It's hard to pin down, but every time I ask a question in Japanese class, my teacher tends to do this long pause. Sometimes she'll look around the class as if to say "What does anyone else think?" and sometimes she'll say that explicitly, and get someone else to answer it. Other times she'll answer the question, but in a flat short tone that gives me the impression I was stupid for asking it. There was one time when she asked the class "Does anyone have a question?" and I slowly put my hand up, she said "Of course you do." That made me feel humiliated and awful, and I've been reluctant to participate or ask questions since, but of course, I need to understand the lessons.

It may seem petty, but anyone else who asks a question gets a different response; she always responds straight away, or considers the question openly; she doesn't defer the question, pause, or give any sort of flat response. It all makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong. I don't know if I'm asking too many questions, or stupid questions, or if I'm being impolite somehow, if I've missed some term of address (I always address her as 先生 or say すみません.) Despite all that I've said, when I talk to her in person, in her office, she's personable, empathetic, kind and helpful. I don't know why she's so deferential, apparently just to me, in class.

I don't know what I can do about this. Would it be inappropriate to raise this issue with her in person? I don't like the impression of me it would communicate to her ("I feel like you're not being nice to me in class" comes off the wrong way,) but at the same time, I really don't like participating in class because of the way she acts every time I try, and I don't know what to do to fix that.

EDIT: I'm British and from a British university, and my teacher is Japanese.

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    I had the exact same situation with a French teacher when i was in school. - the harder i tried to make her proud, the more snarky she would be with me in class. After graduation there was a student/teacher party and I said something like "I bet you're glad i'm going now" as a half-joke, and she said I was her favourite student, but this is just how she showed it. She only patronized me to give the other students a chance to speak up in class. She was drunk so I actually believed her.... – Wetlab Walter Feb 9 '16 at 12:34
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    @J.J Great story! – Captain Emacs Feb 9 '16 at 12:45
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    Along the lines of what others have said, this sounds much more like affection than put-downs, and a sly sense of humor you might misunderstand. I don't know why she only does it with you, but handing on a question for debate in the class is a good way to make a class more interactive; and the French class experience @J.J mentioned reminded me of Feynman's stories about him at Princeton ("Of course you would want to be hypnotized!", but all affectionate). – gnometorule Feb 9 '16 at 16:21
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    @CaptainEmacs: I loved your "Of course I do!" (+1), irrespective of her being condescending or not! I could easily see how the teacher, if acting affectionately, appreciates a little friendly banter like that. :) And if not, OP is standing his ground. As it appears to work either way, I thought it was great advice. – gnometorule Feb 9 '16 at 17:01
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    You should ask your classmates for their opinion. If they feel you're asking too many questions, they'll tell you. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 10 '16 at 9:45

She says: "Of course you do." - Respond with a small nod and: "Of course I do:" followed by the question. Also, when you feel humiliated when she waits - you can turn this around. When she waits, look at her in a polite, indulgent manner, with an understanding smile (think: you - the OP - are the adult here!). Obviously (so you can think to yourself), she is unable to answer you more quickly, as you have a difficult question, she needs to reflect first on it.

(Completely independent from that, check - just for yourself - whether you really ask too many questions or whether there is something wrong with them; perhaps they are unnecessary or easily answerable or superfluous? But no reason to feel bad, just inspect your question asking style and check whether it may have something you might be able to improve). In my opinion, there is no need to discuss things with her, as the likelihood is that she will downplay or outright deny it.


I suggest meeting with the professor during her office hours and, in a non-accusatory fashion, saying that you observed how she responds differently to your questions than to others and that you were curious why (or would like to know if your questions were inappropriate). If her behavior was deliberate, you should get an interesting response. If it wasn't, at least now she'll be aware of it.

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