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Thursday, August 28, 2014

The end of my studies at GenkiJACS is near. I am going to finish in two weeks. It's time to summarize my experience.

I was very lucky in the beginning. I was in a class with people who had real interest in learning Japanese and challenged me every day to get better. Most of them had already some knowledge of the language which made me work really hard. The first three months were amazing. I got solid foundations in Japanese that I use every day.

After forced three weeks break I came back to school and found it extremely crowded. Most of my classmates were gone. For a few weeks new classmates were coming and going and the progress was stalled. It seemed that first two weeks we didn't do any progress at all. It got better later on, but I felt like we are not learning enough, because we didn't get as much practice.

I wanted to finish the Genki 2 textbook and I calculated that I am more than 3 weeks short. I decided to jump to a higher class in the middle of the second term. I also didn't get along with some of the new classmates. Fortunately in the higher class, all of the students had real interest in learning the language again and they were all better than me, forcing me to push myself again. The class also got smaller giving me room to breath.

Here's a list of what went well, what didn't and what I really didn't like:


The Good

  • Teachers - Certainly the teachers and the staff. Everybody was very helpful and tried to entertain everybody. Which was not always good as covered in "The Bad".
  • Progress - I made remarkable progress from having zero knowledge to being able to  communicate with Japanese people. Even though I make a lot of mistakes, I can have a conversation about daily life.
  • Textbook and materials - The textbook is well organized and the extra materials and bonus grammar covered by the school proved useful.
  • Location - The school is in the city center, easy to commute.
  • Accommodation - Even though the apartment was really small, it offered comfortable stay for six months.


The Bad

  • Grammar was not practiced enough - We learned new grammar, practiced it for a week and moved to a new chapter. While in the beginning this was fine, because I use the foundations every day, later I easily forgot what I learned two weeks ago. The difficult grammar is not used as often in daily conversation.
  • You can join the school with any level of knowledge at any time of the year - Why was this bad? Selfish reasons only. Especially later on, there were students of various levels and from different backgrounds in the same class. Some of them got bored, while others had troubles keeping up.
  • Some teachers didn't use Kanji when writing on whiteboard and wrote everything in Hiragana - therefore we didn't practice Kanji as much as we could have. Maybe this was partly caused by the point above. I kept reminding them.
  • Summer holidays - The school was crowded during summer holidays. High school and university students flooded GenkiJACS. The website claims that classes are limited to a maximum of 7 students, and usually have around 4, giving you plenty of chance to practice with the teacher. During summer the usual was 6 to 7 and I have been in class with 8 students more than once. Some of the classrooms are not big enough for six people. During the two summer months, I never had enough space. The lounge was often packed and there was no room to sit.
  • No windows - The classrooms have no windows, only air conditioners. The rooms were created by splitting a big room into smaller ones. Some of the rooms ended up with a huge airconditioner and they were either freezing or hot. And of course there was no fresh air.



I liked the school, especially the first three months. I never had so much fun learning a language from a scratch as in GenkiJACS and I believe they taught me well. However the second term was not as much fun. Some of the fun teachers teach only the Beginner 1 and I really missed them in the second term. The progress was not as smooth as before and I also didn't get along with some classmates. I don't get annoyed easily and I did get annoyed in GenkiJACS in summer more than I would like.

The decision to jump to higher class seems like a good idea now, but I spent tough three weeks studying in the new class while trying to catch up. It's over now. Two more weeks to go and I think I am going to enjoy the school again.

Fukuoka is a nice place to be, but everybody said this year's weather was worse than usual. We got a lot of rain and only a couple of weeks of beach weather. It was better here in spring than it is now in summer and I am hoping for nice indian summer.

I'd choose GenkiJACS again if I could study in spring and I'd probably pay for at least one extra private lesson per week to go through last week's grammar to make up for the lack of practice.
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