Your typical Japanese class is about 80% listening, and 20% building dialogues off the lesson of the day. At least, in the classes I’ve attended, which have been classes where English was the language used by the teacher. There is one immersion school in Toronto, but I’m not convinced the only difference in the structure is that everyone has to use Japanese. (Of course, this means you speak more Japanese from day 1, which might be a better approach.)

Between classes

Photo via Good Free Photos

But there’s a problem, because next week, you start in on a brand new lesson, and some brand new dialogues. Maybe grammar from some of the last lessons will be brought in, maybe not. Of course, you can always try and work in the grammar you’ve previously learned into your dialogue today. But my classes have always been very quick, with no time to linger over too much discussion.

So, typically, I would say what I’d learned that day, and maybe work in something from the past few weeks, if I wasn’t already feeling confused. And this would repeat itself for the rest of the course’s term.

You’re not speaking Japanese in a context that is an exchange of ideas. All you’re getting are building blocks to do that outside of class. And Japanese isn’t the easiest language to practice, even in a large city.

I’ve used the following.


Since you can do almost everything remotely now, you can learn Japanese remotely. Italki is decent. Just make sure you have a look at the teacher intro videos and see which ones you might like. You can try out Japanese while getting a lesson. I usually went for the free form sessions, but most teachers also offer a more structured lesson plan. Since I was going to a class locally at the time, I didn’t go for this option.


HelloTalk is an app for Android and iOS. It’s sort of like Twitter, but with the ability to correct sentences and upload short voice clips for review. Beware of idiots, creepers, scam artists, etc.

It’s free if you only want to learn one foreign language, else you pay an annual subscription fee. Paying the fee also gets you a bit more in the way of translation power. Yes, it will translate sentences for you, with all the streamlined grace of Google Translate.

(Which means have some other reference materials nearby. Google Translate is not a serious tool right now for complex sentences or idioms. Yes, it’s better than nothing.)

On HelloTalk, I’m DavidOsu.

There are several Japanese meetups in Toronto, and probably in most major cities across the world. These can be very good, or very frustrating. My main frustration is with the ones taking place in food courts, the noise level is so loud, it’s hard to hear English, never mind Japanese.

Again, beware of creepers, trolls, and so on. This and HelloTalk have their fair share of men looking for romance, to be polite about it.

The End Goal

The end goal is to speak Japanese. It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make. I’m very guilty of not following this advice, but I saw the video below, and it really helped me change my attitude.


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