Student Interview - Brianna

What it's like learning Japanese as a beginner with our school

Learning Japanese is so much fun. Our school is a little slice of Japan in Melbourne for those who miss the real thing.

We interviewed one of our students ‘Brianna’ and asked her what it’s been liked learning Japanese at our Japanese school in Melbourne. At the time she had been a student of ours for approx 2.5 years. She started as a complete beginner at Nunawading Japanese School.

Below is a breakdown of what’s covered:

  • What it’s been like attending Japanese classes?
  • What weekly study do you do each week?
  • Experience learning Japanese onsite compared to online?
  • What has been easy to learn?
  • What’s been challenging?
  • How do you stay motivated?

How long have you been learning Japanese in Melbourne?

I’ve been a student at Nunawading Japanese School for a little over 2.5 year now. When I started I was a complete beginner and it was a new experience for me.

Had you learnt Japanese before enrolling at our school?

I knew a few words and phrases from anime/online but I’d never formally studied Japanese. It had been a while since I’d been in a classroom as well. 

Have you ever learnt another language?

Back in Uni I tried learning French for two semesters but ended up pursuing other subjects. Every now and then I now try to think of a Japanese word and French will pop in my head.

So why the Japanese language?

I’ve always had a fascination with the Japanese language. This probably started from my obsession with Pokémon when I was younger!

I really love Japanese food, stories, Japanese music, anime and manga. I also have an appreciation for Japanese art, architecture and Japan’s beautiful landscapes.

I went to Japan on an adventure in 2015. I felt like I would be able to understand more about the people and culture if I could speak more Japanese. I’m so excited to go back. I love the challenge of learning Japanese.

What are the Japanese classes like?

So much fun. Definitely a combo of difficult and easy things with learning the Japanese language.

As a beginner I would get mixed up with sentence structure when speaking. I have a tendency to panic and the structure gets a bit messy. Overtime, with the right support from my Japanese school, the pieces of the puzzle have started to come together.

Was it easy learning as a beginner?

As a beginner I found Hiragana and Katakana characters really easy to learn. I used to write a Japanese diary to practice new vocabulary as well. I found it a great way to practice sentence structure, grammar and revise vocabulary. 

I really like writing and any direct translation written homework. This is why I benefit so much from attending classes with others. It makes be practice speaking Japanese.

Kanji remains slightly difficult for me to remember but I’m getting better. I struggle with the multiple readings/pronunciations. I practice using them in short stories and copying out line after line after line. Still a work in progress.

During the early days I made a little set of flip cards on a keyring. I always kept them in my bag. Nowadays there are many free online digital flashcard programs for study.

Very useful to use on the train coming home from work. I think the process of making the cards actually helped me retain the information as well.

What is your weekly study routine?

I try to do something Japanese-related every day. This helps a lot.

I attend a group class each week in Melbourne. We have regular weekly homework or revision that I try to complete each week. It really helps keep me focused in between classes.

At work during the week I listen to J-POP and try to think of Japanese words for things around me. Sometimes I will talk to myself in the car and say out aloud where I’m going and what I see. 

I also sit down to do some written work a few nights a week and watch anime on the weekends.

the story about Nunawading Japanese School and how they've grown into one of the largest Japanese course providers for Adults in Australia
Has learning Japanese changed your life?

I have met some amazing people already. Can’t wait to meet even more people that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise met had I not decided to start learning Japanese. I’m so glad I chose this school when looking for a Japanese language school in Melbourne.

Being able to speak Japanese as well will definitely help me communicate more with Japanese locals when I visit Japan. It would be amazing to work and live in Japan one day.

What keeps you motivated?

The enthusiasm of the teachers and my fellow classmates really motivates me! I just love attending my Japanese classes at Nunawading Japanese School.

This year I want to achieve a JLPT accreditation and eventually go back to Japanese with my mum. In the long term I want to be able to read manga and entire Japanese novels.

I’d also like to be able to watch anime without subtitles. I’m actually already starting to notice I’m picking up words and phrases when watching anime that are slightly different to what appears as the English subs!

Favourite part of our course?

The teachers are all so lovely. I just love being at the school and seeing them all.  

I personally have so much fun in the Japanese group classes. I also like the combination of teaching methods they use when learning new content. The repetitive exercises really help to drill what we’re learning.

The flashcards aren’t just words either. They incorporate visual pictures which help alot. 

Asking questions in Japanese around the room can be challenging but is very beneficial for learning Japanese language. Everyone thinks of different ways to use what we’ve learnt. Others in the room are making the same little beginner blunders as me which is reassuring but it’s also amazing to see the progress we make each month.

Do you have any study tips?

I stuck hiragana and katakana charts up on my bathroom mirror which I looked at when brushing my teeth every day. I think I need to replace them with kanji now…

I highly recommend listening to Japanese music. I found both JPOP and anime theme songs as well as some soft jazzy ballads on Spotify help a lot. Also the school provides lots of study resources which are great. The recordings and vocabulary are inline with my lessons which is useful for home study.

What interesting facts have you learnt about Japan?

Because of the different sentence structures, there are sometimes really different ways of saying things. Some things can be really direct. But then I’ve found sometimes in conversations it’s polite to repeat parts of sentences…

I also recently found a video about Japanese body language. There are actually so many little differences I hadn’t realised!

Overall, how has it been learning Japanese WITH US?

I have learnt Japanese both onsite and online (during Covid). Both experiences have been great. Because I live about 30 mins from the school, I definitely appreciate being able to attend in-person classes. But then again, I know many students in Melbourne who attend classes online

The students who attend classes (well in my class that I know of) are very friendly and serious about learning Japanese. I think this school’s onboarding process and how they structure classes is very good.

We always have a laugh in class and it makes learning Japanese language fun. I find learning with other like minded students really helps with learning Japanese. The classmates are just as important as the teacher in some cases.

Is having a native speaking teacher important?

Absolutely. I think native speaking teachers have a much deeper subconscious understanding of the language built over a lifetime. I’ve especially found it easy relating and communicating with your local Melbourne Japanese teachers.

In particular from when they were young and learning Japanese language themselves. A native speaker can always tell how something should be said or is commonly phrased.

I know that our native Japanese teachers will help me learn more accurate pronunciation and accent from the beginning. This is why I chose to learn Japanese with a teacher in Melbourne.

What is your main study goal?

To speak confidently and extensively with people in Japan! As well as understand novels, manga and tv shows really well.

Lastly, which anime character would you choose to be?

Definitely a Pokémon trainer, not sure about a specific character!

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