How to choose Japanese Language Schools

Choosing a place to study a language you are new to can be daunting. Either it’s difficult to find information other than advertisements, or there’s information overload on the internet. Every school claims that they offer the best programs, so how do you choose? Many times we rely on the internet or try to seek advice from peers and family. Before I move on to five of our picks of Japanese language schools, it is important to note that everyone’s needs are different and what’s recommended by others may not be best for you.

To help you, I’ve listed some of the factors you can use to determine whether a certain Japanese school is most suitable for you.

1. Purpose of your study

In general, there are two types of Japanese language schools: university preparation schools and “communication-based” schools. For those planning to continue their studies at a Japanese university later, it is important to select a school that is accredited by the Japanese government and hence able to issue student visas. University preparation schools also offer preparation courses for university entrance exams. The downside, however, is that such schools may focus less on communication skills.

Vietnamese learning Japanese

If your purpose is anything other than entering a Japanese University, it may be better to consider a communication-based school that usually has more flexible courses and schedules, placing an equal emphasis on speaking and listening skills as well as reading and writing. Of course, some schools offer both kinds of courses, but it is best to check with the school directly to see if their particular curriculum meets your needs and possibly inquire about alternative options accordingly. For those intending to stay in Japan after completing their studies (such as to work), some schools even provide accommodations and job search help to their students. There are other schools that offer courses such as business Japanese.

One last point is that depending on the course of the school, the intensity of lessons could be different hence you should always see which is the most ideal for you.

2. Period and time of study

Depending on your period of stay or]\ time of the study, your choices will be affected. While most university preparation schools offer courses of a year or more, communicative Japanese language schools offer shorter courses commonly starting from three months. It is also important to note that different language schools have different intake periods. Although some schools take in students any time of the year or once per month, others might only take in students every semester or so. While the former may seem more convenient, it might mean that you could face large volumes of students during your period of study depending on the season. As such, it is advisable to stay out of holiday seasons such as July and August.

Summer meets autumn at Aoyama. Pic courtesy-Clint John Cortes Otic

3. Budget

Budget is an important factor for many people. In general, big schools are expensive because they need to support their facilities and resources, etc. Larger universities are usually more recognized, have professional teaching methods, and classes tend to be bigger. Fees can vary amongst smaller universities, depending on the school. What you should take away is that the quality of teaching is (in most cases) linked to the school fees. If you are on a relatively limited budget, you want to explore scholarships or even part-time jobs. Many students with a student visa work part-time alongside studying. There are many language schools so there’s bound to be one that best suits you.

4. Learning styles

Since the language schools’ teaching styles are tailored differently, it is in your best interest to check where most of the students come from. It is not uncommon that Japanese language schools have a much higher percentage of Asian students. For schools with mostly Chinese students, for example, most students already have experience with kanji, leaving less time spent learning kanji or the pace might be relatively fast. On the other hand, not sharing a common language with your peers may force you to communicate in Japanese and speed up your learning instead. Lastly, flexibility in teaching methods is a definite advantage. Smaller schools with smaller classes can adapt the content of lessons to each student.

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Our Top Japanese Language Schools Picks

Once you have a general idea of Japanese language schools, take a look at some of our picks (not in preferential order) in Tokyo.

1. Genki Japanese and Culture School

Having been shortlisted for the ST Star World Language School category at the ST Star Awards for 10 years in a row since 2008, Genki Japanese and Culture School has locations in Fukuoka, southern Japan, and Tokyo. Located in the heart of Shinjuku, the commute to school is quite convenient; being situated within the grounds of the famous Hanazono Shrine, it is an oasis of calm. Specializing in teaching communicative Japanese, the school is special in that its courses are aimed at speakers of non-kanji languages (mainly, European languages). Furthermore, it is possible to start learning at the school on any Monday throughout the year and study for as long as you in tokyo, japanese language school class, small group classes

Genki Japanese and Culture School Daily Class

The school offers six main types of courses in addition to private classes whose lesson contents are customized to each student. This school is best for those looking for small-size classes (about 8-9 students). Click here to see the different courses available in greater detail! Furthermore, the Japanese level of students and courses differ in terms of emphasis on speaking, reading, kanji, cultural study, etc. Possibly one of the most flexible, fun, and rewarding Japanese language schools in Japan, your wants will surely be met.

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Genki Japanese and Culture School Cultural Studies Class: Pottery

2. ISI Language School

The International Study Institute Language School has two schools in Tokyo (Takadanobaba and Ikebukuro) as well as a center in Nagano and Kyoto. Being a large school, ISI welcomes more than 2,000 students from all over the world every year. While the average class sizes are 20 students, the school assures that classes are well-suited to different proficiency levels and purposes. The attractive point of this school is its excellent curriculum and support system, from conversation to cultural experiences to looking for a job or preparing to join top Japanese Universities.

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Screenshot of the official website of ISI Language School

At ISI, homeroom teachers, in cooperation with employment centers, offer job-hunting support through guidance to each and every student accordingly. Experienced teachers also offer effective and accurate university examination instructions to assist students. For those who wish to work in Japan or study at a Japanese University, this may be the perfect school for you! Click here to view the variety of courses offered in greater detail. Flexible courses are available to students who wish to learn Japanese at their own pace and convenience or take part in a short-term Summer course.

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ISI Language School Takadanobaba Campus

3. Akamondai Japanese Language School

Established in 1985, Akamonkai has more than 15,000 graduates and is Tokyo’s largest Japanese language school. The school is famous for having one of the most intensive, strict, and rigid, but effective teaching systems. They are also one of the few schools that have a pre-university preparatory program for students with only 11 years of formal education but wish to proceed to university studies. The school’s classes are split into 13 levels and lessons are finely textured by veteran teachers. For more details on the variety of courses offered (including short-term courses and special programs), click here. The school also offers relatively affordable courses and hence more budget-friendly. For Manga-lovers, the school owns a Manga room with 3,000 manga books accessible to students all day.

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Akamondai Japanese Language School Communal Area

4. Intercultural Institute of Japan

The Intercultural Institute of Japan supplies one the most flexible curriculum; enrollment terms can range from one week to two years. Located in Akihabara Electric Town, the school currently has students from 65 countries all around the world. IIJ is reviewed to have an extremely friendly and inviting study atmosphere that students of diverse backgrounds can all enjoy. This could also be the perfect choice for those who do not wish to study Japanese at such a high intensity and would rather leave more free time to enjoy life in Japan.

Worry not, however, about the legitimacy of the courses as the school’s programs are still highly evaluated according to students’ Japanese language proficiency and arranged to depend on how much students wish to familiarize themselves with Japanese cultures. “The Japanese Training Program” of the school has also been chosen by many companies, educational institutes, and governmental organizations all over the world.

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Intercultural Institute of Japan Summer Course 2019

To End Off…

While all Japanese language schools teach Japanese, it is important to take a range of factors into consideration when deciding on your school. One man’s poison may be another’s cure. It is important to decide on the school based on your own preferences instead of relying on others’ experiences or opinions. I’ve only listed a few schools that may be suitable for you. Below is a list of Japanese Language Schools in Tokyo that you may also wish to check out to find a better fit.

Good Luck!

ARC Academy Japanese Language School

ALA Academy of Language Arts

KAI Japanese Language School

TOYO Language School

For more information regarding Japanese Language School, you may wish to access the website here or the link here. Both websites can help give you a better idea of the language schools in Japan!