Wii Battle at GenkiJACS!

Posted on March 30, 2007 | evankirby

Wii

Tuesday the 3rd of April marks GenkiJACS' first Wii 大会 (taikai, sports festival)! Join us at the school at 6pm for several rounds of tennis, baseball, and maybe even boxing. We have prepared four Wiimotes for the day, so hopefully everyone will have a chance to play. On our 100-inch projector screen, with surround sound. Broken limbs are your own responsibility!

New requirements for Pop Culture course

Posted on March 22, 2007 | evankirby

Our Japanese Through Pop Culture course has always been one of our most popular, probably because it's so darn much fun! But recently we've instituted a new requirement for the course. Previously, it was open to everyone. From now on, though, only students who are Pre-Intermediate level or above are eligible for the course.
We understand a lot of people will be disappointed by this, especially people whose main reason to study Japanese is to understand manga/anime. That's why we wanted to explain the reason for our decision.
The Pop Culture course uses real materials, mostly scenes from popular anime and manga. Because it's all realia, they're not easy for beginners to study from, as every word and grammar point is new, and getting through a single page can take a long long time. In the past, several people who signed up for the Pop Culture course decided partway through to change to the standard Conversation course. The Pop Culture course is also not the best way to get a firm grounding in the basics of the language - it's important to understand the principles of the grammar before starting in on more difficult tasks such as understanding stories, etc.
Given this, we decided to restrict the course to only people with some prior study experience. As a token to those beginner learners who wanted to study the Pop Culture course, though, we have created a list of assigned readings from several manga textbooks for each important grammar point covered in the standard conversational classes, that we are happy to provide to students in addition to their normal course study. It's not exactly the same as taking the Pop Culture course would have been, but it means you'll end up understanding more Japanese, more thoroughly. And isn't that the most important thing of all?

Choosing a Japanese School: A Comparison of Japanese Language Schools

Posted on March 18, 2007 | evankirby

NOTE: This is the first draft of an article we intend to publish to our website proper after a few more revisions. Any comments or feedback are greatly appreciated!
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We may not be the least biased source of information, but as insiders in the Japanese language school industry, we'd like to provide some pointers on things you should keep in mind when choosing a Japanese school.

Everyone's needs are different, so here are criteria you can use to determine whether a certain school is good for you:
1. Purpose of study
2. Budget
3. Learning style
4. Location
5. Period and time of study


1. Purpose of study
What are your eventual goals in learning Japanese? There are two main types of Japanese schools: university preparation schools and what we call {communication-based{ schools.
If you plan to study at a Japanese university later, make sure that you select a Japanese language school that is recognised by the Japanese Ministry of Education. Only schools that are officially recognised are allowed to give student visas. They also offer preparation courses for university entrance exams. However, note that these schools generally focus far less on communicative topics than on memorizing the necessary kanji. They also generally require study of at least 6 months, and usually a year, and only have one or two student intakes per year.
If your eventual aim is anything other than going to a Japanese university, we recommend a communication-based school. These generally have more flexible courses and schedules, and focus on speaking and listening skills equally to or more than reading and writing.
In particular, if you are currently studying Japanese overseas (outside Japan), it's likely that your biggest problems are with speaking and listening, as you are not in a native Japanese environment. In this case, a Japanese language school that allows you to practise the things you have already studied can increase your fluency greatly.
Note that some Ministry of Education-certified schools also offer short-term communicative-skills classes, in addition to their university-preparation classes.

Review of GenkiJACS by a former student

Posted on March 18, 2007 | evankirby

A recent student was kind enough to write a review of the school for us before he left; without ado, here it is (both good and bad):

Overall, I am impressed with GenkiJACS. Before coming to study for the winter, I conducted a lot of research through friends and the Internet. GenkiJACS offered the best combination of price, small class size, and personal attention. I got more from the program than I expected, and I hope to come back again before I eventually leave Japan. The fact that I have taken the time to write a detailed review of my experience should indicate how happy I was with the program, and that I would like to see the school continue to grow and become a successful venture for all those involved.

The Good:
- Fast communication. Almost every email I sent to GenkiJACS before arrival was answered within 24 hours.
- Flexibility. All my requests were met. The program allowed me to save on my home stay fee when I traveled for four days. It also found me a host family with children which I really wanted. I was pleasantly surprised to find a refund of part of my homestay fee to help pay for my travel expenses.
- Comfortable space. The GenkiJACS space is very comfortable, clean, and allows for easy access to the staff. Overall, it provides an intimate environment that is probably not found at bigger, traditional schools.
- Small class size. The intimate size of the program is the number one reason I came to GenkiJACS. I wanted to have plenty of speaking opportunities, and my class sizes ranged from 5 people to just me. The fact that GenkiJACS caps their classes at six people is the main reason I will continue to pick GenkiJACS as my choice of Japanese schools in Japan.
- Wonderful teachers. I primarily studied with four teachers ???g Harumi, Mika, Miyuki, and Akiko. All four were great teachers. They spoke at a pace that was perfect for my level, and only used English when absolutely necessary. Also, all four teachers navigated group classes perfectly. Sometimes I was the lowest level in the class, sometimes the middle, and sometimes the highest. In all cases I felt engaged and that I was learning new material. Particularly:
- Mika and Miyuki were always willing to talk outside of class, providing practice opportunities in a stress-free environment.
- Mika will never let a poorly constructed Japanese phrase go, always pushing students to correct the offending sentence.
- Harumi's knowledge of the material was really impressive. I previously studied with Minna No Nihongo, and she knew what was covered in my previous textbook and what would be new material and repeat material for me.
All four had very fun and relevant classes and were all able to adjust the lesson pace according to the class, and did not ardently stick to a pre-made lesson plan. I can not say enough great things about these four teachers.
- Self-study pace. There were no tests and no schedules to meet. This means students can learn at their own pace and never feel like they are falling behind or doing poorly. This was very encouraging for my Japanese, as I was able to review the vocabulary and grammar I felt were important and not focus on a predefined curriculum.
- Conversation classes. These were well planned and provided a good chance to practice all the Japanese grammar learned to date.
- Scheduling. I read on the website that some students thought the scheduling could be improved. For me, I had no scheduling issues and was happy with the meeting times.