Why is there such a defeatist attitude around learning japanese?

People like to project their failures unto others to feel better about themselves. Even when its entirely their own fault. Human nature at its finest.
If one cannot achieve something surely no one else can, that would make them better than you right ?
Ego has no time for such nonsense, obviously i myself am the best at everything, and its my job to warn everyone that they cannot hope to ever surpass me.

No seriously, its everywhere.
Likely more noticeable in learning japanese because its so different from other languages most learners come from, and the hardest part is to break free from the established logic and open the brain to think differently. Hence more people fail at it.
Breaking free from habit is the hardest thing for humans after all.

Also not being lazy and actually doing the time things require is hard.


In the end, it comes down to rationalization. People will rationalize their failures/hurdles in any way they can, and it usually ends with them blaming external factors (in this case: Japanese being intrinsically difficult to learn.) I think the many who have managed to learn, use and eventually master Japanese (or anything remotely challenging in life) are proof enough that defeatists live in their own delusions and should simply be ignored. It’s a tale as old as time.


Japanese is really hard. I don’t think anyone here needs me to tell them that. Because of that the process of learning is often filled with discouragement. I’ve been studying for three years and still feel like I trip over myself, or at least strongly second guess myself, when saying things that should be pretty basic or easy to do in other languages.

Because of that people often get into pretty negative spirals. People who act cruel often do so because they’re feeling awful and want to do something cathartic. In the case of JP learning communities that often manifests in arrogance and tearing down a newbie who vastly underestimates the difficulty of the language.

I’ve noticed this adversarial feeling towards other language learners in me occasionally, too, but I never act on it since I know it’s wrong. Probably due to personal issues with insecurity. So in the case of other communities it could be some of that, too.

That’s enough armchair psychology from me


I know that I’m gonna get flak for this but the notion that Japanese is “nonsensical” and “doesn’t make sense” is just plain racism, positing English as the norm and as “a language that makes sense”

I don’t think that’s fair. There are native speakers of languages besides English who also struggle with Japanese and find it “nonsensical” or different from what they are used to. New concepts for anyone are difficult and inexplicable when encountered for the first time. It is likewise possible to believe a target language to be hopelessly confusing and yet appreciate it for its intricate beauty.


Great thread, really enjoyed reading through all of y’all’s comments on it!

What’s also flawed in this reasoning is, once again, the question of what fluency even means to the individual, or what the goals of the individual learner are. Obviously, you need to learn a language to a much higher degree if you want to make a living out of being an author writing in that language than if you just want to enjoy Japanese media in its original language and can tolerate some ambiguity.

Basically, it’s like saying you shouldn’t learn to cook at all since you’re probably never gonna be a Michelin star chef anyway


You know, this is the exact thing I noticed, it’s also mixed with elitism etc. Yuck, WK forums are a god send they are open to many although I have seen one or two defeatist posts on here but for what? Keep negativity elsewhere.


another minor point: People who feel like they failed might want to vent their frustration. Where as people who get along just fine might see no reason to be so vocal about it


I don’t think that’s fair. There are native speakers of languages besides English who also struggle with Japanese and find it “nonsensical” or different from what they are used to.

Finding it “different from what they are used to” is perfectly natural, as I have stated. Finding it “nonsensical” is is a dismissive attitude that places one’s own standpoint as natural and perfectly sensical, and things that are different as wrong. And that goes regardless if the language you are coming from is English, French, German, Portuguese, Arabic or whatever.

Those two ways of phrasing things are very different.


I become defeatist about learning a language, not Japanese in particular. That’s because this is a first language learning experience so it’s probably likely to happen more with new learners. It’s mentally draining to understand new language concepts at times but I recognise that it is only as ‘draining’ as I believe it to be. It’s a learning experience in itself. But, also, I love Japan and I’m impatient. I become defeatist when I look at the entirety of it - the mountain of work I need to do to get ahead from basic beginners level which I’ve been on for 3 years. (though, in my defence, I’ve been learning on and off and my mental health got in the way)

I don’t really know the answer to your question. I could assume that it could be to do with the fact that everything might feel overwhelmingly topsy turvy re: grammar to those whose Engish is their only language.

Maybe it is also because there is such a word as ‘Japanophile’ and that people may scramble too much to get ahead. It can come across as obsessive and competitive, perhaps, but I don’t know.

Also, it’s been assumed that Japanese is ‘oh so hard’ from the outset. When you come to realise that it isn’t the hardest language then a lot of assumptions from a Western perspective is positively shattered. It took me a while to realise that it’s a bit fictitious and over-generalised, plus there may be some very hidden racism (i.e. East Asians are super intelligent, owed to culture and ‘complexity’ of language).

