How to Prepare for Your Private Lessons
Our target audience for this article are students who take private lessons. The advice in this article would not apply to people who take group lessons.
Private Lessons Allow You To Prepare For Lessons
The problem with group lessons is that the pace can never be a perfect match for each individual because you have six people with different study habits and reasons for being there and your momentum is limited by the speed of the group.
The great thing about private lessons is that you can learn at your own pace and you can prepare for your lessons in advance to maximize your time in the classroom for speaking.
You can practice the language patterns and listening so you have a general grasp and feel of the language before you come to class, so you can save the 20+ minutes of your lesson spent on learning the language
When in the classroom, you can use your lesson time to use the language and receive corrections, ask questions that you did not understand, and allow the teacher to expand on the limited content in the book.
How to Prepare for Your Lessons - Listening
You can use the listening CD and script in the textbook to practice your pronunciation and listening. Did you know that you cannot hear sounds that you cannot pronounce? There is a 99% chance you cannot hear the difference between a Japanese SU and TSU sound.
The best way to learn pronunciation and intonation is through shadowing and you can shadow the conversation section and listening section in the textbook. If you practice the listening section before your lesson, you can skip having to do it in the lesson and use that time for more speaking.
Not sure what shadowing is? Check out this short youtube video about what it is and how to do it.
How to Prepare for Your Lessons - Vocabulary
The challenge with learning vocabulary is that you cannot download the words into your brain but actually have to use it to remember them.
Practice Vocabulary Through A Flashcard App
Some people like using a vocabulary notebook, but the challenge for most people is that you only look at it while you are in your classroom, which is the wrong time to be checking it. The other problem with notebooks is that you have to spend time sorting through the words you know and do not know.
We recommend learning the vocabulary in the textbook before your lesson through digital or physical flashcards can be more effective for remembering words than a notebook. The most common apps for flashcards are memrise, anki, or quizlet, which are effective because they only show you the flashcards that you do not know and stop showing you the ones you do know.
Please Do Not Limit Yourself To The Words In The Textbook
Private lesson students do not need to limit yourself to the words in the book. You can prepare for your lessons by looking at the words in the book and think of the words that are more appropriate for your day to day life.
For example, in the lesson about going to places in Book 2, there is an example about going to the embassy for your VISA. If learning the word embassy and city office is not relevant for you, you can prepare a list of places in advance that are more relevant to you than the ones in the textbook and practice them in class.
You Do Not Need To Learn All The Words In The Textbook
The key for developing a maintainable routine for vocabulary is to focus on the words you use most frequently in your daily life and conversations. You do not need to learn all the words in the textbook.
How to Prepare for Your Lessons - Grammar
When preparing for your lessons, my personal recommendation is to not practice grammar and vocabulary on the same day when learning something for the first time. I personally prefer learning vocabulary the day before learning grammar, so I can reinforce and review the vocabulary when learning grammar the next day.
Look at the sentences and look at the underlined area. Practice using the sentence pattern many times by substituting the underlined word with other words you want to use. Speak out loud when reading the sentence and have fun with what you say.
Thinking About What You Want To Say
Practicing the grammar patterns in the book is useful, but make your preparation more authentic by thinking about what you would like to say to expand on the conversation instead of being limited by the grammar patterns in the book and write it down in English. You can ask your teacher in class on how to communicate what you want to say in Japanese, so you can not only practice the grammar patterns in class, but also on how you would naturally want to expand the conversation.
Example 1 - Textbook
I need to go to the video store to rent a movie.
Example 1 - What I want to say :
I need to go to the video store to rent a movie. The store has many uniques videos.
Example 2 - Textbook
Can you say that again?
Example 2 - What I want to ay :
Can you say that again? It is hard to hear your voice.
I really want to know how to ask someone to speak more loudly without offending them and this is the type of question I would ask my teacher in class.
Developing a Routine
Developing a new routine can be a challenge, but you have already taken the first step by attending weekly lessons. Once that starts becoming a part of your weekly routine, the next step is to sneak in study time. The ideal study routine is about 20 to 30 minutes a day. You can sneak in study time by reducing your time watching TV or Facebook, or some Japanese time on the train using your smartphone.
The key point for your routine is not the amount of hours you study in the week, but more about how much time you spend each day to signify to your brain how important something is. This is why cramming for tests never work from a long term perspective and isn’t that much fun.
Routines are important because the more consistent you are with your routine, the more momentum you have to achieving your goal. A strong momentum is like a fast moving train and you can maintain good speed without using any power and effort. Developing momentum on the other hand is like climbing a hill and you have to use a lot of energy and effort to move up.
Two short videos on developing a routine
Thank You For Reading This Guide
Preparing for your lessons and developing a study routine will help you develop a great momentum for learning Japanese. Maintaining a good routine will help you survive the forgetting curve because when you stop studying and using something, your brain switches that information to delete mode.
Here are some additional guides that can help you advance your Japanese.