KUMON Japanese Language Course

When I was in Japan I learned (too late) that KUMON offers Japanese language courses tailored to individual needs. Great for anyone in Japan!

https://www.kumon.ne.jp/jpn/english/

My question is…why don’t they do this 100% online, which would extend it to people outside of Japan? I don’t understand why they require the person to be in Japan. I get they require students to visit the center twice weekly for 1-on-1 lessons, but this can easily be done via a webcam, especially since covid is a thing. And requiring everything sent by mail and postage? Just send pdfs of the worksheets, KUMON, please.

Sorry this is more of a rant cuz I’m just sad I missed out on this, but I don’t get why Japan is always just so behind on the times/opportunities. This is offered in Austrailia and Brazil apparently though!

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They actually have a correspondence course that’s by mail that I’m in right now and it’s… not too bad. But I think the reason they don’t offer it overseas is because of 1) shipping costs and 2) there’s biweekly reading sessions online that need to match up with the Japan timezone.

It’s likely based around a lack of available Japanese teachers in other countries to reliably check the work is my guess.

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Just curious, what do you see as the benefits of Kumon over other courses?
I see quite a lot of language schools are now offering online classes, like GenkiJACS, Akamonkai, Kai Japanese Language School etc.

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Honestly, I haven’t tried the others! Kumon works for me because I live in a remote area of Japan, don’t have any local options, and can work on the worksheets at my own pace. I use bunpro/WK/textbooks as well and started Kumon mostly to figure out what areas I was lacking in. It’s a very Japanese style of learning which doesn’t work for everyone. My writing skills have skyrocketed tho lmao, my teacher’s super strict on handwriting.

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What’s the work like? I like the kumon math, my kids didn’t though. Haha. I have seen the kumon reading program, for English, but we didn’t need that.

It’s worksheets, practice making verb forms/sentences/kanji/read a passage and answer some questions. It’s not too bad or too difficult, just takes time.

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I was gonna say they have kumon in other places too, but I went to look and it looks like they don’t have the japanese course in north america? weird

edit: wait i just saw you did mention that in your post. Still strange though.

cineebon, what level are you on at the moment? And are you doing Nihongo or Kokugo?

I’ve been at it since Nov 2019, and nearing the end of Nihongo Level I now.
This level has been really challenging for me and entire booklets(1a to 10b) took me almost 2 hours to finish. Too hard to keep that up, so I started doing half booklets(1a to 5b) instead.

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I’m actually hitting the end of H! I took a break for a while lol. I’m doing Nihongo! I know a few people who’ve finished the Nihongo course but no one who’s gone onto Kokugo… I’m very curious about the Kokugo course.

I know a good amount of the grammar in H, but I’ve mostly done Kumon to learn how to write! Each packet takes me a little over an hour right now.

Dang is the difficulty jump between H and I really that intense?

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Studied Japanese at Kumon for about 7.5 years. Finished the 日本語 material (but it has been completely revamped since, so it’s not the current one) and the 国語 material they have available abroad, which would be up until I-2 (Japanese middle school)

During my last 2 years in Kumon I was already living in Japan, so I was doingit by “correspondence” from here to Brazil, lol. My instructor would send me the material by ship so I would do it by myself. I would only return it when I was traveling back home, though. I believe she was not supposed to do that, but VERY few people get to finish 国語 outside of Japan, so I assume she, as a Kumon instructor, wanted the record for her center.

Yeah, I have no idea what the criteria is, but I guess I was lucky to be in Brazil. We probably have it due to the high number of Japanese descendants, but god knows why Australia and not the US…

Other people have mentioned it already, but I definitely think Kumon is NOT for everyone. It can be either amazing or traumatic, depending on your learning style and organization skills. It’s extremely different from regular Japanese schools in what they allow you to have your own pace (no lagging behind the class or having to wait for classmates) and that you necessarily have 1x1 time with your instructor twice a week, what is great. Also all their material is of their own (no Genki, Minna, etc) and it’s very good quality, IMO.

Of course it has very low focus on oral skills, but considering it’s usually available only in Japan, that should be the easiest part to compensate by yourself. Also if you get to 国語, you get to study Japanese grammar, vocabulary and kanji in the same way Japanese students do. That is not necessarily good by itself (and even Kumon only gets people to do that after they finished 日本語 anyway) but it surely helps your Japanese to sound a lot more natural.

On my toughest stages I was dividing booklets by three (4-3-3). Good old times, lol.
At my Kumon center there were some people who would divide it by four or even five (just 2 sheets!!!), but that’s pretty much giving up without actually giving up, lol. When you get to the middle school level of 国語 (G, H, I) the amount of text in one single sheet is just insane.

Honestly, I only started enjoying 国語 from C stage and beyond. I don’t know from what stage they get you to start after finishing 日本語 in Japan, but back at home it would be 国語’s 4A (pre-school).
I mean, the pre-school booklets had a sheer amount of flowers and bugs names, which were completely unmanageable to me. (of course my instructor wouldn’t be picky about it nor anything, but still)
On A and B you get texts, but they are mostly fairytales, bedtime stories and such. While that might sound easy, it’s not. They are often full of onomatopoeia, dialects and other things that dictionaries might not be of much help. And since it’s 国語 you have no translation nor any sort of help. I felt very frustrated by then.
Once you get to C and D you get more “scientific texts” and essay style ones, which have proper grammar and structure, so as long you spend the time you can read it.
I do remember enjoying the grammar and writing exercises by then. You get a lot of identifying the parts of the speech training, rewriting sentences using different structures, etc. It definitely does wonders for your written Japanese. (Well, that’s what it’s meant for originally, right)
Last but not least, the ridiculously overwhelming amount of text on the last stages is very good for improving your reading speed, although it can be pretty stressful.

