When I first got to Japan, I was extremely motivated to learn Japanese, which was a good thing since the idea that you can learn a language through osmosis just by living in that country is flat wrong. I took advantage of every opportunity to advance my studies, listening to JPOP music and watching anime and Japanese dramas, which helped me get lots of vocabulary input. When I encountered a Japanese person, I’d engage in a brief “language battle” with them to determine which of us had the higher language skills, and thus which language I’d speak with that person — and I hated to lose. Then one day I was in Tokyo, looking for a coin locker to put my bags in, and a middle-aged salaryman who was clearing his out said “Please use this one” to me in English. I thanked him in fluent Japanese, but after that I realized that I’d done him a real disservice. This man would probably have only have a few chances to use his English each year, and yet I had stubbornly refused to oblige him. Since that day, I’ve resolved to speak English to Japanese people more, which usually causes their face to brighten just a little. And if you really want to make a Japanese person’s day? Compliment them on their English and ask how many years they’ve studied overseas. Even if it’s B.S., you’ll bring a smile to their face that will last all day.
The relationship with Japanese people at the English language is rather complex.