Kumon Japanese Correspondence Course — Do you have any experience?

Hi everyone! This is my first new topic, so I hope I’m not doing this incorrectly.^^

I’ve already searched through the forums and found this very similar thread, but since the last post was in 2015 I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask again.

Anyway, I’ve been living in northern Japan for the past two years in a city that shockingly has no Japanese-for-foreigners tutors or resources available. I’ve been wanting to improve my Japanese for everyday living (I understand most things in my day-to-day life, but have trouble responding accurately) and eventually so I can parlay my knowledge into daily life/grad school/company life in a bigger city down south.

About Kumon Correspondence Courses

Continuing the discussion from Kumon Correspondence Japanese Lessons:

I’m wondering if anyone here has taken the Kumon Japanese Correspondence Course, and if you think it would be beneficial to my situation? I’ve noticed many online resources are more geared towards beginner learners. Some even give me the impression that they don’t expect learners to ever progress into more advanced territory, so I’m wondering if Kumon takes the Japanese learner seriously. If I could, I would be devoting a significant portion of my energy in the classroom learning the old-fashioned way, so I’m not sure if Kumon tries to replicate this environment or not.

Did you find it useful? Do you have a recommendation for supplementing it with another textbook (I’m self-studying with Tobira now, but it’s slow going), service, or online resource? Is it worth my time at all? I know it’s expensive, but unless there’s a better option available, I’m not too concerned about the cost.

Thank you in advance for any advice or opinions, and I appreciate your help! :partying_face:

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My cousins have used the Kumon correspondence service to catch up to their level in high school math. I think it really helped.

I’d be interested to know if anyone else is going to try this out, it looks promising. It always helps to have someone to push you to keep going!

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Thanks for your reply @Kraits!

I also have many students who do the Kumon program for various subjects, and remember it existing when I was a child myself. I’m glad to hear the system helped your cousins - if there’s some utility in being held accountable that way, then I think I’ll sign up myself!

Hi, I just the started the Kumon Japanese class course ( in Tokyo). I chose it so I could have some structure to my studies and accountability. Left to my own devices I find a million other things to do besides studying Japanese. I like the printed material provided by Kumon and the audio that you can download and listen to over and over. I also like that they have a path/ curriculum laid out to advance you forward. Personally, I’m not sure how beneficial the 2 center visits a week will be. I’m a middle-age woman and the center is full of kids. But I want to have a chance to have my worked checked and read the material with the teacher. I can go to my center 7 times a month, the correspondence course is twice I month. I would choose the correspondence course if it had more one on one activity. Since you mentioned no schools in your area, I think the curriculum is good and you can keep advancing. If the twice a month teacher interaction is enough for you, I’d say it’s worth the price. I hope that helped.

Hi! I’m curious — what’s in the Kumon Japanese Course?

Kumon uses their curriculum to teach kanji, vocabulary, grammar, reading, listening and speaking. If you do a class course you go to a center 6-8 times a month. A teacher will check your homework and then you read aloud your lessons. Then you get more homework and repeat the process. There is audio to go with the lessons that you can download or listen online. They encourage you to study aloud until you can repeat the audio that matches the lesson content. They give you enough homework to last you until your next center visit. You are supposed to do one homework set a day, which is 5-10 pages. If you don’t have a Kumon center near you they have a correspondence course and your work material is mailed to you and you mail it back. You meet with a teacher via Skype twice a month to review your homework and read your lessons. If you are good at self-study you may not need this course. I’m terrible at it and need structure so that is why I’m trying it. It cost about $85-100 per month which isn’t bad, if it keeps me motivated and moving forward. Please let me know if you have more questions. By the way, since I do WK my vocabulary was high but my Kanji writing is low, she let me start at my vocab level but you will have to write Kanji with this course. It’s something I could do without but hey I’m wilingl to do it if I can keep progressing in my Japanese skills. BK

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@bkishiro Are you still doing Kumon? Would you still recommend it now?
I’ve been in Japan for over 2 and a half years and am also considering giving it a try. After ordering the placement test, I discovered that I could barely write the hiragana even though I knew the answers to the questions. I guess they’d want to start me off at the lowest level.

I’m not @bkishiro but I hope I can help.

