It wasn’t so long ago I looked at the possibilities for teaching English online, but never considered using my webcam and mic to learn Japanese online. Actually, I’ve always thought study materials for learning Japanese wereÂ far behind those for learning English. I remember being frustrated at how most English textbooks came with CDs, whereas books for learning Japanese still came with cassette tapes, even though tape players had long disappeared from most electronics stores!
Studying Japanese the traditional way – 10 years agoÂ
In the late 90’s and probably still today, English teachers flooded Nagoya with cheap private English lessons, but if we wanted to learn Japanese, we’d have a choice of about three schoolsÂ whose prices wereÂ exuberant. TheyÂ offered brain-draining, rote learning-style lessons, and focused more on technical, polite Japanese than the casual conservational language we really needed on a day-to-day basis.
If you looked hard enough, there were a few cheap volunteer classes at community centers, but they were usually at times when most English teachers were working, and exchange lessons were often very one-sided since the Japanese “teacher” just wanted to learn and speak English, knowing nothing about, and havingÂ little inÂ teaching Japanese at all.
Japanese learnersÂ welcome the internet
Ten years later and things seem to have improved dramatically. I live out in the countryside now so if I’m going to start learning Japanese seriously again (next step -Â JLPT 1kyu), I’m going toÂ use my favorite tool, the internet. Harvey isÂ Learning Japanese withÂ Google Images, Thomas is posting some ways to Learn Japanese with Google,Â and SpeedAnki is helping me relearn the thousand kanji IÂ forgotÂ after passingÂ JLPT 2kyu. The site that has really got me interested, however, is JOI -Â the Japanese Online Institute.Â I was looking over Mike’s Japanese slang site, when I saw JOI’s advertisement forÂ live JapaneseÂ lessons online.
Learn Japanese online with the JapaneseÂ Online Institute
I haven’t done a trial lesson yet, but everything about JOI looks professional and good value.Â If I join, I’d probably buy the PrivateGold Lessons. They’re the most expensive atÂ around $25 per 50-minute class, but you get free registration,Â a qualified teacher, a personalized curriculum, a progress report after each lesson, and near-complete flexibility in choosing your lesson time – 24 hours a day.Â
JOI does offer classes from as little as $5, but I think $25 is very reasonable when you compare it toÂ real schools. Take for example the Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute. They charge around $50 per hour, and that’s after you pay $150 to register! Personally, I’d rather study in my pajamas from home.
If you live in Japan, ask your wife or friend to teach you!
You might wonder why I don’t just ask Mami to teach me. Well it’s impossible to stick to a schedule, remain motivated, or take it seriously. Unless money is changing hands,Â teaching your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife orÂ evenÂ language exchange partnerÂ just doesn’t work.Â
Should I give up dancing to study Japanese?
Again, I haven’t tried JOI yet, and I’m not sure I can afford online Japanese lessons and ballroom dancing lessons at the same time, but we’ll see. If you had to choose between ballroom dancing or Japanese learning, which would it be?ÂIf you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!