Going to a Language School in Japan — 30 Comments

  1. 羨ましいです!That’s really awesome! I’ve been craving an abroad study in Japan, but it’s not really possible for me at the moment. I’m looking forward to reading more about your experience and thoughts on different kinds of language classes.

    • If you do ever get the chance, where would you want to go? Would you go to Tokyo, or somewhere else?

      • I’d like to go to one in Fukushima, where my husband’s family is in Japan. Two years from now, I’ll graduate from college and we’ll move to Japan. Perhaps then I’ll be able to go to one.

        • Well if your move to Japan is permanent I’m sure your Japanese will grow to be absolutely amazing, regardless of if you’re going to attend a language school.
          Personally I would still really like to go to Sendai; I’ve heard such great things about it.

          • I would like to go to a 専門学校 (like a tech school) in Japan for childcare so that I can get my license. I would also like to do some translating. So, a Japanese school would be useful to prepare my Japanese for academic purposes.

            Right now, I’m just craving going to Japan. I just have to be patient.

            Sendai is really close to Fukushima (^_^). My Japanese teacher is from there, and my husband has lots of friends from Sendai. I would love to go to a Japanese school there too.

            • Oh that sounds like an awesome challenge! I hope you’ll get there.

              I feel kind of homesick/nostaligic about Japan sometimes (which is ridiculous because I’ve only ever been there a total of 8 weeks) and then I really go crazy. I look up flight prices and hostels and everything XDDD

              But you’re right, we have to be patient ;-)

  2. This sounds like a priceless experience. I really like the fact your classroom was able to visit companies and other universities. That’s a great cultural experience. I spent my summer of 2007 at KCP international and it was amazing. I had the same experience you did where you were in a classroom full of folks who spoke different languages and the only way to communicate with then was through Japanese. I say that was a definite plus in a classroom setting. Looking Forward to part 3

  3. It really was an amazing opportunity. What kind of class did you take at KCP (what level, how long?) and did you go by yourself or with a friend? Were there things you didn’t like? For example at Naganuma there were a lot of students from other East Asian countries who would kind of form cliques. That would have gotten a little annoying if I’d been there by myself.

  4. I took an intensive summer course for about 2 months. I was at the very beginner stage, so we did a day or so of hiragana/katakana, but quickly moved on because the pace was so fast. I was there by myself but was sent through a study abroad opportunity at my college. The experience was absolutely amazing. There are no negatives I can really think of except the fact that it was an obstacle for the post office to cash my western union check (all because they didn’t see me sign the back of the check). But the school was very supportive and helped me out in that ordeal. The teachers were absolutely wonderful human beings, and being at a school where Englsih speakers were a very small percent really forced me to interact with other students. Although I did notice a clique form amongst most Chinese students, the Korean students were very interested in getting to know me and inviting me out for drinks and dinner ^^ Oh and I represented my class in a speech contest and won!

    • Sounds really wonderful. Especially when you’re still at a beginner stage doing a summer like that must be amazing, because you’re constantly learning new things and every day you understand so much more than you did the day before. :D

  5. Great article, I enjoyed this series! I was wondering, at approximately what level (in regards to the JALUP method) were you when you first enrolled in the Japanese language school? You mentioned that the classes were fully in Japanese, so perhaps beginners would have a hard time adjusting without getting the basics down first?

    • It’s hard for me to look back and judge what level I was at then, but I’m going to go with 40. Maybe a little less. That summer was the first time I watched a drama without subtitles (Natsu no Koi wa Nijiiro ni Kagayaku was airing then, and I’m a sucker for Matsujun’s fail), and it was pretty challenging, even though the story was quite simple.
      The thing with language schools is that the teachers are really good at adapting to the students’ level. Some of our classes were taught by guest teachers, and they didn’t know our level, so they used the most mind-numbingly simple Japanese you can imagine; it was all short sentences and JLPT 5 vocabulary. So no, I don’t think it would be that hard to adjust. In fact, if you’re at a lower level the progress you’ll make will probably be so overwhelming you won’t know what happened, so I’d actually recommend it ;-)
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  6. Sounds like a great experience! I just finished watching 日本人の知らない日本語 (which is actually the first drama I watched every episode of RAW without ever having seen the subtitles, and I just got to level 40, so similar to you back then), which is about students in a language school. It’s over exaggerated (like a lot of Japanese dramas), but it does make me want to do one. For the sake of growing together with my classmates (^_^), seems special.

    The last Japanese class offered in Japanese at my college (Japanese 302) was the only class I took there to be completely in Japanese. There was only four students, a new teacher, and one of the students had previously lived in Japan for 7 years and spoke Japanese on a regular basis with his wife, so we were an advanced class. But if my old teacher had taught us, she would’ve continued switching back and forth between English. I took a conversation class elsewhere, and that was all in Japanese, but the subject material was boring and I felt my classmates were above my level at the time, so I dropped it. It’s hard to find a beginning or intermediate level class that is conducted completely in Japanese, but as someone who has taught English as a Foreign Language, those classes are always taught completely in English, unless you happen to have all students of one race and you know their language (which happened to a set of elderly Chinese who had Chinese teachers). So I feel like although teachers are giving us a handicap by teaching in English.

    • Ohh I’m kind of watching that drama too (on and off, it’s not really the kind of drama that grabs me and doesn’t let go). A word of caution: don’t look to this drama for realism ;-) there is none.

      I didn’t really feel the whole “growing together” aspect that much. In fact it was only when I got back that I noticed how much I’d improved. What exactly are thinking of when you say “growing together with my classmates”?

      • At first, I didn’t think I was going to like the episode. It took me awhile to get past the first half of the first episode. But I love teaching dramas, and felt it was sentimental when the students thanked the teacher each time. It reminded me of when I was thanked by my teachers. So sweet. I also like how each student had their own thing, such as manga or cooking. I know it’s unrealistic. But so is Gokusen.

