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SNG: Helping Students Piece Together the Japanese Language Puzzle

GaijinPot Study went behind the scenes at SNG Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute to find out why it might be the right school for you.

By 6 min read

Located just a short walk from Takadanobaba Station in the heart of the Shinjuku area in Tokyo, SNG Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute has been teaching Japanese to a diverse range of learners for more than 40 years—growing from just four learners in the beginning to an impressive 555 current students.

We sat down with SNG Principal Takahide Ezoe and his son, Ryuji, the school’s Communication Manager, to chat about their unique study system, along with the wide variety of services designed to support and assist students in every aspect of their language-learning journey.

More than 40 years of hands-on experience teaching Japanese

The Ezoe family’s experience in the Japanese language-teaching industry dates back to 1951 when Takahide’s parents were working with Catholic church personnel in Japan and decided to open their own school.

Students at SNG have grown from 4 to over 500.

“We launched SNG in 1975. We were one of a handful of Japanese language schools in Tokyo at the time, and started off with just four students,” Tahahide recalls.

“In the early years, most of our students were from western nations so our materials were in English. Following the lifting of visa restrictions for people from China and Korea in the late ’80s, we saw an increase in students from Asia. As a result, we switched to teaching with materials entirely in Japanese and that continues today.”

A family-run school

Takahide still heads the school, assisted by his wife Joelle, son Ryuji and a multinational staff of teaching and counseling professionals.

The Ezoe method—around which the school curriculum is based—was developed by Takahide himself and has been perfected over more than four decades of successful teaching.

Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute utilizes its own original teaching style—the Ezoe Method.

With the method, parts of Japanese speech are presented in digestible “blocks.” Once you’ve mastered these blocks, you can quickly put your knowledge into practice with natural-sounding Japanese. By linking the various forms and usage of key concepts, you can easily see how things fit together within the Japanese language puzzle.

By linking the various forms and usage of key concepts, you can easily see how things fit together within the Japanese language puzzle.

Offering the best of both worlds

SNG is also leading the industry with digital learning, offering students the best of both tradition and innovation in an exclusive blended learning system known as “Visual Learning Japanese,” or VLJ.

SNG uses a variety of digital tools to facilitate learning.

You can use a cell phone or tablets to access SNG’s digital media and apps, which work with the class material and allow for learning on the go. “Of course, the basis of language learning is still face-to-face in the classroom with the teacher, but with this system, students can access the site, review lessons, and practice the material in their own time,” says Ryuji.

As Takahide and Ryuji demonstrated one of the Kanji-learning apps on a cellphone, I thought back to my own student days of plowing through an enormous kanji dictionary. Today’s students have it so much better!

A caring and nurturing environment

As you might expect from a school with strong family ties, SNG offers a caring atmosphere for students. In addition to individual counseling for their study and professional goals, you can approach staff for an informal chat at any time if something is bothering you.

“Whether it’s some aspect of life in Japan that they don’t understand, problems with a friend or even romantic trouble—one of our staff will sit down with a student. Our staff speaks a total of 10 languages between them,” says Ryuji.

“Coming to an unfamiliar country and culture, it isn’t unusual to feel homesick, for example. For the younger students, especially, it might be their first time away from home. Speaking to someone in your own language can be really helpful.”

“Whether it’s some aspect of life in Japan that they don’t understand, problems with a friend or even romantic trouble—one of our staff will sit down with a student.”

Diverse courses for diverse students

SNG offers a flexible curriculum to meet the needs of a variety of language learners. Working full-time and think you don’t have time for study? Don’t worry, SNG has you covered! While many students are studying full-time, you also have the option to take evening and Saturday classes, or even for private tuition.

Students out in Takadanobaba where SNG is located.

The students who come to SNG are as diverse as the curriculum, and currently, there are 55 nationalities at the school.

“Around 40% are from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, 30% come from other Asian countries, and the remaining 30% are from the rest of the world,” says Takahide. “The majority are in their late teens and 20s, although we have had students of all ages, including post-retirement.”

The students who come to SNG are as diverse as the curriculum, and currently, there are 55 nationalities at the school.

The first step on the path to a successful life in Japan

These days, growing numbers of Japanese companies are interested in diversification and are eager to hire talented foreign nationals. For many of their students, SNG is a springboard to entering university or another institute, or finding a job in Japan.

SNG has also built trusted partnerships with a number of universities and vocational schools, to which qualified students may apply under the designated recommended school system. This makes the whole entrance process much smoother and easier.

A course at SNG is a stepping stone to building a life in Japan.

“We provide personal counseling to help each student find their path. About 70% go on to further study in Japan. We offer test entrance preparation, as well as plenty of support for those wanting to take the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT),” Ryuji explains.

Mention of the good old JLPT brought back memories for me: Trying to keep awake while studying kanji and grammar points from deadly dull textbooks over endless cups of coffee at the local Mr. Donuts. With the latest learning technology and experienced teachers, it sounds like SNG can make even studying for the JLPT fun!

Learning outside of the classroom at SNG

SNG also provides plenty of opportunities for students to socialize and get to know Japan’s culture outside the classroom. Cultural activities, hiking, and other outdoor excursions, and trips to tourist spots are all on offer.

The school is particularly proud of its recreational facility out in Okutama, on the very edge of Tokyo. The spacious green oasis is a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown and is a great venue for seasonal events, such as hanami (cherry blossom viewing), barbecues, and overnight stays.

SNG students on a trip to Okutama.

Ryuji says, “While aspects such as location and tuition costs are important when choosing a language school, ultimately it is the curriculum and lesson content which will be the most vital for long-term success.”

Apply to study at SNG through the GaijinPot Study Placement Program

As you can see, SNG really does cover all the bases. Whether your goal is to eventually go to university or work in Japan, or just to brush up your Japanese, there are classes and a schedule just right for you. What’s more, the staff are behind you every step of the way. What are you waiting for? The best time to start is now!

Find out more about SNG Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute on their GaijinPot Study profile page. The school is now accepting applications for their enrollment in April 2020!

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