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Japanese Full Immersion

Full Immersion is a "Dress Rehearsal" for the Real World!

Reading, Writing, and Full Immersion at Aitas

If you're serious about speaking and comprehending real Japanese (not just simple greetings and survival phrases) then you'll need to study the Japanese alphabet and develop basic reading and writing skills. For the fastest, most effective results, Aitas also recommends a "full immersion" classroom environment, which is the format for all Aitas courses.

Why are the alphabet, reading, writing, and immersion so important at Aitas?

Read on...

Why Learn the Japanese Alphabet?

Just as parents teach the alphabet to children at a very early age, Aitas Japanese Language School teaches all new students the Japanese alphabet.

Studying the alphabet feels like a lot of tough work at first, but once you have the alphabet memorized, you have the basic building blocks you need to combine sounds and syllables into words. Hearing and speaking will become much (much!) simpler when you can break a word down into its basic parts. Your initial investment will pay off quickly. Within a month or two, you'll forget your early struggles, and your vocabulary and confidence will increase exponentially.

Admittedly, people who learn Japanese without learning the alphabet can memorize a very small vocabulary quickly--perhaps even more quickly than those students who focus on the alphabet. But Japanese learners who do not study the alphabet quickly fall behind those who do. For example, when traveling in Japan, a tourist with no knowledge of the Japanese alphabet typically picks up only a few key phrases, such as "Arigatou", "Konichiwa", and "Sayonara". The tourist cannot "hear" individual sounds and words, so his or her vocabulary does not increase. By contrast, on the same trip, a student with Japanese-alphabet knowledge can recognize sounds as words, and can also "sound-out" writing on signs. Thanks to studying the alphabet, the student will learn dozens or even hundreds of new words within as little as a month or two.

Aitas teaches the Japanese alphabet because, in the long run (from the three month to one year range), students learn more Japanese than they would without the alphabet. From our observation of real students, we can clearly see that learning the alphabet pays off, even if it means a slightly slower start to learning very basic "survival" Japanese.

If you're thinking of studying at Aitas, remember that repeating new sounds and writing new letters can be a lot of fun, but it is also a challenge for the brain, so it might feel hard. Nevertheless, on retrospect, our students consistently tell us that "it definitely was worth it."

Why Learn to Read and Write?

Japanese has 46 distinct sounds. Each sound corresponds to what in English is called a "letter", but is known in Japanese as a "character." The easiest way to memorize the 46 sounds is to "draw the matching picture"--that is, write the character that corresponds to each sound. Aitas teaches the phonetic alphabet, known as "hiragana," to help students learn the basic sounds of the Japanese language. Memorizing hiragana by writing helps your brain become comfortable with the individual sounds of the Japanese language, which makes them easier to recognize when you hear them spoken. When you write a word, you form a mental link between the shape on the page, the concept described by the word, and the sound used to say the word. That "mental link" dramatically improves vocabulary retention.

As a happy consequence of learning to write, Aitas students also learn to read. Students that can read can add to their vocabulary just by seeing a new word and saying it or thinking it. Reading, even very basic sentences, is excellent language practice that you can do any time, even on the bus or in a restaurant. (You'll be amazed how many characters you recognize on the menu the next time you eat sushi!)

Why Full Immersion?

"Full immersion" in the classroom means that Aitas courses are taught *entirely in Japanese*. As a policy, English and other languages are not allowed in the classroom (but don't worry, you won't get a detention if you slip up!). Full immersion can be a little confusing at times, and maybe even a little stressful, but it is also very exciting, lots of fun, and above all helps students progress as quickly as possible.

The more time you spend hearing Japanese, the more comfortable you'll become with the sounds of the language. The more comfortable you are with the sounds, the better you'll be able to identify and comprehend words. Every student in the class listens in Japanese, speaks in Japanese, and therefore develops the most important skill in language learning: "thinking in Japanese". When you are forced to formulate all of your questions in Japanese, your mind learns not just about the topic at hand, but also how to form a Japanese question. Every minute in the classroom is a minute spent practising Japanese. And the best thing you can do when learning a new language is practise.

Full Immersion is a "Dress Rehearsal" for the Real World!

If you travel to Japan, sooner or later you'll find yourself speaking to a Japanese person that doesn't speak much English. One way or another, you'll have to find a way to communicate. The full-immersion classroom prepares you for that real-world experience. If you've already spent six months attempting to express yourself in Japanese at Aitas, you'll be well prepared for real-world conversations in Japan! You'll be less nervous and better able to communicate.

But Sometimes I Just Want to Know the Answer...

Some of our students have occasionally expressed frustration when they have a simple question that would have a simple answer in their native language, but because the classroom is full-immersion only, they can't ask it. If you find yourself getting frustrated, remember, you can't learn Japanese in a single day. Give it time. You don't have to understand everything you hear--your brain is working subconsciously to piece everything together. Relax and let your comprehension skills develop naturally. Also remember that Aitas regularly reviews topics, so you'll get lots of chances to hear a phrase if you miss it the first few times. If you're really curious, write your question down and look it up after class, or try asking a fellow student. You could also book a private-study lesson if you'd like some extra, guided study time.

Give Full immersion a Try!

Full immersion is sometimes a challenge, but it is also the most rewarding and efficient way to learn a language. We ask that you trust us. You'll feel great satisfaction and even exhilaration when you've struggled to grasp a concept, then finally reach an understanding with your teacher and experience that "Eureka!" moment.

Even though we believe full immersion is by far the most effective language teaching method, we understand that some people simply prefer instruction in their native language. If you're wondering whether full immersion is right for you, we invite you to come to Aitas and take *a free 20-minute trial lesson (introductory lesson), with absolutely no obligations. We're dedicated to teaching Japanese, and we want you to have a fun and rewarding time at our school, so we want you to be sure you like the full immersion experience. Once you try it, we're betting you'll be as hooked on full immersion as we are!

(*If you have studied Japanese before, you need to start in the right level of class. We offer you a free level-check session.)

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