Venting: I hate learning Japanese at my American University

I honestly just hate learning Japanese at my American University. It’s the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I have been enrolled in a double major/minor with Information Systems/Japanese as my majors and Studio Art as my minor. I have been taking all the Japanese language classes because in order to finish the major, the nicer classes are locked behind Advanced Japanese II (JAPN-306). I hate the language classes so much, and yet I have gotten better at my Japanese because of them but they kill my self-confidence because my Japanese teacher is so god awful at teaching Japanese and is incredibly strict with her grading, not to mention I am in danger of getting a D and failing the class. The worst part is that apparently the Advanced Japanese teacher is even worse than the one I already have…

I have written negative reviews of the course with constructive criticism and feedback to improve the courses, but unfortunately they have had the same teachers for about 15-20 years and won’t really hire any new ones. And their formats have been the same for probably a long time. So sometimes it feels like they won’t really do anything for the course evaluations if they won’t hire anyone new or ask them to change their teachings if they have done it for the last 15-20 years. Besides, this public flagship university specializes in medical research/sciences, so everything else is fairly garbage in terms of content of classes. I only enrolled here because it’s close to my house and in-state tuition financial aid allows me to get my Bachelor’s here.

I wish I could find a tutor but there are hardly any tutors for Japanese, and most tutors outside of university cost money and are too expensive. I used to have a tutor beforehand but could not afford them anymore. It’s also so damn hard to find experienced people in Japanese to talk to for help and advice or even finding natives at all over here in America. In all honesty, the problems I have mostly are particles (everyone makes mistakes with particles) and grammar, but they are super punishing on getting particles wrong or getting the sentence/grammar wrong to the point where it is either full marks or no marks which either results me in getting a low score on the quizzes and exams, or i end up failing the quizzes and exams altogether which makes me upset with the class even more. Honestly, if I wasn’t denied studying abroad in Japan (due to not getting a B+ or A in classes which is stupid since I had the money to study abroad and they flat out denied me), being in Japan would help learn a lot better than the amount of studying I do in university or the self-studying I do. Why are American institutions so bad at teaching foreign languages?!

I personally feel like most people in my class instead of learning, care more about the grade and how it affects their GPA (especially because the quizzes are worth 20%, the homework assignments from Genki are 20%, each midterm is 10%, the final is 20%, and the project/speaking exam is 10-12%). It’s just lots of randomized quiz formats, not enough time to read the question properly in less than 5 minutes, memorization quizzes where you have to memorize paragraphs from the textbook exactly how it is, and mid-terms with very difficult particles, as well as trying to answer questions based on listening comprehension as well as writing sequences; also reiterating how all of the grading is pretty strict compared to other language classes at my university. I get that it is Intermediate II but it still feels so complex and de-motivational as Japanese is a hard language to learn. And many people have zero sympathy or compassion when it comes to learning the language other than “Suck it up, work harder, study harder”, etc. which starts to kill my motivation even more as it’s just negative people giving me more of a negative experience. My roommate came from New York University and said his Italian teachers were the best experience he ever had for learning Italian and now I feel pretty jealous as he said after seeing my work, quizzes, and homework on how “BS” the classes are at UNC compared to NYU.

It’s just very stressful and unmotivating, especially when I am probably close to getting a D. I mean sure, I can retake the class but it’s incredibly frustrating if I have to do so. I’m not dropping my major as I’m going to push through and graduate through this god-awful nonsense. I need the credits anyways because I had the unfortunate experience of more than half my credits not transferring so I’m basically starting again as a Senior for a few more years. and I only have less than 3 years left at my university before they kick me out “so others can enroll”.

I hate learning foreign languages at American educational institutions. It’s just been nothing but negative experiences for me. I wanted to get all of this off my chest

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Ouch - I have no words of wisdom to offer, because I’m studying Japanese for fun only and have never taken a university-level Japanese class.

A long, long time ago I was fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of direct one-on-one tutoring, courtesy of my employer (otherwise I doubt that I could have afforded it) - but that was very early in my Japanese language learning path. It sounds like the expense of private tutoring may rule it out in your case. I have never tried online tutoring, but some folks on WK have spoken highly of their experiences with sites such as iTalki (that is, if you can find a good match with a tutor who can actually zero in on how to best help you improve your weak areas).