I started my Japanese studies at Kumon several years before coming to Japan, and finished both the 日本語 (Japanese for foreigners) and 国語 (Japanese for Japanese kids, but you can only go up to the end of middle school level if you are abroad). I did most of it attending a Kumon center close to my home, but the last 1 year or so I did by correspondence from Japan (what obviously is not supposed to exist, but I guess my teacher didn’t care about such technicalities). In total I’ve studied Japanese at Kumon for 6.5 years, more or less.

For me some of the main characteristics:
・It goes up to advanced levels. @andrewkaz mentioned it, but the truth is several materials don’t feel like they expect learners to achieve high levels of proficiency. Although you have seemingly endless options for starting your Japanese studies, very few of them allow you to stick to them until the end of it. Kumon has a clear curriculum with clear goals, and that is great.
・It’s great at teaching grammar. Kumon has a very “traditional” approach to language learning, so to speak. A solid grammar base and lots and lots of drills. Instead of using time on explaining grammar points, they usually hammer the patterns on your brain until you absorb it. I guess some people wouldn’t like it, though.
・Loads of reading. I don’t know if you plan on ever working while using Japanese as your main language, but as someone who does that, I’ve often felt that reading speed is something that easily gets in your way. No matter how great your grammar and vocabulary are, being able to skim through a text is an invaluable skill for a working adult, and you can only get that through reading a lot. Kumon definitely does that. Lots of reading materials ranging pretty much any genre from fairy tales to scientific articles.
・Daily study. Since you don’t have actual “classes”, all your study is based on doing your daily homework. You have your planning and constant evaluation on how much you followed it, so it sorta gamifies doing homework, in a sense. On the other hand, that can be really stressful for some people and lead to poor results.
・Low emphasis on speaking abilities. Other than reading aloud, you have little to no opportunity to practice your pronunciation, let alone actual conversation. As someone living in Japan, that could be one of the easier skills to compensate if you have access to Japanese people, though.
・Closer to how Japanese learn Japanese. Specially if you choose following to 国語 after finishing 日本語, you get to study Japanese grammar as it is, and not “Japanese grammar digested for foreigners”. If that is a good thing or not, I guess it is open for debate, though.

As for me, I think studying Japanese at Kumon was great and I would surely choose it again (actually I still want to do the 国語 high school+ levels I didn’t get to do). I recognize, though, it’s very different from regular language schools and many people might have a hard time with it. If you are fine with studying every day and getting emphasis on grammar and reading skills, you should definitely give it a try.

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I really appreciate you taking the time to respond in such detail!

I’ve done quite a bit of googling and tried to ask online on forums, but I have’t been able to find that many personal reviews on it.

Could you give me any indication of how long it takes to work through the average level between 4A and L? According to the website, having reached level L means you’re ready to attempt JLPT N2.

The thing is the 日本語 material went through a complete overhaul some years ago, so the material I’ve done don’t exist anymore. Even the amount of levels was different. I suppose current material has 300 workbooks (15 levels x 20). I did only 230 (10 levels x 20 + 3 levels x 10) and went to 国語. I had a chance to glance over the “new” material and it was completely something else, so I guess my time wouldn’t say much.

Kumon allows for a lot of flexibility on the amount of time you take, based on how much homework you do every day and on how many reviews you do at each level. I guess a very high pace could finish 300 workbooks in about 2 years, but that is very fast with lots of homework everyday, so it could be a bit stressful. I guess a healthier pace would do it in 3 years or more? But there is no limit, really. On the center I used to attend there were people doing it for 5 years and still couldn’t finish it, lol.

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Just adding to what is said. I don’t do correspondence course but I began going to a center just before summer beginning at level C. Now, I’m finishing up H. It takes me 1 hour to finish a booklet (cause I’m slow I guess). I try to do at least 1 booklet for 6 days but if there’s time when I go to the center, I do 2 booklets. In all honesty, I am trying to finish ASAP.

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Hello! I am a current student at a Kumon center in Japan that offers this service in-person. It uses the same A~L worksheets but because I visit a center for corrections, reading practice, and tests, I assume my experience slightly differs :sweat_smile:

I began in June and tested into level D. I am now working on level J and expect to finish the program with L by December :blush: I agree with @Shandapanda in that most packets take an hour though the content per packet varies (some have stories, others teach grammars, and some talk about Japanese culture). When I first started, the packets required me to write individual kanji several times over whereas now, later in the program, I am expected to read 1-2 page passages and just look up any kanji that pop up if I don’t already know the meaning (WK, though, has helped loads with this!)

