Daily Life & Schools

Daily Life & Schools
How To Improve Your Japanese Skills While Working In Japan (Part 2)
February 16, 2024  |  By Nathan Reinholz

When you arrive in Japan, you might initially believe you won’t need to study hard while living here. You may think you’ll naturally pick up the language and culture through casual interactions and absorbing your environment. We have written one article on this before, but we had even more ideas to share!

Although this may work for some people and advance specific skills, many other students will be frustrated that their language skills are not improving. It could be due to a lack of focus, difficulty applying knowledge, lack of feedback, motivational challenges or balancing work and study.

Studying Japanese while working in Japan isn’t always easy. If you have a full-time job, you might feel like you don’t have time to study. However, there are still options available to you.

Work and Language Schools

Some language schools offer part-time classes on weekends or evenings, often designed for working professionals. These classes prioritize practical Japanese language skills relevant to daily life rather than focusing solely on memorizing kanji for standardized tests like the JLPT.

Additionally, some schools specialize in classes for residents, providing flexible scheduling options throughout the day. This means you should be able to find a class that fits your availability, no matter your schedule.

However, these schools can be costly, and your choices may be limited outside major cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Even if language schools are nearby, they might not offer classes during non-traditional hours.

Extra Studying at Community Classes

Many cities and wards offer Japanese classes, often led by volunteers (with varying teaching experience). While these classes are generally more affordable than language school classes, they not be professionally organized. 

Moreover, you’ll find class times and proficiency levels available depending on your location. However, as you progress in your language skills, you might hit a learning plateau sooner than attending a language school.

To learn about these classes, you can ask at your local city or ward office, check English newsletters published by your city or search online. In some locations, these classes may be your only option, but they also provide an excellent opportunity to meet other expatriates in your community.

Use a Private Tutor

Some language schools provide private lessons where you can arrange your schedule, even if they’re not explicitly advertised. Although more costly, private lessons offer the advantage of setting your own pace and receiving personalized instruction, which can be particularly beneficial if you struggle with the pace and workload of a traditional classroom.

Similarly, you might consider finding a private Japanese tutor. While they may be advertised online or in newsletters, you can also check with teachers from community classes if they’re willing to provide private tutoring. Although it is likely pricier than community classes, private tutoring is usually cheaper than a language school.

Alternatively, there are apps like iTalki that specialize in online tutoring. These platforms offer flexibility in scheduling and are often reasonably priced. However, it’s worth noting that the tutors may be professionals and focus more on conversation than following a structured textbook.

Try Language Exchange

The idea of language exchange is befriending a Japanese speaker to exchange language, alternating between speaking English and Japanese for roughly equal periods. This informal setup typically doesn’t involve payment, allowing you to negotiate a schedule that suits you and your language partner. It’s a great opportunity for extensive speaking practice, learning daily Japanese and making friends in Japan.

However, there are some drawbacks to consider. In return, you’ll need to dedicate time to assisting your partner with their English. Since your language partners aren’t teachers, they might be unable to address specific questions or follow a structured textbook. 

Additionally, some individuals may use language exchange as a pretext for just meeting foreign friends or potential romantic partners, with little interest in language study.

If you’re interested in this arrangement, there are several ways to connect with potential language partners. Apps like HelloTalk are explicitly designed for language exchange, and many cities host cultural exchange events that attract people eager to practice their English skills.

Self Study

If all else fails, you can always try studying on your own. It does take some discipline, and the best way you can do it is to treat it like a class. 

Set a realistic schedule, whether it’s 30 minutes every day or four hours on the weekend. The important thing is that you can stick to it. It’s best to buy a proper textbook and work through it; you’ll want something that has a steady and logical progression. You may have to leave your housing and study somewhere, such as a library or cafe, to avoid distractions.

No matter what method you choose, the important thing is to find something that works for you. Try different methods until you find what clicks for you, and try not to get discouraged. Good luck!

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