As I said in the beginning, I don’t think Kumon is for everyone. But for the ones who like it, I think it is an amazing course with very good quality material. Also, if you are planning on ever living in Japan while using Japanese as your main language, the skills Kumon focus on are crucial for your work life, so I definitely recommend it.

One day I’m still entering a Kumon center in Japan to get those final 国語 stages they don’t have in Brazil

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As a curiosity, a picture from the worksheets of my last stages (I-1, here)

I remember that the fact it’s printed so you can’t simply copy and paste into a dictionary (and if it was an unknown kanji, good luck) together with every sheet being a completely different text with different vocabulary was VERY challenging for me by then.

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Oh dang, I’ve heard that the final few level of 日本語 are mostly reading but that’s… a lot of reading wow.

How would you say Kumon helped your Japanese in the long run? Did you take a JLPT afterwards or have you noticed a difference in your ability?

I’d say it’s definitely improved my writing and kanji recognition by a LOT, but hasn’t been a great help for grammar.

What do you mean by improving writing if not grammar? Actual calligraphy? Vocabulary?

I came to Japan after studying about 5 years in Kumon back at home. During that time I took JLPT N5 to N3 and failed N2 for just a bit right before coming. At my Japanese language school I was placed at the class between 上級 and 中級 and got N1 after 8 months. Didn’t bother taking N2 since my Japanese had clearly improved a lot since coming here.

When compared to other students I would usually have one the best compositions due to good sentence and text structuring, while having poor pronunciation.

I’m not sure what exactly you have in mind when saying grammar (as in verb conjugations? particles? sentence patterns?), but I remember doing a lot of sentence structure exercises (both 日本語 and 国語), reordering passages, rewriting paragraphs and summarizing texts (国語). It helps A LOT on seeing how the particles connect the different parts of the speech and “who belongs to who”. I think it is very good on freeing you from the sentence pattern memorization many Japanese grammar books fall into.

I do acknowledge however that these memorized patterns are what usually appear on JLPT exams. So if by improving grammar you mean being able to answer exam questions, it might not be the greatest material on earth, indeed. On real life Japanese, though, I never felt my grammar skills lacking.

That being said, if we are talking about straight up verb conjugation, it was indeed just root memorization, and not a good one. I do remember that when I was in 日本語’s D (by then when you learn た・て form, dunno about the current worksheets) I had to actually stop and study the worksheets, because just answering the exercises was giving me zero retention.

And yes, it is a shit-ton of reading, so it definitely helps a lot on kanji recognition and improving reading speed.

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I mostly meant handwriting! I couldn’t write Japanese almost at all before starting Kumon. I have horrible English handwriting too lol. My Kumon teacher’s been very strict on my handwriting and helped me understand it. Writing kanji has helped a lot with my ability to learn and retain kanji as well.

That exactly! Verb conjugations, particles and a lot of the smaller patterns. I think Kumon is great for practicing that sort of thing, but I needed more in-depth explanations for a lot of grammar (which I found on the internet). That’s just my personal learning style though!

Thank you for giving me more information though! I really enjoy hearing about the different methods used in Japanese learning programs.

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I had a quick look at my H sheets and I’d been spending around 1h30min or so on each booklet.
If you’re having an easy time with H, I think you’ll probably not have too much trouble with I.

Some other Kumon posts also say it takes them about an hour to finish the booklets, even in the higher levels. I can’t figure out what I’m doing that makes it take me so much longer…

I listen to the audio and try to shadow it before doing the exercises.
Every section of text or exercise, I read aloud at a natural pace while doing the exercises, even if I’ve just read the same text over and over on the previous sheets.
I have to copy-write all the kanji most of the time, because there’s no way I can write them from memory. (this can be quite slow…)

Do you follow a similar routine?

Good to know it’s normal to divide the booklets into multiple parts! It can be so hard to muster the energy to do a whole booklet.
Were you able to write all the kanji from memory? Did you read any novels while you were doing Kumon?

Oh, Kanji was always a quest. lol.
On 日本語 it was still more or less manageable, but on 国語 you have very little practice, so it was quite tough at times. I guess since it’s meant for Japanese kids, the material probably assumes you see the kanji on a regular basis, so you get to right it like two or three times and that’s it.

I used to read the books they had at my Kumon center for borrowing. Some were novels, some were children books, also a couple of graded readers…

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Sorry, I know this topic is old, but I was wondering if you remember if the 国語course had a lot of emphasis on writing kanji? (especially from memory)?

Sorry for the late reply, I was traveling for the weekend.

Yeah, I actually touched on that topic on my last reply to this post, but by the end 国語 really just glosses over the kanji, specially for the stages equivalent to middle school (what means all kanji above 教育漢字 but within 常用漢字, aka “the second half of Joyo Kanji”).

I took a picture of my old materials just to give you an idea:

It really just gives you the basic info, makes you write it within context maybe twice and that’s it, ready to go.
On the earlier stages it has a bit more drills, but even then it’s not really kanji-focused, if that’s your main goal.

That being said, Kumon does make you handwrite a lot of Japanese what is nice in my opinion, but still very different from systematically making you practice Kanji so you can remember all of them.
Kumon method is more likely to let you in a position similar to most Japanese folks, which is being able to write from memory common Japanese words and to read almost all Joyo, but in doubt if asked to write by hand more “uncommon” words.

In the end, I believe that as a material designed for Japanese children, they assume the Kanji-drilling is already being done in school anyway, so they’d better focus on giving more reading material, teaching grammar and discussing text structure.

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Oh whoops I definitely missed that in your og reply, sorry!!!

Thanks so much for your reply and sharing the materials. I really appreciate it. My main goal is definitely reading (plus the grammar and such that goes into that) so Kumon actually might not be a bad option for me. Again, thanks so much for your help.

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