I am very satisfied with my experience at GenkiJACS. After being asked to evaluate the school, the fact that I am taking the time to do so is the evidence to the previous. After scouring the internet for a program that would suit my needs for the summer, GenkiJACS seemed to fit the bill with it’s small class size, price, and personal communication. Before we begin, I would like to emphasize that although I do have Cons with the program, they are far outweighed by the Pros, and that, once again, I felt it was an excellent program.
-Excellent before arrival communication. Even when I requested last minute directions to the dormitories due to my unpreparedness, they replied quickly and got me the information I needed.
-Small class size. This is probably the biggest selling point of the school. The class size is small, very small, which allows for excellent communication and immediate feedback from the teachers. It also creates a, generally, more intimate environment, and I felt connected to the teachers on a more friendly level than I would have in a large class. Even outside of the classroom.
-Teachers. The teachers themselves are excellent, and prepare appropriate material for the level of class you are taking. They were very personable, and meet the requirements of each student very well. Teaching styles vary among teachers of course, and there were some I enjoyed more than others, but all performed excellently. More on the teachers later in Cons.
-Class Materials. Looking back on the experience, I found my time spent in the Conversation Class more interesting than my normal Grammar class; However with both classes I found the material appropriate, challenging, and a good use of the time spent in the class. Well in conversation class today we have a newspaper article about the water consumption of Japan, let’s read it.
-Accommodation. I chose the dormitories as my place of stay, and was mostly satisfied with my choice. The residents of the dorms are, for the most part, very friendly and personable. I had a lot of fun with them, and enjoyed participating in the occasional group activity that they offered. More on this in Cons.
-Space. It was cramped at times when large waves of high school students would come in. I would often come to the school early as I find it difficult to study in a room oftentimes. Perhaps a small room set aside for studying? I do realize that teaching a foreign language is a seasonal business, and thus it is expected that there would be a rush during the summer. I also realize that the school plans to increase in size soon, so this Con is non-applicable to students as of next whenever that move is complete, which I assume is soon.
-Time. Sometimes a class would start excessively late, or have an exceptionally long break due to straggling students and the occasional teacher. This was slightly annoying, as I was paying for my time in the program, however I do realize that flexibility and a calm atmosphere is a large part of the schools objective. Perhaps some slight reinforcement of the class time is prudent.
-Teachers. The only real problem I saw with the setup of having a different teacher every day for the same class was feedback. The question: How much feedback do you want? Was not asked of me, and I feel this is the only point that was missed in meeting the needs of students. Perhaps the beginning level students aren’t horribly serious about becoming completely fluent in Japanese, and would not like to be criticized as much. However, as I am completely serious, I wanted to be on every single tiny detail that I messed up. The primary way I learn is by making mistakes, and having them subsequently corrected. If I’m forming a sentence a particular way and it is not immediately corrected, I assume it correct and confirmed information in my brain.
-Accommodation. The walls of the dormitory are extraordinarily thin, to the point where one can even hear someone spitting in the sink in the room across the hall. The wireless internet connection was also exceptionally weak, and went out frequently. For me, who lives by his connection to the internet, this was particularly annoying. The dorms are also an hour away from the school, which makes for some early mornings depending on your schedule, but is nothing unbearable.
-I would recommend to the school to flesh out and update it’s Teachers section of the website. As the teachers are one of the large selling points of the school, I think that doing this would help give a better idea of what the students are jumping into with the program.
-As far as the website is concerned, I would also recommend pointing out some shopping / eating destinations around the school. As the students have never been to Japan before, being left to pasture when we first get there is a bit troubling. Of course, one can always receive recommendations from fellow students that have already been there, or the teachers, but I still think some basic info on the website would be of assistance. Here’s Shintencho, Mandarake, Tenjin Core, Junkudo, 100 En Shop, Post Office, Starbucks, and a few restaurants. Or maybe that info in the information packet that one receives upon arrival. That much would help.
And that’s basically it. I would recommend this program to anyone: ranging from someone studying for the 1st level of the JLPT, to a beginner taking his first steps into the language. You will be satisfied, I guarantee it.