Casual vs Intensive Japanese Courses

By Tyson Batino | May 12, 2020

This article is part of our guides on finding the right Japanese language school in Tokyo.

There are two types of Japanese lessons courses, intensive or casual. Depending on your work and life situation and goals at the moment, the type of course you choose will differ. This article will cover the benefits of either course to help you make the right choice in your Japanese school selection.

We have also compared online vs offline Japanese lessons and group vs private lessons. You are welcome to check those articles as well.

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    Casual Japanese Courses

    What are Casual Japanese Lesson Courses Like

    A casual Japanese lesson course will offer you one or several Japanese lessons every week. Most people usually take one or two lessons a week, while someone who wants to learn faster may take around four to five lessons a week. Each lesson will be around 50 minutes each and can be a combination of group or private lessons.

    Most Japanese language schools will usually make you purchase a package of lessons up front. For example, they may require you to purchase a minimum of 20 lessons and up to a maximum of around 100 lessons all at once. The more lessons you purchase, the cheaper the price you pay per lesson. Teachers at casual Japanese language schools usually do speak English because these courses are targeted to students from western countries.

    Reminder: one class per week with no practice between lessons will not give you language proficiency. Study well and often for maximum results.

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    Who Should Take a Casual Japanese Course

    Joining a casual Japanese language course is a good option for those who

    • Wants to learn Japanese but wants to save money.
    • Wants to learn Japanese and wants to self-study as well.
    • Unable to commit to a full-time program due to work or other commitments

    Casual Japanese Course vs Language Exchanges

    Essentially the decision to join a casual Japanese course comes down to you wanting to self-study Japanese on your own completely or taking Japanese lessons while self-studying to improve your Japanese skills. Based on our experience of teaching hundreds of foreigners, it really depends on the person, so there is no definitive answer. There are some people who are really extroverted and they naturally make a lot of Japanese friends and end up not needing a Japanese language teacher. They also tend to find a friend to tutor them or end up doing a language exchange.

    Many people who come to our school mention that they have tried language exchanges but it ends up being an English lesson instead of an exchange. The main reason for this is that usually the stronger person in language will win the exchange. If you do go the language exchange route, you would need to find someone who is at a similar level to you to avoid this tug of war. You would also have to outline strict rules for time management so you can switch back and forth. The only other way around this would be to win the battle of wills and push forward with your desire to speak Japanese.

    For Japan Switch, our goal is normally to help a student reach a conversation level of Japanese and encourage them to do language exchanges or make a Japanese friend. Making it from beginner to a conversational level is quite tough, so we normally have friendly and supportive teachers. The teachers serve to build confidence in students and to serve as your first Japanese friend. Once you build that rapport and connection, we encourage you to take lessons and use the self-study manuals to improve your learning speed momentum. Essentially lessons provide you an opportunity to be selfish in a way and make a lesson all about yourself.

    To summarize, there is no general winner between casual lessons vs language exchanges. However, you will end doing both in the end. People who do language exchanges in the beginning end up coming to casual lessons to work on their weak points. Even though I run a Japanese language school in Tokyo, I personally learned through language exchanges and took lessons after becoming fluent. I also encourage our students to venture out to language exchanges after developing confidence with us because that will lead to more success in the long-term.

    Casual Japanese Course vs Self Study

    A casual part-time Japanese language school is helpful to those who have a hard time studying or focusing at home. The school can push you into a good rhythm for using Japanese on a weekly or daily basis because you may be more likely to carry out a promise for another person than yourself. What I mean is if you make a promise to your teacher that you will take a lesson on Wednesday, you are more likely to go through with this as opposed to doing a self-study session at 10 AM Wednesday on your own. You could use the technique of forcing yourself to go to a cafe, but making a commitment to another person is often stronger than one to yourself since we are people pleasing creatures.

