Is taking a college course worth it (post-graduation)?


I’m working part-time at a university, and I’ll be able to audit Japanese 201 in the fall. I took 101 and 102 over five years ago. One of my dream jobs is to help localize Japanese games into English, but before I think about that I’d like to just be able to consume Japanese media. I always think I understand grammar better than I actually do, so I really need quizzes and tests to remind me how much I need to study.

The thing is, since I’m part-time, I’ll still have to pay tuition, and it’ll be about $1,600. Is there a better way to learn intermediate Japanese in a classroom situation? I’ve tried to study on my own and with a private tutor, but I’m just not motivated enough to study hard (I’m also raising a small child). Should I just go with the class since I know it will help me learn? How would you spend $1,600 on your Japanese learning?


If it were me I’d probably just spend it all on textbooks and services and study on my own, but if you want to work as a translator then studying formally is probably not a bad idea. Studying Japanese formally is, as you probably know, much different from studying on your own and you learn a lot of things you wouldn’t if you weren’t assigned it. You should probably first have a look at the contents of the course and see what you would be learning. If it’s just kanji and vocab and grammar then it might not be worth it, but if they teach skills such as speaking Japanese, writing common formats of texts, and reading various types of content, in proper as well as everyday Japanese, then it might be worth it. I think what you need to do is compare what you would learn if you took the class with what you would learn if you didn’t and see if the difference is worth $1600.


If you pay tuition will you still be auditing? Auditing implies you won’t get a grade or credit. If you have to pay anyway and you want to eventually get a job localizing Japanese media, then why not slowly work towards a degree? (I know, the answer is likely money and time and I totally understand that) But if you have to pay anyway, I would want credit for the course I took.


it’s a little complicated, but basically to get credit for the course I’d have to enroll as a post-baccalaureate student, since I already have a degree from this institution. And post-bacc students are supposed to take classes during the summer, but the course is only in the fall. Basically I don’t think I’d be admitted, and if I can pass the N4 or N3, it doesn’t matter to me if I have official college credit.

The 201 class is really similar to the 101 and 102 courses I took. Class is every day, and each week there are three days of drills with a native speaker and two days of grammar instruction with a professor.

I guess Japanese is really a hobby for me, because I have enough experience with writing and research to be employed in that field. But I feel like if I just keep doing WaniKani, I won’t really progress in my Japanese knowledge.


College should burn in hell. So much time wasted there. Over and out.


Care to elaborate?


Much like the others, it’s a cost-benefit thing. For me, if I had a spare $1600 bucks to spend, I think I’d look for a local branch of Berlitz or the equivalent. For me, 1600 bucks would get me 80 hours of classroom instruction with a native speaker, study materials, speaking practice, etc. Since on-the-fly speech and at-speed listening are my weakest points, I would love to be able to do that. I’m like you, though, in that I need a certain level of external accountability to really apply myself.

If you’re somewhere that you have access to the Kumon Japanese for English/Portuguese/Chinese speakers, that’s a pretty good choice, too. It used to be only in Japan, but I know they’re doing trials with tablets for a broader audience. I’m not sure of the details beyond that. Kumon Japanese . This appears to be the older page, but maybe they’ve updated it and I don’t immediately see it.

Edit - I found more of an answer: “The Japanese Language Program is also offered in Australia, Malaysia and Brazil.”


Well, I spent six years becoming a Mechanical Engineer. Did lots of exercises, read a lot, wrote a lot, lots of math and physics, all the things. Got out, got a job, and realized I knew jack nothing about how things are really done. You can read a thousand books about riding a bicycle, but if you actually try to ride it, you’ll learn in an afternoon. In relation to what you actually learn, and in terms of time and money spent, College is an incredibly inneficient way to learn anything, specially with the amount of resources available today. It made sense 30 years ago, but not anymore.
Just as an example, me and a friend got tired of our jobs (he’s a Civil Engineer), and created a mushroom farm, all from scratch (infrastructure and all, we both did everything without any contractors). Where did all our knowledge come from? The internet, talking to real people, and actually doing it.

HOWEVER, I realize actually paying money and having a rigid schedule is a perfectly good way to motivate oneself, which is a problem for OP, just as paying for a gym membership and actually going is infinitely better than training at home, so if that works for OP and he/she has the money, all the better. Indeed, the course doesn’t seem that bad, since it seems to have a fairly strong practical emphasis.

PS: Realize I’m bashing college from a learning point of view, if you want to get a good paying job in the field in question, you practically have no other option, go study, just get the damn paper to show everybody how much you “learned”.