        In my experience, whether it is my Japanese camp back in high school, or the Japan studies courses I am taking in college now, there’s a different relationship with your classmates than in a class about any other subject, because we’re all going after the same goal. It’s special to me, and we have a lot of fun together. I still talk to a lot of the friends I have met in these experiences. But I suppose this wasn’t your experience? Another reason I dropped my conversation class was because unlike my first semester there, where I made friends and became good friends with a Japanese student assigned as my conversation partner, the second time I went (which was years after), I didn’t feel the same connection. It felt like a waste of time to just feel left out.

        • Hahaha, no Gokusen isn’t realistic either, and neither is Mizuki Nr. 1 for that matter. Have you ever seen Taisetsu na Koto wa Subete Kimi ga Oshiete Kureta? I thought that was a pretty realistic drama, as far as teaching dramas go.

          I do feel that in general I connect better with my Japanese Studies classmates than for example the people in classes I took in the Sinology department; it feels like people who study Japanese are all different in the same way or something ;-) But I didn’t feel like the language school was more special in that regard than my classes in university. Though it’s probably because I already had my best friends there with me, in different classes.

          If I’d ever do it again (and I would, in a heartbeat, if I ever got the chance), I’d do it alone. But I’d make sure to keep my expectations… well not necessarily low I guess, but I’d try to keep an open mind :) and I wouldn’t let the success of my second language school experience depend on other people too much.

          • No, I haven’t! Thanks for the recommendation! My two favorite teaching dramas are Dragon Zakura and Watashitachi no Kyokasho.

            Ah, I see! Thank you for sharing your experience.

  7. I wish I could go to a language school in Tokyo. 6 weeks sounds like a dream. Do you think it would be of any benefit for a dork like me? You’re obviously way above my level, and the school sounds really “professional”

    • Hi Coco, if you’re interested you should definitely shop around a bit, check out the different schools in Tokyo. There’s something for everyone, especially if the idea of structured classes appeals to you. I said this in the comments on part 3 already, but I think especially in the earlier stages of your study, spending some time at a language school can be very useful. It will give your Japanese a serious boost, a very noticeable one. I think something like that can be a really good motivator to keep going.

      In fact, it gave me enough confidence to take a course reading academic texts in Japanese, and to sign up for a conversation class for especially advanced students when I got back. This from a person who only barely managed to pass her language exams before the summer.

  8. Great article on Japanese language schools!!

    I’m thinking of going to Japan soon and attend one of those language schools in Tokyo. Just wondering, I know that many language schools in Japan have a high percentage of Chinese and Korean students, did that affect your education quality? Would you think attending to a school that has more European students be better? I read that some European students felt that being in a class that was mainly Asians made them feel lonely, and the pace was too quick for them since they had difference backgrounds on kanji. On the other hand, I know that Asians tend to cling together after class and speak their own language instead of Japanese, whereas Europeans engage in more Japanese speaking since that’s really the only common language they have. I’m Chinese-Canadian, so I have both Asian and Western cultural background and I don’t think blending in with either groups would be a huge problem for me. I’m debating because I would like to be in a fast pace environment, but I would also want to speak as much Japanese as possible. My main concerns are how my classmates will affect my learning experience. Please let me know if you ever had any experiences with this! :)

    Thanks!! -Sylvia

    • Hi Sylvia, sorry for taking so long to get back to you! For me personally the other students’ nationality didn’t matter much, because we were divided up into classes with people from our (Dutch) university only. One of my friends, who didn’t get into the program but still wanted to attend the language school, did spend four weeks getting very annoyed at the Taiwanese students in her class. They excluded her by communicating only in Chinese outside of classes, so if she hadn’t been at the same language school as us, she might have gotten lonely, yes.
      I think if you have a good language school, the pace of a class mostly consisting of people with an asian background won’t be too quick because a teacher should always pay attention to the pace of the slowest student (to the point where this might even be a disadvantage if you’re a quick learner).
      Unfortunately, you can never really be sure if you’re going to be speaking Japanese outside of the classroom, no matter where your classmates are from. My advice would be is to make sure you pick a reasonably advanced course. You could also see if you can find something about the average age of students at a language school, somewhat older students may be more inclined to make the most of their experience while younger students might want to play around a bit.
      At the end of the day you’re the one who is going to have to make the most of it though. If your classmates don’t feel like speaking Japanese to you, you’ll have to go out there to make some Japanese friends to hang out with after classes.
      Don’t forget to wind down every once in a while too, doing everything all at once might be a little overwhelming, especially if you’re away from home! ;-)
      I hope this helps, and thank you for commenting.


  9. Hello,
    I’m thinking of attending this school. Is it very far from shibuya station? The school is about 15 minutes by walk from the station, but looking at the map I have a feeling that it takes longer. Also, do you have any tip in terms of short-term housing options? I’ve looked quite a bit into different guesthouses, but was wondering if you know any better place to recommend. thanks!

    • Hi mini,

      It’s wonderful to hear you’re considering attending this school!

      Fifteen minutes sounds about right actually, 10 minutes if you’re in good shape and are a fast walker (a lot of it is uphill). There is also a subway line that stops closer to the school but I have no idea which subway line that is.

      I think the school itself offers some kind of dorm? It’s probably a lot more expensive than your average guesthouse though. If I ever go back to Tokyo for a couple of months I think I’d go for a share house with Sakura House. I have no idea if they’re as nice as they seem, but the prices seem alright, and they appear to be pretty well organized. It all really depends on how long you’re planning on going, which area of Tokyo you’d like to be in (I’d always recommend staying near a Yamanote line station), and what your budget is :)

      I hope this answers your questions :D


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