Why You Should Study at a Japanese Language School in Japan
From online courses, to language schools in your own country, to Japanese language schools in Japan, there are many ways to study Japanese. So, before making your choice, be sure to carefully evaluate the different options you have.
Studying Japanese Online
Online courses allow you to study at your own pace and guarantee great freedom when it comes to scheduling the lessons, with the perk of studying from the comfort of your home. On the other hand, they don’t offer the possibility of practicing in-person conversation, and they may also represent an obstacle in understanding the nuances of a language that’s not your native one.
Studying Japanese in Your Home Country
Moving on to Japanese language schools in your home country, these are perfect if you want to have first-hand interaction with the teachers while getting a taste of the Japanese language school experience without having to move miles away. Looking at the downsides, there might be not that much availability of schools depending on where you live, and you may have to settle for a mediocre service. Additionally, Japanese language schools located abroad do not always offer theirs lessons with native teachers, and even if they do, as soon as you step outside the classroom you will be surrounded by people speaking your native language, reducing your chances of improvement. Finally, the pace is usually a lot slower than many schools in Japan, so it’ll take you longer to learn the language.
Studying Japanese in Japan
So, what are the benefits of attending a Japanese language school in Japan? If your goal is to level up your Japanese language skills in the most efficient and fastest way possible, a Japanese language school in Japan is the right choice for you! Lessons at a Japanese language school in Japan are designed to be as immersive as possible, so even during beginner-level classes, most of the teachers explain everything in Japanese. Also, you’ll quickly understand that the surrounding Japanese environment is your best ally, and you’ll find that even going to a restaurant or buying something at the convenience store can be a chance to practice!
And what if you already have a university degree in Japanese? Is it worth attending a Japanese language school in Japan? From our personal experience, the answer is yes! Even if you had the chance to attend university courses with a native teacher, it’s unlikely you had that many occasions to practice your speaking skills. Studying at a Japanese language school in Japan will give you the chance to use all the grammar you studied back home that you never had a chance to apply to real-life situations! Be assured that your improvement will be unmatched!
What You Should Consider When Choosing Your Japanese Language School
1. School Location
The location is one of the first things you’ll have to consider after settling your mind on studying in Japan. Fees can vary a lot depending on the location of the school but bigger cities usually have pricier schools. In addition, you should not only compare the school expenses but also the living costs of the different areas of Japan and reflect on the type of lifestyle you’d like to have while studying abroad. If you prefer saving money and don’t mind the slow pace of the countryside, then a school in a more remote prefecture could be a great choice. On the opposite, if you are ok with spending a little more money and you like socializing and having easy access to all types of services, then one of Japan’s major cities would be a better choice!
Also, even within the same city, the cost of living can substantially change depending on the neighborhood. Once you’ve chosen the city, we suggest you research carefully which neighborhoods are the most convenient when it comes to renting and life expenses. Ideally, you want to look for a house in the same neighborhood or in a nearby area, so that you can easily walk or bike to class. This will allow you to reduce transportation expenses.
Finally, it is also worth checking if the school has dorms or not. Renting a room directly from them is usually cheaper and avoids you having to deal with Japanese real estate agencies. If you want to read more on how to make your move to Japan a smooth transition, check out our article 10 Facts You Need to Know When House-Hunting in Japan.
2. School Intensity
Another point to consider is the intensity of the lessons. Some Japanese language schools have very intensive programs that demand you not only to keep up with the high-speed of the lessons but also require a lot of daily study and preparation. Other schools are known for their slower pace and focus on communication during school hours while having less homework outside of class. We suggest you check the website of the school or scroll through the reviews on websites of Japanese-language-school-related services like GoGo Nihon, as they will often state the intensity of the courses, including the amount of homework and the frequency of tests.
On one hand, you’ll have to think if you can keep up with the demanding curriculum without being overwhelmed. If you are ready to commit and have a little less free time in order to move fast in your studies, an intensive course might be a good choice! On the other hand, a school with a more casual atmosphere may allow you to enjoy your time in Japan more but could get you frustrated with the slower improvements. If you intend to grasp all the content without having to blitz through it, this type of school may be a better choice.
3. School Schedule
Students at Japanese language school study for 5 days a week, usually in the morning or in the afternoon. The starting and ending time of the lessons can vary depending on the school, so remember to check in advance on their website. The majority of the schools will let students fill in their preferences on the schedule during their first day at school. However, the final decision depends on the availability and your Japanese level, so you might end up having a schedule that was not your desired one.