I guess it depends where you’re coming from and which university you’re studying at, I mean we can discuss university rankings and stuff but there are on average accurate to give an overview of the quality of student life at said university. I think a good university should also teach you methodology of learning on your own. Didn’t your point of view on how our world works changed while doing your studies ? Would really be able to learn in an afternoon or doing it from scratch if you didn’t go through the process of MSc in MecEng (I mean I hope you have a master after 6 years, or I’d get really concerned) ? Yet, I agree that some courses have debatable interest and that we’re living in a paper based society where you require your Bachelor/Master/PhD in order to find a decent job in the field (Don’t shoot at me, it depends of which country, but most of them).

On the topic of money, I find it funny trying to compare the american system and northern European one (knowing @Kumirei is studying in Sweden). You guys are dying under loans, whereas their system is so much more interesting, aka to some extent receiving money from the government while studying uni.


But you got a job…

Therefor college wasn’t pointless for you.

Over and out.

Western universities are about creating well rounded students that have a base knowledge of all things deemed important by rich people back in the day aka “Art, History, Literature, Math, and Science”, which is why majority of your undergrad isn’t actually about whatever major you choose. It’s about making you a well rounded socialite…which leads us to:

College is really about building connections, because what you know doesn’t matter at all compared to who you know.

And no one is going to want to go to a Dr. that self taught from WebMD.

More suprised they don’t let part time staff audit a class for cheaper than $1600…


It’s the States after all xD but that’s indeed surprising. Can’t you just drop by ? Do they take attendance ? I mean if you audit, you’re not going to take the tests anyway, are you ?


That’s around what I paid for graduate classes, but for undergrad and being part time staff my school gives 50%+ off, full time gets free tuition.

Would hope most state schools do something like that for their employees…but I’m probably being optimistic.


I think you could just short-end that to a private tutor. I know you said you struggled with that in the past because “you weren’t motivated to study hard” – but hear me out here.

I think the most important part of learning a language is knowing exactly why you’re doing it – and if you don’t feel motivated to immerse in and learn the language just because it’s cool, I don’t know if you’ve found your reason. If you’re really excited to get into game translation – Google for projects and volunteer. People will be happy for the help and probably even give you simple tasks / suitable for your level / so you can contribute.

I can’t tell you if game translation or consuming native material is really Your Reason™, but I can tell you that you won’t be very much closer to these goals after finishing J201 than you are right now. That’s because academic Japanese courses do not aim to teach you how to translate video games or read books (at least early on); they teach you to pass tests. What university-courses do have over independent-study/tutors, as you noted, is structure and concrete schedules.

With a little bit of planning you can work those two benefits into a private tutor. If I were you, based on your interests, this is what I would do.

  1. Go to iTalki and find a tutor you like – since you’re only a beginner, you don’t need someone expensive with a lot of knowledge. Even a random person can point out a lot of the basic mistakes you’re making, explain Japanese content to you, and help you to understand new grammar.
  2. Find a community tutor that you like personally – say you find one for $15.00/hour (my first tutor was $5.00/hour, and we just had conversations… right now I’m working with a professional Japanese voice trainer to help work my intonation/rhythm for $9.00 a session… so you can definitely find someone for much less than $15.00).
  3. Schedule a one-hour class with this tutor three times a week. That winds up being $180.00 / month, or $720.00 for a 4 month “semester”, featuring 48 hours explicitly focused on you and your needs.
  4. Devote your first session to talking with this tutor about your goals, and set up a regular game plan.
  5. For example: you said that your first goal is becoming able to go through Japanese media… so let’s focus on that. Before every lesson, you will watch one episode of Chi’s Sweet Home, or maybe you’ll read an article on NHK Easy News. After each of these “tasks”, prepare a small presentation based on what you can do (maybe it’s only a 15 second speech summary) – ask your tutor to listen and correct your mistakes. While watching/reading, write down any grammar points/sentences that you don’t understand, and ask your tutor to explain these to you.
  6. You’re eventually going to have finished the anime, or gone through so many articles that you can understand them without your tutors help. Now you take the step up to normal NHK articles/other websites. For anime, you can step to another slice-of-life choice like Polarbear Cafe.
  7. If you’re really hurting with the “soft” structure from 4, you can instead just buy a copy of Genki I+II and work through that with your tutor. Any Japanese person can give you correct sentences to help explain these grammar points, even if they can’t give you super wordy explanations of them.
  8. Personally, I began watching Shirokuma Cafe after I finished Genki II – it took effort, but was generally intelligible with (English) subtitles. Now there is a website called animelon that will allow you to watch with both English and Japanese subtitles, which will really speed up the process of working out what you do and don’t know. If you work through 3 grammar points of Genki per week, you’ll finish both of them in ~6 months.

