After middle school, you’re going to have to go to high school. That’s just the way things are (sorry).
How are your studies going? Have you been thinking about your foreign language choices? There’s a lot of different decisions to make.
Have you ever thought about studying Japanese for your foreign language class? Should you study Japanese at high school, alongside another foreign language, or outside of school?
This article should have the answers you’re looking for.
Is It a Good Idea to Learn Japanese at High School?
If you’ve already studied Japanese at middle school, are familiar with kanji, hiragana, and katakana, and can have a basic Japanese conversation, then studying Japanese at high school shouldn’t pose a problem. Of course, you should always check that the high school you’re going to actually teaches Japanese before you get your hopes up. It’s one of the rarer languages taught at high schools around the country, after all.
If you want to learn how to speak Japanese and you’re going to a high school where it’s taught, you’re in luck. That’s really rare. Additionally, if you’ve already studied it at middle school, you’ll have the opportunity to further study Japanese writing, pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and reading and listening comprehension.
On the other hand, if you’ve never studied it before, you could always choose it as a second foreign language alongside a more popular foreign language like Spanish or French. This is a particularly good idea if you’re not entirely sure how far you’re going to pursue your studies in Japanese.
This is all theoretical at this point as it all depends on whether or not you’re going to one of the few high schools that actually offer it. If you are one of the lucky ones and you’re getting good grades in middle school, then there shouldn’t be any reason why you should stop studying it when you go to high school and your teachers will probably feel the same way about it.
On the other hand, if you didn’t study it at middle school but every other kid in your class did, things are going to be a little bit more complicated.
Generally speaking, if you really want to learn to speak the language, the hours you do at school won’t be nearly enough. Your teachers won’t have the time to fully help you if they have a class full of other students, too. You’ll have to put the extra effort in yourself.
In summary, choosing to study Japanese requires a lot of commitment, especially if you’re joining a class of students who’ve already studied it and you haven’t. Of course, you can always use your free time during the summer to catch up by hiring a Japanese private tutor or evening visiting Japan.
Is It A Good Idea to Study Japanese Alongside Another Foreign Language?
With nearly 90% of students taking Spanish, can you really afford not to take it at high school? If you feel this is the case, you might have to consider taking both Spanish and Japanese.
If you have an aptitude for foreign languages and got good grades in middle school, I’d say go for it! It would look great on your resume or college applications. I can’t imagine that there are many college applicants with English, Spanish, and Japanese!
Of course, this can be a lot of work and the skills aren’t necessary directly transferable between the two languages. Students that take two foreign languages like Spanish and French can benefit from the similarities between the two languages (as long as they don’t confuse the two, that is).
For a long time, Japanese was considered a language isolate. This means that there wasn’t a single language that was related to it. While this was later proved to be untrue, I don’t think there’s a single school in the country that teaches any of the other Japonic or Ryukyuan languages.
Put simply, Japanese is a class you’ll take because you love Japanese and want to work with it in the future. It’s probably not going to help you get any better at any other language directly. That said, it never hurts to have taken a more common language class, too.
If you already got the basics down in middle school, it would be a waste not to continue studying and make yourself stand out as one of the few Japanese-speaking students in the US.
What About Learning Japanese Outside of School?
If it’s not going to get in the way of your other high school classes, you could always consider studying Japanese outside of school. There are several benefits:
You can start studying the language regardless of whether or not you’ve studied it before.
It’ll look great on college applications as it shows you’re driven.
You can learn the language in a less academic way and have a lot of fun while you learn the language.
If you learn a language outside of school, you’re learning the language for the love of it rather than just to pass some tests and put together a college application.
This means you can use resources like manga, anime, Japanese movies, TV shows, and video games to help you learn. Furthermore, you get to choose your tutor rather than just getting put in the class with the teachers available at school.
Classes with a private tutor can go at your pace and your tutor can work with your strengths and weaknesses in order to get the most out of every hour you spend together. This is a great idea if you’re driven, love languages, and obsessed with Japan and Japanese culture and history!
Where Can You Get Japanese Lessons or Tutors?
Regardless of whether you’re studying Japanese in school or outside of it, you might want to consider looking for lessons or a tutor to help you.
