I Spent 10,000 USD on Online Japanese Classes: What Did I Learn and Was It Worth It?
First, let me breakdown how I spent the money and what I received in return;
- Number of class hours
- Number of classes
- Type of class
- Class costs
- Other learning materials
- My current level
- My suggestions for anyone else learning
Number of Hours Spent Learning
Number of Classes
Main Types Of Class Taken
Reading class (All Face to Face Using Skype video)
Teacher (Always with Native Japanese Speakers)
Class name —
- Read in Japanese (50 minutes)
2. JLPT Reading (50 mins to 100 mins)
3. Freetalk (General Discussions, 50 mins to 100 mins)
Basic overview of all classes
5 minutes greetings and general conversation (important for maintaining the relationship and friendly atmosphere)
Confirm next class practice or areas to revise
Thanks and goodbyes
Different materials used;
Nihongo Soumatome (JLPT Reading practice)
JLPT Practise Paper Comprehension (N5-N2) EG, Sample Questions
1 on 1 class (Japanese Native Teacher) vs Learning yourself
What to expect (Learning Yourself)
Initially, I spent time working on reading alone. I found myself having the same problem, which was anytime I didn’t recognize a kanji, without any hiragana or katakana above, I struggled to type into google exactly what I was trying to translate. In the beginning, this was a huge problem and I’m sure many of you have encountered it as well. In my case, most materials found online have been scanned or uploaded as a picture file. This is a problem. You can’t copy or paste! This also applies when using textbooks.
When you don't understand one symbol, it can make answering or understanding long passages of text extremely difficult!
N5 and N4 levels will usually find hiragana and katakana written above the kanji. However, for N3 and above, this help above the word stops.
When studying N3 and upwards, not being able to copy and paste from the document was really annoying and lead to frustration for me. If there is one thing none of us need when learning, is unneeded problems from technology or a lack of it. Maybe there is a camera app that can do this, but I haven't found it yet!
I’ve thought this many times;
“Why can I not copy and paste this!”
Learning with a native teacher/ tutor
This is where having a teacher makes it easier and faster. There is a lot to be gained in struggling and putting time into learning by yourself, but, having a native speaker guide you and help for the small things, like confirming that one kanji you just can’t remember, makes the experience much more fun. For me, I understand that first reading any material before a class is key. First, I’ll spend time looking at the news or exam reading section, try my best, and then in the class, get the answers for what I wasn’t able to figure out on my own.
Unfortunately, I need to work, just like everyone else, so admittedly I don’t always take the time before class to go through the content, struggle, and then repeat with the teacher. Having a native teacher helps greatly and can cut out a lot of wasted time.
What I recommend
Use both methods — as long as you can find a suitable teacher
If you have time, read by yourself first. With the teacher go over everything again, and read aloud. This was something else I realized quickly. By myself, reading is just reading with the opportunity to form bad habits. But with a teacher, it becomes speaking and reading with someone listening. Bad habits can form in speech and reading very easily, so being told that your え sounds like い、or you’re always mistaking ツand シ, is really helpful. You appreciate when small progress is made, and having someone, a teacher compliment you can go a long way.
This is why using a teacher is great;
Teachers can help with confidence
Teachers can help you see progress (Working alone we tend to not see just how far we have come)
Teachers can make you stick to studying. I mean, if you pay for a class, you’re more likely to do it right? (Don’t think of gym memberships going unused…)
If you can guarantee time spent studying, I think it is worth paying for.
However, please do your research when picking a teacher, and don’t be afraid to try multiple teachers to understand what level and style they use.
Quick ways to usually find a good teacher include;
Checking their qualifications (Are they professionally qualified or certified?)
Use the trial class feature (If available)
Choose a professional platform
Double-check all information is real
Look at comments left by other students
Direction for Class and Goals
You may come across teachers who, unfortunately, are not very good. This will likely happen many times until you find someone great, and even then, if you study for long enough, they might not teach forever.
Set the pace yourself
Talk to your teacher and if possible, set out what you plan to do, how it can happen, and what is needed to achieve it. Don’t worry about being direct, because after all, you are paying them to help you.
Sometimes the teacher might be able to help you and direct the class, recommend content, and set goals with you. But normally, you will need to be thinking ahead and about what exactly it is you want to achieve. No one will decide what you want to do for you.
Class Costs (All Native Speakers with Qualified Teaching Experience)
Exam classes are a lot more expensive, but, they are a great place to see growth!
Even though I have shared the average class time and cost, I have taken many 2 hour JLPT classes, which only count as one. This also applies to speaking and reading.
Always talk with your teachers about purchasing bulk classes and if they would consider lowering the cost. The worst reply is no.
I have spoken with many teachers over the years, and have yet to hear a no. Everyone is happy to negotiate, as long as it is fair and friendly.
Other Learning Materials
Buying textbooks is definitely useful, however, I found that good teachers will always provide materials for you to use from their own collections or free online resources. You can also ask before confirming class if they are able to provide these to you.
Carrying around books in this age is hard, especially if you live in crowded cities or small apartments. It’s best to use tech devices and the internet to get all you need, usually, for free !
My Current level and Outcome after 10,000USD
JLPT — N3
Spoken Japanese — Business Level
In the past 5 years, I have happily worked in Japanese companies, travel to Japan, and enjoy having close friends there. Honestly, I really enjoy learning and would definitely spend the money again.
I am very happy that I started this long journey, and hope that everyone else can achieve what they want from learning Japanese. Maybe some might read this and think, Oh my god, only N3!
But I wouldn't worry too much about those exams. If you can interview well, prove your ability, and meet the requirements to work, you will get hired. Maybe having N2, or N1 would be an easier way to get your foot into the Japanese working world, but in my experience, you can do just fine without it.
All you need are the skills!
For anyone wanting to learn for free, feel free to check out our Podcast, EJPOD. Here you will find me, and my friend both practicing Japanese and English weekly.
Don’t worry about anyone else !
What next for me?
Am I finished learning after spending this amount?
Not by a long shot!
Over a duration of 7 years, I have been spending, learning, and doing my best to improve. I still have a long way to go to reach where I want to be. But compared to where I was last year or the year before that, I can confidently say I wouldn't lose to that guy!
Some further Suggestions for learning Japanese
Including language exchange, paid class, travel to Japan, and much more time not included in this guide, I have a few very important suggestions that should help anyone grow and improve their skills.
- Money helps, but if you can live in Japan, you'll grow much better and learn more using only your time and effort.
- Look online first, if you can’t find an alternative for free, then pay for it. You will save so much money by taking the time to search online. The only problem is exactly that, it isn't easy to always find what you want, and it does mean you might waste effort searching rather than studying.
- Make Japanese friends. There are so many groups and sites offering language exchange, as well as kind people offering homestays in Japan.
- If you do decide to study online with a teacher, try multiple classes, teachers, and websites. This not only helps you find the best person to help you but will give you more experience talking with different people in Japanese.
For more tools and free resources, feel free to check out our other article here.
All of my above classes were taken using Cafetalk, but there are other great platforms out there that could even be better including Italki and Duolingo. But please do your research, and find what works for you. I only have experience with Cafetalk, but because I enjoyed their teacher services, I never looked elsewhere.
Let’s do our best!
What helped you learn? Feel free to comment below or on our youtube channels!