By Mengu Metha
Every learner has his/her Japanese language learning style. Some like to learn on their own at home, while some prefer a more formal method i.e., in a classroom environment.
One of the biggest mistakes new language learners make when deciding how to learn is by boxing themselves in the traditional sense of learning and education. By traditional I mean the socially accepted classroom environment.
The classroom environment may be beneficial for some students, there’s no denying that. However, not every student is the same. Some students are extroverted, while some are introverted. Some students learn faster and also forget it just as fast, and some students take a little longer to understand, but, can retain the information much better. Some students like to listen to lectures, take notes, go home and revise, and that is how they learn. Meanwhile, some students cannot sit through a class for more than say an hour without getting bored or distracted. Some students understand better through the use of audio/visual materials, role-playing, etc. The extroverted students love to ask questions and thus, force the class to go at their pace, while the introverts sit quietly scared of asking questions to clarify their doubts.
What happens in a ‘typical’ classroom environment is that all these different kinds of students are shoved together in a room, with one teacher, catering to one particular type of student. In this kind of environment, what do you think is the percentage of students who can successfully learn the language? I don’t think it will be shocking to know that for beginners, the success ratio is less than 30% on average.
Now, the classroom environment is not the only reason for such a low success rate. Another major factor in this is the inability of the students to recognize their own motives for studying Japanese and their goals.
- Learning Japanese as a hobby
- Learning Japanese for higher education in Japan
- Learning Japanese for starting their career
- Learning Japanese for furthering their career (Those who are already working)
Language learners have to be very clear about which category they fit from the above list. An individual learning the language as a hobby will surely be not suited to an institute that has an intensive study course. For those who are already working and wanting to improve their portfolio might need a more conversational based system of learning rather than the typical pen and paper method. This is not to discount the importance of learning the rudiments of grammar, but just to highlight where the emphasis should be for students with different learning requirements.
As mentioned earlier, students should look for teachers/institutes that cater to their needs, and not just go to any institute. For example, if I want to eat authentic Japanese food, should I go to a restaurant that specializes in Japanese food? or should I go to a food court in a mall that sells all kinds of food?
One might argue that Japanese language institutes are specialized in teaching the Japanese language and thus, are the best place for learning. Of course, they specialize in teaching the language, but, are they equipped with teaching methodologies for different kinds of students? Do they have different classes for fast learners and slow learners? Do they have different lesson plans for those students who perform better through unorthodox methods of learning? Are there sessions available especially for hobby learners, or professional learners?The aim of this article is not to discourage students from going to language institutions, but to encourage students to take some time and effort to think for themselves. Do you enjoy sitting in a classroom and learning with other people? or do you prefer to learn alone one on one with a teacher or from the comfort of your home? Do you learn better through audio and videos, through role-play or you learn better listening to a lecture? Once you’ve determined this, research on the available institutes, find out how their classes are structured, how flexible are they to the needs of the students. Many Japanese language teachers are not affiliated to any institutes, contact them, ask them their teaching methods. Once you find a teacher, sit with them, tell them your requirements honestly, and I am sure you will be better off with a customized course than in a classroom where all students are expected to learn the same way, and if you don’t learn as per their expectations, you’re labeled a failure.
Let us know what your learning style is in the comments below. If you have any learning ideas feel free to share. Let us have a discussion!