Japanese Class for Children
June 11, 2005 4:33 PM   Subscribe

My 10-year-old grandson loves Japanese anime and manga. He'd like to learn Japanese but his school doesn't offer it. (Chicago west surburbs)

Neither of our local community colleges offer Japanese classes for children. I wrote to the Japanese consulate in Chicago and got a list of organizations that offer Japanese classes, none of which are useful because of distance. We're in the far west suburbs of Chicago. Any suggestions? He really does want a class with regular times to attend. Self-study with books, tapes and videos just won't find its way into the schedule. And yes, I know if he were really motivated he'd learn on his own but hey, he's 10 years old and needs a jump start. Grandma promised she'd find a class. Help me out, please.
posted by Joleta to Writing & Language (10 answers total)
I think you're going to have to come into the city to find something - how far west are you? Perhaps you can grab the Metra into town and make a day of it once a week?

In any case, good on you for supporting your grandson's interests!
posted by aladfar at 4:37 PM on June 11, 2005

I think the University of Chicago has a good Japanese program. Maybe you could get a native speaker or grad student to come out to the suburbs and tutor him? Or post a note on a bulletin board at Mitsuwa Marketplace, the Japanese market in Arlington Heights?
posted by Jeanne at 6:23 PM on June 11, 2005

We started at-home Japanese study a few years back when I was homeschooling my (then) 3rd grade son. We chose that particular language because of his interest in manga and GBA. Eurotalk Japanese and Rosetta Stone Japanese Explorer, both available on CD-ROM, are good, fairly cheap ways to dip into language study. I was able to find the Eurotalk discs at Costco, which lowered their price considerably. They play like low budget, old-school computer games---which, my son insists, is better than playing no computer games at all.
posted by DawnSimulator at 7:05 PM on June 11, 2005

Jeanne has the right idea about finding a native speaker at the University. If hiring a private tutor sounds too expensive, ask your grandson if he has any friends who'd like to learn also, and their parents can chip in for group lessons. That was how I first started learning Japanese, way back in the day.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:31 PM on June 11, 2005

Talk him out of it.

I've taken japanese for the last year, and looking at the very low retention and high turnover rates, liking anime & manga alone is not motivating enough for most.

If his desire is strongly linked to anime/manga, talk him out of it. He won't last, and it won't be worth the money. He'll only last if the main reason for learning Japanese is just to learn it.
posted by blasdelf at 11:31 PM on June 11, 2005

By the way: I initially started learning Japanese just because I liked anime/manga, at 15. I stuck with it. It's the nature of youth to get passionate about X, have your parents spend a lot of money on X, and then lose interest--but some things stick.
posted by Jeanne at 4:38 AM on June 12, 2005

I don't know how far west you are, but there's a Japanese supermarket (Mitsuwa - formerly Yaohan?) at Algonquin and Arlington Heights. They used to have a useful bulletin board for swaps, classes and such. There are a good number of Japanese settled in that area and I know there are schools and other Japanese businesses (the Torishin restaurant and a wonderful fish market on Golf Road between Arlington Heights and Dempster come to mind) in the area. I suspect you'd be able to find some good stuff by just asking around in that vicinity.
posted by sagwalla at 8:02 AM on June 12, 2005

I've taken japanese for the last year, and looking at the very low retention and high turnover rates, liking anime & manga alone is not motivating enough for most.

I took Japanese for two years in high school, then nothing for about five years. When I got a software job out of college, my limited Japanese skills became very useful in debugging JPN language software issues. My limited Japanese combined with a native speaker for chinese (for guessing what the Kanji might mean) saved us a LOT of time. My motivatino for learning Japanese was even lamer than Manga and Anime - I just wanted to learn a language with the most complex character set possible.

My youngest brother is inteo Managa and Anime. He taught himself Japanese in high school, and now is an Asian Studies major in college. He has moved on from Japanese and is now adding Russian and Chinese to his skillset.

Japan is a fun and interesting place to visit or do business. Having basic Japanese skills (know your kana, understand Japanese phonetics and roughly understand Japanese grammar) helps tremendously.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:24 PM on June 12, 2005

I've had good luck with Pimsleur. Might not be quite what you are looking for at 10 years old, but it has definitely improved my conversational Spanish and French. Just enough to survive without English, if necessary.

The system emphasizes the accents and pronunciation just as much as the actual words. I wish I would have had access to something like this when I took Spanish in high school.

Incidentally, I signed up for Japanese in high school (1989, I think), but only 5 other people did, so they didn't hold the class. Now, I'd go for Cantonese. Might come in handy.
posted by bh at 3:37 PM on June 12, 2005

Well, if I do find a Japanese class for my grandson, he'll either stick with it or he won't. Either way, he'll have been exposed to another language at an age where language learning is supposed to be easier than as an adult. He's been practicing aikido for two years, and I figure if he's willing to get thrown around as a cultural experience, he'll likely stick with the Japanese classes.

We're about 40 miles west of Chicago, and we've only got evenings and Saturday afternoons free, since I'm a working grandma, and we do aikido on Saturday mornings. We were just at Mitsuwa last week and didn't see anything on the bulletin board, but I'll keep checking there.

I have an old computer program called "Power Japanese" that I'll load onto his computer to get him started while I keep searching for a class. There's a Berlitz school in Oak Brook, and I've written there for more information, although it seems from the Berlitz website that they only teach Spanish to kids.

Thanks, everyone for your advice. Please keep the suggestions coming.
posted by Joleta at 4:09 PM on June 12, 2005

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