asked to think critically about their own language until they start to try and explain it to others. When that happens they are often shocked to find that not only is it easier said than done, they are not equipped to teach in the same way that someone with a qualification in teaching languages would be. The same applies to any language.

  • http://blog.rainbowhill.com.au/ Rainbowhill

    I think you make a good point Lloyd, it is your own comittment to learning that will take your the furthest. It's all about that internal locus of control and taking personal responsibility for your learning.

    There is an ancient buddhist saying that goes “the teacher will appear when the student is ready”.

  • http://blog.rainbowhill.com.au/ Rainbowhill

    I've had the benefit of learning from native speakers in Japan, some of them better than others. What seperated the best from the rest was their enthusiasm for sharing their culture. Occaisionally they were inexperienced in language instruction, but knowing what I wanted (practice speaking) I was always quick to keep them on task.

    I might also add that when you choose to learn a language, you are becoming a member of a group of people with a common language (duh) and shared cultural values. You should be capable to learn from everyone about that language and culture, from irreverent children to set-in-their way grandparents. Everyone is valuable member of your language community, even the foreigners.

  • http://japan-australia.blogspot.com/ Japan Australia

    I believe that for a beginner learning Japanese they would benefit most from learning from a foreigner rather than a native speaker. Learning the basics is something that you do not require a native speaker for and sometimes a foreigner will understand better would you should be learning and what is better for your basic understanding. That said, once you learn the basics, learning Japanese from a native speaker would have the most benefit for things like fluency, listening and everyday conversation.

  • Lily_Philic

    I have had a bilingual (English/Japanese) native-Japanese teacher the last two semesters at my university. She was raised a bit in Australia/U.S but also in Japan, and with her English you'd never know the difference. She has a masters in Linguistics, so she really breaks things down really well. Best of both worlds, wouldn't trade her for anything~

  • caughtredhanded

    I've been learning Japanese from a native personal tutor for about five years now and in the beginning, understanding was a big deal. It was hard to understand where my tutor was coming from and some of the concepts she was trying to express were difficult to grasp.

    As I begun to understand the way she approaches learning however, I found that everything began to slip into place. Once that happens, there is absolutely no substitute for learning Japanese from a native, especially when the country of origin, i.e. Japan, is on the other side of the world and I only get to go there now and again.

  • drayomi

    I am a little over one month in, so I think I might be at the same level as you… I fully know the Hiragana alphabet, and almost completely know the Katakana alphabet. It is pretty bad starting out, but you can't let that hold you back. You can't expect to be up to the advanced learners in only one month. You just have to patient. I know eventually, if I keep pushing myself to learn, I will get up to level. It will likely take at least a few more months to get to that level, but I know it will be worth it.

    Maybe we should keep in contact, since we are at the same level, and can motivate each other to keep going.

    I hope you consider it, because it would be in both are best interests. :)

  • katherina

    the perfect situation is when u have 2 teachers. native to talk to and to check vocabulary excersizes and so on, and non-native to explain grammar in your own language. it's sometimes useful to compare something with yout own language to remember it better.
    though non-native teacher seems not to be needed in a year already.

  • http://www.yonasu.com yonasu

    Definitely agree on that both have their pros and cons. I had a great set of teachers at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden), 3 natives and 2 Swedes, and they were all pretty good. The Swedish teacher's pronunciations weren't perfect, and the native teacher's explanations weren't either.

    But in the end, teachers are just tools, it's up to the students themselves to use them right^^

  • danialg

    My Japanese teacher is Indian, he's taught at Tokyo University. He's even taught to family members of royalty, which gave the class quite a few stories on what to and what not to do.

    His stories of minor-mixups like the word for scary and the word for cute was my favorite. Accidentally mis-pronouncing cute when he complimented someones small child.

    I agree with everyone. If you're just starting out, I'd really recommend starting with a non-native speaking teacher, if you can find someone who's native, but also has fantastic English pronunciation, then brilliant, you're good to go as long as you can stay in that class learning as much as you can.

    But at the same time, having someone who doesn't have the greatest English pronunciation lets you get into learning more of the vocabulary right at the start.

