Listening to girls called Stacy squeaking out “ah ree gar toe go zai moss oo” is not to your advantage. Especially if you are the girl called Stacy. That chick needs help.
Classes suck. Not only do they cost money, but they’re boring and they don’t work. You only need look as far as the number of people taking Japanese classes, versus the number of people who are actually good at Japanese. The people in charge of the classes will tell you that it’s because “Japanese is hard”; “Japanese is different”; “it’s the kanji”; “those East Asians are so inscrutable; they just don’t think like we do”. Bollocks! Absolute bollocks! There is nothing fundamentally difficult or different about Japanese. Very normal human beings speak, read and write it on a daily basis. The problem might be with the way we are learning it, but it would be unprofessional, dishonest, and an act of the most severe bollocks, to blame the object of our learning.
I’m not saying you can’t get anything valuable from a class. And I’m absolutely not saying that teachers are bad people. On the contrary, there are wonderful, dedicated teachers out there. They’re victims, too. They know it doesn’t work. They know that success in their classes is only tangentially related to success in actual Japanese. Many of them even admit that “you need to do Japanese outside the classroom”, but too often, that takes the form of goofy busywork assignments. Filling in the blanks. Woo! I’m going to be the best Japanese-blank-filler ever!…Please.
What helps in the real world of Japanese is something almost all classes punish: the ability to wing it. Of course I believe in preparation, but real life situations rarely follow the plan in all but the most general sense. The plan gets twisted and even broken, you forget a word and have to explain your way around it. Stuff happens, and you need to be able to think on your feet. In class it’s called BSing. In the real world, it’s called common freaking sense.
Perhaps classes and textbooks for Japanese made sense when they had a monopoly on information. Back in the day, outside of a class, there probably were no Japanese materials readily available to a person outside of Japan. And certainly for a rarer language, like Dzongkha, you might want to seek a class because materials are so scarce (but that’s a big “might”).
In any case, with the end of their monopoly on information, the typical Japanese language class as it exists is long past its expiry date. You have the information in your hands now, and you can use it far more efficiently than a class can. And yes, a lot of it’s unedited information, but the real world never did come neatly shrink-wrapped in mind-numbingly boring vocabulary lists with chapter headings. Plus, a lot of the stuff out there actually is edited. For example, Japanese dictionary companies have both an economic incentive and a Japanese cultural bias to do things well. So there. Class 0, You 1.
I’m 23 years old and very arrogant, but I still believe in asking people who know better for help. In this on-demand, consultative form (like Dr. Mary Noguchi’s Kanji Clinic), a class would have use.
But if you’re signing up for a typical “watashi wa sumisu desu” textbook-centered Japanese class hoping for a teacher, through the magical power of the textbook written by the experts at the Takagawa-Jones Institute for Samurai Studies and Good Japanese, to inject the special invisible Japanese sauce (that they keep in the closet at the back of the room) into your brain in 45-minute increments every weekday…then don’t hold your breath. Instead, save yourself the time and heartache, take your precious money and go buy some anime, or whatever, just something in real Japanese. Take a shopping trip to Amazon.jp. Trust me, it’s better this way…