I recently attended Naganuma for a 3-month intensive program and given the dearth of info about Japanese Language schools online, here's my experience. If you've also attended / are attending Naganuma, PLEASE post your experience as I have my own set of biases.
A bit about me, so you can understand where my view comes from:
- Japanese ability before Naganuma: beginner/intermediate. I'd taken a few courses and done some self-study back in the US first.
- I could only be in Japan for 3 months.
- Money was not a major factor.
- Quality/intensity were most important.
- I did not work while attending school.
- Intensive. You definitely need to study a few hours per day or you'll quickly fall behind, but if you're serious about learning, you need a program that kicks your butt.
- Facilities (relative to other schools). Japanese schools usually tend to have pretty cramped, primitive facilities. While it's definitely no university, their complex is decent with a cafeteria, 3 buildings including a decent sized computer room and even a cafe on site for snacks.
- Location. Shibuya is pretty easy to commute to, which makes a HUGE difference when you're going there everyday, especially when weather gets bad. 15minute walk from main Shibuya station, 5min walk from Shinsen stn. (Inokashira line).
- It works. The "Naganuma Method" is well thought out and their teachers execute it fairly well. We had 4 periods of class per day and the instructor in period 2 knew what the instructor in period 1 covered. By the end of each week I was putting what I learned directly to use in personal situations.
- Administration. Considering I attended Naganuma a few weeks after the Tsunami crisis in March, I thought the school was well run and efficient, especially so given the uncertainty of crisis.
- Focus on exams. You can enter a "university exam preparation" track at their school designed specifically to help get you into a Japanese university. This wasn't important to me, but was to some of my classmates.
- Some Job placement help. I know very little about this, but can potentially link you up with one of my classmates who did get a part-time job if you are interested.
- Faculty. While there were some misses in terms of "good teachers", in general I found 75% of my teachers to be good and 20% of those to be "great".
- Cost. They are among the more expensive schools. You'll also need to pay another 8000 yen for books each quarter.
- Tokyo is expensive. Especially for me coming from a weak US dollar into the yen, things were about 30% more costly.
- Some equipment outdated. Their language lab was probably built in the 1970s and hasn't changed since. They also use these really old school tape players in class which have seen better years, 40 better years is my guess.
- Kanji is a little too fast. Many students are from Chinese character using countries, but I had a bit of trouble keeping up with the fire hose of Kanji we had to learn each week.
Some general advice:
- Think objectively about your study habits. It seems silly and obvious for me to say, but seriously consider if in the past you've been successful in a fast-paced learning environment. Naganuma can get fast and if you don't devote the time, you WILL fall behind and they reserve the right to hold you back a grade if you don't do well in your exams. This actually happened to one of my classmates and I don't blame Naganuma, I think it's a good policy which reflects their seriousness about turning out high-quality speakers/writers.
- You will likely not be able to work part-time for the first several months. Keep that in mind when budgeting.
Resources that helped me:
- GogoNihon (Live and study in Japan - Find Japanese language schools - gogonihon.com) - Davide was really helpful in getting me set up in Japan with Naganuma, cell phone, etc. Tell him "the guy who he interviewed in Yoyogi Koen after the earthquake" sent you. They even have social mixers with 50% Japanese participants to ensure language exchange occurs and sometimes discounts on schools/housing.
- Anki (Anki - friendly, intelligent flashcards) - Great flashcard program to help learn Kanji. Anytime I was on a train I'd be using this to quiz myself.
Also, get excited! Tokyo/Japan is a VERY livable place and I had a blast seeing the sites, eating the foods (abura ramen, what god eats for lunch everyday), and meeting the people. You'll make some really close friends. It will be a life-changing experience. Your first "holy crap, I just held a whole conversation in Japanese" moment will be a great feeling.
This might have been more info than you bargained for, just want to give a bit more complete picture. Please let me know if this sparks any other questions.