Defeatism in language learning is complicated I think. I became defeatist because I’ve found it hard to find my learning style. Admittedly, for a looong time I thought how ‘impressive’ it would be to be fluent in Japanese, very egotistic actually. But that’s fading away (thank God).

I now treat the learning experience as I would a math or chemistry formula. Seems to help me keep my patience re: grammar, especially particles.

Challenging my attitude is a work in progress. I feel I’ve turned a positive corner lately and I’m proud. I’d ask of those that are tempted to criticise defeatist folk to remember that it takes a lot of time and work to break the habit. It’s also a test of emotional intelligence I think.

There’s a lot of reasons.


Those two ways of phrasing things are very different…
…“nonsensical” is is a dismissive attitude…

Okay, I better see your point. I feel the charge is quite serious for what seemed to be a blanket statement. It seems to me that one can find an area of academic study to be difficult, confusing, or even “nonsensical” in a manner of speaking (as one might also find calculus) without disdain for the people themselves (or for mathematicians, per my example).

We may simply be arguing over words and their usage, in which case I don’t wish to derail the thread.


Japanese is really difficult for me, I complain about it all the time. I get frustrated a lot. I feel like it is similar to trying to get through a brick wall.

Despite all this I really enjoy the sound of the language, how the writing looks, and I also enjoy the act of studying.

Very very very very slowly I have made progress. Year to year you can see I’ve improved.
I really want to know a second language.

I’m also super competitive and want to surpass my husband’s English ability.

I agree with the belittling that has got to stop.
“Oh you have lived in Japan for 3 years and are still a beginner”


I feel the same.

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This is generally beginners who can be prone to this attitude. Generally, beginners are pretty caught up in the ‘idea’ of learning something difficult and underestimate it thinking “Oh I’ll be able to master it in two months easily.” For the vast majority of us, this doesn’t turn out to be the case. At which point you get two primary groups of people: those who quit, and those who continue.

People planning on quitting need to repeat to themselves how hard the language is so that they may feel as if they haven’t failed.

The other group, those people who continue: they may tussle with the language for years and years, but as long as they don’t give up, they have a 100% chance of reaching their goal of fluency.

Of course, there’s always those who complain and continue their studies. :slightly_smiling_face:

(Btw, I don’t mean to judge those who quit. Of course the situations of different lives vary and at that point it may just not be a good time for them. In which case people should feel no shame in quitting; just remember, you can always start again later, whenever you have a free moment!)


Hot take: it’s not about the language, it’s about the context - people in college are forced (maybe not into the language, but into resources, ways to study, to study parts of it they might not care about etc.) Compare that to WK/WK forums where everyone is there out of their own free will, learning about something they genuinely care about (often because of anime), have an honestly great resource to work with (WK), can set their own pace and pick their own grammar etc. resources. (Universal Sudbury schooling when)


I feel like hat happens in every language learning group. At least I’ve never had a different experience when I learned 4 different languages in school and later on when I learning different languages as an adult, where there that didn’t happen. You even hear things like these a lot when it comes to my own mother tongue. So maybe the people in my country just love to complain a lot :sweat_smile:


To avoid such strong word as racism and general comparison to english - just a reminder that most languages are somehow related. Google the tree of languages it’s really interesting staff. Probably most japanese learners with a defeatist attitude have come around only indo-european languages, they are all related and share a lot of sense.

Japanese (with the Ryukuan languages) is isolated. Relation to all other language families is debated. It’s is unique.

Of course it’s f**ing difficult. Especially in the beginning.


It really doesn’t matter. At all. Don’t let the opinions of others discourage you.

Two people learn an instrument. One becomes a maestro, the other struggles to even play a tune.



I think it is prevalent in other communities too. Anything which has any level of significant difficulty to it will attract defeatist behaviour. It’s just cover up for low confidence in one’s ability in given subject matter. I wouldn’t pay much attention. :slightly_smiling_face:


The point you make about ‘nonsensical’ resonates with me. All languages have certain weird behaviours, and either way, most of Japanese grammar is not actually nonsensical; it’s just very different from Indo-European languages. Although, the writing system does add arbitrary complexity. If they had used modified Hangeul, learning to read and write could have been a lot easier.


To be fair, you could also argue that the Latin alphabet is an extremely poor way to write the English language, e. g. regarding its inability to distinguish the 12-ish distinct vowels in English and the 5 different characters that can be pronounced ə.

(And if you look at how difficult and rare even minor spelling reforms in English are and have been, it should be clear that switching Japanese from its current script to modified hangeul, romaji, or whatever is quite simply impractical, even if we do not get into the discussion if it would be a good idea in the first place.)