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Learning Japanese: In a School VS Independent Study (Part 1)

For those aspiring to master the Japanese language, there exist two primary avenues: delving into independent study or enrolling in a Japanese language school. While independent study offers flexibility and cost-effectiveness, it may lack the structured environment and immediate feedback crucial for many learners.

Also to consider, language schools furnish a comprehensive curriculum, dedicated instructors, and immersion opportunities that can speed up proficiency. The choice between these approaches largely depends on one’s goals, available resources, and preferred learning style.

It’s always an important factor to weigh the differences on the journey to learning the Japanese language.

Calligraphy Class, Spring 2021

Curriculum vs. Independent Study

One significant challenge with independent study is determining what to focus on. A common starting point is to consider the JLPT levels and their associated vocabulary and grammar lists. However, it’s important to recognize that the formal, business-oriented language emphasized in these exams may not suit everyone’s learning goals. Some self-learners prioritize exposure to the more colloquial, “natural” Japanese found in anime, manga, and pop music. For these learners, emphasis on “correct” grammar might be less critical compared to regular immersion in the language and practice through freely available or affordable resources like online courses, textbooks, and language apps.

In contrast, language schools offer a structured curriculum that progresses systematically from beginner to advanced levels. These institutions cover all language facets—including grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing, listening, and speaking—in a logical sequence that builds upon previous knowledge. Additionally, many schools provide specialized classes aimed at preparing students for highly regarded tests such as the JLPT, which are often prerequisites for certain jobs.

KCP Fall 19 Yamanashi Trip

Language immersion

Independent study offers the flexibility to learn anytime and anywhere, leveraging a multitude of online resources to significantly enhance Japanese language skills without the need to physically be in Japan. This method proves both time and cost-effective, particularly for individuals managing work or family commitments, as it eliminates the necessity of considering schooling, accommodation, and living expenses.

While enrolling in a language school in Japan guarantees a fully immersive learning experience. Residing in Japan and engaging with locals daily facilitates accelerated learning. Moreover, many Japanese language schools accommodate part-time employment, granting students the opportunity to work and reside in the country, thereby deepening their immersion. This arrangement allows individuals to test the waters of living in Japan without committing to long-term employment contracts.

Language schools often arrange field trips and cultural events to showcase Japanese language usage in diverse contexts, enriching linguistic skills while offering valuable insights into Japanese culture, traditions, and etiquette. Understanding these cultural nuances is integral to mastering polite Japanese grammar points like “kohai-senpai.”

Stay tuned for Learning Japanese: In a School VS Independent Study Part 2.

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Read all about Japanese immersion learning and studying abroad. Check out our eZasshi archives for more articles!