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You’re excited and ready to start your new Japanese language lessons, only to begin class and discover that everything is being taught in Japanese. You’re just a beginner! How are you supposed to understand anything? What do you do if you have a question??
It might be off-putting – even scary – to discover that you’ll have to learn Japanese through immersion when you study in Japan, or take online Japanese courses. But it’s actually one of the most common and most effective ways of learning a new language. How so? Read on to learn more.
What is immersive learning?
Learning by immersion in a language-learning context usually refers to learning a foreign language in an environment where you are taught using that language. Total immersion means all your lessons are taught in the language you are learning, while partial immersion is when classes are taught using both the language you are learning and another language (usually your native language).
All of Go! Go! Nihon’s language school partners teach classes using Japanese. This means that from your first day in the classroom, you will learn Japanese through total immersion, even if you are a beginner.
Why learn Japanese through immersion?
The greatest benefit of learning a foreign language immersively is being able to put everything you learn into context. When you learn Japanese through immersion, you will be living it day-in and day-out and connecting your everyday life with the language. This makes it easier to learn and remember new words and phrases through the things you eat, the hobbies you take part in, the people you meet and so much more.
Languages don’t exist in a vacuum so learning with context is crucial when it comes to language retention and developing your language skills to a native speaker’s level.
You will learn so much more about Japanese culture and society too because the language is so deeply tied to its culture and traditions. For example, so much of the language is directly linked to the concept of uchi-soto 内外. The way you speak to those you consider “uchi”, or inside your social circle, is different to how you speak to those in your outer, or “soto”, circle. This is why you learn keigo, or honorific speech, and use it to show humility and respect to those outside your social circle.
When you learn Japanese through immersion and pair it with regular study and revision, you will fast-track your learning. This is how so many Japanese language students can go from zero to JLPT N2 level – which is the minimum level for those who wish to go on to further education or the workforce – within two years of full-time immersive study.
Challenges with learning Japanese through immersion
The biggest difficulty with learning any language through immersion is the steep learning curve for beginner students. It can be particularly daunting to walk into your first class not knowing any part of the language you’re about to learn, only to have the teacher conduct the entire class in that language.
But don’t worry! The teachers at the language schools we partner with are highly experienced in teaching Japanese to foreigners through immersion. They will use a combination of teaching materials, visual cues and body language to help you understand your first words. Then, they will build up from there, so you will be supported the whole way through.
You might be surprised at just how much you will pick up in a short amount of time if you are diligent with completing homework and studying, as well as attending class.
Immersion learning tips
The top tip for learning a new language through immersion is to keep on top of your studies. Attend class, do your homework, put in some extra hours each week to study and you will help to speed up your learning progress.
Learn some of the basics yourself before starting class. Knowing hiragana and katakana, as well as some basic phrases, will give you a great foundation to begin your studies with. Some schools actually enforce this to ensure their students get a good head start.
While you’re in class, remember to take notes of words and phrases that you hear, but don’t quite understand their meaning. Look them up after class or in the break, or ask the teacher the meaning – they will often try to explain it to you in a simple way.
Make sure to practise what you’re learning by speaking with your classmates in Japanese and going out and meeting Japanese people. Use the language skills you have learned in real-life scenarios like eating at a restaurant, taking a taxi, asking for directions, trying on clothes, etc.
And if you do get stuck or need help, always reach out to your fellow classmates or the staff at your school. Many of our language school partners have staff who speak other languages and can help you with your concerns.
Watch a class being taught to observe how the teacher instructs and interacts with students in an immersive learning environment:
Still got questions about learning Japanese through immersion? Contact us!
For more articles about learning Japanese, make sure to check out our blog.