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  • Bec

    I have had both and they both have positives and negatives. The native speaker was sometimes hard to understand in English and didn't give the class revision time in class(Which is typical of the Japanese culture). The English teacher was very good at giving tasks that help memorise Japanese. They both have advantages but for me i prefered an English speaking teacher.

  • Ketrikken

    In my opinion teaching quality depends mostly on a teacher and has little to do with him being native or non-native speaker. I've had three native Japanese teachers in college – all of them were different. The first one was really strict and I hated her at the beginning for going too fast and giving too much homework and always pointing out that we we'll never be fluent, unless we study 24 hours a day. Now I'm actually grateful to her for that. Second teacher was rather enthusiastic and made us write and speak a lot (you could feel that he prepared carefully for every single lesson). And the last one was a disaster – he told us something boring about his life during the lesson and then made us translate it sentence by sentence. Every lesson. For half a year. Needless to say, we didn't progress much.
    The same with non-native teachers – I've had good ones and pretty bad ones, so, I guess, the assumption that “If you want to learn a language you should learn it from a native speaker” is merely a stereotype.

  • kanjo

    you did very well, if not perfect :)

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  • jbtutor

    I've made an immense difference in the pace of learning and quality of learning of a long-term Japanese student I have coached from nearly total beginner level to a pretty solid early intermediate level. One of the few things he knew from a brief stint in Japan was “Watashi wa namae wa,” which is wrong… and which was taught to him by attendees of a language school.. for learning Japanese.. in Japan. I caught him early and saved him a ton of problems from learning things wrong to have to un-learn them later. He's smart, but he's not a language genius – and I know I've helped a lot.

    Determination, motivation, and self-sufficiency are why I learned the language with virtually no help. It was hard. I went through years as a translator before daring to teach others even the basics. There is a place for no-nonsense help. Teacher quality does matter… it just cannot overcome an uncommitted student. It can help a committed student.

  • jbtutor

    I'd teach lots of kanji to people if I could, too. I picked up tons of kanji – individually and compounds – in my time as a translator, of course.

  • jbtutor

    Having Disqus problems. Anyway, I teach 'what the student can handle' because I have to – and then I put my heart and soul into it, so that we can work our way up to the more advanced stuff. Japanese is a fascinating language in its large and small elements, though, so the journey is an enjoyable one.

  • jbtutor

    If you like the look of this:

    http://www.slideshare.net/learnoutlive/introduc

    Consider this:

    http://learnoutlive.com/shop/japanese-for-begin

    The whole idea was to make all sorts of meaty lesson material available to people who can't afford the full course meal. This lesson pack only just went on sale like this. I'm curious what people think.

  • jbtutor

    I agree completely there. I'm told that this is how it is for teaching anything. It's an interesting thought.

  • http://lordgilgamesh.blogspot.com/ Lord Gilgamesh

    I've been slowly learning Japanese for awhile now, longer than a month, day-count wise, but I can't really say how much hour wise. I'm self-taught and a poor college student with little free time, but I learn when I can, and I think I'm pretty successful. I admit though, if I had others around my level, I can definitely see it helping. Between semesters has been my main chance to learn and I know I'll be working full-time on learning Japanese after getting my degree. If either you, or drayomi would like be in contact, I think it would be awesome. Let me know.

  • Feli

    Do you want to have my opinion?
    1. learn Japanese in Japan
    2. at least at the beginning learn from Japanese who knows English, they know how much Japanese can be different and they understand your sentence even if the grammar is sometimes messed up

  • Heiangirl

    My first and only live teacher of Japanese was a near neighbor and she was great for the basics, hiragana, katakana A wa B desu and such. However, as she wasn't a language teacher she couldn't explain in English most of my questions, especially about grammar. She was also shy so wouldn't correct me when I needed it! I find podcasts and the internet have filled the big gap between her and all my Japanese learning books. A friend and scholar once told me she had to keep going back to Japan to hear it spoken so as not lose her native sounding pronunciation. She lived there off and on for 35 years!

