The only way to learn Japanese is through classes. Japanese classes are worthless and you can learn everything on your own. You’ve probably heard both sides. Which is correct? What should you do?
Let me first tell you straight up: You don’t need Japanese classes to learn/master Japanese. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t a useful tool to some people.
My experience with classes:
1) Semester of Japanese 102 my last semester of college (I skipped 101 because it wasn’t offered that semester) using the textbook Genki 1.
2) Private paid lessons for 2 months, 3 times a week in Japan using the textbook みんなの日本語2.
3) Private free conversational lessons in Japan, once a week for about half a year.
Every person learns differently. So the best way to decide if classes are for you is to lay out the pros and cons.
1. You don’t want to look bad in front of other people, making you study harder.
2. Tests and quizzes motivate you to study more.
3. Once you get into class you are focused for a set period of time.
4. The teacher will correct your mistakes.
5. Classes are very structured.
6. Doing well in classes may give you confidence.
7. You make friends with other people interested in Japanese.
8. You have other people to study with.
9. You may be getting credit/good grades through your school/university for doing something you love and would be doing anyway.
10. If there are other really good speakers in your class, competition is great for motivation.
11. It’s easier to teach yourself when you have some beginner base from an initial class and teacher.
1. Other people slow you down.
2. Tests and quizzes put unnecessary pressure on you.
3. You waste time getting to/from class.
4. The teacher will only correct certain mistakes, which may make you think others are correct.
5. The pace of classes are very sluggish.
6. You focus on unnecessary things. For example, writing.
7. Your teacher may look down upon your non-traditional methods.
8. The learning is not focused on real world situations and has a certain artificial feel.
9. Advancing in classes often gives you false confidence in the level of your Japanese.
10. Hearing bad pronunciation and incorrect Japanese from other students may affect you.
11. If you don’t like the class, you may believe that you don’t like Japanese.
If you do decide to take a class, here is how to get the best out of it:
1. Inform the teacher that you want her to correct you as much as possible. You want someone who strictly corrects you constantly.
2. Don’t take the class if you don’t like the teacher.
3. Always go ahead of the pace of the class.
4. Always continue all the other studying methods on this site and that you have found on your own.
5. If you can’t afford the time/money of lessons, don’t take lessons.
6. Make sure your teacher isn’t patronizing and falls into the category of assuming that as a foreigner you can’t ever truly learn Japanese
7. Pick younger teachers. Older teachers focus on older methods that are less effective. Younger teachers usually focus on the newest, most relevant methods. For example, I’ve heard of some classes that use the Japanese social networking website Mixi to make friends with Japanese people living in Japan.
Q: If you started learning Japanese from the beginning knowing everything you know now, would you still take classes?
It would all depend on the situation (time, cost, location, teacher, other students, and my current level). I think I would probably take a few beginner classes just to get started.
However, if I could find a class like this, I would sign up in an instant:
“Teaching Japanese”, Comedy Skit By: ラーメンズ
I would be very happy to hear in the comments section what pros, cons, and any tips you have in regards to Japanese classes!
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.