So, you’ve decided that you want to learn Japanese. At this point, you have probably heard about the Japanese basics that await you: multiple alphabets, a different grammar structure, and unfamiliar pronunciation. These are difficult to tackle on your own.
Lessons with a Japanese tutor are a proven way to get started on the right track. Tutors can teach you from scratch, help you choose textbooks and learning materials that are right for you, clarify any questions you might have about the language, and help you practice the skills you acquire.
A first lesson is the start of a great relationship between you and your tutor, and this guide will help give you an idea of what to expect.
The benefits of Japanese lessons
First, a question: if there are seemingly infinite learning resources available online, then why are lessons with a tutor the way to go?
Put simply, a tutor has the knowledge to guide you in the right direction to determine your starting point. They can help you choose the resources that will be most valuable to you at your current skill level.
It is also important to consider that a textbook or website cannot give you feedback on your ability to speak and understand Japanese. A tutor can do this as well as give you live feedback on your Japanese pronuncation.
Whether your goal is to get the basics down before moving on to Japanese self learning or if you are seeking a one-on-one experience with someone who can provide in-depth explanations of Japanese grammar basics, Japanese tutoring is an important first step.
The perfect Japanese tutor for you
Every tutor is different, just as every student is unique. It is important to look at a tutor’s biography to understand what their specialty is so that you can determine what type of learning experience is right for you.
If you are looking to take lessons online, then choosing a tutor who has experience teaching online is your best bet. They will already be familiar with Wyzant’s own online video chat platform and will be able to help you learn it as well.
It is worth considering their reviews as well. How well does the average student rate this tutor’s lessons? This can give you an idea of how well-equipped they will be to aid you.
A tutor’s rate is an important consideration. Only you can decide how much you wish to spend on Japanese lessons. The good news is that there are knowledgeable and dependable tutors available for every budget. By comparing their rate to their expertise, you can find the right balance for your needs.
Wyzant has pay-as-you-go pricing, where you only pay for the lessons you take aftee you take them. No need to pay in advance! Searching for a tutor is free, as is reaching out to one. Whether you intend to take weekly lessons or only one, you will find what you need for your budget.
Expertise and background
All tutors will have their own specialty. Do they advertise their experience with students who are already learning in a classrom? Are they well-versed in the various Japanese language certification exams in order to help their students pass?
There are even varying advantages and disadvantages between tutors who are native or non-native speakers of Japanese. A non-native speaker, on the one hand, has been in your shoes. They started from scratch just like you and have the insight on what it is like to be a beginner. On the other hand, a native speaker will have invaluable expertise on the intricacies and nuances of the language to guide you on your journey to fluency.
Ultimately, it is important to know what your goals are so that you can identify the qualities in a tutor that suit your needs best.
Contacting a Japanese tutor
Reaching out to a potential tutor on Wyzant is easy. Once you have chosen a tutor, all you need to do is go to their profile and find the “Contact [tutor’s name]” button. From there, you will be able to fill out what you are looking for in a lesson such as: subject, your level of experience, when you want to start, and a message to the tutor describing what it is you are looking for.
While the message is optional, providing as much information as you can to the tutor is the best way to start on the right foot and also help the tutor give you the best first lesson possible. For example, by telling a tutor that you are in a college Japanese 101 class and which textbook you use, the tutor will already have an idea of what basic skills you already possess and what questions you are likely to have.
Once the tutor has responded to your request, they can guide you through how to book a lesson. Open communication about your availability is key so that you can find a time and date that works for both of you!
Do I take language lessons online or in-person?
Video calls have become of staple of online communication. Many of us have become intimately familiar with platforms such as Zoom for meetings or taking classes.
Online tutoring is popular on Wyzant, and it is easy to see why. Your options for tutors increase exponentially when you can choose a tutor hundreds of miles away from you rather than limiting yourself to those in your area. It is also easy to send files and resources in a matter of seconds. Wyzant’s online video chat platform is also equipped with all the tools you will need for a smooth learning experience.
