Learning Japanese…in New York?! What’s the best way to do this?

We’ve had numerous students interested in learning Japanese in New York City and wondering what should be the first step in learning the language. While there are a multitude of websites and other resources for learning Japanese online, one of the key recommendations for learning a foreign language is learn from a native speaker of that language.

Why is this so? You would think with developments such as Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, Japanese Pod 101 and a plethora of other language sites and software that the ancient old tie between teacher and student for learning Japanese is losing its importance. Computers can replace people for many things, such as computations, household chores and even driving, so shouldn’t they be more efficient at teaching Japanese than human beings?

And also, what about old fashioned studying on your own? We have video games, books, websites, personal speaking dictionaries, and voice recognition software. If for example a student were to say “Ketsu” instead of “Kutsu” in Japanese, the computer would know right away that the student said “someone’s behind” instead of “someone’s shoes” and would correct them in pronunciation.

While we don’t hesitate to recognize development and advancement in learning Japanese where it is due, namely in voice recognition software, overall nothing will ever replace a well trained, experienced, and talented Japanese language teacher. A Japanese language teacher brings so much more to the table than any language learning “aid” could ever bring. (We like to think of software, cd-roms, video games as “language learning aids”) Here’s what a Japanese language teacher brings:

1 – a natural language partner – A computer can never be programmed to react with emotion to conversations. Since a language such as Japanese is absorbed and processed in the brain through conversation, a computer will never teach a student how to naturally speak the Japanese language.

2 – an irreplaceable source for writing – When you learned cursive as a child, was it through computers? No, it was through your teacher in the classroom. He or she looked over your shoulder, checked your stroke order, and corrected you when they couldn’t read your writing. Only a live breathing Japanese teacher can offer this.

3 – a teacher provides a relationship – This is perhaps the most overlooked part of the learning Japanese experience, in a place outside of Japan such as New York. When you live in Japan, you’re forced to use the language through multiple daily interactions that call for it, but in New York City no one cares if you speak Japanese, right?

Wrong, your teacher does. She checks up on your Japanese homework, gets excited when you remember and use a new vocabulary word, gets disappointed when you say you cannot make Japanese class, and comments on all her various cultural experiences growing up in Japan and how different it is in New York. From both a cultural and linguistic standpoint, a Japanese teacher is irreplaceable when it comes to effectively learning Japanese in New York City.

If we still haven’t convinced you enough in regards to learning Japanese in New York City, even after you’ve seen our list of Japanese Language Teachers, I’ll share a quick encounter I had with someone who had been learning Japanese with “language software.” We all know which one it is.

So I was at an Education-expo, walking around to different tables, and I managed to meet a guy who was working in a local school and was learning with language learning software at home. He said he enjoyed the software and approach, and I said great, “hajimemashite”, and he looked at me with a blank stare. I said, that’s “nice to meet you” in Japanese.

I then asked him, what do you know in Japanese? He said, “otoko no hito”, which means “guy.” I said, how about anything else? And he said another word, of which I don’t recall but it wasn’t a Japanese term that I’ve learned in my past 10 years of instruction in the Japanese language.

This guy could’ve been igai, or an exception, but the point is that in a beginner’s class of Japanese you learn the basics of speaking to people, such as “hajimemashite.” Any student that doesn’t at least learn that phrase in the first couple classes of private lessons isn’t learning Japanese.

So what are you waiting for? Come learn Japanese with Hills Learning’s Japanese Classes in New York, or any other language school. Remember, we focus on the quality of the teacher, and try our best to build the student – teacher relationship, which is key to any language learner’s process. Thanks for reading and good luck learning Japanese!

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