Please aid my search for a rigorous long-term language school!

So I’ve just come home from a new year’s holiday and, due to a few surreal—probably very idiotic if explained in detail—but emotionally taxing experiences, I’ve come to the realization that now is the time I quit my job (actually finish my contract in July) and focus all my time on becoming really, honest-to-goodness 一人前-level fluent in Japanese.

I’m interested in studying at a rigorous (read: one that gets me the results) language school for 1.5 - 2 years time (starting in October).

A few notes about where I’m coming from:

  • I’ve been on the JET program for 3 years in a small city on the northeastern edge of the country.
  • Since being here, I’ve progressed my Japanese knowledge (not necessarily ability) from N5 to N3. My kanji reading ability is anything I’ve learned on Wanikani to this point as well as anything I encounter regularly in my day-to-day life. I’m also doing the Japanese KUMON program, about to start the advanced levels (i.e. J, K, and L).
  • After studying abroad in Tokyo during university and living here in the inaka these past few years, I’m more motivated to learn than ever and want to learn well.
  • I think I have a good grasp on many of the difficulties of life in Japan, just not the difficulties of selecting a top-tier language school. Maybe this is why I’m so stressed trying to find reputable information/recommendations on the subject.

And what I’m looking for:

  • A long-term (i.e. 1-2 years) intensive Japanese program
  • I think outside of major population centers like Tokyo, Osaka, or Nagoya would be best. And in terms of cities I’ve visited, I’m leaning towards Fukuoka or Kobe with regard to my quality of life (Fukuoka) and quality of school (Communica Institute in Kobe).
  • A school that makes my passing the N1, being able to comfortably communicate to a professional capacity, and/or enter a Japanese grad school possible in 1.5 years. I’ve been told by a close Korean friend who attended language school, a top Japanese university, and now a top Japanese graduate school that this is more than possible, but I haven’t seen much corroborating info on the forums.
  • I’m interested in any LGBT experience regarding school life and school location as well (why I’m leaning towards Fukuoka even though I haven’t seen a solidly reviewed school yet).

If I can think of any other details I’m missing or need to clarify, I’ll update this post as well.

Do you have any longterm experience with hitting one of the goals I’ve set for myself above? Did you learn something in the process of applying for or attending language school that you wish you’d known from the start? Any resources you think are necessary for searching for a good language school? Have any personal recommendations on a good language school in Fukuoka (for hitting the goals I’ve outlined above)?

So far the schools I’ve heard of/been looking into in Fukuoka are the following:

I’ve also done a fair bit of research on the Kyoto Institute of Culture and Language (KICL) even though I really don’t think I want to live in Kyoto. But if you happen to have experience hitting the goals I’ve set for myself there, I’d love to hear it!

Any of your testimonials or advice is greatly greatly appreciated as I figure out how what I consider my most important life decision in the last/next few years! 頑張りまーす!

EDIT:

  • In terms of financing—and given the average price I’ve seen for many language school programs of $11,000~$14,000 for two years—I am able to self-finance my studies. However if there is a particularly esteemed program which costs more than this, I would still love to hear about it.
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Hi! A couple of thoughts:
I guess it often depends on the costs. Do you have a plan how you want to finance it? Are you still student, or have the possibility to enroll at a college, which could help your application? Do you plan to visit an intense language program, or work besides?
I am currently applying to Stanford’s IUC program, as it makes sense for me career- and language-wise, which would cover your criteria of long-term (10 months), passing N1 (it’s one of world’s best schools), though it’s in Yokohama not somewhere more rural. As someone who has lived in Kyoto in the past, I can say I quite liked it :slight_smile:

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You should check out GenkiJACS in Fukuoka! They definitely have long-term programs and classes up to N1 (I studied at lower N2 level max, so I can’t tell you anything about the quality of the higher classes). I can’t really say much about how fast they get you to your personal goals, I always found the pace manageable, but not too slow, but I only stayed for 4 weeks at a time.
They also won a number of awards for best language school (worldwide, I think?), so you should check out their website and see if that’s a possible candidate.