Fortunately, there are plenty of Japan-America Societies around the country that promote Japanese education.
Put simply, if you’re doing anything related to Japan or Japanese, these societies should be top of your list. In addition to culture and education, they also promote business programs between the two companies.
Here are a few of them:
- Japan Society, Inc. (New York)
- Japan America Society of Southern California
- Japan Society of Northern California
- Japan-America Society of Chicago
- Japan-America Society of Northwest Florida
- Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia
- Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania
- Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth
- Japan-America Society of Houston
- Japan-America Society of Washington DC, Inc.
- The Japan-America Society of Georgia
- Japan Society of Boston
- Japan America Society of Michigan and Southwestern Ontario
- Japan-America Society of the State of Washington
- Japan America Society of Minnesota
- Japan America Society of Colorado
- Japan America Society of St. Louis
- Japan America Society of Nevada
- Japan-America Society of Oregon
- Japan America Society of Greater Cincinnati
- Japan-America Society of Central Ohio
- Heart of America Japan-America Society
- Japan-America Society of Indiana, Inc.
- Japan America Society of Wisconsin
- Japan-America Society of North Carolina
- The Japan-America Society of Alabama
- The Japan-America Society of Mississippi
- Japan America Society of Kentucky
- Japan-America Society of Tennessee, Inc.
- Japan America Society of St. Louis
- Japan Society of New Orleans
- Japan-America Society of Greater Austin
- Japan-America Society of San Antonio
If you have a look at this list, you’ll probably be able to find an association near you.
If you are in the UK, check out the best Japanese lessons London.
Most of these sites also have an education section where you can look for tutors, classes, or educational events about Japanese culture and history or the Japanese language. As you can see, almost every state has a Japan-America Society. If not, you should check out the Embassy of Japan’s website for schools and resources for learning Japanese.
Did you know that you could also study Japanese by using video games?
What Should You Study for Japanese?
Whether you study Japanese as your first foreign language, second foreign language, or outside of school, the things you’ll have to study will be more or less the same.
In school, you’ll be tested on the same elements of language you would be if you took any other language: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. However, if you study outside of school, you can sort of mix up the order you learn these. You can learn languages more naturally by studying speaking first and learning to speak long before you pick up a pen.
Unfortunately, in school you won’t be so lucky. Your studies will be far more academic than classes with a private tutor. This is because the main goal of studying Japanese at school is to pass exams, not to actually learn to speak the language. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t learn to speak the language in your high school Japanese lessons.
If just means that you’ll get less time to practice speaking the language because there are tests to take (sorry!). On the other hand, learning the language in the free time gives you the freedom to master the language in any order you want.
It's important that you study hard if you want to learn Japanese. (Source: skitterphoto.com)
In both cases, you’ll probably start with basic conversational stuff like greetings, starting and ending conversations, and asking basic questions. You’ll also have to cover some of the most common words, the kanji and kana (hiragana and katakana) writing systems, as well as some basic grammar points such as particles. Fortunately for you, Japanese doesn’t have subject-verb conjugations like Spanish does. In Japanese, you only need to conjugate in terms of tense (past, present, future, etc.).
Once you understand some basic vocabulary, grammar points, and reading and writing, you’ll start moving on more complicated aspects of the language. At this stage, you’ll be expected to expand upon the simple conversations you were able to have with the expressions you first learned, show that you can understand written texts, and show a mastery of the kana.
While this may sound like a lot, the key to learning a language is to practice just a little bit regularly. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn just by studying for 10 minutes every day rather than studying for two hours on the weekend.
This will all be very easy for you if you’re a hard-working student and you’re lucky enough to have a good teacher or tutor. Don’t forget that you can always travel to Japan to boost your Japanese, too!
It’s never too late to learn a language and high school might just be the stepping stone you need towards become fluent in Japanese.
You’ll still have more than enough time to:
Memorize Japanese words
Study Japanese history
Learn to count in Japanese
Study Japanese pronunciation
Start building Japanese sentences and using Japanese grammar
If you can’t afford a trip to Japan or to participate in a language exchange program there, don’t forget that you can always hire a private tutor to help you!
What about studying Japanese after high school?