Some schools might be more flexible and take into consideration if you have a part-time job, if you are working to move to a full-time position, or if you are studying to access higher education in Japan. In this case, they may be willing to listen to your reasons, reconsider your schedule at the end of each trimester, and grant you your preferred schedule.
4. Course Length
Most Japanese language schools offer courses that are from three months to two years long, divided into trimesters. Three-month courses don’t require you to apply for a visa, as in most cases (depeding on the agreement between your contry and Japan) you can enter Japan as a tourist and study for a period of up to 90 days.
Instead, if you feel ready for a longer commitment, you′ll have to prepare all the necessary documents so that the school can proceed with the application for your student visa. In case you are cautious and you don’t feel like directly applying for a one-year course, it might be important to know that most schools allow you to start with a six-month course and before the end of your period of study, they will check if you are planning to return to your country or if you want to extend your enrollment for another six months.
Finally, some schools also provide the chance of attending study-trip programs. These consist of 2-week, 3-week, or 4-week language courses and often include cultural activities. A short study trip may be ideal if you can’t move to Japan for an extended period but you still want to get a taste of the country and its fascinating traditions.
5. Class Methodology
Do the lessons in the school you chose fit your study method? The methodology is not something to underestimate, so remember to check how classes are organized in your future Japanese language school! Regardless of the school, you usually have lessons on kanji, conversation, grammar, listening, reading and comprehension, and writing, with teachers changing depending on the subject and the levels from beginner to advanced. However, some schools focus on textbooks with a highlight on grammar and kanji, while others prefer listening and speaking.
Also, there are schools that opt for strengthening the basics, while others offer supplementary courses that may help you achieve your goal more quickly and easily such as JLPT preparation, higher education preparation, and business Japanese for job hunting. So, it’s important to research this in advance!
6. Size and Demographics of the Class
Before making your choice, you should also take a look at the class size and demographics. Some schools have really large classes, which means you will be able to enjoy the interaction with a lot of international students, while some others have small classes which allow you to benefit from one-on-one-style lessons.
You might be also interested in investigating the demography of the school you are going to attend, as some schools have far more English speakers than others. In case your Japanese skills are still on the lower side you may consider schools with a higher percentage of English speakers, in order not to suffer from social isolation. But if you intend to focus on your studies, you might consider avoiding places with too many English speakers in favor of Japanese-speaking practice.
7. School Cost and Requirements
Even if the priority should be finding a school that best fits your goals, why not achieve this while saving money? You can use websites such as GoGo Nihon to easily compare the total costs of different Japanese language schools or directly check the websites of the schools you are most interested in. To give you a general idea of the school rates, 6 months in Tokyo generally costs between 400,000 and 600,000 yen, while one year is between 800,000 and 1,000,000 yen, depending on the school. The fee includes all the lessons, textbooks, and learning materials provided by the school.
Also, keep in mind that schools will require you to prove you have graduated high school (or have completed the requisite number of years of education.) Also, some Japanese language schools may ask you to provide proof of income, as well as require you to have an economic guarantor (who has to be you or a member of your family) and submit a bank statement to prove you have the required funds.
8. Support System
Last but not least, don’t forget to check on your school support system. Japanese language schools can be fundamental in helping you get used to the new environment. For example, they often organize events for students to make friends with Japanese or other international students and hold extracurricular activities such as speaking clubs for those who want to practice their newly acquired skills.
A supportive Japanese language school with an English-speaking staff can make a difference when it comes to smoothing out the difficulties of living far away from home. From daily matters, such as going to the post office, filling in documents, or suggesting the best doctor to visit; to more serious occurrences like checking your Japanese CV, practicing for a Japanese interview, or helping with the application for a work visa; if the school can support you in achieving your goals of pursuing higher education or finding a job in Japan, you’ll be sure to live a much less stressful life in Japan.
Ready to Start Your Adventure At a Japanese Language School in Japan?
We hope that this list of criteria for choosing the best Japanese language school for you comes in handy when you find yourself having to pick a school among the many available on the market. Also, don’t forget that choosing the best language school for you goes a long way, but if you’re serious about learning Japanese in a short period of time, you’ll also have to put in the effort to succeed and turn your dreams into reality!
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By the way, if you're looking for a job or career change and you're already in Japan, we now have a jobs site called tsunagu Local Jobs! On top of having exclusive job listings that you won't find anywhere else, we've vetted all the listings to ensure that they're foreigner-friendly and high quality. If you register for an account on the site, you can even make use of our agent service where our international staff will help you find the perfect job in Japan, so check it out today!
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.