It sounds like the others in your class are not particularly helpful either, which is too bad. A close friend of mine had taken a few ‘advanced’ level Japanese language classes at a college in NYC, but while she was not a native Japanese speaker (she was Vietnamese), she had worked for Japanese companies for a number of years and her level of Japanese speaking, listening comprehension, reading and writing was higher than most of the other students in the class. I’m wondering if some of the other students in your class may have had similar backgrounds, such that having a poor teacher may not be a problem for them, if they already know much or most of the material that is being covered. Of course that’s no help for your situation.

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I don’t really have any helpful advice, either, except to say that sometimes you just need to get through things. Your goal right now is to graduate so you can get out of this system and move on to study materials that you think are actually helpful. It sounds like your classes are no longer enjoyable and you are becoming defensive in light of the difficulty. You can only keep this up for so long; it’ll eat away at you.

That’s just how it goes. All college students want to pass their classes, and many who are considering medical or graduate school need good grades. You might need to focus on your grades, too, if you’re not comfortable retaking the class or extending your program.


Honestly, many of your complaints apply to almost every other field as well. It just depends on the instructor, the format of the course, and your peers.

I’ve taken some exceptionally bad classes in my time (I have a BS and MS in engineering and I’m currently a PhD candidate). I’ve had classes where the instructor literally sat down and read from a plain presentation of notes for every single lecture—he never wrote anything and we saw precisely zero images the entire semester. To this day, I have a physical reaction to seeing black-and-white PowerPoint presentations and the fake laser pointer cursor. I only got through some of my experiences by reminding myself that my situation is temporary and, in the case of some of the truly terrible classes, by just focusing on deadlines and grades. I don’t like that I had to do that, but I got through some tough times that way.

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I would say I’m probably the worst in my class for the last 2 semesters because everyone else has 2-3 years of Japanese while I only have 5-6 months and even then I started from nothing. They also self studied on their own before formally taking the classes. It also does not help that the 3 teachers have 20 years of tenure.

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Yep, you’re right. Valid. Honestly I just needed to complain, vent, and get this crap off my chest. I honestly feel like I’m going to fail my midterm tomorrow mainly due to P A R T I C L E S (They make me want to rip my hair out like the woman of Yotsuya Kaidan), so probably only going to get maybe 50-60% on my midterm with how harshly my Japanese teacher grades stuff

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Some professors just suck. I had terrible ones who were bad at teaching and everyone knew it (including there professor themselves). But they would make some draconian attendance rules and otherwise treat students unfairly. For the most part it was with professors on some complete BS subjects like philosophy of science.

Sometimes the professor is strict but fair. With those you need to pay attention to what they consider important, do all the homework diligently and prepare to the exams with extra effort.

Figure out which one you have. If you’re lucky it’s type 2. Then you need to spend extra time drilling those particles. It can be good for you too!

If it’s type 1, then it’s just unfortunate. Do the best you can without wasting too much time on some BS. If they fail you unfairly prepare to appeal the grade. Talk to other students to do a group complaint.

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Yeah I was going to suggest the same as d-hermit. The teachers might suck, OR they might in their vast experience know something you don’t know - that students who don’t get particles DOWN COLD, and get it NOW! struggle the rest of the time*. The thing is, you’re not really in a position to evaluate which kind of teacher they are and you just have to take their word for it instead of fighting it. They might actually be doing you a huge favor by being strict now.

You can’t control them, you can only control you.

* I don’t actually know if this is the case, I’m a learner too. But I’m also a teacher of other things, and there are certain things I have learned are must do’s, even if they aren’t fun and people hate them.

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I think any Japanese institution is going to care more about JLPT than a degree. If they are really that bad, you might consider just putting the tuition towards a tutor.

I guess I could say it even more strongly - the easiest thing for a teacher to do is overlook your mistakes and give you a B. If they aren’t doing that, they must feel very strongly this is a thing you need to know, now. Disregard that at your own peril. (whether through grades, or through finding yourself way over your head in later courses.) Remember they see lots of students (20 years’ tenure?). I bet they can predict with some accuracy what it takes to be successful.

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So you’re a victim because your teacher is just so horrible at teaching your Japanese.

You’re a victim because they’re so strict. They’re killing all the confidence you should have at 6 months in!

You’re a victim because you can’t get tutors and theres definitely no free resources out there to get your questions answered or read up on grammar explanations.

Also man you’re just so alone. No experienced people at all to turn to for advice

But man, those particles, they’re just so strict on them. Like why can’t they just grade things more leniently like the beginner thinks is best?

And god, that’s so unfair that they wouldn’t send a student who barely isn’t failing abroad. Such a horrible thing thats not your fault at all. If only you were in Japan, EVERYTHING would be so different.

And your classmates just aren’t as learning-focused as you. How unfortunate. What a buncha shallow losers.

