Konnichiwa! Kyou wa nihongo no benkyou ni tsuite bunshou wo kakou to omotte imasu!
Hello there! Today, I am thinking of writing an article related to the study of Japanese.
As a language, some might say that Japanese is one of the hardest to learn. For a start, here’s a quick explanation of the fundamental workings of the Japanese that the uninitiated might be unaware of.
Alright. Did you know that Japanese has three alphabets? Hiragana, katakana and kanji. Hiragana is the most standard Japanese alphabet. Katakana is used for the direct transliteration foreign loanwords, with the same pronunciation as hiragana but a different appearance. Kanji (漢字) are literally Chinese characters but read differently, used for convenience in place of hiragana. Also, you will find that the exact same kanji character can have not just one, but two (or more!) pronunciations based on what it’s paired with.
Sound a little complicated to you? But before long, you’ll feel like a veritable wizard as you smoothly, effortlessly conjure up Japanese sentences with an elegant swoosh of your mind!
Here’s how to get there.
1: Tomo Japanese Language School
When learning a language, so much emphasis is often placed on the ability to take written tests at the expense of being able to speak it well. When on exchange in Japan, I once heard a ‘horror’ story of a JLPT N1 (the highest level) girl from China who was unable to actually speak Japanese despite her high qualifications. Personally, I experienced feelings of inadequacy when despite having taken two Japanese modules at NTU before, all I was able to say to the friendly woman stamping my passport at Kansai International Airport was ‘No’.
Having personally experienced and also witnessed in others the flushed faces and genuine frustration when trying to express themselves in a language but being totally stuck, I can understand the appeal of Tomo Japanese Language School’s Unique Tomo Teaching Method. It promises to impart the skills of writing and speaking to its students, with proficiency that is all-rounded and comparable to a native Japanese speaker.
Location: Dhoby Ghaut, 190 Clemenceau Ave
Price: $390/term of 10 lessons, 1 term for beginner’s courses and 6 terms for basic to advanced courses (60 weeks)
Enquiries: You can contact them using the form on their website for a complimentary consultation.
I have been studying in Tomo Japanese for nearly a year now, have been part of the physical and online classes (due to covid measurements). Despite being held online, my teacher was very adaptive in helping out the slower students as well as giving a higher challenge to the faster learning students which in turn progresses everyone at their own pace. (IMO, teaching on Zoom is a very difficult task and my teacher did it flawlessly. All props to Kazuya sensei) Highly recommended to anyone who is interested in picking up the japanese language. As of May 2022, all classes has resumed in a physical classroom.
2: Janus Academy
The founder of Janus Academy reached a near-native level of proficiency in Japanese without attending a single Japanese class but instead by watching popular Japanese shows and conversing with friends who were native speakers of the language. She feels that the traditional method of language learning, namely rote memorisation, is in no way a pre-requisite for achieving fluent communication. Rather, it impeded her ability to speak and communicate properly, which in turn slowed down her progress.
Do you believe in learning through musty old textbooks and doing rote memorisation for tests? Well, the results speak for themselves. Japanese students learn English for six years, starting from junior high school. Yet, many of them cannot even communicate in basic English! Now, if you were to similarly adopt the traditional rote learning method, it stands to reason that there is no reason for you to succeed. It’s also thankless and sucks all the joy and enjoyment out of learning!
Location: 86 Marine Parade Central
Price: Not available online
Enquiries: You can check out their FAQ section and fill in the general enquiry form on their website.
Testimonial: Couldn’t locate any. They’ve a Youtube channel you can check out, though.
3: Japanese Explorer Club
The first half of the class is about acquiring knowledge about grammar. The other half of the class is about speaking and listening, allowing the students to practically apply the knowledge of grammar that they have acquired. Their teachers are all native speakers of the language.
Japanese Explorer Club’s courses are SkillsFuture eligible, allowing students to enjoy $500 of SkillsFuture credit that will be rolled over every year. Singaporeans aged 25 to 55 and PRs above the age of 50 as well as students that are at least 16 years old with a valid MOE Skills Account are eligible for SkillsFuture Credit.
Location: School HQ City Campus at 137 Cecil Street, between Raffles Place, Tanjong Pagar and Telok Ayer, School Jurong Campus at Jurong Gateway Road, opposite Jurong East MRT
Price: One time registration fee of $50, Course materials fee $50 per student, Group Course fee per level for 12 lessons of 2-hour each, to be completed in 12 weeks, $550 per student.
Enquiries: You can correspond with them via Whatsapp at +65 97258311. There is a Whatsapp button on the side of their website.
I’ve got a good feeling with my trainer always answers my questions. The private Japanese course provided by Japanese Explorer has a very progressive approach and structure related to the daily life. I will definitely recommend my friends to join this awesome Japanese language school. The support learning tools like recorded class video and audio files had helped me a lot to learn this language.
