From Advanced to Native

Your post was beautifully said and on point、as always.

I’m a native English speaker、my partner is Japanese and ALWAYS gets this wrong. But that said、if you answered “no” to me、I assume you don’t mind. If you said “yes” to me、I assume you do mind… I don’t think it’s backwards. I think it’s actually quite direct.

Sorry to pick up on details… it’s just something o wanted to clarify.


I think without a conscious effort to acquire a native like accent, is very difficult for someone to avoid hiding their non-native status. But it’s definitely not impossible. Maybe most people just don’t bother with it?

Another thing is your own ability with that language. I can’t tell the difference from a standard “nhk accent” and an osaka accent, but I’m sure many of you here can easily tell them apart.

But when it comes to my own language and english, then I have no problem recognizing a lot of accents, so it’s easier to tell if someone isn’t a native speaker.

By the ways the only swede I’ve ever met spoke near perfect english, so I was definitely fooled then :sweat_smile:


You’re right, I actually got it wrong. Either yes or no means I don’t mind, while if you want to say you do mind you need to clarify. But almost no one answers just yes/no. Usually it goes:
“Do you mind if I do X?”
“Yes, go ahead.” (aka meaning they don’t mind.)
BUT, they could also say “no, go ahead”, but I never hear that. I always hear yes to mean they don’t mind. Maybe it is just people from the US or a specific region in the US? Although I seem to remember having heard it a lot in TV shows too. It grates so much on my ears which is why I’ve noticed it. ^____^ Although, perhaps it is mostly spoken and it has to do with not directly answer the “do you mind” part, but instead the "(can) I do X) part which would be logical to say “yes (you can)” to.

Too much English language stuff, sorry. ^____^

1 Like

Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that, considering pitch accent, intonation, and just word choice etc, it is basically impossible to be like a native in japanese

Even dogen, who has a phd in japanese phonetics if I’m not mistaken, makes mistakes sometimes and can be distinguished from a Japanese speaker based on pronunciation.

If an expert on Japanese phonetics can’t do it perfectly, I can’t imagine anyone else achieving it to be honest.

(anyway this was not the main topic but I was just considering to what extent it’s possible to be indistinguishable from a native japanese speaker on the phone for example)


That’s fairly easy. My Japanese isn’t anywhere near perfect and yet I have had (work related) situation where I say something hinting I’m not Japanese (or, in some cases, I just say it directly) and people are surprised (and in some cases just hang up). It helps that the person just isn’t expecting a foreigner to be on the other hand, so their brain will naturally overlook any discrepancies. Plus the sound quality isn’t really good, so intonations and the like won’t have much impact.
Oh, I also had it once when I was booking a hotel room by phone. When I gave them my name, they were surprised and asked if I was a foreigner.
So, yeah, surprisingly easy.


I wonder. When I lived in Japan, I would often ask N2-level grammar questions of my coworkers, and my kendo sensei, and they would often not understand the grammar themselves. In fact, it was rare to find someone actually Japanese who was not a Japanese teacher that could help me study.

1 Like

You mean they couldn’t answer the questions? Or they couldn’t explain why the answer was right? It’s understandable that people who aren’t Japanese teachers can’t explain how to answer grammar problems. People just know their native grammar because they never learned it explicitly. But often people I show problems to can guess the answers before I give them the options, because part of being a native speaker is you can kind of tell what a sentence is going to say before you even get to the end, especially when dealing with the set phrases that make up these kinds of grammar questions.

EDIT: This is kind of ignoring the possibility of questions that are just poorly written and don’t have a good single answer, which I have found does sometimes happen with unofficial JLPT resources. But in any case, the reading and listening sections would be cake for a native. The passing line is quite low anyway.

1 Like

And that’s precisely why I think not only high schooler, but also the average middle schooler can pass N1 easily… Not with perfect mark, sure, but not high enough to pass, so more than 50 % ? Come on. Middle School in Japan is from 13 to 15 years old. At that age the average kidalready got 6 years of education, they have long past the stage where they study grammar and stuff and now study literature, read classics, and generally moved to fairly complex topic in every area like history, physics, biology, maths… It seems propesterous to think that they can’t pass a Japanese proficiency test… (again just 50% of correct answer is required)


This is an interesting thing: compare Australia to Japan and the values within the culture mark the difference. In Japan the mainstream culture draws the distinction clearly and strictly between natives and non-Japanese. In Australia, “Its all good, (mate)” is a common phrase for a reason.

