I understand that you want to improve your English for various reasons. You’re really, really trying hard, you think. You’re going to a class once (maybe twice) a week, you’re reviewing the material, but somehow you’re just not improving.
You’ll see other eikaiwa students in the lobby chatting it up with the English teachers, and you’ll wonder, “How come they’re better than me? Is it the teacher? Is it their methods?” And I might have a couple of answers for you.
If you’re having trouble in eikaiwa maybe…
You should increase your study time.
A class or two a week is not enough, not even nearly enough. When I was in the JET Programme, we were shown graphs and charts from various studies around the world. On average, you need at least two hours a week of studying to remember the material. If you want to improve in dramatic fashion, you need three to four hours a week for results.
Many eikaiwa students make the mistake of thinking that one class a week will magically make them better at English, but that’s just not possible. Languages for the average person means developing multiple skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. It means you can’t just expect a “fast food English” approach and expect grand results. I’m sorry, that’s just not how it works. In addition to that…
You might need a group class.
A lot of Japanese students are under the impression that a private class is better because you’ll get more time with a teacher. While that is an advantage if you’re studying for a specific exam or have business related things to improve. However, for general conversation things, it would actually be better to have a group class.
Speaking with one person for forty five minutes to an hour (depending on the company) means you’re only speaking to one person. Yes, it’s a native person, but then you’re limiting yourself to that teacher only for your listening and verbal skills. With other people, you’ll have different experiences, backgrounds, and ideas. With other people you can learn from them, basically, and even learn from their mistakes.
Think about naturally learning Japanese, you didn’t do it with one teacher or one parent. You talked with all different kinds of people in different situations. That’s how languages work, you need to have a variety of different people in order to gain more conversation skills.
It also helps that in a group class you’ll make friends. When you have people you enjoy hanging out with in a group class, you’re more likely to show up to class regularly. Private students often drop classes halfway through a course because, well, their teacher is a teacher. A teacher might become your friend, but that’s often not the case. With a group class you’ll have people you can get to know, and maybe even hang out with after class, possibly even study together. Emotional investment isn’t something to ignore.
And we finally come to…
You need to set realistic goals.
Many students at eikaiwa set themselves up to fail. Often times the expectations are something along the lines of, “Oh! If I go to class every day, once a week, for a year, I’ll be fluent!” But that’s not a realistic goal. Fluency is complicated, and usually requires years of practice and study.
Fluency would also be better acquired, honestly, in an English speaking country. In Japan where 99% of your interactions daily will be in Japanese, expecting to become fluent in one year through an eikaiwa alone is just setting yourself up to fail.
Now, there will be people who will say, “I became fluent in one year!” online. That’s probably because they devoted themselves to that language daily for hours and possibly lived in the country of the language’s origin. It is possible, but not through one class a week.
Also, expecting one class once a week to make you fluent is putting an unrealistic expectation on the teacher. Believe it or not, your teacher’s job is not to make you speak perfect English, our job is to make you communicate effectively in English. What does that mean? It means we want you to speak and then be understood.
We don’t want you to speak like the Queen of England, we just want you to be able to use the language in a way where in a conversation you send a message with words, and the person listening to you gets that message. Yes, vocabulary and grammar are important, but the core focus in our classes is communication, not tests.
In short, set yourself goals that are reachable within a year. It can be as simple as, “I will be able to travel in English.” That’s usually a basic level, asking for how much something is or where a place is. Or maybe a goal like, “I will be able to help foreigners around town.” If you’re a beginner, try to go with goals that meet that level. If you’re higher level, maybe keep an English journal for a year.
And those are just a few things I wanted to bring to your attention. I don’t expect you to maybe understand this post well, and perhaps this advice isn’t that helpful for you. Still, I hope perhaps you’ll take these points under consideration as you study.
Keep up the good work, you’ll get there!