4: Taiyo Japanese Language School
Taiyo is written as (太陽), literally meaning sun. They offer a 12-week course for absolute beginners and a 12-week conversational course along with classes for the higher stages that last for three terms on average. Each lesson lasts 2.5 hours, with 12 lessons per term for beginner and elementary classes and 10 lessons per term for more advanced classes.
At Taiyo Japanese language school, they see the Japanese language first of all as a communication tool. Thus, exercise and application are more important than the technical aspects in themselves. Their curriculum starts with the most common everyday subjects such that even after your first week, you can start throwing out a few Japanese words at your Japanese boss or at lunch with your client.
Location: 20 Kramat Lane, between Somerset and Dhoby Ghaut
Price: $450 per term for beginner to advanced, free online trial class
Enquiries: You can send them a message on their Contact Us page or alternatively click the Whatsapp button on the side of their website.
I am having a 1 to 1 lessons with sensei. He is very professional and he knows my main focus is to strengthen my conversation skill, since the start of the 1st lesson, he has been very patient in guiding me through by speaking with me in Japanese throughout the whole session, engaging a casual conversation like talking to a friend. For the school, its has been a breezy session , when comes to consultation and exploring the courses. i do not need to waste my time doing research. Taiyo Japanese Language school has been a great help.
5: Pyaess Japanese Language School
Pyaess Japanese Language School provides JLPT preparatory courses for the various levels. The duration of the course is 30 weeks for JLPT N5, 20 weeks for JLPT N4 and 50 weeks for the remainder. They have 3h 15 min classes conducted everyday, conveniently scheduled in the evening at 6.30 for the weekdays. This makes it convenient for working adults as well.
Pyaess Japanese Language School uses new and updated materials that are interesting and easy to understand. Besides learning Japanese, students will also learn about Japanese culture and customs. As they give importance to speaking, half the time is given to speaking and listening practices.
Location: 14 Robinson Road
Price: Not available online
Enquiries: You can send them an inquiry on their Contact page or alternatively email or call them with their contact details provided there.
I’ve attended many Japanese schools in Singapore before trying the class here at Pyaess. I used to think that learning Japanese is difficult and was stressed out studying for JLPT, but not anymore 🙂
I’ve never had a more fun and enjoyable Japanese language learning experience than at Pyaess. My lesson lasts from 10:15 am to 1:30pm on a weekend, but it doesn’t feel long at all. At half-time, the teachers switch over — you have one teacher for grammar and another for conversation — it’s a fantastic system, you never feel bored in class and get to hear how different native Japanese speak.
Thanks to this special “two-teacher method” of teaching, the teachers are always energised. They don’t talk to you like you are a kindergarten kid, but as an adult (finally!), yet somehow, you are able to understand them and learn to speak at the normal speed too! They are very professional and explain everything very well.
Ms Josephine Lee (Excerpt)
6: Inlingua School of Languages
Inlingua is one of the world’s leading language training organisations with over 250 language centers in 30 countries across Europe, Africa, Asia, North and South America. Japanese is not the only language they teach as they also offer courses in Arabic, Burmese, Cantonese, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German etcetera.
Inlingua typically has about 6 students per class. They have over 50 years of experience in language training and curriculum design and uses advanced learning tools such as DynEd English and inlinguamy.lab. However, from the looks of it, it would appear that there are no intermediate to advanced courses currently being offered by them.
Location: 51 Cuppage Road, near Yishun, Serangoon and Marine Parade
Price: $350 for beginner classes of 10 sessions, 20 hours and $390 for elementary to pre-intermediate classes of similar duration
Enquiries: You can fill in the enquiry form on their Contact Us page or email them at email@example.com.
From sign up to our last class, it was a great experience both with the admin staff and also our teacher and classmates. I really enjoyed learning a new language with inlingua.
7: Ikoma Language School
Ikoma Language School offers JLPT preparatory classes for N1 to N5, classes for absolute beginners as well as classes for more advanced students, for which they will have to pass a placement test to join. Established in Chinatown in 1996 and later moving to Orchard Plaza and then Shaw House, their mission is to make study of languages widelyavailable and enjoyable for everyone (they also offer courses in English and Mandarin).
Location: Shaw House, Orchard Road
Price:$450 per term (3.0 hrs x 10 sessions) for basic course, $260 for JLPTN5 Preparatory Course (2.5 hrs x 5 weeks), $280 for JLPTN4 Preparatory Course (2.5 hrs x 6 weeks), $450 per term for N3 and N2, $480 per term for N1
Enquiries: You can call them at 62380288 between 9am and 10pm on weekdays and between 10am and 7.30pm on weekends.
Have been in Ikoma for 5 years. It’s has been an enriching experience to me whereby their course materials are comprehensive and easy to understand. Their class schedules are very flexible like if you missed a lesson, you can request the admin to give you replacement or online lesson in same week same batch. Senseis are very caring and patient to help us when in doubt. Though some of them their english are average, they tried to explain situations in simple japanese slowly for us to pick up & understand.
