Japanese Courses at a University

If you are doing a degree with a foreign language requirement, by all means go for it or add a minor. Personally, I found the structure of the classroom beneficial for language study because I had a clear course of study and weekly quizzes and tests provided me with short term goals to work for. The threat of a bad grade was a tangible punishment for slacking off so I made sure to make time to study every day.

But, going to college just to study Japanese probably isn’t the best usage of your time or money.

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This just unequivocally not true. Everyone is treating his/her question as if it has a distinct right or wrong answer. The best advice I can give is this; do some investigation of possible universities and their Japanese language classes. As with most things in life, some are going to be better quality than others, but if you are able to choose a University with a quality language course, then I would argue it could be beneficial.

For example, Middlebury College in VT, USA is one of the best language Universities in the USA.

Many people here are framing the answer/question as “what I’m going to get out of the class, what is the class going to offer me, etc” I think it’s important to understand that, again like most things in life, you get out what you put in. While I recognize the fact that some teaching styles/course may not be conducive to learning at maximum efficiency, it still comes down to how someone utilizes the resources they are presented. Taking Japanese language classes has benefited me tremendously; it introduced me to people who share the same interests and goals as myself (important when trying to study, or practice, etc), I was able to practice listening, writing, and speaking, and the regimented classroom style helped me organize my learning. There’s nothing to stop you from going ahead, or doing self study. In fact, that’s encouraged, but I can’t see how getting more “reps” in could ever be considered a bad thing.

The fact of the matter is, most people do not have the self-discipline to maintain a consistent self-study routine. They often burnout, or slowly stop following the routine. I’m not saying that @_josh is going to burnout or lose motivation, but for most people having a regimented-classroom-style environment helps keep them on track. He/she said that they will study for 25 hours a week, which means that in order to study 2200 hours (roughly the amount of hours to become ‘fluent’) they will have to study consistently everyday for almost two years. Not many people can do that.

As for the price, if you are looking at only taking a few classes at a time, the price isn’t necessarily always going to be that expensive. There are plenty of opportunities for scholarships, grants, financial aid, etc.
For me, since my primary degrees are in electrical engineering and computer engineering, I already had scholarships so the Japanese classes were added at not additional cost.

As for this rhetoric that American universities somehow lack quality, or will not provide a good education, I have nothing to say to that other than, it’s false.

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You have to pay in the US for language classes/certain classes?

Yes, unless your education is somehow subsidized, you have to pay for nearly every class :sweat_smile:

You pay for every class at University, for the most part. Most universities charge by the ‘credit’.

If you’re just starting to learn Japanese, I can recommend taking a class or two. The class did virtually nothing toward fluency for me, really, but ironically it set me up to comfortably hit the ground running with self-study. I took a few years, but even one was enough for me to become comfortable with the kanas, learn rudimentary grammar, and most importantly, start developing a Japanese head voice to appropriately pace and sound out words while reading. Obviously this is all acquirable on your own, but I found that making strides in self-study was much easier than peers of mine who started self-study with no previous introduction (or without a Japanese tutor/friend to give direct feedback and guidance).

Getting a jump start in this even for self-study is what even one class helped me with.

I found this to be a rarity! I’m glad you get lots of speaking practice!

This was more like my experience hah.

So, back to the OP, if this is really the case, I ultimately say don’t bother with classes. You can outpace the class instantaneously. If you’re that serious, you’ll dance circles around classmates as AJATT’ers like Khatzumoto did.

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I’m currently taking Japanese class in university and though I’m not in the U.S., I would definitely recommend it even if just to try it! You get to see and meet new people and talk with people whose level might be lower or above yours. At least here in Finland, my classes are never the lecture-type - we do a lot of pair exercises and speaking exercises, and I feel it has really helped me a lot. You can still study on your own too on the side. I have been doing WaniKani since the first course, and I’m now way ahead everyone else, so much so that I already know all new kanji we learn in class. It has only been an advantage because I can focus on the gaps I notice.

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I would say my self-studying is going quite well. I learned hiragana in two days (12 hours) and could write it by the fourth day. I found WaniKani immediately after and I have been at it since November 1st. I would say the only thing I am struggling with is grammar, which is because I learn based off of knowledge or reference. Grammar is extremely difficult for me right now because my base is so small, I don’t have enough vocab (easily recalled) to understand grammar; instead of focusing on how sentences are structured I’m more focused on trying to think of what word to say, and then grammar follows. Other than that I’m learning at an insane pace (my Kanji and vocab is at around 98% in reviews at 7 days spent on each level). I’m considering building my base a bit more (being able to recall/write kanji and vocab faster + learning more) before I continue on in grammar, but I’m not sure yet. Either way I’m still religiously sticking to 4 hours studying a day.

Seeing this, along with the other comments, makes me want to take some courses now. The only problem is my college doesn’t offer Japanese. I was planning on taking it next year when I transfer schools, but I’m excited because I’m curious as to where I place when/ if I do end up taking classes. Also, I’m curious to see how my self studying will have paid off and what things I will need to improve.

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That’s what I like to see. I love a good challenge.

I’ve done plenty lessons/classes in the past.