    Sort of off topic, about Japanese keyboards:
    White Rabbit Press is offering Elecom's TK-FCM007 Japanese keyboard. Does anyone know how these work…do you still have the Japanese IME set up? I wonder if it is possible to get used to different typing!

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  • Blake

    What would you say about a Japanese teacher who speaks both English and Japanese natively? By which I mean lived in the USA from birth but has two full Japanese parents who taught them from birth? I'll be taking Japanese from said teacher next year : D

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  • http://christopherjacques.com Chris

    It's like anything, the most common way is usually the best. So in this case, a native speaker is usually better than a non-native.

    But the NATIVE speaker has to be good at teaching language. If a non-native is better at teaching than the native, then the non-native will be more even, but still not better than a NATIVE speaker who is GOOD at teaching language. It's like… a great SINGLE parent can be better than a bad COUPLE, but never as good as a GREAT MARRIED COUPLE.

    The bottom line is pronunciation, and sheer knowledge of the language will trump any “learned” japanese any day.

    (just in that picture above, she's teaching everything in ROMAJI!!!! That's the FIRST step to mispronouncing every japanese word.)

  • http://christopherjacques.com Chris

    Sorry, I should have mentioned this- Why are you assuming a NATIVE teacher doesn't know what it's like to learn a language? Chances are they're teaching you in YOUR language! So of course they know what it's like to learn and have probably had similar questions.

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  • Ellydishes

    I used to think I only wanted to learn Japanese from native, ethnically Japanese people. Of course, I cooked this rule up in my head when I was 14 and wasn't thinking about how terribly prejudiced that was. In college, one of the Japanese teachers was actually Korean, but she had gone to high school in Japan. Her dad was actually Korea's ambassador to Japan! How cool was that? She also had a Masters in 2nd language instruction for Japanese from NYU, which was also impressive. She spoke great Japanese and English, and she really knew how to break things down. She never speed past you or went over your head. She was great.

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  • aviscritique

    My native teacher is a joyful person but sometimes I want to walk out of the class. First of all most of the students taking Japanese at my university, I assume, are Japanophiles, so that is not good for me. I am not a big fan of Japanopiles. I do not mind a great appreciation and fondness of Japan and its culure and whatever, but it get annoying after “kawaii this” and “kawaii that” and “desuuuu”… seriously. -_-

    Anyway, my native teacher expect the students to know the lessons perfectly, even though she constantly emphasize that learning Japanese is hard. Her grading system is so harsh, it is impossible for the majority of the class to pass the class with no better than a “C”. I did better in French during my High School days then in this class.

    For example: If one sentence is worth 2 points, and the lesson for that sentence is “sentence structure” chapter, she will mark spelling wrong and 2 points will be gone even though the sentence structure is correct. Just because someone wrote “ka” instead of “ga”!! That is minus one point. And “Tokyo” instead of “Tokyoo”! minus one point. That whole problem is 0 point. She understand that gammar and spelling is hard, but her grading is harsh.

    I have been learning English since I was five, and as a 20-year-old I still struggle with English grammar. However, she expects that one lesson per week (a week of 2 days) is enough for someone whose first language is not even English, to know perfect Japanese grammar and spelling.

    kitte
    kite
    kiite

    whattttt?
    Distinguishing the difference between the kitte, kite, kiite, is hard for a lot of learners… but she will not let it go even though the test question was not focused on words but on sentence structure.

    Studying with Japanese Exchange students is worst. Most of the time they get sidetrack and want to talk about American things, or talk about Japanese things with the other “guy” in the group who want to know more about Japanophile subjects. I spent a lot of time thinking, “I don't care about that manga or if there are any hot Japanese girls in Japanese Students Association for you to pick up! This is a Japanese language study group, not a let's-pick-up-Japanese-girls-study-group!”

    The Japanese program at my university is just bad.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thomas-Sones/100000172560299 Thomas Sones

    You forgot one major pro to non native teachers. Teaching language is like a science, while there may not be a perfect way, we understand alot about how language is learned and we know what are good (and what are bad) methods for teaching langauge. All langauge teachers, native or not,should be educated in teaching/ learning science (methodology). Unfortunately, there are alot of native speakers who are hired to teach on the sole premsis that they are native speakers, who do a lot of harm to learners teaching with bad methodology. MOST non-native teachers are well trained in teaching methodology.

