10 Reasons to Study Japanese in Japan
There’s a lot to be said about learning another language and one of the best ways to become a pro is to learn it in the native country itself. Lindsay from Go! Go! Nihon was born in England and first came to Japan in the Summer of 2014 at the age of 24 and gives you her top 10 reasons that made studying Japanese in Japan so special.
Get a feel of what it’s really like to study in a Japanese Language School
Being from the UK and not really having that much exposure to the Japanese language, I had no idea what to expect. I knew it would be different but I’d never experienced learning a language (of my own decision) let alone learning it in that language and not English. I first came for 4 weeks during a Summer Course and studied at a well-known language school in Tokyo. Each morning I had lessons taught completely in Japanese, which was a total shock to the system. But I truly believe this is the best way to learn. You’re forced to listen for the words that the teachers repeat and slowly things start to make sense. A short-term course helps give a taster too. I think this is a fantastic way of seeing how you feel before committing yourself to a longer period of time.
Why study in Japan, when I can study at home?
I’m from Poole, and although there's a friendly Izakaya in my neighbouring town, where I could go to listen to Japanese people talking, it was difficult to find a teacher or someone to practice with. I realised during my first 4 weeks in Japan, that it’s not just during your lessons that you are learning; it’s from when you wake up to going to sleep at night. I chose to move into a share house, where there were plenty of people, both Japanese and international. I found a part time job and do my best to speak as much as possible at every chance I have. This has helped me to achieve the level I’m at now. Had I stayed in the UK, there’s no way I could have progressed to the level I’m at in the same time.
Not that much of a social person? Well, if you really want to learn, this is the perfect chance to push yourself to go out and make new friends!
I know many people think that coming to Japan will be like living in an anime, it’s no joke, I’ve heard people say it! Well it’s not and you have to work just as hard if not harder on making a life here, because you are effectively starting from nothing.
I chose to live in a share house that was quite large, so that I could meet lots of people. I can still go and escape to my room when I want some peace and quiet, but for me, this was the best choice! I have made really fantastic friends. I even went abroad on holiday with 3 of them. If you’re not naturally sociable, this is the perfect chance to make changes to your lifestyle and work on your communication skills.
Pick up nuances that you cannot learn from a book
When learning Japanese and speaking with Japanese people, you realise there are a lot of unspoken nuances, that you are meant to understand from the conversation, with context playing a big role in speaking Japanese. This is not something you can pick up from a textbook and I think it would be near impossible to do if it were not for the daily exposure to conversation with different people of different ages.
Grow as a strong independent person
Along with working on your communication skills and starting a new life, you’ll also realise that the support system that you had before is no longer the same. Now don’t get me wrong, there is help at every corner, you just have to ask! It’s as simple as that. There are a lot of things that would normally be very easy and simple to do in your own language, however coming here and starting off with little to no communication skills makes doing simple but necessary things (such as setting up your bank account, sending or receiving post and the all important phone contracts) much more difficult. All of these little tasks can be a bit daunting to get your head around, but if you tackle them one at a time, and get through any issues that arise, I think it’s a much bigger sense of accomplishment.
Don’t stop learning, learn a new skill, work part time
As a language student, depending on your school and your level, you have either mornings or afternoons free, so you can end up with a lot of free time on your hands. Of course some of this time is needed for studying because of the daily homework and new kanji, grammar and more. Getting a part time job is another great way to improve your Japanese (unless you choose something where you use your native language only). Even though the Japanese staff I work with speak English, swapping and mixing between your native tongue and Japanese is a good way to be fair and create a nice balance for everyone.
Embrace the big city!
As I previously mentioned, I’m from a comparably small town when compared to Tokyo. I was worried about living in such a highly populated place, with what I imagined would be a concrete jungle. Of course it depends on your outlook on things, but I was pleasantly surprised by the small efforts people make to keep the city as clean and green as possible.
You’ll see apartment blocks and stores that keep pot plants outside the front, they water and care for them daily so they flower and keep the city looking beautiful all year round. Tokyo is also surrounded by the sea and the mountains, which means with a train ride of an hour or so, you can go to Mt. Takao or Kamakura. There are times when the number of people is a bit overwhelming, but if you take a breath and try to relax, this is part of life in the big city and there are of course going to be both busy and peaceful times.
Infinite amount of things to see and do!
When I first arrived in Tokyo to start my long term studies, I was lucky enough to go to a festival called ‘Onbashira matsuri’, this only occurs every 7 years, so I was ecstatic that I got the chance to go and see it. I’ve been fishing, climbed Mt. Takao, went mushroom picking, been to countless festivals and eaten foods I never would have dreamed of even putting near my mouth (and enjoyed them). There are endless things to see and do and the best thing is there are loads that are completely free.
Appreciation for a completely different culture
It’s funny when you listen to what other people find strange, interesting or hard to deal with living in Japan. There are negative elements, like people walking very (very) slowly, but there are plenty of weird and wonderful things too. For example, peeling all fruit and veg. I remember the shock on their faces when I ate raw carrot sticks, apparently it just not a thing here. Or useful things like carrying a small hand towel in your bag, for when there’s no hand dryer!
There are special occasions such as new years, valentines day that are named the same as in the UK , but are celebrated very differently. There are too many to list and I’m sure I’ll continue to find new cultural differences that I find intriguing, that’s one of the things I love about living here.
A sense of self-satisfaction
All in all, I think the experience of going to the country where the language is spoken, you’ll have a much higher sense of satisfaction, knowing that you’ve gone from knowing little to nothing to learning about the language, the culture, people and so much more. If someone was to ask me if I was able to go back and change anything, I wouldn’t. I have so many important and unforgettable memories, both good and hard. These are all important to me, because without the hard times, you can’t fully appreciate all the good times.
If this has got caught your enthusiasm and you like the sound of studying Japanese in Japan. Why not talk to the team at Go! Go! Nihon. You can contact them through their website, at info@gogonihon or come meet them at their stand at Hyper Japan this July 13th-15th. You can either drop by or book one of their one-to-one slots at the stand. Registration opens soon so keep an eye on their newsletter to save your spot.
All images © Go! Go! Nihon