Do you like Japan? You’re not the only one. In fact, there are plenty of Americans who feel the same way. Perhaps you grew up with anime and manga. Maybe you just want to discover a faraway culture that’s quite different to our own. There are plenty of great reasons to go to Japan. That's why there are so many people interested in learning Japanese.
Can you really visit the Land of the Rising Sun without speaking a word of the Japanese language?
Can you just learn Japanese when you get there?
We’re going to tell you...
Getting Japanese Private Tutorials to Master the Basics before You Go
In order to feel more comfortable when you land, getting private Japanese tutorials before you leave is a great idea. If you don’t do this, you run the risk of not being able to understand anything for the first few months. Of course, you can always cross your fingers and hope to always meet people who speak English well. After all, English is taught in Japanese schools. Some people have a really good level, too. Others... not so good.
Nevertheless, it might be necessary to learn at least the very basics before traveling to Japan. Even the simplest expressions can go a long way in a foreign country. If you’ve already studied Japanese at middle or high school, that’s great! You probably already know what you need to know.
Discover ways to study Japanese here.
If you haven’t, here are the things you should learn before you go:
The Japanese writing systems: some common kanji (characters) and kana (hiragana and katakana)
Everyday Japanese customs and etiquette
Basic vocabulary (Japanese words for when you get lost or stuck)
Expressions for starting and ending conversations.
Of course, if you have the desire, you can always learn more about Japanese history as well as some information about the major cities (Tokyo, Kyoto, etc.), and the cities you’ll be visiting. If you need to learn all this quickly, we recommend hiring a private Japanese tutor to help you. This can be an interesting learning experience since you’re the only student in class.
This also means that every minute of their lesson is dedicated to you and they’ll adapt their methods to ensure you learn as much as possible. They can focus on teaching you the basic Japanese phrases that you need to learn before you go. Thanks to this bespoke teaching approach, you’ll benefit from lessons that work well with your strengths and weaknesses.
Additionally, a lot of the tutors on our platform offer free tutoring for the first hour so you can see if you like them. These are just a few of the good reasons for getting a private tutor. Superprof makes finding the right tutor even easier. It’s a great way to learn Japanese quickly!
Where Can You Learn Japanese in Japan?
Do you know the basics of Japanese but not enough to really get by once you land in Japan? Don’t worry! You can always take Japanese classes when you get there, too.
In fact, there are plenty of schools that would be happy to welcome you as a student regardless of your level of Japanese. You don't need to have mastered Japanese grammar before you take your first Japanese lessons. However, since there are literally hundreds of establishments offering courses, there are some that should be avoided, too.
You should probably ask around for recommendations when you get there. Both locals and foreigners will be happy to recommend the best places. If the recommendation comes from a trustworthy source, you’re ready to enroll. However, if you’re struggling to find recommendations, we’ve got two places that you should consider checking out when you get Japan.
The Nihongo Center in Kyoto welcomes western students throughout the whole year. You can find several different courses for studying Japanese:
A 10-week course for 243,000¥ (about $2,200)
A 20-week course for 399,600¥ (about $3,600)
A year-long course for 777,600¥ (about $7,000)
The interesting things about this establishment is that in addition to Japanese courses, you can also learn more about the city itself. This is great if you’re interested in learning more about Japanese culture.
Here are some Japanese for English speakers here.
There are also scholarships available for those staying for a while. They can also help you to find accommodation.
This is the perfect option for those who want to learn how to speak Japanese as well as learn more about the grammar. It’s also a great way to broaden your Japanese vocabulary.
JCLI Language School
If you’re going to Tokyo, we recommend checking out the JCLI Language School. You can find it in the heart of the Shinjuku, Tokyo.
The tuition is as follows:
- 1 month: ￥70,200 (around $630)
- 3 months: ￥210,600 (around $1,900)
- 1 year: ￥788,400 (around $7,100)
The school can also help you with finding accommodation either in dorms or your own room. Make sure you do your research before you go. Ask other people who’ve already done it.
A Few Things You Should Know
Before you go to Japan, there are a few things that you should know.
In order to study in language schools, you usually have to be at least 18 years old and have finished high school.
Furthermore, they’ll probably ask you for:
A cover letter
A medical certificate
An account statement
A JLPT level (if you’re applying for the higher levels).
You should also research the class sizes. If the classes are too crowded, you might struggle to learn effectively.
If you want to learn as quickly as possible, you should avoid all other English speakers. Try to hang out with native Japanese speakers.
By talking to Japanese speakers, you’ll have the opportunity to regularly practice the language and you’ll improve without even realizing that you are. This is a great way to complement the classes you’re taking, too.
Finally, for those staying longer than 90 days, you’ll need to look at your visa options. It can take a while to sort out so you should probably start looking at your options as soon as possible.
The Advantages of Linguistic Immersion
Immersion comes with a huge number of benefits. Most of them are great for when it comes to learning languages. However, others will benefit your personal and professional life.
In any case, there’s nothing better than going to a country and fully immersing yourself in the culture. It’s a perfect way to learn Japanese vocabulary, new verbs, adjectives, and important grammar points without having to learn them by heart as you would in school.
By diving straight into the country’s culture and meeting new people, you can do all this without even trying. This is known as “massive input” (when you manage to change how you think in order to think differently in a different language). Traveling can do that.
Furthermore, linguistic immersion also means that you can visit places without really being a tourist. In fact, you’re not really a tourist if you live there. You’re just a person who wants to learn more about the culture and the language.
Tourists don’t tend to take the time to completely learn about a country’s culture and history. They show up at monuments and hang out with other tourists. Don’t be one of them!
You’ll be proud of yourself and what you’ve achieved once you return. These experiences aren’t your basic vacations: they’re life-changing experiences that will make you grow and change as a person.
Finally, these experiences look great on your resume, too! It shows that you’re adventurous, brave, and independent. Additionally, you’ll be able to say that you’re fluent in both English and Japanese, languages that are widely spoken in some very powerful countries.
If you can afford it (both in terms of money and time), you should definitely consider spending several weeks or months in Japan rather than just vacationing there.
You can even learn the language without taking the lesson if you’re committed enough. While you’re there, you could even try to learn Japanese through video games!
What About Homesickness?
Have you seen the movie Lost in Translation? If you’ve never seen it, we recommend you watch it. It’s an award-winning masterpiece (Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture, etc.)
The 2003 movie directed by Sofia Coppola tells the stories of two Americans (Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson) who find themselves in Japan for a while. The two are struggling with adapting the Japanese way of life.
Rather than being a simple drama, the movie asks interesting questions that were inspired by the director’s time spent in Japan. Are the characters really just homesick or is there something else going on?
This kind of malaise can be common among those who completely change their lifestyle. This renders them unhappy and, in some cases, can make them depressed.
If this has happened to you before (and you’re worried about it happening again), here are some tips and tricks that can help.
Firstly, you should carefully research where you’re going and what you’re doing. This means that you’re less likely to pick a place where this could happen. Research the customs of where you’re going in order to make sure you don’t embarrass yourself once you get there and make sure you know how to do all the important administrative and financial tasks.
You should also make sure that you stay connected to your friends back home. Some people even decide to write a blog to keep everyone up to date with what’s happening on their adventures. This is also a great way put your experiences into perspective and see them in a positive light.
Finally, don’t be alone! Go out and meet everyone. You might just want to hang out with other English speakers in the beginning. However, you should aim to broaden your circle of friends and meet other people.
The goal is to settle into your new life as quickly as you can. Moving to a new country might be a bit scary at first. However, it’ll be fine! You’ll come back with lots of great memories and a new language you can speak.
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