Thursday, September 03, 2009

intensive language courses

After I had been in Japan for 11 months, I was able to take a one-month intensive language class. I had the class 5 days a week for about 3 hours a day. I had to take a train for 50 minutes and then transfer to the subway for a 10 minute ride. There was one other student who also took the class, so I was able to get a group price for the course.

In that one-month class, I studied the entire second volume of Japanese for Busy People. I already knew about half the material so we were able to go through the lessons in the book at a quick pace. I wanted to study from that book because it had some basic grammar that I had never learned and couldn't use or even understand.

The instructor taught us in the Japanese language, and the book was the Kana edition, not the romanized version which uses Romaji to represent Japanese. So every day I was exposed to a Japanese-only environment while being taught Japanese. I had no problem understanding the explanations and lessons in Japanese. It was a very good experience.

There was also another class next to mine and we were divided only by a partition so I could hear the students in the other classes. There was one class going on where I could often hear a couple of the students speaking.  I guess they were the talkative type.  They were not merely answering the teacher but seemed to be able to communicate. However, their accent was not good.

I heard them often and I wondered what book they were using. They could have been studying from a different series. I thought they were pretty much beginners. Even the other guy in my class sounded fine when speaking, unlike those students in the other class, and we were just studying volume 2. So I thought to myself, "They couldn't possibly be using volume 3 of Japanese for Busy People. Maybe they are using volume 1 or even volume 2." As you've probably already guessed, I looked over the partition one day and saw that they were using Japanese for Busy People Volume 3.

For the last week, I was in my class without the other student because he took a trip to Hong Kong. And then, I was able to study for one more month and the language school found another student to join my class. This time we went through Volume 3 at a normal pace, and I completed only half of the book in a month.  However, the other student stopped coming to class sometime after the first week, so I was in a class all by myself.

I couldn't afford to opt for a third month of class, so my experience with intensive language courses is limited to just those 2 months. As you can imagine, at the beginning I was very eager and excited to be going to a Japanese language school. But by the second month, I was not excited at all. I just wanted to get through each day. I wanted to buy a cinamon roll to eat during breaktime. I was watching the clock and wondering how much time was left until class was over.

Language courses are good for lazy students who need someone to help them along, but language courses are not good because the students are lazy and just want to be spoon-fed the material. Language courses are also very expensive.  There are a lot of English language schools in Japan and they ask students to commit to a certain number of lessons when they start. The more lessons the students are willing to buy, the cheaper the per lesson price becomes. The schools know that they had better get the students' money while the students are still excited and motivated to learn English.

In today's world, a person can learn a foreign language from home. We can have everything delivered to us. When we get to the point where it's time to talk with the natives, we can contact them on Skype. I think we no longer need language courses. But we still need motivation.

1 comment:

  1. While 'lazy' is technically the correct word, I think it has too many negative connotations. They are insufficiently motivated to learn Japanese, at the very least... But they might just have WAY too much else going on with their life and need some structure to keep them on track with their studies.

    In fact, at this point, there's -nothing- you can't learn to do at home if you are properly motivated. By this same token, that means all colleges/uni students are 'lazy'.

    As far as language courses being useless... In their current form, that's probably correct. They are horribly inefficient. If they were updated to use modern tools and methods, and focus on massive amounts of input, I think they would be a lot better.

    Start them off with an SRS deck, encourage them to add to it, and assign LOTS of homework in the form of audio and video. Periodic quizzes on the homework and SRS lessons, plus some in-class practice listening and perhaps responding (when they are ready) and I think a class that's better than home-study could be made.

    That obviously requires a lot of work on the part of the teacher and school, too, though. And there are no books designed for such a course... They'd be making do with 2001KO or KIC or JfBP or something.


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