It is true that you can sort of “get by” in Japan without actually learning Japanese. But with the prospect of spending a few years in Nagoya, I feel like it’s a bit of a cop-out not to give it a go. Plus, learning the language is bound to give me some insights into the culture, and I might even be able to integrate a little bit more and burst my little gaijin bubble!
So with this new goal of being able to say no to a plastic bag at the supermarket, and yes to an okii biru at Yamachan, I approached NPO Japanese Language School (NPO), and was met by the friendly Shiraishi-sensai, one of the most experienced teachers at NPO and a serious nihongo advocate.
NPO has seven years of success behind it, and six highly experienced teachers, who have taught around the globe. Shiraishi-sensai has been teaching for 15 years and is passionate about meeting people from different cultures and sharing his love for the Japanese language. His dream is to spread Japanese around the world and make it everybody’s second language!
The school is located in the Will Aichi building, which is a community centre near Shiyakusho Station. My first lesson, like most language schools, was a trial. The beauty of NPO is that they provide you with an English form to fill out (yes, an English form!) to gauge your level of Japanese. Mine is pretty poor, and Shiraishi-sensai was very patient with me. We went through the first line of hiragana and he introduced kore, sore and are using the hiragana flash cards – and I actually understood it. I don’t know if it’s just me (it probably is), but it has taken a long time for this to sink in. I was very happy, which made Shiraishi-sensai very happy.
I discovered that NPO uses an original and unique teaching method. The class was fun, fast and easy to understand – even though only Japanese was used; they believe this is the best way to learn the language. And I agree. With my limited Japanese, I understood all of his instructions and as the lesson progressed (from basic hiragana to talking about food and drink), I followed it entirely, which took me by surprise.
Unlike many other language schools, NPO offers both a term program, and also the freedom to begin lessons whenever you want. Their timetable is broad, and flexible; you can take lessons morning to evening, seven days a week. You also have the option of taking part in group lessons or private lessons. Group lessons run on a 30-hour term basis, with two one-and-a-half hour lessons per week.
If you prefer private lessons, they will help you create a schedule that will suit your particular language goals. These are the levels NPO guarantees you will be able to reach with their lessons:
Basic: You will be able to communicate in simple Japanese in daily conversation. You will also be ready to take the level four of the JLPT Test, with hiragana, katana and between 150 to 300 kanji under your belt.
Intermediate: You will be able to express your opinion in Japanese! You will also be ready for level two or three of the JLPT and will know between 550 and 700 kanji.
Advanced: You will be able to have a natural conversation in Japanese and be able to read newspapers. At this stage you will be ready for level 1 or 2 of the JLPT.
NPO also conducts Japanese lessons for businesses, and will travel to your business to hold lessons.
So if you want to be able to have a chat with the old lady in the noodle aisle at Aeon, impress that special someone you’ve been eyeing at the bar or pass the JLPT, Shiraishi-sensai and his team of teachers are more than happy to help you with your language goals. Ganbatte!
NPO Japanese Language School
Aichi NPO Exchange Plaza
2F Will Aichi, 1 Kamitatesuginocho
By appointment only