25 Jan 2020
17th October 2018
How to make Japanese part of your life in the UK
Image credit: Yoshiaki Miura
Many JETs return from Japan keen to continue to use their Japanese in some way, be it professionally, just for enjoyment or gaining further qualifications, such as the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. But without the opportunity to use Japanese in everyday life, even when will is there, it can quickly dry up to the occasional LINE message or realising you have just spent 10 minutes trying to read the Japanese section of the instructions for a household appliance.
Here we bring together some of the resources and options available for people who want to keep Japanese as a part of their life or make it a part again, outside of formal study.
We'd welcome further contributions to this introductory list, in the hope it can become a useful resource on the JETAA UK site. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions.
Finding lessons and classes
Most universities in the UK offer Japanese languages classes, however from the times offered to levels available, finding the right option can take some time. In London, SOAS offers a particularly wide range of levels.
Getting a private tutor is also an option, though naturally it is more expensive. The Japan Foundation website has an extensive and vetted list of tutors in all parts of the UK here, where details of the tutor's background and teaching specialisms are outlined. If in doubt, it's always worth asking for a free trial lesson.
Meetups and societies
As the JETAA Midlands Chair suggests in this article, in addition to JETAA UK, there are Japanese societies and groups found throughout the UK, not just in London. A good place to start might be contacting the Chair of your local JETAA chapter.
Japanese meetups, where you can meet people interested in speaking Japanese and meeting new people, regularly take place in cities across the UK, many advertised on meetup.com, although it can be good to check with someone before attending to get a flavour of what they're like. In London, The London Japanese Language Meetup Group and the Japan Society-affiliated Japanese Conversation Group are both popular. In Birmingham, this meetup is recommended by the JETAA Midlands Chair.
Resources – Media
Podcasts, TV and other media are all an easy way to combine leisure with light study. Netflix has numerous Japanese shows including the strangely fascinating reality show Terrace House and Hibana: Spark – based on the surprise Akutagawa Prize-winning hit novel by comedian by Naoki Matayoshi – as well as anime favourites like Tokyo Ghoul. For those concerned they won’t be able to follow without subtitles (while obviously English subtitles are also an option) watching with Japanese subtitles can increase your understanding by a surprising amount.
Bilingual News and News in Slow Japanese are two news-focused podcasts, with the former often focusing on science topics with two-way conversations in Japanese and English, and the latter more on Japanese culture and current issues. NHK Easy News is another well-known option for keeping on top of what’s going on in Japan.
There are also a number of YouTube channels aimed at those studying Japanese. Nihongonomori and KemushiChan both come recommended by JETAA UK members. A huge number of episodes of family classics Sazae-san and Chibi Maruko-chan are also on YouTube – not too hard to follow and packing a nostalgic punch to boot.
Resources – studying
There are, naturally, innumerable study resources available online – in addition to popular apps like Memrise. Japan Foundation recommend the following: Erin’s Challenge! I Can Speak Japanese, MARUGOTO+, Japanese in Anime and Manga and NIHONGO e-na Portal for Learning Japanese (although many of these are quite elementary). It also highlights its new website Minato, which “provides an opportunity to study Japanese for those who may wish to begin learning, but cannot attend an actual Japanese language school.”
If you are interested in further qualifications, the Japanese Language Proficiency Test is of course the best-known worldwide, available in five levels.
The test is held twice a year in the UK: at SOAS in London and the University of Edinburgh in July; and in December at SOAS, the University of Edinburgh and the Uiversity of Cardiff. It is also held in December at University College Dublin in Ireland.
The official JLPT website also features test guides, sample questions and lists of resources.