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Thank you so much for your reply! Wow, this is really the perfect program. It’s unfortunate I’m basically too late to apply this year as I’d feel so inappropriate bumming for the necessary letters of recommendation from the people I’d have to contact. :sweat_smile:

I think my application would run into a few other problems anyway, as the majority of my Japanese experience is post-graduating university, and my career goals (while based in Japan) are not necessarily centered around Japanese studies. This is part of the reason I’m looking at language programs like these and not grad school itself at the moment.

On your question of cost, given the typical costs of most language schools in Japan (~$11,000~$14,000 for two years, I believe), I’m currently able to self-finance. As for the IUC Program…I should probably start looking into financial aid programs now if I wish to do this in the future.

In the end, honestly, were I able to enter a program as esteemed as this, I wouldn’t care where I was located. Yokohama, center of Shinjuku, or middle of the US would do fine! :joy:

Thank you for your reply @Myria!

I had seen GenkiJACS recommended in various places around the internet, but most of the recommendees had only studied for a short time which made me reticent. Did you meet anyone during your stay who was studying in a longer term program?

I’ll absolutely give it a more thorough look!

You’re welcome! Submission is in 3 days, so technically it is still possible - though you’d have to speed in getting your materials together! I agree that your career goals should probably match their criteria though, as it’s very competitive (that’s why I am studying as hard as I can at the moment to pass their assessment exam). Grammar - Reading - Kanji - Listening, the whole shebang.
They do also have a summer school for which the deadline is March 8, 2019. Just putting this here in case it’s of any interest for WK members.
As you mention the middle of the US - ever heard of Middlebury College? It makes you take a language pledge, to only speak, learn, write, dream Japanese for the duration of the course. http://www.middlebury.edu/ls/japanese/dates_fees/node/160051 First round deadline is on February 1st.
Ganbatte, and good luck :slight_smile:

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Make sure to check out the makeup of the students are whichever school you choose. You might not enjoy two years with a 97% Chinese student body, for instance. Many schools seem to largely cater to one or two countries, usually China or Korea. Chinese students don’t necessarily have the same needs as you since they’re already familiar with most kanji, for instance. Korean grammar is much closer to Japanese than English. And so on. Plus, there’s the whole social and community aspect of being a student.

Just something to keep in mind. I don’t have a school to recommend to you.

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Thank you for this advice. I think it’s necessary for anyone thinking about attending a program like these to consider this aspect. I started asking around to a few of my friends and this was immediately something that sprang to their minds with regard to their own experiences (positive and negative) at various schools.

As a related aside for any present or future lurking ghosts, the website Nisshinkyo allows you to seach a database of various school (some of them members of the organization which is a strong seal of approval) around the country with fairly comprehensive demographic and JLPT pass/fail rates among their students.

This was a strong selling point for me while researching Communica Institute in Kobe, as their student body is small and diverse, and their test pass rates are fairly high.

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I had several people in my class who studied long-term, and I also know some from other classes. I can ask some for their opinion on the lengthy stay if you like.
Also, you can easily switch classes should you feel like the class is too easy or too hard for you.
Regarding the student makeup, I found it to be mostly US-Americans and Europeans (many from Germany), I would say at least 75% were non-Asian. But of course you also have people from Thailand, Korea, and China.
I don’t think GenkiJACS publishes any pass/fail rates on the JLPT for their students, since taking the JLPT is not part nor ultimate goal of their program. The lessons and textbooks are definitely aimed at JLPT students though, so I think it’s safe to say that you’ll be prepared for the test either way. Still, if you’re looking for a program really focused on taking the JLPT and passing it at the end in a more strict, school-like setting with lots of practice tests, maybe there’s better offers out there.
I’m not saying that GenkiJACS is only useful as a summer holiday language school, and I feel like you can definitely excel when studying with them, especially because you get lots of speaking and writing practice in small classes.
The school definitely has a more fun and friendly, but dedicated feel to it in the sense that you can get by with minimal effort (since you don’t have weekly written tests or anything other to measure progress other than performance in lessons), but really excel if you want to.
So if you’re looking for a more “rigorous” program with passing the JLPT as a strong focus, maybe it’s not the right thing. But I can get other opinions from long-term students if you like. :slight_smile:

