You know how to choose a language school. The right language school for you.
You’ve gone through the rigorous process of weeding out the good, the bad, and the ugly, to find the Japanese language school that can help you do what you need to do: learn Japanese.
But as you start sorting through the complexities of planning your study abroad adventure, perhaps you're wondering why should you study at a Japanese language school in Japan. It's not a small commitment, nor is it a tiny expense. You need to go all in on this for it to be worthwhile. Now, the good news is that once you do commit to it, it's well worth it. You will learn Japanese faster than you thought possible. You will make friends. You will likely come to love the country in a new way.
But the real question is: why should you study at a Japanese language school and not just move to Japan and work as an English teacher for example?
I mean, come on, you would be living in Japan, the birthplace of Japanese. That should be more than enough to pick it up, right?
There are a lot of reasons that you should avoid the belief that just the act of living here is going to give you the fluency required to do anything more than just ordering curry at your local Matsuya.
Studying at a Japanese language school in Japan is your fast pass to progress
Let's say for a moment that studying Japanese to fluency is your big project for the next few years.
And let's also say that this project has many steps to it, and many ways you can derail your progress by going down a rabbit hole for months on end. (Do you really need to internalize every single N2 kanji before you tackle reading a small book?)
This is where a company might assign a project manager to lay out the tasks and keep everyone on track. And then they may hire a consultant with key knowledge in the area to guide the process even further. Then there might be an investment in the tech or infrastructure designed to get you from point A to B.
You see how this might be a lot to handle on your own? That's self study.
I love self study. I really do. It's how I have spent the majority of my adult life thus far in terms of learning key skills for career and personal success.
But, as someone who benefitted from some really intensive Japanese study in classrooms at various points, there is nothing that compares to a 3, 6, or 12 month stint absolutely committed to learning Japanese, led by professionals.
Progress milestones are predefined
When you study Japanese at a language school in Japan, you're not just getting a pile of books and homework for no reason. Every single week is defined in the curriculum, complete with quizzes, knowledge checks, and regular exams.
Whether or not exams are an accurate measure of progress (that's a whole different story), there IS a method to the madness here. You know ahead of time where you'll want to be each month, and odds are, it's beyond where you would push to with self study.
Truth be told, Japanese language school can feel a little bit frantic if you fall behind on your homework. There's no way to catch up on kanji and grammar you don't know as you try to master new concepts each day. Well actually, you can, it's just at the expense of your evenings and early mornings.
But this is some Rocky level learning. Your personal Eye of the Tiger is playing every day for you as you head to class, ready to tackle a new grammar point or get further into a reading passage.
Every day. Every week. More progress, and you can't stop the train from forging ahead with you on board. The perfect solution for the procrastinator in all of us.
Your community now revolves around seriously learning Japanese
Every time you sat down to study Japanese in your home country, you were probably putting off something else that was NOT Japanese related. Maybe you turned down an invite to go hang out with friends, or you declined to watch a movie with your family.
You were actively putting yourself in "Japanese study mode" on purpose, which can be difficult when it feels so removed from you day-to-day life.
The benefit of studying Japanese at a language school in Japan is that every moment you are not actively studying Japanese in class, you're still living in a Japanese community!
Every invite to go out with friends is an opportunity to continue learning. Your friends may not be fluent in Japanese, but if you go out as a group you're inevitably going to be using Japanese in some capacity with the local population. Every movie you watch likely at least has Japanese subtitles. Your shopping, haircuts, and weekend activities will all be with real Japanese, which you can tie directly to what you study in school.
Language schools in Japan give you support systems
Let's say you've been studying at a language school for a few months. You're enjoying the lifestyle and just generally being in Japan, and now you're considering what you want to do with your life afterwards.
Maybe you want to continue studying.
Or maybe you aspire to work in Japan, using your newly acquired Japanese language skills.
Getting a job in Japan can be difficult for foreigners without a proper network or the knowhow of Japanese job searching.
Luckily, most good Japanese language schools will do some of the heavy lifting for you, and actively create opportunities for students to find employment in Japan with a company that will sponsor the correct visa.
The best language schools invite Japanese company reps to come in and speak with students
My personal experience with this was when one of the execs from Mercari was invited to our class to give a presentation about his company and run real practice interviews with all of us.
The opportunities to sit across from a Japanese executive and use real business Japanese to practice and interview in a no-risk environment are few and far between, so this type of support is invaluable.
In addition to the in-class session, there are yearly career fairs for students, and many opportunities to be introduced to the "right" people by teachers. If you do your homework and choose the right Japanese language school for you, you'll be in a situation where the school actively supports your life goals and not just your Japanese study.
If you have troubles getting set up in Japan, they are prepared to help
In addition to the career support, let's say you're new to Japan and encounter some difficulties with setting up your internet contract, paying rent, or whatever the case may be.
Often times, Japanese schools in Japan will have staff on hand who are happy to help get you situated and give you access to resources that will make starting out so much easier. They have an intake of foreign students every semester, so you can rest assured they've heard (almost) every problem it's possible for you to encounter.
If you're ready to make a major leap, a Japanese language school will help you get there
Just signing up for a school will not magically replace the effort you need to put into your studies to be successful.
Similar to how just signing up for a gym will not get you in shape.
You DO need to put in the reps.
However, with guidance, support, and a professionally managed path of study, there is nothing quite like studying at a Japanese language school in Japan to get you to the next level of Japanese.
If you commit. If you put in the hours. If you take the opportunity seriously and treat it as a major milestone in your life (and not just a vacation to Japan), you can change the trajectory of your career, your relationships, and who you are as a person.
Not everybody should study at a language school in Japan – don't show up if you're going to skip classes because you'll eventually have your status of residence revoked – but if you feel you're ready, there is no better time than now to start putting your plan together. See our article on planning your move abroad and start getting your chips in order to make the most of studying abroad in Japan.
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