Grammar, on the other hand, has been explained in the same style consistently throughout each level. The only difference is that in later packets, the explanations are (mostly) in Japanese.

As for the exams, I have found them quite challenging starting from the H level. They require you to really understand the grammar and how exactly it was used in the worksheets for each respective level. Because I have used other resources in the past (Minna no Nihongo, Tobira, etc.), I find myself occasionally writing answers down that are “correct” but not what they’re looking for (and therefore marked wrong). My teacher has always been very understanding and encouraging about this however, so it isn’t a negative thing in my opinion :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

I assume that if one memorizes all of the kanji and grammar points brought up in each chapter, which is the obvious goal of the program, N2 would be a breeze. I can’t say this with full confidence though, as I am only N3 certified. I plan on finishing the program and then burning through some N2 workbooks before attempting N2 next year :triumph:

As others have mentioned above, if you feel comfortable with self-study and can work on a somewhat strict schedule, Kumon is a great resource! You will certainly be exposed to a more “Japanese” Japanese learning style, which has helped me a great amount. Best of luck to you! :sparkles:

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Will you be going through the kokugo program as well?

I was irritated about this but because it’s easier to check answers that come from the structure of the program, it’s not so bad. Quite a few things irritate me actually but the reading and drilling is quite nice cause it helps you to parse information.

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I’m unsure as what I have seen of it so far looks like a slight step-back in some ways. At my local center, students moving into the kokugo program test into it’s respective levels just as they do the Japanese for foreigners program. Seeing as prices now run about 10,000 yen a month, I’m unsure if I can justify the price to play catch-up with the program if I happen to test into a significantly lower level :disappointed_relieved: When I tested into my current program, I placed into E for grammar and reading but was required to start at D because I couldn’t write enough kanji for memory (what tripped me up was 選手, of all things :upside_down_face:) and I really don’t want to have that experience again, as it took me roughly 1.5 months to get to a point where I felt challenged by the material (verses reviewing).

To speak to your irritation with the correct but not correct answer system, I totally agree! It’s been a great way to drill multiple ways of conveying information which has really helped diversify my speaking pattern.

Ah I see. Yours was cheaper? My course was always some yennies shy of 10, 000. I always saw it as that though.

Sigh man! I thought I would be good but couldn’t write 港 (may be still can’t but :shushing_face: ). The later levels don’t stress new kanji as much as the earlier levels. I kinda miss the end of unit vocabulary booklet

Well, all the best with your studies! I’m still just testing out to see if the whole Kumon thing works to build my comprehension cause that’s the weakest skill I have.

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I live outside the Tokyo area so until the tax hike, monthly fees were just under 9,000 :cry:

The end of unit vocabulary booklets and study guide-esc summaries were so nice…
And thank you! Best of luck to you too – let’s keep fighting :triumph:

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Thanks so much! Your course fee is probably a little cheaper than mine. I forgot to ask but how was your experience taking the N3? Was it before doing Kumon or while doing Kumon?

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I took the July test entirely for practice (and was planning on taking the “real thing” in December) as I hadn’t really dedicated much time to N3 grammar books at that point. I walked out of the exam surprised at how much I understood and was taken aback when I got the results. The kanji and listening sections were my strongest (likely because I work in Japan) but the grammar tripped me up a few times. I recall a question on onomatopoeias giving me particular trouble! If I were to take it again, I’d surely put some time into a series like Try! or Speed Master, which I used for N4 :blush:

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Thanks for your reply. I’ve been seeing statements about onomatopoeias. Those seem to be a bother.

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Just a quick update…

Having forgotten how to write any Japanese as I’ve most focused on speaking and reading, I started at 4A.

It’s been about 3 months since I started and I’ve worked my way up to A. I’m still not finding the material challenging yet, but I feel like the daily writing and having everything checked by a teacher is quite motivating and will help build a proper foundation.

In level A, we’ve just started writing kanji. Will that need to be practised outside of the Kumon worksheets for better retention?

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