Now, let’s put that in context. This post repeats a lot of information you’ll find on a lot of language blogs and comes with a good few citations – plus real world examples. The basic thing I want to get out of this boils down to two main numbers:

  • 1000 words in a language will render ~80% of a common text as comprehensible
  • 3000 words will make most common things comprehensible “on the fly” – or, the ability
    to just pick up some news (intended for Japanese people) and generally understand it.

I don’t know how many words you know – so let’s say you begin from zero. Head to anki’s page for shared Japanese decks, and pick up a deck like The Core 2k – the 2,000 most frequently used Japanese words in order.

  1. Go through 10 sentences per day, and do it throughout the day. Things like this fit really nicely into a full-time job, being in transportation, raising a kid, shopping for food… you know, “Life” - because you can do it whenever you have 10 free seconds.
  2. By that, I mean: whenever you expect to have a few minutes (waiting on your kid to wake up, while walking to get food on your lunch break, while there is a commercial) and learn one or two sentences.
  3. If you can keep that up – just a few words here and there throughout your day – you’ll hit the 1,000 words mark in 100 days, and then the 3,000 words mark in 300 days. In other words, you’re realistically less than one year away from easily understanding news articles, working your way through light novels, or following subtitled anime.

In fact, let’s go back to my earlier suggestion of 3 lessons with an iTalki tutor per week. Every lesson, make it a point to work in the words you’ve just learned – 10 months of $15 lessons 3 times a week works out to $1800, not much more than what you planned to invest for this 4 month course.

So, here’s my opinion on the three problems I feel you mentioned with studying outside of a course, and how this helps you out.

  1. Concrete-schedule: You’re studying every week on 3 regular days. You are forced to attend these classes or lose the money, so you’re guaranteed to at least “put in the hours”.
  2. Structure: You’ve got a consistent game plan for every day – come with an article or anime ready to talk about. Or maybe you’re working through Genki. Regardless, you’ve got regular projects to work on: you can “watch” your progrses through Genki, through an Anime, or through a stack of news articles on your desk/in a computer folder.
  3. Motivation: You mentioned that you feel like enrolling in a class because “you know you’ll learn” – I don’t mean to be a burden of bad news, but motivation is one of (if not the) best predictor of whether or not someone will successfully learn a language. The single most important thing you can do right now is to find an activity you can do in Japanese that you’re motivated to stick at daily. – and this will get easier as you go, because as you learn more, more resources become available to you. _____ _I think that having a tutor helps with this: you develop a relationship with them, they encourage you, and will also help you find resources suitable for your level.

Here are step-by-step guides from polyglots

  1. Here is a detailed look at how Benny Luis (Fluent in 3 months) approaches day one of learning a language and suggestions on what you should do (in your first skype conversation) which you can use to think about adding structure to your personal lessons, maybe taking note of his emphasis on taking a systematic approach to learning languages. Maybe more relevant to you, here he specifically discusses why he thinks academic-style classes hurt, not help, to learn a language, and here (scroll down) he links to a number of helpful posts for getting out of the “beginner stages” of learning a language. Tied to that last note and the skype-lessons I’ve suggested, here is a guide to making cheat sheets to ensure you practice your “homework vocab/phrases” in each lesson, and even small goals to aim for as you progress towards getting out of the A2 (~N5/4) level.
  2. Here is a look at another cool project called the Add1challenge – you get grouped with other people learning the same language for 90 days. It is largely personally based – you have tasks to do for each day, and regular “performances” with a tutor. Major projects are planned for the 30, 60, and 90 day mark. The community keeps you honest, and the idea is to “teach you how to fish” rather than giving you fish – that when the challenge ends, you’ll just keep on trucking along with what you’ve been doing.
  3. You said one of your goals was “to consume native content” – how about music? The Mimic Method shoots to learn language by learning its accent – a lot of this comes down to singing a lot of time singing/rapping in your target language. Idahosa’s university time focuses on phonetics and sound, so they do a lot of cool talks to explain exactly how your mouth works and looking at sound in detail. Their bread and butter is turning songs into textbooks/learning tools. If it sounds fun to you, here is a more academic discussion on it, and here’s another where he talks about the process of going from beginner to conversational with this approach.
  4. Over at the Polyglot Dream is a really cool post on what learning is and how that is applied to language learning – like how and why he began with Polish or learning Thai from day one, with brief discussions for each day and the “goals” you’re looking at as a beginner, intermediate, and advanced student. More detail on that last part here, where he offers his perspective on language from different levels of fluency.
  5. A dude named NihongoShark (from kanjikoohii) wrote a really long blog post about working through the kanji – turns out he has his own site that is dedicated to every aspect of learning Japanese specifically. He discusses common language learner problems like struggles with expressing yourself, and looks at popular themes like “how to actually learn Japanese by watching anime”. Like others, he also goes to great length discussing “how to start learning a language by yourself”.

