During the three-week orientation program in Tokyo all students will participate in intensive Japanese language study. Classes will meet for three-hours each weekday and students will be expected to complete language homework to supplement their classroom study. Language classes are taught by the AJALT language school and utilize the Japanese for Busy People textbooks.
Prior to arrival abroad all students MUST memorize the Hiragana and Katakana alphabets. Failure to memorize these prior to arrival will make the first week of language classes very, very challenging and the one thing past participants state over and over is that they wish they had memorized these before they arrived in Japan. If you don't want to take our word for it, just read through a few of the NanoJapan Student Profiles as memorzing the Hiragana and Katakana before arrivign in Japan is something students say they wish they would have done again, and again...
The following online resources may be helpful in your review and study of Japanese both prior to and during your time in Japan.
During the research internship period students are given the option of choosing whether to continue with formal Japanese langauge study or not. Your research project and work in the lab will need to take priority but most students find additional language study benefits and complements their experience in the research lab; allowing for great interaction and communication with lab group members. We encourage all students to consider continuing their Japanese language study during the internship period and your NanoJapan stipend can be used to off-set any additional costs associated with these classes.
There are a range of opportunities available for additional language study in Japan from on-campus courses that may be available through the International Students office or School of Engineering to independent or small-group classes arranged through a community volunteer organizations or local language school. Your research lab will provide you with information on any on-campus classes that may be available, though these are not offered at all host labs and in some cases the class dates may not coincide with the dates you will be at your research lab.
If on-campus classes are not available, you can make arrangements with a local language school or volunteer organization. You will need to make these arrangements and pay any applicable fees on your own though you may want to speak with your lab mentor or lab secretary to confirm if the location is convenient to your lab or housing. Past NanoJapan particpants recommend you contact these volunteer organizations or schools during the first week of your stay in Japan to confirm availability of classes and applicable start dates. If you wait to do this until you get to your research internship you may find it is too late to register for classes or that the class has already begun.
Some of the volunteer organizations and language schools that past NanoJapan students have worked with include:
If you do not want to continue with formal language classes you can also speak with your research university's International Student office about available Language Exchanges or Language Tutoring Programs where you would work one-on-one with a Japanese student. Part of your time would be spent studying and practicing your spoken Japanese and the other part of the time would be spent having the Japanese student study and practice their spoken English. This model can be quite effective and a way for you to make friends with a Japanese student interested in improving their English skills. However, these often become one-sided so make sure you have set up clear expectations with your language partner and try to structure the sessions around textbook lessons to be sure you remain on track.
If you enjoy this type of experience check with your home university's International Student office when you return to the US to see if they have a similar program for international students or foreign visitors on your campus. This is an excellent way for you to serve as an ambassador for visitors to the US and show them the same hospitality that you have been shown while in Japan.
Many NanoJapan students choose to continue Japanese language study after they return home to their US university and we strongly encourage and support this endeavor. All NanoJapan participants will be given a Japanese Language Oral Proficiency Interview at the end of the summer to assess their spoken Japanese language level and these results are often accepted by university language departments for verification to test out of a lower level language class such as Japanese 101 or even 102. However, some campuses require students to take their own placement exam to verify language level so be sure you check with your Japanese language department prior to the start of the fall semester.
If your campus does not offer Japanese language study you may still be able to continue your language classes through Continuing Education or other community-based classes in your local area. Check with your campus Languages Department, local community colleges or continuing education programs, or your nearest Japanese Consulate or Embassy on Japanese language classes that may be offered in your area.
Students who wish to return to Japan in the future for study, research or their career are also strongly encouraged to consider taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). The JLPT is administered worldwide to evaluate and certify proficiency in Japanese of non-native speakers. The JLPT places importance not only on a learner’s (1) knowledge of the Japanese language including vocabulary and grammar but also on their (2) competence at using the knowledge in practical communication.
The following resources are available for students at Rice University or in the Houston-area: