Learning Business Japanese is required in certain professions but not all. As a foreign professional working in Japan, you will soon realize that finding time to take Japanese lessons after work will be close to impossible. However, some professions mandate their foreign employees to have a certain level of Japanese language proficiency to communicate with clients both in person or online. Take note that “Conversational” Japanese is completely different from “Business” Japanese because you not only need to know Keigo or the formal Japanese language, but you also need to learn and follow traditional Japanese etiquette and mannerisms. Similar to a Japanese employee, you are expected to know the meaning behind the different angles of a bow, how to greet clients, which titles or honorifics to use with superior members in your company, and even how to dress and carry yourself when interacting with clients and/or colleagues. These are not even the tip of the iceberg.
When looking for a Japanese language school, you need to conduct thorough research and make sure you know what specific language goal you need for your career in Japan. Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself before you start your search:
1. What is my Japanese language goal?
Do you need to have a communicative level of Japanese or will you be required to speak the formal Japanese language? For many foreigners living and working in Japan, we can get by with knowledge of basic or daily conversational Japanese. Speaking to Japanese clients or making speeches and presentations in Japanese will require a completely different set of vocabulary and extensive training experience.
2. Do I need certification or take a Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)?
Certain jobs will require different levels of Japanese. You need to double-check with your company or the company you are applying for regarding which qualification you need to fulfil. The certification you need will decide which courses you must take or for how long.
3.Do I want a school near my office or my home?
This is for your convenience. For busy professionals, you can either go to a language school near your home or your office depending on your availability. Most language schools offer group lessons on the weekends but one-on-one lessons on weekdays due to individual students’ busy schedule. Some schools will offer private tutoring at the school, at cafes or students’ homes.
4.Will my company fully/partly subsidize my lesson fees?
Check with your company if they will pay for your lesson fees in full, partly, or reimburse you. If not, your choice of which language school or whether to take group or private lessons will depend on your budget.
5.Do I have/make time to learn?
You will soon realize that working in Japan means working overtime. Of course, a few companies work within the schedule but most companies will follow client availability. If you finish work late, you may not find any available courses after work. You could take the lessons on weekends but they are your precious days off. Think carefully and consider alternative options.
6.Which type of lesson suits me best, Face-to-Face or Online?
With the current pandemic and social-distancing regulations, learners opt for online lessons and avoid any face-to-face interactions. However, you have to decide based on your learning style. If you are adept at using technology and pride yourself for knowing how to navigate different online platforms and apps, then your lesson schedule will be more flexible.
Once you have answered the questions above, you can now begin your search. Of course, the fastest method in searching for that perfect school is online. “Just Google it,” is the easiest method. Depending on the company you are working for, they might already be affiliated with a Japanese language school, which saves you time and stress of searching for one. Also, do not hesitate to drop by your local international community centre to find out more information on local Japanese language schools in your area. Most will have pamphlets of the language schools printed in English or other languages. Some centres even offer group and private lessons at more affordable rates than language schools, so keep your options open.