all in all
I don’t mean to sound arrognant and be like “no, don’t learn with a class” – I just wanted to talk about making tutoring lessons more class-esque. I think it’s necessary to begin going independent at some point, because J201 isn’t a magical door to Japanese… even if you pass the N1, which is basically a reading/grammar test, you might still find it difficult to begin watching/listening Japanese content. From my experience helping people learning languages at my university – after passing J201, you’re still several semesters of coursework away from the N1 – how many $1600’s do you want to put towards this?

I don’t expect you to read all – or even any – of those links from the last session. I just hoped that you might find something that looks interesting or useful, or even just a topic to look into. I think motivation is the #1 thing to have, and I hope one of those links can be a starting point fro you.

(holy god I spent like 3 hours on this)



Even though I’m not the OP, I find your message really instructive and will definitely use some of your advice. おつかれさまでした。


Somewhat of a derailment, but here in the states it’s becoming increasingly common to take 5-6 years for an undergrad degree, completely unrelated to intellect. Universities often require too many specific courses to fit into four years considering how few times they offer them in that period of time. This gets compounded for more specialty degrees, because if you don’t have enough people signed up for a class in a semester, they’ll cancel it in the name of saving money by not having to allocate a teacher to so few students.

And of course a lot of people work full-time or part-time to help with those loans :rolling_eyes:



thank you so much for your answer. It was personally very touching to me to have a stranger spend so much time sincerely answering my question. In college I spent a lot of my free time answering questions on a Q&A site, but now I don’t feel I have the time to even answer my own questions!

It doesn’t make sense when I write it down, but I was procrastinating getting serious about my self-study because I wasn’t sure exactly how I would do it. There are so many resources that it’s overwhelming. But with your answer, it helps me feel more confident that I can actually make progress. Reading it from you, it completely makes sense that if I want to read manga in Japanese, I should start trying to read it as soon as possible.

I spent some time thinking about my personal motivation, and my excuses for not studying more. This might seem weird, but I prayed about it and I felt my determination was renewed.

My time is limited, but I can definitely do more with the small bits of time I get on my phone. I decided that if I had time for social media junk that I have time for more Japanese studying! So I deleted all the social media from my phone (I can sit down and check them on my computer if I REALLY need to) and started on the “most common words” Anki deck you recommended. I had dismissed them before, thinking that I knew all the words, but the sentences with audio are really good and an amazing resource.

I also really liked the blog posts about how to maximize Skype language tutor time. I felt a little frustrated with my online tutor because I wanted her to give me a course of study and teach me in a traditional way. But after reading the article, I realized that I was going about it the wrong way. When I speak with native speakers, I should focus on speaking as much as possible, and if I have a grammar question, I can get a more complete explanation from a textbook.

I can’t currently do this, but I think in the fall that I could host a Japanese exchange student. Maybe I could speak Japanese with them some of the time? That way I could do more speaking during times when I’m cooking or cleaning. I work in a university library, so I got Genki I and I’m working my way through all the material so I can feel like I’m covering my bases.

I also know that I’ll have to give some things up if I want to get better at reading Japanese. But instead of thinking of it as giving something up, I should think of studying Japanese as one of the main things I want to do with my leisure time.

Once again, thank you for your thoughtful response. You’ve inspired me!


Just doing that has gotten me 22 levels in Wanikani so far, even if I never really do anything with Japanese I feel the time was better spent…social media is just a drain on our lives for little reward.


Amen to that! I have really tried to stay away from social media. Just such a time trap and I never really come away from it thinking, “Wow! What a great use of my time!!!”


Oh my gosh I wish I could bookmark this, this is a fantastic summary of learning Japanese! You’ve really, really helped me :heart:️ THANK YOU for typing all of this out!


I’m a full time worker and long since graduated.

I’ve gone back as a post-graduate and am only doing one class a semester in Japanese. So far I’m really enjoying it. I need that push of exams and so on.

That said, if I had to pay up-front for the classes I’d be looking for another option. (Australians: I put the classes on HECS, since I’ve paid off my original HECS debt :v:t3:️).