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Studying Language Abroad and Life Afterward? (Japan)


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I hope it`s ok to start posting just after registering. I was just curious about other peoples experiences studying their desired language overseas. Also how you kept the studies up after returning to your home country, if you could.

I took a year of Japanese at University, but the environment wasn`t good and I ended up putting it aside after a semester. I halfheartedly tried independent study over the next few years but the improvement was next to nothing and just watching Japanese drama and movies and stuff had less of an impact than I thought at the time.

Anyway a year ago I decided to bite the bullet and enroll at a  Japanese  school (<- linked) in Kyoto. Earlier I`d imagined it would be a hard and expensive thing to do, but it turned out the be pretty straight forward and the experience has been amazing (the whole `I`m actually here` thing). In less than year I passed the international Japanese language exam (N3, N2) on consecutive tries and have already enrolled to go for the top level the next chance I have.

I just decided to extend my stay for another year, but lately I`ve been thinking about how little progress other methods of study worked before I came to Japan. And the fact that I`ll probably be back home in a years time where I won`t have the great teachers and structured environment etc. So has anyone had that kind of experience in their language or their own study abroad?

(And incidentally is anyone else studying Japanese at a dedicated Japanese language school in Japan, or Kansai/Kyoto now??).

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We found that once we return it is very easy to stop practicing the language. To have a support group of friends who are either language learners or from that community is very important. Local embassies might be able to help you locate functions that will have people of those languages. Also, if you can find work translating for that language it will help the community as well as help your language skill. It is so sad to work that hard on learning a language and then watch it wash away like a sand castle overtaken by the sea.

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When I was studying French at uni, I was able to travel to France for 3 months, where I stayed with a non-English speaking French family and studied French at a local university. It was a fantastic experience and I found I learnt a lot more in the three months than I'd learnt in 2 academic years! I would definitely have liked to stay say 2 years because I feel that I would have learnt a lot faster and become fluent. What's more, I think it would have stuck.

On that basis, I think you shouldn't have any problem your fluency once you return home as you'll be in Japan a couple of years. I'd be very surprised if you forgot your Japanese. Maybe when you return home you could stock up on Japanese reading material and movies, to keep your language skills from going rusty. You'll be miles ahead of everyone. I mean, how long would you say is sufficient time to learn a language? I would have thought two years would be more than enough. Good luck :)

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