TIPS FOR CHOOSING A JAPANESE SCHOOL IN JAPAN
By Kay Cuffari, Student Coordinator at Wahaha Japanese Language School in Fukuoka Japan
So you have decided that you want to study abroad in Japan to improve your language skills in an immersion environment.
Whether you have just dabbled in the language for a few weeks, studied earnestly for years in your home country or have no experience with Japanese whatsoever, deciding to study Japanese in Japan is an important step. It will allow you to make significant progress in a short amount of time. But how do you choose where to study Japanese in Japan?
Once you have decided where in Japan you would like to study, you then need to decide what kind of school is right for you.
- Will you study at a university（大学）?
- At a vocational school（専門学校）?
- At a language school（日本語学校）?
To help you determine what kind of educational institution is right for your personal learning style, goals, and budget, here are several questions that you should keep in mind while researching your options:
1) Average/max class size and daily/weekly contact hours?
One of the first things you will look at when researching a Japanese school in Japan is of course the price. However, when considering the cost of your lessons, it is important to consider not only which school offers the lowest price, but rather the best value. This means comparing average/maximum class sizes as well as number of contact hours.
Here at Wahaha Japanese Language School in Fukuoka, Japan, for example, we have a maximum group class size of four students and average class size of only two to three students. Our group courses include three hours of lessons each day. When we say three hours of lessons, we mean three 60-minute lessons. Many schools advertise
three or four hours of lessons per day, but in fact each ‘lesson hour’ is actually only 45 or 50 minutes, so it is important to keep these details in mind when comparing prices.
2) Are Japanese courses clearly divided by ability level?
Few things are as frustrating as trying to learn a language in a class level that is not right for you. Some schools, particularly larger language schools and universities, divide their classes into few levels, meaning you will inevitably be learning alongside students who are much more advanced or much less advanced than you are, or a combination of both. This slows progress for everyone and can be frustrating when you struggle to keep up with students with a much higher ability level, or struggle to stay awake when surrounded by students whose ability is much more limited than your own.
As a very small Japanese language school, at Wahaha we know each and every one of our students and have a thorough understanding of their ability levels. Being a small school allows us the flexibility to ensure you are learning at a pace that is right for you, even when taking group lessons. This is something that is simply not feasible for large language schools and universities to offer, no matter how much they might like to.
3) Which kind of Japanese will you learn at the Japanese school?
Another question to ask yourself is why you are learning Japanese, and therefore what kind of Japanese you should be studying. Are you studying strictly for academic purposes? Business purposes? For daily life in Japan? To enjoy your hobbies or for the love of the language and culture themselves?
If you are learning Japanese for strictly academic purposes, a university program would most likely be the most appropriate option. If studying as a hobby, to prepare for life in Japan, or for business purposes, you might rather consider a language school offering courses suited to your individual needs.
Here at Wahaha, we offer General Japanese courses geared toward conversational fluency for everyday life in Japan. We also offer goal-oriented courses such as Business Japanese, Japanese Translation and optional add-on courses such as Culture and Manga Courses. This allows us to cater to a wide range of student goals and learning styles.
4) What study environment does the school offer?
- Does the school you are considering create an environment conducive to learning?
- Offer opportunities to interact with fellow students, teachers, and community members outside of class?
- Is support for your daily life as well as your language studies readily available when needed?
- What about the demographics of the school’s student body? Are a variety of nationalities and ages represented or is there an overwhelming majority from a given age group or nationality?
All of the above questions will have just as great an impact on your study experience and outcome as the more ‘technical’ factors such as class size and content. It is therefore essential to take these factors into account when choosing a Japanese school in Japan that is right for you.
- Do you want a fun Japanese school?
- A serious Japanese school?
- A challenging Japanese school?
These are all important questions well worth answering.
5) How experienced are the Japanese teachers?
This is another important factor to take into account when comparing prices. A cheaper school with less experienced or novice teachers simply cannot provide the same value as a school with experienced teachers who know how to help you make the most efficient use of your study time and effort.
At Wahaha, all of our teaching staff are qualified to teach Japanese as a foreign language and have ample classroom experience. In addition, most of our teachers likewise have experience abroad and competency in a foreign language such as English, making them better equipped to understand the needs of learners of Japanese.
The above are just a few of the important questions to ask when deciding where you will study Japanese in Japan. While we believe we can offer courses well suited to a wide variety of students here at Wahaha, we hope that even if we are not the right school for you that these tips can help you in your search to find the school that is!
By making the decision to study abroad in Japan, you have made the right choice.
Good luck and 頑張ってください!
Wahaha Japanese Language School in Fukuoka, Japan