If you are going to Japan for a business trip or for a vacation, it is a must to complete some form of Japanese language course. Knowing a little bit about the spoken tongue and written word can definitely help you get around the country better and give you a deeper, appreciative perspective of a foreign culture.
The most obvious way to get a good grasp of communicating effectively in Japan is through a formal course. Some insist that this is simply the best avenue to take because aside from getting highly accurate information, you are also able to benefit from expert instructor insights on the country’s culture.
A couple of other sources argue though that formal lessons can have some disadvantages. Aside from being expensive, many formal arrangements for Japanese language courses understandably have rigid structures that may either give more information than you need or may hamper you from learning the context of communicating in a foreign tongue. This is why some suggest that informal lessons are better alternatives.
To answer the question in your mind then, you should probably take the informal path if you want fewer costs and more freedom to learn and explore. Be warned though that informal lessons can carry different degrees of informality and you may not be able to benefit from each and every kind of guide out there.
At one end of the spectrum is the overly informal Japanese language course that you can take online. There are some sites that provide loosely monitored exchange programs in which people from two different countries can swap insights about each other’s languages. The sessions can be so unstructured that you might not be able to make sense of your exchanges at all.
One very good reason why overly slack learning set-ups won’t work is that the spoken and written forms of communication in Japan are extremely complicated. In the written form, you’d have to deal with four sets of scripts, hiragana, katakana, kanji and romaji. Aside from familiarizing yourself with the definitions of the characters, you need to find out when each character set is applicable.
You also need slightly more organized Japanese language courses for the spoken part because it can be just as confusing. The major point of confusion stems in the various forms of honorifics and polite speech that you need to use when speaking to others. This means finding out when to use the honorific categories of sonkeigo, kensongo and teineigo.
A good middle ground to take is one that is neither too informal nor too formal. This middle ground can be found in location-based lessons. You can learn how to speak and write while you are actually in Japan. Depending on the purpose of your visit, the company sponsoring your stay can offer this as an option.
Taking a semi formal Japanese language course right in the heart of Japan is the best choice simply because it will offer you both the structure and the context to learn effectively. There is obviously no better way to learn the finer points of speaking and writing in Japan than to live life in the country itself.