Some may prefer in-person tutoring, which has its own set of advantages. For example, technology is no longer a barrier when you meet in-person: no internet or computer required! You may also feel more at ease by meeting your tutor face-to-face.
Consider carefully what learning environment works best for you at the time you choose to start taking lessons when deciding between online and in-person lessons.
Help your language tutor help you
There are a few things to prepare for at your first lesson. First and foremost is meeting your tutor for the first time. Learning Japanese is an exciting journey, and this is one you will be taking together with your tutor as your guide. It is vital to keep an open line of communication and share with them what brought you to the conclusion to seek out a Japanese tutor.
Once you and your tutor have introduced yourselves, it is time to dig into the topic at hand. Be honest with your tutor about your current skill level in Japanese. Have you already mastered reading hiragana but are struggling with how to read katakana? Did you take classes in college and now want to brush up years later? Sharing this information with your tutor allows them to help you create a learning plan for future lessons.
Next, it’s time to set your goals: what is it you are hoping to achieve in these lessons? If you are already taking Japanese classes at school and are looking for someone to guide you through homework assignments and provide supplemental information, let your tutor know what your syllabus looks like and what your tests and quizzes will be assessing.
If you are looking for someone to help you prepare for your trip to Japan three months from now, your tutor can put together a lesson plan for you to learn kanji or a Japanese vocabulary list with useful phrases so that you can navigate Japan with minimal but functional language knowledge.
In summation, tell your tutor why you are coming to them for help and what they can do to aid you!
The first steps
When you first begin Japanese tutoring, your tutor will need to assess your current level of Japanese knowledge. What topics your first lesson will cover will be based on that discussion.
Your tutor is likely to begin with an introduction of one (or all) of three things: the writing systems, greetings, and/or Japanese grammar basics.
Out of the three writing systems, hiragana is the most crucial for beginners to learn. A tutor can point you in the right direction for good learning resources as well as provide you with tips on the study skills you will need to master this new information. Fear not: your tutor will begin by writing in the romanized version of Japanese (called romaji) so that you can read your new vocabulary with English letters.
We can all agree that knowing how to say “hello” and “thank you” are important when speaking a new language. Greetings such as these are not only a solid place to start in the language, but they are also a gateway to learning a piece of Japanese culture through how people interact with one another. It’s also a great way for you and your tutor to start speaking in Japanese right away!
The last fundamental piece of knowledge you may cover in a first lesson is the basics of Japanese grammar. While English is structured around Subject-Verb-Object order (such as “I eat apples”), word order in Japanese is slightly different: Subject-Object-Verb (reordered as “I apples eat”). Knowing that the verb goes at the end of the sentence gives you a solid foundation on which to build all sentences you learn going forward.
Intermediate to advanced
After your tutor has assessed your ability, the two of you can move forward with determining a more personalized lesson plan. This may include providing supplementary resources, helping you review for a test, or pointing out problem areas that you need help brushing up on.
Of course, if you have any specific questions you want to address with your tutor at a first lesson, speak up! Any tutor would want to know what is it you want out of lessons so that they can give you the best language-learning experience possible.
While lessons with a tutor are a great way to learn Japanese, there is a certain amount of work that students should put in outside of lessons, too. As with any language, there is an ocean of vocabulary to learn. While tutors can help you practice during lessons, new words need constant reinforcement to make sure they stay in your long-term memory.
The best way to do this is through flashcards! You can use an app or create your own by hand, but it is essential to stay on top of it, as your tutor cannot memorize vocabulary for you.
Even though the concept of “homework” is not exactly appealing, it will help you and your tutor make the best of your time and money by spending more time on grammar, listening and speaking, and other topics best covered in a lesson.
You and your Japanese tutor
Even if self-study is your end goal, a Japanese tutor can give you essential guidance on how to learn Japanese on your own. It can also be fun! Sharing your excitement for Japanese with another person is a lot more engaging than studying on your own.
No matter your goals, having lessons specifically tailored to you is like a breath of fresh air. Seek out a Japanese tutor today to help put together a plan to put you on the path to Japanese fluency!