Man all that is so demotivational. And all those people who tell you to work harder are just so negative.

OK, sarcasm aside, dude you seriously need to get a grip and listen to yourself. You have a complete victim complex and your post lacks any trace of self accountability. I would be incredibly unmotivated too if I lacked the ability to notice my own control over my situation and blamed everyone else for my problems. Either make excuses or make progress. Pick one. Having a garbage mindset like that is going to get you nowhere in an endeavor like Japanese.

95% chance you use my post as yet another reason to feel sorry for yourself because your life is just so hard and everyone is trying to drag you down… But who knows. I’d like to believe that there’s a chance you’ll read this and itll at least be part of the wake up call you need. If you don’t wanna listen to me because I’m just a meanie on the internet and I hurt your pride, go read a book on stoicism or something.

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Unfortunately this is just what you have to do. There can be better / worse teachers, but in the end only the effort you put in determines the outcome. This is doubly true of languages, and triply true of Japanese.

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I feel you, many language teachers really suck unfortunately. Their lack of training in neurosciences/pedagogy/psychology/new technologies and ridiculous budget and salary doesn’t help either (at least in my country, France).
And some teachers just shouldn’t be allowed to teach: some are only here for the (low) paycheck, some are good in their field but suck at teaching it, others are just here for the power trip…
And I say this as a former Spanish teacher.

As others said, you need lots of hard work and practice. I can recommend cramming Bunpro and Genki to improve your particle skills.

Don’t give up! You can do it!

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Have you watched Cure Dolly’s videos?

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Hi KaiRyuuji,

It’s okay for you to be stressed out. Language courses at the university level move very fast. You made an astute observation, that many of your peers were already self-studying for a few years before they took the course you’re enrolled in, and you’ve built your skills over 5-6 months. Comparing your ability to theirs will be deflating, and it’s not an accurate reflection of the progress you have made.

To be successful and keep up with the pace of your course, you will most likely need some extra support. There are probably resources at your school that you can tap into. Have you looked into your existing community? Don’t give up. You can do this.

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We all need to vent when things get rough, and I hope that doing so has helped you feel better. :slightly_smiling_face: But it sounds like maybe your problem is that you started in Intermediate Japanese when you should have started in a Beginning Japanese class. (You do mention having been a transfer student.) Is it possible for you to take a Beginning class during the summer? And then retake your Intermediate class next year? I had a year of college level Japanese when I was 18 and am now trying my feeble best to relearn the language at the age of 71! So I am probably not even as advanced as you. But I know enough to recognize that particles are essential to learning Japanese! Your teacher would not be doing you a favor by giving you a passing grade if you are that bad at them. And you’d be even worse off in Advanced Japanese next year. Good luck in thinking out your future strategy.

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Pro tip: Drop the Japanese major. I know you don’t want to, but hear me out. I was in the same situation as you, except at a smaller state school and not the flagship. When I started the Japanese classes, they didn’t even have Japanese as a major, but in my second year they announced they would make it a major by the time I was looking to graduate. When I started to struggle, I dropped CompSci and stuck with Japanese because I wanted to prove that I could stick it out. Got a degree that was basically useless outside of those jobs that just listed “degree required.” Eventually went back and finished the CompSci degree ten years later. It was much easier without the distraction of a second language.

As a few others have said here, nobody is going to care that you have a Japanese degree. Can you speak it/read it/type it? Cool! Prove it with JLPT if you’re wanting to work with a company that requires the language skills. Looking for conversation partners? Check local events. Here’s one:

JASNC Welcome Picnic Spring 2024

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Further pro-tip on dropping the Japanese major. You could make better use of that time reinforcing what you learn with Information Systems, and you might get further with Japanese as a hobby. Use that interest as an avenue to make you stand out and improve your network with your remaining major: Information Systems touches the realms of business management, statistics (analytics), and comp sci, so see if there are any events, projects, or volunteer opportunities - even beyond your university, where you can get some practical hands on experience with a project or group related to Japanese business or culture.

Get certifications with precisely what you need when you need it. College is otherwise mostly “hey, you can preserve long enough to get a degree” + a collection of tools, resources, and time for you to build out what really drives you and opens opportunities to where you want to go.

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Cool. Another person with lack of empathy. The topic said venting, but I guess you feel the need to “Make OP the villain”

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Makes sense. Yeah it does suck when I am going through what you are going through as well. These Japanese courses also have draconian attendance rules. And tbh, the Japanese courses just absolutely suck at UNC

Will think on it. See how it goes