It seems to be language enthusiasts and professionals misuse the word “Native” when the intended meaning is “Native-level” in reference to Language skills. That is still a misnomer though, as pointed out:

To get back to @Alenaf, what I am getting at is, there is probably more acceptance of your “foreign” accent in Australia, or the distinction is downplayed, as is “foreignness” generally. I found it interesting, and a bit irritating to be honest, here in the UK when an Italian friend (with Italian accent to boot, did it need mentioning?) suddenly started quoting someone in conversation in impeccable British accent. I was so surprised, I never realised he could speak that… “well”, which begged the question (which I dutifully blurted out), “If you can speak like that, why don’t you usually speak like that?” but I knew the answer as I asked it: Italian is his identity, language was inconsequential.


was interesting in light of

I’ve lived around Japanese people for years and never had the impression they were anything but thrilled with my progress with the language or cultural understanding. To call it a lie is to maybe misrepresent the positive intentions behind 建て前, but at the same time I think they are genuinely impressed. They are also appreciative that we are interested in and bothered to learn their language and culture. So, I wouldn’t thing the disconcert a thing, but it was interesting to hear this existed as an exception.

This brought up the other side of “becoming native” for me - the official side. I returned to this site after many years and just in case it is of interest or its the first time:
(replies on this probably warrant a new campfire based thread though.)


I just don’t think “native-level” would have any meaning even if people did use it.

1 Like

I have to say I am with @Leebo on this one.

is debatable, because they wouldn’t normally study grammar, they just learnt the grammar naturally (or by magic)

I agree it seems preposterous (though not “propesterous”), but works on the same basis as the difficulty in explaining to 2nd language speakers the grammar you use without thought or effort daily.
Or as @Elbereth00 said:

You are not wrong, in general Aussies make it easy to fit in as long as you are willing to put in the effort. Funnily enough, my English speaking identity is quite different from my Russian one; I am much more relaxed and prone to talking to random people now. As far as my accent is concerned, at some point I really wanted to sound like an Aussie born person but at the end of the day the effort required to change your accent as an adult comes with a huge opportunity cost: should I painstakingly try to get rid of my accent or improve another skill instead? I find that learning presentation skills was more beneficial for my life and career than dedicating the same amount of time and effort to my accent would have been. It could’ve been different in another country.

In Japan though, wouldn’t you stand out as a foreigner (outsider) regardless of your language skills? Even assuming you could sound completely native-like?


People do use it I am afraid - recruiters and language schools - but you are pretty much right.

Yes. Which is why the case of phone calls was mentioned I think.

I have to say, I’ve actually done this, but as a teenager and within the scope of English, so it may be heavily discounted. That said, the trick is as per anything: take on one sound, nail it, move onto the next sound, repeat. It doesn’t have to be over-night.

Yes this is an interesting concept also. My language identities are shifting and crossover, and dependant on where I live maybe. In Japan, maybe I speak English “softly” and want to agree with everyone (isn’t it?). With Japanese in the UK, I can be direct and sardonic… until my wife tells me off.


People just know their native grammar because they never learned it explicitly.

Really? I had to learn grammar and it’s teminology from the start of elementary school until the age of graduation from high school. There’s a lot of stuff that is not obvious and certainly I could not ‘feel’ the correct answer everytime. Probably depends on the language, since in Finnish the spoken language is very different from official written one. Maybe in a similar note to Japanese.


Those lessons are not about teaching people the grammar of their language, they are about teaching people how to analyze the grammar of their language. Natives do not learn how to use the language in such classes. That was the point. I accept that I worded it poorly.

Yes, everyone studies sentence structure at school at some point.

EDIT: And if you look at Japanese grammar lessons in schools, they are quite different from what is called grammar on the JLPT. The JLPT grammar section is a lot more like a vocab section in reality.


Rather, they didn’t seem to understand the grammar point in itself. The main question I would ask was for example sentences, but I had a difficult time getting anyone who could give me any, outside of the Japanese 国語 teacher. I’m not saying it was like that for every single grammar point, but it was on the whole grammar points for which they could not even give example sentences.

What’s more, my best friend, who studied in Kyoto, told me once of how she had the same problem with her host parents. She’d ask them for grammar help, but they wouldn’t really understand the grammar point.

Yeah, that’s not too surprising to me. It’s easy for natives to tell you that something isn’t natural sounding, but just popping off good example sentences that correctly demonstrate whatever point is intended can be tough.

But if you give them 4 example sentences (the 4 possible choices in a grammar question) they can find the one that sounds natural without much trouble a very large percentage of the time.


I lived in Aso, Kumamoto, that tiny caldera town in the south; I wonder if perhaps it’s more common for more metropolitan-residing citizens to understand higher-level grammar? I mean, I don’t want to give the impression that they were all rustic country bumpkins, but perhaps there is a linguistic trend.

I think there’s just a big, big difference between what it sounds like you asked for and what I was describing, even though they might seem similar on the face. Explaining how a grammar point works and crafting a sentence to demonstrate it, and just choosing the right answer from 4 choices are very different tasks, and one is much easier for a non-teacher than the other.

1 Like