Pros:
-most people at classes are fun so you get new friends
-it makes you do stuff at weekly cadence
-you’ll learn new things you wouldn’t otherwise
-you can ask questions about things you’re wondering

Cons:
-(usually) set time. I prefer my own schedule whenever I feel like it
-set pace that matches the group, meaning if you’re faster (or slower) than average, you’ll be frustrated

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I always thought you just pay to study a semester and then you can take everything you want without worrying about money. Interesting to know.

College is insanely expensive here. It’s going to crash eventually because people are going to stop putting up with the insane prices.

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It depends on the university.

Most US universities charge by the credit hour for part time students, but a lump-sum for full-time students. That is, if you’ve registered for a certain number of credit hours, you’re considered “full-time” and can take any amount of additional classes without paying extra.

Other universities always charge by the credit hour, or conversely, always a lump-sum amount.

They do this to cater to their respective student populations. A state university located in a big-city urban setting may have tons of part-time students who want flexibility. So this kind of university tends to charge by the credit hour and offer part-time friendly classes (evening or weekend classes, etc.) It wont be unusual for a student to “stretch” an undergraduate study from the typical 4 years to 5 or 6 years.

On the opposite spectrum, an elite “Ivy League” university typically charges a very high lump sum tuition. You pay an outrageous amount each semester regardless if you’re taking 1 class or 8. Therefore that’s incentive for students to finish their degree on schedule, since each additional semester they’re “late” costs a ton of money.

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I’ve taken about a year and a half’s worth of credits in Japanese classes. Sure, it’s slow, but they make sure you learn things properly, that you use what you have learned in various ways you wouldn’t if you studied alone. Then you get to take other classes as well, such as history classes, literary classes, translation classes, and so on. I definitely think it’s worth my time*.

*I live in a country where there’s no tuition

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If you can keep up this pace and dedication, I encourage you to investigate All Japanese all the Time (AJATT) or the more recent predecessor, the Mass Immersion Approach (MIA) (links to follow instead of inline, intentionally).

AJATT is admittedly a mess to wade through. MIA is more focused and extends AJATT, but it’s still under construction. Both, however, are the most efficient methodologies I’ve come across to working at functional, native-level fluency. Neither approach advocates for WaniKani, as RTK at your pace would be faster and just as effective (considering kanji alone, not vocabulary). The authors of both approaches also probably wouldn’t prioritize formal education in classes, for what it’s worth, but likely only because of pacing.

It will take some time, maybe a couple of days, to grok what these approaches are about. If you have the time, I think it’s worth understanding these methodologies. They apply to general language-learning and not just Japanese.

AJATT Table of Contents: This is the AJATT reading guide. Not all articles are essential.
MIA: A lot of content is still in video form, but the authors are converting to text as they upload more content.

Keep it up!

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Not to thread-jack, but just some of my thoughts on AJATT/MIA.

First of all, I agree with a lot of AJATT practices: maximum exposure to Japanese; learn things (such as vocabulary) in context instead of just memorizing random lists; mine & study natural sentences; etc. I’m fully onboard with the basic idea that given a ton of (understandable) input, our brains will naturally learn the language.

But I also find some practices by AJATT promoters as suspect. E.g., delaying output (speaking)… this idea that “speaking too early” will actually hurt your Japanese in the long run. I don’t buy that and there’s no scientific evidence of that.

And that’s my biggest beef with AJATT: it claims to be “scientific” but it’s not. The MIA guys did a video bashing WK in part because WK is about “recognition” and completely ignores writing, but then did another video that backtracks 180 degrees and touts their own recognition-only RTK decks. Really?

The truth is, from what I’ve seen very few people have actually gained proficiency with AJATT. Maybe a handful. Most just burn out part way. There has never been a proper measurement or study to see whether AJATT is actually more effective than any other method. We see some success stories on YouTube, but there will be successes with any method.

But for the independent learner, I think AJATT/MIA principles are still worth looking into. Just don’t take them as gospel.

My $0.02.

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I’m going to do WaniKani regardless, I’m also using KameSame to recall from English. Additionally I’m learning how to handwrite everything. Doing all this I’m still left with 2 hours (at least) a day to do other things in Japanese. I haven’t looked much into MIA, so I’m not entirely sure what the method it is to get you to learn Japanese. My main concern is being able to learn grammar and recognize words through listening at this point, and from what I got the MIA will help with that?

Yes, part of the AJATT/MIA philosophy is that as you hear & learn more and more Japanese words & sentences, two things happen:

  • You will naturally be able to hear “words” instead of a constant stream of gibberish, even if you don’t know yet what those words mean

  • When you start to know some “words” and be exposed to a ton of natural “sentences”, then you will intuitively start understanding grammar

And it is this “intuitive” understanding of grammar through exposure (vs. learning grammar solely via textbooks) is what will eventually lead you to proficiency.

So for me, the biggest takeaway is: learn things in context. Don’t just learn kanji by itself, or even isolated vocabulary (the WK way). Learn vocabulary as part of learning entire sentences. And the more sentences we’re exposed to, the better.

Incidentally, Japanese textbooks like those used in university courses are great resources to learn sentences. :grin:

Like you, I’m going to continue with WK, but will try to incorporate in-context / sentence-level learning as well.

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Respect! Thanks for taking the time to write this. I appreciate the informed criticism, to bring balance to all things, and I agree AJATT/MIA are not without their shortcomings (and apparently some hypocrisy).

It’s OP’s reiterated enthusiasm that made me think to mention AJATT/MIA.

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