Japanese Language School

★★★★★

About Japanese Language School

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440 Austin St San Francisco, CA

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Soko Gakuen is a non-profit Japanese language school. They are able to keep their prices low (about $150 per quarter-year semester) because (a) they're non-profit, and (b) they keep a very low overhead. The very low overhead means the building and furnishings are ancient; the class materials are slim (mostly produced by the teachers); the "amenities" that one might expect for adult education facilities (snacks, phones, internet connections, administrative personnel) are completely non-existent. The building is fairly old and ADA non-compliant.

The administrator of of the school is fiercely protective of the carpeting, which was installed a few years ago and probably constitutes the single greatest expense of the school in the past decade or more, so no food or drink other than water is allowed in the classrooms or hallways (there is one breakroom in which eating and drinking is allowed). He is also passionately anti-smoking, which he proselytizes on the walls of the hallways and classrooms and in the school materials.
More significantly he maintains control of the course curricula and testing.

Despite these limitations, the faculty, which is mostly made up of younger Japanese who have day jobs elsewhere, do an excellent job. They recognize that most of the students are working adults with other priorities, so homework is not unreasonable. Curricula are based on the textbooks' guidance, but classwork and instruction are, generally speaking, NOT "straight out of the book." Instructors are friendly and very helpful. They tend to be internet-savvy; I think there may be a requirement that they create websites for their classes, though some instructors are better than others at posting handouts and homework assignments (most instructors are very good about emailing these things to students who miss a class).

I have taken other language study both in my own school days, and in evening classes at city college, though this is the first and only place I've taken classes in Japanese. The instruction at Soko Gakuen compares favorably. It is certainly far better than trying to learn alone from books, CDs, or computer programs. The evenings-and-weekends, one three-hour class per week course schedule generally works well for working adults or high-schoolers. Class size is small - usually 10-20 for beginning classes, and 8-14 for intermediate classes (the class size usually thins out during the course of a semester). Most students are working adults, but there are also high-schoolers getting their language credits from these classes as well (especially in the Saturday classes).

In summary, Soko Gakuen provides very good instruction at a very reasonable price. The facilities and materials are bare-bones. The administration is wonky. The testing needs severe renovation. But after a year and a half of classes (in a notoriously difficult language), I can finally handle a phone conversation with my mother-in-law. Originally posted by Rufus,12/08/06

5
★★★★★

Soko Gakuen is a non-profit Japanese language school. They are able to keep their prices low (about $150 per quarter-year semester) because (a) they're non-profit, and (b) they keep a very low overhead. The very low overhead means the building and furnishings are ancient; the class materials are slim (mostly produced by the teachers); the "amenities" that one might expect for adult education facilities (snacks, phones, internet connections, administrative personnel) are completely non-existent. The building is fairly old and ADA non-compliant.

The administrator of of the school is fiercely protective of the carpeting, which was installed a few years ago and probably constitutes the single greatest expense of the school in the past decade or more, so no food or drink other than water is allowed in the classrooms or hallways (there is one breakroom in which eating and drinking is allowed). He is also passionately anti-smoking, which he proselytizes on the walls of the hallways and classrooms and in the school materials.
More significantly he maintains control of the course curricula and testing.

Despite these limitations, the faculty, which is mostly made up of younger Japanese who have day jobs elsewhere, do an excellent job. They recognize that most of the students are working adults with other priorities, so homework is not unreasonable. Curricula are based on the textbooks' guidance, but classwork and instruction are, generally speaking, NOT "straight out of the book." Instructors are friendly and very helpful. They tend to be internet-savvy; I think there may be a requirement that they create websites for their classes, though some instructors are better than others at posting handouts and homework assignments (most instructors are very good about emailing these things to students who miss a class).

I have taken other language study both in my own school days, and in evening classes at city college, though this is the first and only place I've taken classes in Japanese. The instruction at Soko Gakuen compares favorably. It is certainly far better than trying to learn alone from books, CDs, or computer programs. The evenings-and-weekends, one three-hour class per week course schedule generally works well for working adults or high-schoolers. Class size is small - usually 10-20 for beginning classes, and 8-14 for intermediate classes (the class size usually thins out during the course of a semester). Most students are working adults, but there are also high-schoolers getting their language credits from these classes as well (especially in the Saturday classes).

In summary, Soko Gakuen provides very good instruction at a very reasonable price. The facilities and materials are bare-bones. The administration is wonky. The testing needs severe renovation. But after a year and a half of classes (in a notoriously difficult language), I can finally handle a phone conversation with my mother-in-law. Originally posted by Rufus,12/08/06

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