Returning From Japan

This is a continuation from my last post, learning Japanese. The first post covered the first half of my trip to Japan and a lot has happened since then.

Differences in class

The pace and intensity of the lessons ramped up, which was a pleasant change. It was challenging but reasonable. Outside of class, I spent an additional few hours reviewing vocabulary and doing homework, and felt that I was able to keep up with the pace. This was a stark difference from my first week of school where I also studied heavily on weekends.

To make the most of my learning time, I also ended up doing a lot more self-studying. As a refresher, there were four 50-minute sessions per day, Monday through Friday. New lessons would usually start on a Friday or a Monday, leaving the following days for practicing fluency through drills. However, I found this approach to be slow. So instead, I would skip class and go to a cafe to study independently. For me, it was more effective to learn by going through a lesson in the textbook on my own, using the grammar notes and workbooks, and then expand my understanding of the nuances in class.

Another notable difference compared to the first half was the change in classmates and their motivation levels. This time, there was a student in my class who was quite eager to participate, at times opting to answer questions classmates directed for the teacher. Initially, I found this refreshing because there was someone that was also very motivated. However, towards the end, I felt like this behavior occasionally disrupted the flow of the class. I chalked it up to diversity in the classroom, not necessarily good or bad, it just is.

On attending Japanese language school

Overall, I found GenkiJACS to be a great language school. The curriculum was paced well, the staff created an enjoyable learning environment, and it offered good value (コスパ lit. cost performance, or in other words, good bang for the buck). They also introduced me to the Minna no Nihongo textbooks, and now I am comfortable continuing my Japanese studies independently.

Being able to move to Japan and learn Japanese was a huge blessing. Immersion truly helped improve my listening skills, especially considering Japanese has many homophones or words that sound similar to the untrained ear (e.g. してる vs 知ってる).

The total cost for my 16-week program was approximately $5,800 USD, which included tuition and shared accommodation. It’s worth noting that GenkiJACS has since raised their tuition fees, but the current exchange rate between USD and JPY is favorable for American students.

Realizations and regrets

In retrospect, I’m incredibly grateful for the chance to have spent four and a half months, or over a third of a year, in Japan. It was a whirlwind of new experiences and valuable lessons, alongside some inevitable regrets.

One thing I learned was how hard it is to learn a new language — it is really really hard. Getting to survival-level Japanese isn’t too hard, one could get there in a few months. However, getting to conversational level requires years of constant learning and practice.

Another significant learning experience was realizing that, despite the many wonderful aspects of Japan, the cultural differences and language barrier were ultimately too significant for me to envision a long-term future there. This realization led to my biggest regret of the trip — spending my last month in Japan focusing on securing a job for when I returned home. I spent much of my free time preparing for interviews, instead of using that time to explore other parts of the country, like Fukuoka. The takeaway lesson for me was that “there’s a time for everything” and it was not the right time nor place to be thinking about job interviews.