Fake Japanese language exchange partners

Hopefully this is the right category. I’m curious to see if anyone else has run into situations where they suspect their language exchange partners are not actually Japanese. I’m talking about on apps like Tandem, HelloTalk, and the like. I’ll give two examples:

Recently was messaged by a man wanting to do Japanese<>English language exchange. He messaged me initially in English, and I tried to shift the conversation to roughly half Japanese, half English. His Japanese replies had the following red flags:

  • Exclusively referred to me as あなた
  • Very, very simple although technically correct sentences
  • Overly complimentary of my Japanese skills (I get the 日本語上手, but this was multiple compliments in multiple messages)
  • Very quickly and directly wanting to talk over phone/video

I blocked him because I was getting bad vibes off the whole encounter, but it reminded me of another partner from a few months back who also barely replied to my Japanese messages, excessively complimented my Japanese and said there was nothing to correct (false, I routinely get corrected by other partners), and jumped straight into phone call where he exclusively talked in English and ignored my attempts to shift things to Japanese.
At the time I assumed he was just selfish, but now I’m beginning to wonder if he also might just not be Japanese?

I’ve been doing language exchange on and off for a few years now and while I’ve dealt with creeps, people who openly acknowledge they’re not Japanese but want to practice English, and so on this type of thing is a first for me.


Wouldn’t talking over audio/video only expose them quicker if they weren’t Japanese? What would be the point of it?


That part I also don’t get, but is why I suspect the guy who only talked in English on the one call we had might not have been Japanese.

The only thing I can think is it’s people with “unpopular” native languages and a smidge of Japanese ability who think they can just strong arm the majority of the convo into English and bypass Japanese conversation by just complimenting the sentences and moving on.

But yeah, the weirdness of motives also has me doubting myself but the interactions were just so out of the norm I’m not sure what else to think :person_shrugging:


Personally I’ve found that payed tutoring is the best way to ensure you’ll be practicing the language and not waste time. If not, language exchange groups that go to public spaces to meet (say, a café) are also a good option; people are usually very friendly there.

Language exchange platforms have big issues on supply and demand for languages. E.g., a lot of people want to speak only a select few languages and those native speakers are flooded with messages all the time, while if your native language is not favored by this Pareto distribution, people end up resorting to these tactics (faking a native language), trying to compete with natives (using 2º or 3º language) or leaving the platform.

I’ve never been in this situation, much less in the receiving end, but I think it’s something which won’t be solved very soon, unfortunately. I wish you good luck in your future exchanges!


I didn’t have this, but I did have a Japanese girl I was talking to who I got along with well enough, and (while thinking that it might not actually be a girl, because, as we all know, everyone on the internet is a 20 something year old man) we ended up talking by voice and then had like a 1 hour long video call where we talked in English and Japanese. A few days later, I checked the app and her profile was gone. :no_mouth:


My only experience on HelloTalk where this guy calling himself Sae really wanted to video call. I kept saying no because it was the middle of the night for me but eventually I said it was fine. His whole profile was pretending to be a Japanese girl, I’m more trusting of women than I am of men online but 5 seconds into the call he pulled his dick out. So yeah be careful on the internet ladies


sigh Why is that even a thing, on a language learning platform, of all things. I already don’t understand why it happens on random chat platform, but just… why.

Edit: well, to go back to the main topic, if that can happen, I guess anything can happen, including fake Japanese accounts…


Yeah, I’m leery of those kinds of things too (also a lady, although Old :tm: by some standards so now enjoy less surprise dick from strangers). Actually faking being Japanese (or any in-demand language speaker) in order to pressure a woman onto a video call to show them :sparkles: things :sparkles: seems entirely plausible. I wonder if that’s what he was up to :thinking:


I haven’t met any fake Japanese partners yet, but I have been messaged by a lot of non-Japanese people who want to speak to an English native speaker, even though my profile says I am using the app only to do Japanese-English exchange.

The idea of HelloTalk is so great, but in general I have such trouble finding a good language exchange partner. The biggest issue I find is people who hog the conversation. For example, we agree to speak for 15 minutes in English, and then 15 minutes in Japanese, but they continue to speak English for 20 or 25 minutes.

When I have found a good partner though, it has been really beneficial to my speaking skills, and I’ve also met some cool people. But lining up schedules is tough, and most partners only last a couple months or so.


Bingo. I’ve seen them complain that no one wants to talk to them in comments before (because they aren’t native/have strong accents)


I’m sorry, I know it’s not funny but when I reread this i burst out laughing because I could just imagine the whole encounter. Why, why are people like this :skull:


Nah, that’s a fair response LOL I was pretty disappointed when it happened because I had just downloaded the app and was excited to do some language exchange and then-- guess not. I definitely laugh about it when telling the story though. I don’t have anything against language exchange apps and from what I’ve heard from others my experience is an outlier, I just don’t use them anymore because I feel like I would just be too suspicious of everyone else. I did get that guy’s account taken down though


I have a friend who’s a bit like this although he will use more advanced grammar at times. We use a translation bot for ease in a Line convo, so he uses あなた and pronouns more often than normal in order to force the bot to translate things correctly. It still gets who’s doing what wrong often enough, but usually we just have a laugh over it. I think he also uses more simple grammar when possible to make it easier on me as a learner to read and analyze his sentences.

This language partner of yours, might be the same way, although the main difference in our situations is that I met my friend in person, so I can say with certainty that he’s actually Japanese. I’ve met a few people on HelloTalk who are also studying Eng->Jpn, but I haven’t had anyone purposefully pretend that they’re a native Japanese speaker. Is that very common? My otaku vibes might drive anyone like that off though.

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This makes sense since they’re your friend, but people looking for conversation in a different language don’t usually want easy sentences as a default, but sentences tailored to their level, or just normal conversations where they can choose to ask about any doubts they might have.

You get a feel early on about your partner’s proficiency and can adjust to it, plus some apps have settings about how often you want to be corrected about things, besides just being able to talk about it. So someone who doesn’t want to stray from easy sentences and fancies themselves a tutor instead of just a conversation partner isn’t really great language exchange material, imo.


Ah, interesting :thinking: I hadn’t figured that people were putting that much effort into things, but I guess when I speak English to native Japanese speakers, I usually try to say things how I think will aid their understanding.


Ugh, pathetic. I wish that guy the worst.

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My wife thinks あなた is better than using 君 is she not Japanese? Ah fuck.

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Yeah, I have had language partners who were undoubtably Japanese, but they used あなた.

So yeah, don’t worry if someone uses あなた to you, it’s not necessarily a sign they aren’t Japanese.


I’m curious if you have any theories on this yourself.

In my experience, a non-trivial number of people in Japan speak to all foreigners in dumbed down or otherwise unnatural Japanese, expecting them not to have great mastery of the language. I’ve had people go as far as to speak in the absolute bare minimum to get information across, like “今日、ごはん、ランチ、食べる?” even though they’ve had full conversations with me before and they know I have N1.

My point being, I wonder if this person, knowing @pocketcat speaks English, was adding the subject (あなた) constantly with the intention of “helping out” by making it what they believe is easier to understand.


It’s possible that that’s what they’re thinking, yeah. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, just that it does happen now and then.