Guide to Choosing Online vs Offline Lessons

You have come to the right article for a balanced view of the benefits of offline vs online Japanese lessons. These ideas come from our experience of providing affordable Japanese lessons both offline and online at Japan Switch. Do not listen to any teacher or company that says one method is better than the other. Both methods have different benefits and depending on how you learn, goals, and living situation, your ideal platform can differ.

Most articles comparing online and offline lessons quite suck to be honest. Most of them just seem to be copy pasting the content from other articles and regurgitating the same obvious ideas. A smart reader like you does not need to be told that online lessons are more convenient schedule wise.

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Benefits of Online Japanese Lessons

Recording the Lesson

One non-obvious benefit of online Japanese lessons is that you can record the lesson. Most Japanese teachers would feel nervous or be against you recording the lesson in person. Looking at the device and seeing that big red button and the digital waves recording your every move, while teaching the lesson will distract even the hardest of veterans. Most people still feel uncomfortable, but you have a higher chance of getting permission to record while online.

You should always ask the teacher if they are fine with you making a recording and recording without permission would potentially be a breach of privacy. For example, at my Japanese language school Japan Switch, teachers can decline a student’s request to make an online video recording.

You could record the lesson using one of the methods below. 

How to record an online lesson in zoom

How to record an online Skype chat

Article by techradar on several free screen recorders

online video lessons at Japan Switch

More Desk Space

This is a random idea that I do not see people taking advantage of during lessons. However, since you are taking your lesson online, you have much more desk space to use for preparing for your lessons. For example, you could prepare the following things on your table.

  1. Textbook.
  2. Notebook for your lessons and questions for your teacher.
  3. Vocabulary list or dictionary app for the lesson.
  4. Workbook or homework for the lesson you are taking.
  5. Guitar to show off to your fellow classmates or teacher.

Students had to carry their manga, books, and other materials to show to their teacher for help. Now you can simply have the manga on your table and ask your anime heart away.

Share Screen Feature

All video chat software have a share screen feature. You can share your written report, digital version of the manga you are reading, or even a situation from a Japanese TV drama or movie you are watching. Just make sure you do not have any sensitive information or information you want to keep private before sharing your screen!

If you want to share a YouTube video, I would recommend you send a video link in the chat with the exact time stamp embedded into the link. For example, you can skip my friend’s channel introduction and jump straight into the main content at the 17 second marker with this link : https://youtu.be/YNFaL9PaVe0?t=17

Multiple Tabs Feature

Although your smartphone web browser has the capabilities to manage multiple tabs, it cannot compare to the sheer amount of information you can have loaded simultaneously on your computer browser. When doing offline lessons, you have to bring all your crap to the classroom and then use valuable class time to find the exact location you wanted to show your teacher. Now you can simply prepare for everything in advance and have it loaded in a tab on your computer.

I would recommend having a dictionary, google search, online notepad uploaded and ready to go for your online Japanese lessons.

Online Dictionary

Impress your teacher and classmates with your fake knowledge of new words attained using an online dictionary while researching when your classmates were speaking. There is even some software that works as both a dictionary and a flashcard study system. What this means is that you could search for a word and if you want to study it later you could save it as a word to study later using the same software. This can save you from having to carry a notebook around all the time.

Vidalingua makes a free dictionary app that has the flashcard feature - not sure how free it is though. Japanese pod101 also seems to have that feature built into their paid version.

Generic Ideas

You probably have heard these ideas, so I will gather them in one tiny spot.

  1. Save money on transportation costs through online lessons.
  2. Save time because you no longer need to commute to your lesson.
  3. You can practice your phone Japanese skills easily because it is harder to hear your teacher online than in person.

Updated 12/27/2020

Japan Switch is now offering online Japanese lessons with 1500 yen group lessons with a maximum of 4 students and 3000 yen private lessons.

Benefits of Offline Japanese Lessons

The first several reasons are pretty obvious, but easily forgotten if you have not experienced it yourself. For that reason I have decided to include them to the list of benefits of offline Japanese lessons.

Japanese school environment

Being surrounded by other Japanese students

Most of the benefits of offline lessons cannot be communicated through text or audio unfortunately. You really have to be at Japan Switch to experience the positive energy and enthusiasm. It is similar to listening to music on Spotify compared to watching a concert in person. The energy of experiencing things in person is good for people who get motivated seeing others improve and wanting to keep up with them. For example, if you are the type who gets competitive or motivated to study by seeing another student studying before his or her lesson, offline lessons could be ideal for you.

Would love to show the vibes of the classroom environment and the excitement and fun. This would also apply to the sheer amount of students coming in and out between classes.

Making friends with students of a similar level

We have many students, especially in our group lessons, who become friends outside of the classroom as well. Having someone who is at a similar Japanese level can help you persevere and they understand your frustrations with Japan and learning the Japanese language better than others. Also having a classmate can push you to attend class and having someone to have lunch with after class can help you remember what you just learned or clarify areas you did not understand.

We also have students having conversations and other students would jump in if the topic sounds interesting and the people seem friendly and welcoming.


Experience the power of a smile

You cannot simulate the smile of your teacher or praise from your teacher with online lessons. Even with the best screens on the market, you can never simulate the 3D experience in person with a 2D screen. This sounds silly but a thumbs up or LIKE cannot compare with a real high five. You can only experience a physical high five with offline lessons.

Internet lessons just suck sometimes

I personally hate wearing a headset or earphones. For me they just feel uncomfortable and unnatural when talking to another person. At a minimum, you would need to get wireless earphones, just so you can move and not be attached to the computer. Additionally, you have to deal with the lag sometimes and I am sure we can all relate to the headache of getting cut off. You also end up losing 1 - 3 minutes of your lesson because of the broken flow and the need to backtrack.

You cannot hear a person’s natural voice online, but things are improving audio wise, but still not at the same level of clarity as in person lessons. You also cannot see the gestures of the person and you can see for better or worse the twitching and other facial micro expressions which make interaction with others seem real. I won’t get into the topic of smell because that could be either benefit of offline or online lessons!

No interruptions

Living with another person will naturally result in interruptions. Additionally, when you are at home, you are expected to pick up the phone. When you are at a lesson in person, you can make the excuse that you are in a lesson, but for some reason people do not get it when it applies to online lessons!

Depending on your personality, you may actually study and review your lessons more frequently when taking lessons in person since you are stuck on the train. Having a 30 minute ride and taking two lessons can lead to 2 hours of extra uninterrupted study time. Too many distractions at home and people are not too talkative on the trains, so you can focus on your studies.

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Japan Switch provides affordable morning and noon Japanese lessons in Tokyo. Centrally located, relaxed environment and quality textbooks. Japan Switch is your alternative option to a Japanese language school in Tokyo.

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