    Another reason why you are more likely to stick to your commitment is because you are spending your own money for the lesson. If you miss the lesson, you will lose your money, that simple. You will also more likely take the lesson seriously and prepare or study for it in advance than a language exchange. Again, because your lesson has a price value, you will take it more seriously in general.

    If you do go the self study route, the best option would be to force yourself to go to a cafe at a certain time each day to get your studies done. Once you jump on the entertainment train at home, it is hard to get off and several hours of your day end up going by.

    Japanese Vocab chang 5

    Casual Japanese Course Prices and System

    Choosing the right casual Japanese learning course

    Here are some key questions to answer to make the right decision:

    • Is there an entrance fee?
    • How much are textbooks and materials?
    • How many months do you have to pay for in advance?
    • How many lessons can I take in one week?
    • Lesson: Do I have to learn to read and write kanji?
    • Lesson: How many students are in the class?
    • Lesson: Do I study with the same teacher each week?

    Some schools charge an entrance fee from around 10,000 - 30,000 yen, which is standard when enrolling into an intensive or casual Japanese language school - Japan Switch does not charge. Make note of any facility fees and lesson material fees. It\'s also important to double-check on how many students are in each group lesson. Few schools have classes with 15 - 20 students while most casual courses offer smaller sizes from 4 - 8 students.

    3000 Yen Private Lessons vs 5000 Yen Private Lessons

    Most casual Japanese language schools charge around 2000 - 3000 yen for a group lesson and around 4000 - 5500 yen for a Japanese private lesson. The higher priced schools normally have veteran teachers with 10 or more years of experience teaching foreigners. These higher priced teachers can also give you a ton of homework at one setting, and can be a good choice for highly motivated students. The 5500 yen price tag can sound like a lot of money, but with proper self-studying and a plan, you could take one lesson and get the equivalent of three lessons of value by doing the homework and exercises.

    My personal opinion is that less intensive students or those just feeling things out should normally start with cheaper private lessons in the 3000 yen range like us. We provide study guides designed for foreigners that are created by foreigners that will help you become fluent. However, you would have to read multiple guides, figure out what you want, and create a plan by yourself following our advice instead of a teacher telling you what to do. Teachers with 1 - 2 years of experience cannot help you create a study plan nor assign you a bunch of homework in one setting. Our method simply focuses on telling you how to learn Japanese and online resources to follow.

    Schools that charge 5500 yen for private lessons normally have the financial resources to hire a full-time curriculum and materials developer. This person spends all their time creating worksheets, homework assignments, and lesson content for students. For this reason, higher priced places can give you big chunks of homework after one lesson because they follow a clear linear system. You do the assignments in advance and then you move through two lessons worth of content in one setting. The supplementary materials also help you master the content and expand beyond what can be taught in one lesson.

    Intensive Japanese Courses

    What are Intensive Japanese Lesson Courses Like

    An intensive Japanese lesson course will offer you 3 to 4 hours of lessons 5 days a week. You will end up taking a total of 15 - 20 hours of lessons a week and 60 to 80 hours a month. In addition to taking multiple lessons a day, you will most likely receive several hours of homework everyday to complete by the next day. Intensive Japanese lesson courses are in fact intensive but are also the fastest way to learn Japanese. Similar to intensive coding boot camps, joining one of these courses is like having a full-time job.

    Intensive Japanese lesson courses are always done in group lessons. Depending on the school and the price, you will have either 5 - 8 students per class or 15 - 20 students per class. These classes are fixed for a certain duration and you will most likely be studying with the same group throughout the entire time. If you are taking a one month intensive course then the people will definitely rotate and change. If you are taking a three month intensive course, you will normally have a core group that will start and finish together, but may have some one month people jumping in as well.

