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Texas ISD School Guide
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Travel, Teach, Live in Japan

Choosing an Online Japanese School - Questions to Ask Before You Buy
By:Terry C Phillips

More and more choices for learning Japanese are popping up on the Internet. Dozens of sites offer free Japanese resources for learning to read and write hiragana and kanji; other sites offer Japanese grammar materials; and some sites have you learn Japanese by listening to pre-recorded lessons.

Free and low-cost sites are a double-edged sword: For many students, they offer an effective, inexpensive way to start learning Japanese, but, without live interaction with a Japanese teacher, other learners may have a hard time keeping up their motivation.

Another option is an online Japanese school, where you take live online lessons with a Japanese teacher. Through online lessons, these schools seek to duplicate the experience of a one-on-one Japanese tutor or a small-group classroom.

Typically, you buy lesson tickets upfront, and then use one ticket for each lesson. Prices vary; online group lessons cost about $10, and private Japanese lessons range from $25 to $50 per 50-minute lesson.

Here are questions to consider when choosing an online Japanese school.

* Do I want to take private Japanese lessons?

With private Japanese lessons, you and your teacher meet in an online classroom, and have a private lesson just as if you were in person. Most private lessons are customized to your learning goals, but ask beforehand about your teacher's teaching style. If you have a preferred Japanese textbook, ask if the teacher will build custom lesson plans using that textbook.

* Do I want to take group lessons?

Group lessons for learning Japanese are another option. Group lessons are a cheaper option, and lots of students enjoy the interaction with other students and getting the chance to speak Japanese in front of other students.

However, compared to private lessons, your progress in learning Japanese tends to be slower, as you wind up competing with other students in the class who are at different skill levels. With several people in the same classroom, sound and connection problems tend to increase, too. With a group class, take time to understand the school's classroom environment:

How does the school ensure that students in a lesson are at the same level?

What happens if one student takes up more than his fair share of lesson time?

Can I get a refund if another student causes sound or connection problems?

Do my classmates change with every lesson, or is the class on a fixed schedule?

Can I communicate with the teacher after class?

* When will my lesson tickets expire?

Most students forget to consider this question until it's too late. Expiration dates and policies vary among online Japanese schools. Expiration terms vary from one month to one year. In case you have lesson tickets that have expired or are nearly expired, some schools require you to buy more lesson tickets to use the expired tickets, while other schools offer lower-cost extensions in the original tickets' expiration date.

* Is a trial lesson available?

Most schools offer a free trial lesson, where you can "test drive" the school's lesson environment before you buy. Not all online Japanese schools advertise free trial lessons, so be sure to ask for details.

* How much is my Japanese teacher paid?

Teacher pay goes to the heart of the online learning experience. Typically, online Japanese schools keep 40% to 70% of lesson tuition, meaning the teacher earns about $4 for a 50-minute group lesson and $12 for a 50-minute private lesson. Your school may be reluctant to discuss teacher pay, but don't be shy about pressing the point: It is your money after all, and you have a right to know how efficiently your tuition dollars are being used.

Armed with answers to these questions, you can reliably choose the online Japanese school that will help you succeed in learning Japanese.

Terry Phillips has been involved in online Japanese schools for over five years, and currently operates Nihongo-Pro.com.

At Nihongo-Pro, we take our students and our teachers very seriously. Our policies, software, and online Japanese lessons are designed to make Nihongo-Pro the best place to learn Japanese online and achieve your Japanese language goals. We reward our teachers with significantly higher pay than other online Japanese schools, while keeping our lesson prices among the most affordable anywhere. http://www.nihongo-pro.com/why-nihongo-pro

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