In the last ten years, the number of non-Japanese studying the Japanese language has been on the rise, although a brief decline was seen in the few years after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
Students during a class at a Japanese language school FLICKR
This year, the number has gone up again compared to last year, from 139,613 to 174,359, which is the highest number in the last two decades.
Among the over 400 Japanese schools — big and small — that exist in the nation, about 80 percent of students are from Asian countries. However, some schools have classes geared toward students from the U.S. and Europe.
Below is a list of Japanese language schools and what they offer, which may help language learners choose the right school to meet their unique needs and make their stay in Japan fulfilling.
Academy of Language Arts (ALA)
Since its founding, the Academy of Language Arts has mainly taught students how to converse in Japanese, giving them lots of opportunities to acquire language skills that will enable them to communicate effectively in their everyday lives.
Instead of lectures by teachers, students can actively talk to one another in Japanese in pairs or groups.
Ever since their Test of Communication Competence in Business (TCCB) was devised with the support of the education ministry, language instruction has been given to foreign workers of many corporations.
The TCCB assesses not only the language skills of examinees but also their business skills and knowledge of business culture. The academy uses the examinees' test results to propose what is expected to be a specific and effective language instruction program for each corporation.
Besides offering language instruction programs to corporations, active support is given to students who are seeking employment. Qualified job placement coordinators at the academy strive to bring students and their prospective employers together.
The academy also make thorough efforts to teach students how to fill out applications, as well as how to handle a job interview competently and in an appropriate manner.
ARC Academy Japanese Language School
ARC Academy Japanese Language School lets students with an intermediate level or those with higher Japanese language proficiency select classes that meet their specific needs three times a week, on top of the regular Japanese classes. The following are some of the specific classes offered at the school:
• Attaining knowledge of Japanese geography, business etiquette, J-pop and drama for a better understanding of Japanese customs.
• Learning how to write application forms for those aiming to study at Japanese colleges and technical schools, or get a job, and how to write a research plan to apply to graduate school.
• Enhancing the listening skills for those taking examinations such as the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and the Examination for Japanese University admission for International Students (EJU). Japanese news programs are used as teaching materials.
• Strengthening reading skills through reading classical literature, short essays, or manga.
These classes are designed to help students acquire specialized knowledge such as that of Japanese culture that cannot be obtained from classes aimed at a general audience. As the classes help students achieve their specific goals, more than 90 percent of those who have studied in the classes voice their satisfaction every term.
Coto Language Academy
Ever since it was founded, Coto Language Academy's top priority has been to improve foreign residents' Japanese communication skills so that they can work competently and enjoy their lives in Japan.
To this point, the academy has used its original teaching materials tailored to the level of each student's Japanese language proficiency, provided to beginners to advanced classes, so that the students acquire practical language skills in an efficient manner.
Lessons can be scheduled in a highly flexible way that will suit the students' work schedules and lifestyles. The academy also makes sure that the students can learn Japanese at their desired pace.
Students can choose "Nihongo Plus" group lessons, which allow students to attend lessons on different days depending on their schedules. They can also take one-on-one lessons.
In the intensive course, students can study three hours a day, five days a week. The intensive course can last as little as a week or up to a year.
The academy has created a lounge, where students, mainly from the U.S. and Europe, can come and relax on their own time.
The academy not only provides classes, but is also trying to create a foreign community in Tokyo, in hopes that the students can get involved in cultural and social events.
KAI Japanese Language School
Working in a multinational environment, KAI Japanese Language School has kept researching and developing original teaching methods suitable for such learners since its foundation 28 years ago.
Understanding both the weaknesses and strengths of learners from non-kanji (Chinese characters) countries, KAI specifically designs curriculums necessary to overcome the common obstacles they would very likely encounter.
KAI is also continually striving to embrace innovative, modern learning techniques.
KAI's Digital Learning System (DLS) is seeing the school take its biggest leap forward, as the original materials have been revamped for a better learning experience and the school is committed to progressively enhancing the platform.
Students in the General Japanese Course are equipped with a mobile internet-connected, ready-to-study 64 GB iPad for digital learning in and out of the classroom.
They can underline, take notes and use the built-in dictionaries when reading the digital texts of the school's original textbooks in iBook form.
In addition, as the classes are organized with iTunes U, digital class materials, homework submissions, online discussions and teachers' posts keep students connected and engaged in the learning process.
KAI continues to strive for innovation so their students can improve their Japanese even faster and easier.
Nichibei Kaiwa Gakuin, JLI
The beginner's course at Nichibei Kaiwa Gakuin seeks to enable students to communicate smoothly in Japanese with their colleagues at their workplaces and other business settings. The course teaches basic Japanese grammar and aims to get the students to acquire conversation skills, which will become instantly useful in their lives.
The school uses their latest original textbook, "NIHONGO EXPRESS," which is printed by ASK publishing. The richly illustrated textbook tells the story of a foreign trainee at a large trading house. The book allows the students to use speech that helps them learn to speak Japanese in a natural way.
During the lessons, the students repeat oral exercises in a manner similar to how athletes hone their skills by moving their bodies. This way, it is ensured that the right Japanese words come to the students' minds instantly during a conversation.
The "NIHONGO EXPRESS" textbook comes in two books intended for beginners: Book 1 contains 16 lessons, while Book 2 has 22 lessons. Book 2 will be released in October.
The school also supports students in studying at home, by having them use a CD-ROM that teaches conversation and grammar along with an English translation. The CD-ROM contains the equivalent of seven audio CDs.
Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute (SNG)
Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute is offering a cloud-based Japanese instruction service, Visual Learning Japanese (VLJ), for use by foreigners in cooperation with NTT Communications.
Ever since it was founded in 1975, SNG has been using its original Ezoe teaching method developed by the principal Takahide Ezoe, which uses cards and gestures to let the students learn Japanese grammar in a visual and systematic way.
Featuring this method, NTT Communications developed cloud-based e-learning teaching materials so that students can learn Japanese easily.
Our original teaching system "blended-learning," which is a combination of online and offline in-class lessons, allows students to learn the language more effectively.
The applications for smartphones and tablets and the video clips for PCs enable students to access the content of the class at all times to practice and review the lessons whenever it is necessary, which will result in faster acquisition of Japanese. Why not come and visualize Japanese at SNG?
Sun Academy NIHONGO Center
Sun Academy is a Yale University-accredited Japanese language school that offers a wide range of courses tailored to meet the needs of its students, be they business people, diplomats, housewives, students or children. Both class and private lessons are available.
What makes Sun Academy different? One thing is that it has small classes of two to five students. Secondly, it is conveniently located in the heart of Tokyo — close to Roppongi and Nogizaka stations.
Additionally, hands-on lessons are designed to facilitate rapid acquisition of the skills students need to communicate effectively. To become a good communicator, it is imperative to improve overall communication skills, not only language skills.
Of course, Japanese skills are very important, but equally important, however, is developing cross-cultural understanding and communication strategies, so that students can communicate beyond their current level. The best way to improve communication quickly and surely is through a balanced mix of these three elements.
Based on this principle, Sun Academy has developed the communication build-up method to focus on being able to communicate in real-world settings.
Our "Nihongo Daijobu!" series is designed to help students to break through the barriers, which they would encounter in their lives to become masters of Japanese communication.