Updated March 8, 2024

Should You Attend a Japanese Language School in Japan?


Japan Dev Team

Japan Dev contributor

Learning Japanese can be tough. For many foreigners, it's a major hurdle they need to overcome to work in Japan.

Unless you’ve moved to Japan to learn the language and experience the culture, chances are you need to learn Japanese to work or go to school. And of course, to integrate better into daily life (learning the language will help a lot with this).

So, if you’ve ever considered learning Japanese, you've probably wondered: "Should I attend a Japanese language school?". 

After all, self-study can be overwhelming and you might want to follow a set path to improve quickly. But is that your best option? In this post, I’ll answer that very question. 


Are Japanese Language Schools Worth It?

Let’s open with the big, hard-hitting question: is a full-time Japanese language school really worth your while? 

Well, it depends.

I discussed this in my post on moving to Japan as a software developer, but whether going to a full-time language school is the right move for you depends heavily on your plans for the future.

For one, you need to decide what goal you’d like to achieve by signing up for a full-time Japanese school. 

Are you preparing for the JLPT? Are you doing it so you can learn faster? Or are you doing it because you were told it’s the only way to learn Japanese?

If you’re serious about learning Japanese and are dedicated to getting the official certification that proves it, which is possible by taking the JLPT, the answer is a “yes.” Japanese language schools are definitely worth it if you’re taking on such a serious endeavor, and I talked about this in my post on JLPT in detail. 

The same answer applies if you’re serious about staying in the country long-term and are certain you’ll work here for a good while. Taking full-time classes to speed things up can be worth your while. It’ll give you a structured path to embark on, which takes a lot of self-planning and research out of the equation.

That said, whether you need full-time Japanese classes is a different subject.

Are Japanese Language Schools Necessary?

The most common argument made in favor of full-time Japanese language schools is that it’s the only way you’ll truly learn, and that it’s nigh impossible to become fluent on your own. Let’s just start by saying that this is absolutely not true.

Many people learn Japanese on their own simply by living here and making an effort to understand and absorb the language. In fact, some people even get good enough to ace the JLPT and get Japanese-speaking or bilingual jobs/roles.

So, the argument that it’s simply not feasible isn’t true, especially considering the amount of online resources available nowadays. That said, there are occasions where language school may be the best choice for you regardless.

Why Attend A Full-Time Language School in Japan

As you may know, language learning requires lots of self-discipline and consistent studying over a long period of time, which isn’t something that comes easy to many of us.

So, attending a full-time course can work better for you than studying on your own, as it’ll give you some structure and accountability to keep you on track.

Besides, even if you have the level of discipline needed, you might not be a great planner or may get easily overwhelmed when faced with an unfamiliar subject like Japanese that has a lot of depth to it. 

A full-time Japanese school comes complete with a schedule and a syllabus, so you don’t need to worry about what to learn and how to do it. Besides, you’ll be accountable for not attending classes or showing active participation when you do attend. 

These are all great motivators that’ll push you out of your comfort zone, where learning happens. So, if you’re serious about staying here and learning Japanese, and want to have a clear path, a language school may be the right choice for you.

However, keep in mind that it’s not the only choice you have.

The Alternatives: Private Tutoring, Self-Study, and Immersion

While the decision may seem like it boils down to either attending a Japanese language school or self-study, there are more flexible approaches you can take.

Private Tutoring and Self-Study

If a full-time Japanese school doesn’t work for you but you still feel like you’d learn better in a class, for instance, you can take private tutoring. This may even be better than a school setting, as you’ll have the tutor’s uninterrupted attention and can focus solely on your learning journey.

Private tutoring can also be great because, unlike a full-time language school, you can take classes only whenever you need them, in the amount that suits you. This can especially be a lifesaver if you’re working a full-time job.

Another alternative if you’re working a full-time job is to utilize the language learning support your company offers. While not all companies offer this, it’s still fairly common. In fact, we recently prepared a post where we gathered some of the best companies to work for that offer language learning support and classes.

That said, nothing beats this one seemingly simple trick if you’re dead-set on learning Japanese.


Nothing Beats Immersion

In addition to the abovementioned suggestions, you can support your learning journey with immersion. This is required even if you attend a full-time school, as you need to actually use what you learn to make it truly stick.

So, if you’re looking for ways to immerse yourself in the language, a good place to start is your immediate environment. Think of your workplace, your colleagues, and the shops in your neighborhood you frequent where you can take small steps. Essentially, take every opportunity you get to speak the language. 

Also, you can check out my post where I introduced the best podcasts for Japanese learners at different levels. This makes for great listening practice and is also a great way to immerse yourself at any moment, be it during your commute, or while cooking, cleaning, or running your daily errands.

Alternatively, make sure to check out my post where I shared the best tools for learning Japanese. I shared some of the resources that I think work the best. Also, if you’re an absolute beginner, you can start small by learning everyday phrases you can start using right away. 

For these, be sure to check my post on basic Japanese phrases you can begin using today, as well as my post where I featured some of the most basic greetings in Japanese.

Attending A Language School To Buy Time: Why It Doesn’t Work

Other than those who want to learn Japanese fast or are preparing for the JLPT, full-time language schools are frequented by another specific demographic: those looking to buy time.

Many people come to Japan to study, but not all have a plan for what comes next. Also, some people come to Japan to teach English, only to find out they don’t enjoy teaching. So, what they do is enroll in a language school until they figure out how to pivot. 

Oftentimes, people who are in these situations see language schools sort of like a “buffer period” before they have to face the facts.

This is understandable, as it’s a human instinct to stall until we know exactly how to move forward, especially if you don’t know what your future in Japan holds. However, as desirable – and logical – as this sounds at first glance, it’s rather counterintuitive and will likely set you back.

So, before signing up for a Japanese language school, consider whether this applies to you. Making sure that attending a full-time language course completely aligns with your plans and goals will not only save you time and money but the potential stress you’ll go through as well.


Conclusion: You Should Attend a Japanese Language School If…

As I conclude this post, let’s go over everything one more time, explaining who can get the most out of a full-time Japanese language school experience.

If you were to take away one thing from this article, it should be that the discourse around how language schools are a must if you’re serious about learning Japanese, is mostly without merits.

Even for preparing for the JLPT test, you can very well utilize language learning apps, podcasts, and online resources and become JLPT N1 level. Still, the patience and the discipline this requires might not be everyone’s cup of tea. 

Considering this, I’d say you should attend a Japanese language school if:

  • You’re sure that you want to work in Japan, and want to learn the language quickly,

  • You learn better in classroom settings,

  • You thrive in routine, and enjoy having a set schedule to adhere to, or

  • You believe that you lack self-discipline.

If one or more applies to you, a Japanese language school may be your best option. To learn more about Japanese language schools, and to find out which schools are the best ones, be sure to check out my post on top language schools in Japan.


Japan Dev Team

This post was written by our Japan Dev editorial team.