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  • http://Website(optional) michelle

    One of the cons about the native Japanese speaker is that sometimes their English may be difficult to comprehend. Almost a lot of people in my Japanese 2 and Japanese 3 class had trouble understanding our professor because despite her living in the U.S. for a couple of years, her English pronunciation was really bad and she wasn’t clear enough to students who asked her questions. On some questions, she had no idea how to answer it in English.

  • http://twitter.com/raygungirl Jess

    I had no idea English wasn’t your first language until you said so! Your English is better than 90% of English-speakers on the internet. :D

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    Aptitude for learning foreign languages definitely plays some role in determining the pace, and perhaps even to some extent the depth

  • Alexandre

    I’m very serious about my language studies and consequently, the only time I’d ever consider having a non-native teach me is if the person were at a near-native level. The kind of level where most native speakers can hardly tell that the person is non-native. If the level I aim for is higher than the teacher’s level, then it’s a definite no.

    That being said, I used to teach English pronunciation as a Teaching Assistant at university and I currently help several Japanese language partners with their English, and I’m not a native speaker. But I am near-native and I managed to get there on my own, so I do have insight into the language that native speakers don’t necessarily have. So I do agree with you on that point.

    It takes a lot of confidence to claim that you can teach another language better than its native speakers; unfortunately, that’s not necessarily an indication of the teacher’s competence.

  • Dantae

    i used to have a foreign teacher for the first 3 years of high school.
    she was terrible, the school had to employ a trainee teacher from japan so the class wouldn’t be a complete failure.
    eventually she “retired :P” and we got a native Japanese teacher, who is actually pretty good.

    I used to have a non-native home tutor, all he Japanese friends said that she could be mistaken for a Japanese person if you wernt looking at her blatantly European face :P

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  • Emm2341

    whenever I try to double check a sentence with my Japanese friends, I’m always careful to ask simply whether the sentence sounds right. I try not to bother going into why something might sound right or wrong because most of the time they simply don’t know.

    Another problem with native speakers is that they all have different experiences with the language. Some people might think that a sentence sounds weird while others might disagree and think the same sentence is just fine. This is often a difference of dialect or their personal experience with the language.

    If you can, the best way to go is to get someone who has learned Japanese and someone who is a native speaker with you at the same table.
    When the first year students at my college meet before class there is a Japanese person there to check the fluency of their sentence and then they have me there to explain the grammatical functions.

  • Emm2341

    whenever I try to double check a sentence with my Japanese friends, I’m always careful to ask simply whether the sentence sounds right. I try not to bother going into why something might sound right or wrong because most of the time they simply don’t know.

    Another problem with native speakers is that they all have different experiences with the language. Some people might think that a sentence sounds weird while others might disagree and think the same sentence is just fine. This is often a difference of dialect or their personal experience with the language.

    If you can, the best way to go is to get someone who has learned Japanese and someone who is a native speaker with you at the same table.
    When the first year students at my college meet before class there is a Japanese person there to check the fluency of their sentence and then they have me there to explain the grammatical functions.

  • Anonymous

    Learn Japanese From a Native Speaker  en I think this way is better than the other..
    maybe…

  • http://twitter.com/AutumnMage Autumn Rush

    I used to have a non-native Japanese teacher. Everyone in the class was failing. Then they brought in a new teacher who was native Japanese, everyone started passing.

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  • http://twitter.com/JACKTHEDANIELS ジャック (Jack)

    After reading some of the comments, Im just lucky I have a really good teacher, she is native but somehow understands the difficulty in learning the language >.>

  • Eriyu Snow

    I’m in an intensive class in college, and I’m really lucky to have two professors, one native and one not! Though their teaching styles aren’t really different (that would be awfully confusing for a single class XD), I have to say, I kind of prefer my American professor because she is better at explaining things… and personally, I just feel less dumb making mistakes in front of a non-native speaker. :P

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001233663585 Karen Carrillo

    Actually, I’m from Texas, and I have no problem speaking Japanese…Probably cause I’m spanish?