Hi Myria! I was searching the forums for reviews of various japanese language schools and came across your feedback here. I am very much interested to know more details on your studies there, would you mind sharing those? Like the schedule arrangement, lessons structure, textbooks used etc. You mentioned the low N2 lvl which is around where I stand, so that would be quite relevant for me.

Sure! :slight_smile:
Schedule arrangement: you will either have classes in the morning or in the afternoon, depending on the day and week. Morning would be 9:30-13:00 (with breaks), afternoon 14:00-17:45. It’s always a different teacher, but the class stays the same.
If you feel the class is too easy or too hard, you can always move up or down, however the gaps will be bigger in the higher levels. When I was there, there were only two different classes studying with the N2 book, so there was quite a big difference to the next higher class.

The book we used was the TRY!N2, and for N1 also the TRY! book is used.
The first half of the day was always grammar from the book, we usually covered maybe 2 grammar points a day I think. It depended on the day what the other half of class would be. One day we would study kanji, one day read some manga/some sort of text, one day conversation and writing where you had to hand in a sort of essay about a certain topic (once a week). I don’t remember the exact “themes” for the different days but mostly along those lines.

The TRY book has individual chapters with several grammar points, and at the end of each chapter there’s a small test that we would sometimes do in class, sometimes as homework. Also lots of additional materials, I think for the kanji lessons there was always a different printout, and also lots of additional listening (on one day of the week we had a longer listening text, but we also had extra JLPT style listening questions in addition to those in the book).

The teaching style kind of depends on the teachers, some are really talkative and encourage talking very much also during grammar lessons, stuff like coming up with sentences using certain grammar stuctures, also just generally talking about what we did and ate yesterday, while others would adhere more to the textbook with less time to just talk freely. But most of the teachers are awesome and very fun to talk with :slight_smile: most of the time classes were really enjoyable.

The classes are mostly small, but that also depends on the time you’ll be going. Obviously summer holidays are busiest, but I still only had 2 or 3 other people in my class some weeks, which is of course very nice.

You can also book additional conversation classes with the school, which is what I did last time. It’s 3-4 times a week I think? And the teachers prepare different stuff and we just talk about it (sometimes a newspaper article, sometimes we’d talk about a website, sometimes no additional material at all but simply a given topic), that might be useful when you’re looking for more conversation practice.

If you have any more specific questions, I’m glad to answer them! :slight_smile:

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Whoa, thank you! The studies seem to be quite intense - this is what I was looking for! I have studied in the language school twice, both times it was Lexis Japan located in Kobe. I love this school and its location as well, but this time decided to see if there is a good alternative to change the environment. Genki seems to be quite good, the logic of their curriculum is close to what we did in Lexis. The only visible difference is the basic book of the course, which in Lexis was Tobira in the past and now Marugoto.
Which location did you study at? I was looking at Fukuoka, but learned Genki is opening a new branch in Kyoto this summer and am torn apart :sweat_smile:
So I am hesitating as to where it would be more interesting to stay. I bet traditional culture classes in Kyoto should be more than impressive.

I only stayed in Fukuoka, and yes, the Kyoto branch is quite new :slight_smile: I know that some of the staff members have moved to Kyoto, and I am sure they will also find great teachers there! Kyoto definitely sounds like the “more interesting” city to stay in for a longer period (not that Fukuoka is boring – the staff always finds things to do for Friday parties or trips, and there is lots of fun places to see since the school is directly in the city center). But I would be very interested as well to experience traditional culture classes in Kyoto! It’s basically the perfect city for that.

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