Academic Year 2016 Alum Abigail Dunn and Her Insights on KCP (Part 1)

KCP’s Academic Year 2016 student, Abigail Dunn, shares her insights on her experience in Japan with KCP. Thanks, Abigail!

KCP International Language School provides an excellent opportunity to students of Japanese language who are looking to drastically improve their language skills within a short period of time. In the academic year that I spent at KCP, I went through levels 3, 4, and 5, which essentially covered beginner/intermediate to intermediate/expert Japanese. Since I completed the equivalent of levels one and two of KCP back at my university in America, I do not know what the classes look like for those. However, I will highlight that the jump between levels three and four is quite massive.

Given my prior knowledge of Japanese and a relatively solid foundation, level three was not too challenging for me. What made it somewhat difficult was the transition from learning Japanese through the use of English (in America), to immediately diving headfirst into learning it from native Japanese speakers who only ever used Japanese to explain anything. It was difficult, but even in just one quarter I experienced a huge leap forward in my language speaking, reading, writing, and listening. Level four, however, felt as though I had never learned Japanese before and was trying to understand gibberish.

It was discouraging to feel confident from the previous level and then walk into class for level four and feel completely lost. Part of the reason it was so difficult was because prior to level four, all the classes really only used elementary Japanese. It was useful for conversation and light reading, but didn’t have a lot of depth to it. But level four, on the other hand, dove straight into very technical Japanese – learning about how to converse and read about the environment, politics, news, and how to present ideas in a cohesive and fluid manner.

Abigail Dunn (left)

Essays were also far more difficult to write in level four, since we were required to use many of the new, complicated ideas and grammar structures within our writing. Many students struggled a lot in level four. I knew some who had to repeat the level. The only way I was able to push through it was to ask many, many questions, spend an obscene amount of time studying, and retaking several failed grammar tests that sometimes felt impossible to pass. The teachers were amazing throughout the entire time. They put in so many extra hours to assist students who were struggling and were extremely patient with me and everyone else. I had and still have an immense amount of respect for each and every teacher who taught me. After level four, the step up to level five was far less intimidating and simply built on the skills we had learned in level four.

Something that really helped me was that I had no other English speakers in my classes until the final quarter I was there, so I was forced to always communicate in Japanese. I loved that. It was such an enriching experience to learn Japanese around so many others who were working toward the same goal, while also having Japanese be our only way of communicating with each other. Although it could be frustrating at times to not be able to accurately express an idea or feeling, getting around that by using different words instead of not saying any at all was incredibly rewarding. I came to appreciate speaking to people from all over Asia in Japanese because it gave me the opportunity to understand the world through their perspectives in a language we all could understand.

All of that being said; KCP is not for the faint-hearted. It is a rigorous, fast-paced, immersive language-learning environment. If you do not have the drive to push through the frustration of not understanding or the ability to study for hours every single day, then KCP is not the best option. However, if those are things that you want in a program and you are willing to put in the work, then the time you spend at KCP will be invaluable. I saw many students struggle through their time at this school because they were in it for the fun of experiencing Tokyo, rather than wanting to put time and energy into really improving their Japanese. I personally think it’s such a waste to go to a school like KCP if that is what you are looking for.

For those of you who are passionate about the Japanese language and are dedicated to working harder than you ever have before, then this school may be for you. It’s not just a grade you will receive for getting all the right answers – it’s the process by which you get there. It completely changed my entire outlook of how “school” is supposed to be. It wasn’t about if you failed – it was about if you were able to figure out why you failed and the way you come to understand and apply what you’ve learned the next time.

To be continued in Part 2. Watch out for it!