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1 month intensive study in Japan?

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Hi all,

First background on my current level – I have been studying by myself for about 1.3 years now. I am texting my language exchange Japanese friends in Japanese every day and also talk to them or a tutor face-to-face or virtually once a week on average. I am regularly taking notes, asking many questions, and studying the conversation content. I am already fluent in Chinese which has been helpful. In terms of main study sources, I have gone through 75% of Tae Kim’s Japanese Grammar Guide and completed the first elementary Genki book. Currently studying the second book (still elementary). I try my best to think in Japanese when I get home from work.

I am considering taking a month to stay in Japan from November to December this year after my project finishes here in China and before returning to the US. If I can go from studying 1 hour a day on average to about 14 hours a day for that month, dedicate myself to speaking and thinking in Japanese, then I think this perhaps can really jump start Japanese language progression. I do plan on having the second Genki book completed by this time. I want to think hard on this one though before pursuing because of family considerations.

Should I go for it? Worth it? Am I too early in my studies? If I were to go, what should I do exactly? Is there like a one month boot camp or something I can do to maximize benefits? Seems to be a lot of good school resources on the site if any recommendations specific to this situation though?

Thanks very much for the advice!
J
 
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Studying continuously for 14 hours a day would kill most people. Enjoy your visit here, too!

What is the purpose of your language studies?
 

Mike Cash

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Your plan sounds to me like going to an expensive strip club and spending the whole time in the bathroom looking at a Playboy magazine.

You're putting lots of time and energy into learning Japanese. Japan is the only country on the planet where Japanese is extensively spoken. If you only have a month to spend here, why spend 14 hours a day glued to a desk staring at books? You can do that anywhere.

I would suggest hitting the books as hard as you can until you come here and then spending as much time as you can going around seeing things and actively talking to people as much as you can. You can get your make-believe practice conversations in a classroom or via Skype from anywhere in the world but there is really no other opportunity you will ever have to put your skills to practical use and get the kind of benefit and enjoyment from them that you would get by going out and using your skills.

If you feel you'd like to attend school a few hours a day, I can see the sense in that and it would be useful. But 14 hours a day? You couldn't find a school or combination of schools where you could possibly do that even if you wanted to and the law of diminishing returns would hit you soon and hard. So even if you found a school where you could spend six hours in class, to my mind going back to your hotel room and spending another eight hours anchored to your desk rather than going out and applying what you have learned would be not only foolish but also counterproductive to your learning experience. Your brain benefits from the active feedback loop and anxiety that are a part of unscripted impromptu interactions and you don't get that from a book or in a classroom.
 
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Hi all, thanks for the responses!

Instead of study I should have said immerse myself. I agree I would not plan to spend 14 hours in a room, but rather interact with others and employ many methods comprehensively for as many hours as I can per day as possible. In fact, the short hour of “study” that I mentioned above which I perform now daily, is usually in the form of text messaging back in forth with friends, asking questions, learning in this interactive manner, and not text book study necessarily.

These responses were helpful. My main questions now are: is 1 month too short? is there a recommended school for a short program?

In terms of what I would like to achieve after 1 month – I would like to leave with the confidence that I could use the Japanese language to live there (order food, go to bank, search for apartment, go to doctor, etc) and travel (book flights, hotels, chat with strangers, etc). Not looking to achieve a fluency during this trip to understand the news or operate efficiently within the Japanese business environment.

Thanks,
J
 

mdchachi

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My main questions now are: is 1 month too short? is there a recommended school for a short program?

In terms of what I would like to achieve after 1 month – I would like to leave with the confidence that I could use the Japanese language to live there (order food, go to bank, search for apartment, go to doctor, etc) and travel (book flights, hotels, chat with strangers, etc). Not looking to achieve a fluency during this trip to understand the news or operate efficiently within the Japanese business environment.
The duration simply depends on how much time you can spend. The longer the better of course but I think you can get a lot accomplished in a month. I once did a summer/study program at a university that was about a month which included classroom time, a lot of interaction with other students, two weeks in a dorm and two weeks home stay. It was invaluable and definitely boosted my ability.

As far as getting the skills to do all those activities, really the only way is to actually do all those things. You can't effectively study every situation in advance e.g. how to order from McDonalds and be prepared that first time when they ask you お持ち帰るですか. Same for making reservations, looking for accommodations or going to a doctor. Based on what you've said so far, probably the main thing you need now is a focus on verbal/conversation practice. Therefore I think an immersive month in Japan is the perfect plan.

So next step is to find out what programs are available and pick one.
 
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There are a lot of schools that will let you study for 1 month. Some will also arrange the accommodation for you. You could try a homestay or sharehouse with Japanese people, I think that's a good way to learn.

I studied in Japan for 5 weeks and I think actually interacting with people was far more effective than the lessons - but they did prevent me from getting bored and the school arranged a place in a sharehouse for me. The sharehouse was the best part of the experience for me, it was so much fun.

To be honest, when it comes to ordering food, booking a hotel etc. - when you need to do it, you will find a way even if your language skills are very poor. So as long as you don't go there and hide in your apartment all day you should get plenty of practice. It might be better to go outside Tokyo if you can because people don't default to English so easily when seeing a foreign face (well maybe they don't do that if you're not white, I don't know...).
 
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Hi all, just to close the loop on this, I could not get one month off to study Japanese in Japan as my wife would not allow it :) so I negotiated it into a two week trip. During that time I visited Tokyo for 6 days and Kobe / Osaka / Nara / Kyoto for 8 days. I also spent four days in Okinawa. I feel I maximized my time from a practice perspective and let me explain how I did it:

Six months prior to traveling to Japan I made language exchange friends located all over Japan. I texted them almost weekly establishing a good relationship. So while I was in Japan I made a plan to see them so that I would not be always traveling by myself. I also signed up for two travel buddy websites in Japan looking for folks to travel with and met new people this way. Of course the new folks met this way we could only speak Japanese as it was not a language exchange deal which was good for me. In this way I met with 13 different people over 18 days touring Japan and practicing my Japanese. I made sure to always be respectful and have a gift ready for them on our first meeting. I did indeed nearly complete the elementary Genki series books and had a number of video meetings leading up to my trip which gave me confidence. I could have been more prepared but I did the best I could considering my hectic schedule. Finally, I stayed for free with my coworkers cousin in Tokyo who is Japanese so that was like a home stay and then I used Airbnb to stay with a Japanese college dude in Kyoto. It was a blast and highly effective trip.

Well, now I am finishing off the books and preparing for the JLPT exams. The trip gave me confidence from a living and general dialogue perspective and can't wait to go back in the future.

Take care to all, J
 

Mike Cash

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Glad to hear it worked out so well for you! And thanks very much for coming back and telling us how things went. Practically nobody ever does that.
 
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