    The teachers in intensive courses may or may not speak English. Japanese language schools in Tokyo that cater to westerners will definitely have an English speaking teacher. However, if the school has a majority of the students that are from Asian countries, then it will more likely be than not that the teacher cannot speak English and only Japanese. This sounds like a bad thing, but the benefit of going to a school that focuses on Asians is that you can focus on speaking Japanese with classmates instead of going back to English. Additionally, you will not have a teacher who will try to teach you Japanese using English. Depending on what you prefer, make sure to research the school properly. Our sister media site BFF Tokyo has a directory of Japanese language schools in Tokyo.

    intensive japanese language course

    Who Should Take an Intensive Japanese Course

    Joining an intensive Japanese language course is a good option for those who

    • Wants to learn Japanese as fast as possible.
    • Wants to reach business level Japanese in about 1.5 years.
    • Wants to receive a Japanese student visa
    • Someone who has enough savings to attend an intensive course

    Time and research have shown that studying full-time is the fastest way to learn the Japanese language. The more time you invest in your learning, the more your Japanese ability will grow. They say it takes around 2200 hours of studying to reach a high level of Japanese proficiency. Based on the calculation of 20 hours a week of lessons and 15 hours of studying per week that would equal 140 hours a month. It would take roughly 16 months to reach the 2200 hour landmark for the Japanese language.

    Now that you understand the time aspect involved in developing a high level of fluency, the only other reason a person would take an intensive course is to acquire a Japanese student visa. You cannot obtain a Japanese student visa when taking lessons at a casual Japanese language school. You need to join an intensive program provided by a school recognized by the Japanese government. There are some schools that provide intensive courses that are not recognized. However, to become a licensed school, you have to follow a general curriculum for your lessons.

    One Week - One Month Intensive Courses

    A short-term intensive course is a nice idea for someone who is transitioning between jobs or taking a small break and would like to improve their Japanese. There are multiple schools who provide short-term intensive courses and many schools who offer them during the summer break. Regardless of when you come to Japan, you will be able to find something.

    Depending on your level, the intensive course can have a huge impact or a subtle impact. I think for people transitioning between N4 > N3 it will have a substantial impact on your learning. You have built enough momentum and have enough background experience to really benefit from a one - three month intensive course. For someone just starting from scratch, I would recommend a casual course like ours at Japan Switch for about 6 - 12 months and then consider an intensive later. 

    The jump from N3 to N2 will probably need a 3 month intensive course to have a big impact. My concern is that if you take a one month intensive, you may end up forgetting a lot of what you learned at that level. However, someone who is entering a job where Japanese is necessary could greatly benefit from a one month intensive course. These are just my thoughts and I am not sure if they are accurate, but I have no skin in the game, so my opinion is not biased.

    What Intensive Japanese Schools do you recommend?

    I created a directory of Japanese language schools in Tokyo on our sister media site BFF Tokyo. We have articles on the cheapest schools, best schools for business Japanese, and ratings and more information on around 15 - 20 schools in Tokyo. We are not getting paid, so the information is neutral and unbiased as can be.

    We have also created a long guide on the costs, visa process, admissions process, scholarships, day to day life as a full-time Japanese language school student, and danger areas to avoid for a foreigner looking to take a long-term intensive course. Rather than going into detail here, I would highly recommend you check out our ultimate guide to a Japanese language school in Tokyo - applies to other cities as well.

    We wish you luck in your decision and we hope you make the right decision on your first attempt. We would feel really happy if we were to help you have a positive experience of Japan. Many foreigners have a bad experience of Japan because they did not do enough research in advance and were not lucky enough to discover our sister site www.bfftokyo.com which really goes into details about visas, jobs and learning Japanese.

    Looking for a Japanese Language School in Tokyo?

    Consider lessons at Japan Switch, the most affordable Japanese lessons in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

    We run a 200 student plus Japanese language school in Tokyo for foreigners and are located within a 5 minute walk from the world famous Shinjuku train station.

    In addition to providing lessons, we also host international parties and activities so our students can meet Japanese people outside of school. For more information on our awesome Japanese language school, check out our main page here.

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