8: Hougang Japanese Language School
On Channel 8, “HDB Tai Tai 2” hosted by Kym Ng Zhong Qin and Chen Liping highly recommended Hougang Japanese Language School for its fame, economical and quality services provided for their students. It has also been featured on online news media under the headlines ‘National Day Special 2018: Propelling his father’s Japanese language school to new heights’ and ‘This Millennial took over his Dad’s Japanese Language School And Grew The Business Fivefold’.
Location: Hougang Street 21, Jurong Gateway Road
Price: $300 for Japanese Elementary with Business Conversation (40 hours), $300 for Elementary 2 (44 hours), $300 for Intermediate 1 (N5, 32 hours), $300 for Intermediate 2 (44 hours), $300 for Advanced 1 (N4), 36 hours, $320 for N3 to N1 (40 hours)
I’ve been learning Japanese from HJLS for almost 2 years. From Elementary 1 and 2 to current Advance 1. Lesson is affordable and class size is just nice. Lesson conversation is using English and Japanese. Sensei will also try to use Chinese and a bit of Malay in the conversation too😛 Recommend for those who want to pick up Basic Japanese. 先生が親切です！
Some additional tips
These are some of the places that you can go to pick up Japanese or boost your pre-existing Japanese skills!
Next, on to some tips on how you can get immersed in Japanese outside of the classroom, further enhancing your Japanese skills and boosting your rate of improvement in the language.
Tip No. 1: Tap on the power of entertainment
How might you immerse yourself in Japanese? The obvious answer is to consume Japanese media. What kind of media, though? Well, from personal experience, I kind of feel that reading (even simplified) news in Japanese doesn’t work. Why? Because it’s boring. To be honest, I feel like it’s like a chore to do so. In contrast, reading Japanese fiction engages my attention and retains my motivation, thus being something I can easily do on a daily basis. It’s simple.
Obviously, there are many other Japanese media entertainment options out there besides novels, such as anime and Japanese songs to name but a few. For instance, when on exchange in Kyoto, I knew this Malaysian guy who was pretty good at listening to Japanese from watching Japanese variety shows. He went to a bicycle store and still managed to successfully communicate with the female staff there despite technically being only in the most elementary Japanese class. That’s really impressive!
Tip No. 2: Special Kanji hack for the Chinese
If you know how to read Chinese, it should be an advantage in learning Japanese. Well, Traditional Chinese, to be exact. Not simplified. Though I guess if you know the latter, recognising the former shouldn’t be that hard? You see, kanji uses Traditional Chinese characters. Hence, when you look at the kanji, you should be able to instinctively recognise its meaning despite not knowing how it’s supposed to be read. With that, all that’s left is learning how it’s read and then you should be able to identify when you hear it being said!
For people who are better auditory learners, they may be able to grasp new vocabulary merely from subtitles and pattern recognition alone. Still, different people have different learning styles. Personally, I’ll first confirm a word in written form before acquiring it proper. Thus, this Kanji hack method is better for me as I downloaded an app called Kanji tree and memorised hundreds if not thousands of yomikata or pronunciations with it in the past. Doing so should boost your Japanese reading skills in particular as I would probably be finding it considerably more difficult to read Japanese fiction now had I not done this in the past.
Tip No. 3: Generate them Japanese sentences
Is the basic Japanese grammar structure ingrained in your mind? Having grasped a language, you should be able to both speak and write in it. It’s fine if it’s a bit awkward here and there, but it surely shouldn’t sound (or read) broken! Now, speaking and writing are actually both sentence generation, if you think about it. The key is to get the grammar ‘program’ of said language running smoothly enough in your mind for you to execute! Once you’ve reached basic mastery in sentence generation, you should be able both speak and write quite smoothly in Japanese.
Personally, I worked on sentence generation when I was on exchange in Japan via an app called Hellotalk. It’s an app for Japanese learners that lets you pen posts in the language you wanna learn and lets natives correct them for you (you can reciprocate). It was through writing posts on Hellotalk that I become much more comfortable with Japanese sentence generation. To assist you in the endeavour, it’s best if you have a Japanese dictionary app. Takoboto works perfectly well for me. Oh, randomly reading Japanese posts for fun there surely helped me too.
Tip No. 4: Spontaneously combustnverse IRL!!
What is the hallmark of learning Japanese? I, for one, believe that you are only truly called to prove your mettle when the time comes to converse with others in the language! Even texting is not a very good equivalent at all, because you can take all the time you want to go Google what they’re writing, figure it out and craft a satisfactory reply. No, people, it’s when you’re in the conversation box that it’s D-day, ready, fight, do or die!
Now, obviously, it’s kind of unfeasible to fly all the way to Japan to talk with the natives there. It’d be nice if you have some friends who also know how to speak Japanese and are excited about doing so. If not, however, your best bet is to find some meet-up group that’s centered around the Japanese language and have a get-together. I personally do not think that Zoom meetings are very conducive because your senses are restricted to viewing someone on a screen and the atmosphere is kind of underwhelming and inorganic imo.
To learning Japanese! Kanpai!
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