Guide to studying and living in Japan.
Japanese language schools tend to be conservative and use classic learning materials, from official textbooks with CDs to video files and paper-based original materials. In some rare cases, they may use digital content and applications.
Nothing beats a good old Japanese textbook for learning a new language. Textbooks offer a base for the teacher to give you the essentials from which you’ll build up your language skills.
Japanese language schools must respect Japan’s Ministry guidelines regarding the learning program they offer students. So, they mostly use the same recommended textbook series.
The most popular Japanese textbooks series are the following:
- Minna No Nihongo
- Tobira Gateway to Advanced Japanese
- Joukyuu de Manabu Nihongo
You are also likely to study the writing system with kanji workbooks, though some schools will simply print and distribute Kanji sheets:
- Minna no Nihongo Shokyu I & II
- Kanji Look and Learn Workbook
- Shin Nihongo No Kiso Kanji Workbook
Extra Printed Materials
On top of your textbooks, you will receive printed materials now and then. We know it sounds old school and not tree-friendly, but remember, everything goes to support your studies! These materials may come from other textbook series, so the school doesn’t make you pay for too many manuals.
But it can also be original materials that the teaching team created over the years. Likely, the longer a school has been around, the more likely you will study original content. This content helps build extra vocabulary outside textbooks’ grammar lessons and exposes students to more dialogues and practical Japanese. Extra printed materials may also cover JLPT practice exercises and cultural lessons.
Schools Still Use CDs
Everyone, except Japanese textbook publishing companies, has been going digital in recent years. Don’t be surprised if you see your teacher walking in with a CD player.
However, increasingly, schools digitize their library CD content on computers so teachers can play audio files on computers in class. If you’re taught with CDs, console yourself knowing that the official JLPT listening part is played on CD during the test.
Your school may broadcast video content during your studies, such as news recordings, Japanese shows or even original YouTube videos. Many schools also created class and lesson recordings during the pandemic, so you may have access to those outside of class hours. However, the availability of video material can vary greatly from one school to another.
“Why change a tried and tested method” could be a Japanese saying regarding Japanese language schools. Japanese language education is still quite traditional and memorization-based. Some schools work toward dusting their teaching style with a more modern approach and may include some digital learning support.
Most of the time, though, these are provided for self-studies and not used in class. It’ll probably be lesson review tools with vocabulary, kanji and listening comprehension exercises. A handful of schools have developed their own learning app—if your school has one, you’ll know from the application time as it’s a distinctive selling point.