What its like to learn Japanese


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If you asked me a year ago what I would be doing today, my answer could not be farther than the truth. Coming to Japan on the sole purpose of learning Japanese was not something I planned multiple months or even years beforehand, in fact it all happened in the span of 2 weeks. So I decided it would be helpful to share my experiences to those still undecided on wether or not they should take it upon themselves to learn this complex yet beautiful language.
My journey begins in the city of Kobe Japan, famous for its succulent and delicious beef. Here I currently attend the historic and completely unheard of Communica Institute, a Japanese language school of modest proportions.
THE JAPANESE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT:
The first thing I noticed about going to school in Japan is the high level of respect that exists and expected of you in the Japanese classroom. The teacher addresses you as yourname-San (san being a honorific loosely translating to Mr/Mrs/Ms ) and you in turn address the teacher as "Sensai". You are expected to be in on time always, and to not leave or eat until specified break times for doing so. You will have to repeat phrases such as "Yoroshiku onegaishimasu" (please treat me well) when the teacher announces the beginning of each class, and  "Arigatou gozaimashita" (thank you very much) at the end of each class. 
(Pro tip: never, ever, forget to say hi and bow to your Sensai in the morning, they can sometimes awkwardly freeze and stare at you until you do so) 
Next I noticed how small the desks and chairs were in the classroom. This might seem like a insignificant detail but coming from a western like environment It really startled me at first. My chair for example barely fit me and my desk would rest on my knees instead of the floor. 
Oddly enough, six months later into my journey and I'm still not used to bumping into these tiny desks. 
Another interesting aspect that applies to a lot of  Japanese classrooms is the tendency to use blackboards instead of whiteboards.  This is totally fine for the student, but do expect chalk particulates floating around everywhere.
THE JAPANESE LANGAUGE: 
The Japanese language is a interesting one, and if you do intend on learning Japanese it is important you learn a few basics first. Starting with the  basics of Japanese letters.
The Japanese writing system is unique in that it uses three different types of letters combined.  Kanji (Chinese characters, such as日本語) to write meaningful words, Hiragana(あいうえお) to express grammatical elements and supplement kanji, and Katakana(アイウエオ)to write names and words mainly with foreign origin.
Kanji  is an ideogram. And there are about 2000+ in use in modern Japanese today. Hiragana and Katakana on the other hand follow are letters you can use to conjure up different words of Japanese and foreign origin.  
Japanese syllabic structure is super simple and easy to learn. It involves combining  just one consonant and one vowel to make a syllable, ex. Takeda ( たけだ).  Japanese has only 5 vowels, a, i, u, e, o (あいうえお).  Almost all syllables are open, i.e., they almost always ends with a vowel.  
So, when I would write my name Rashid in Japanese, I would add a vowel at the end (i.e., ラシッド which sounds more like "rashiddo".)  because Japanese people cannot pronounce consonants alone!  Japanese also has special consonant syllables including (such as っ/ッ which replicate their succeeding consonants to make them longer.)  Another consonant syllable is "n" (ん/ン)like in Pokemon(ポケモン.) 
There are better explanations online, but if you want to learn Japanese my best tip is to learn the alphabets hiragana and katakana before hand. My language school didn't really bother teaching this in class and expected us to know the writing systems beforehand. 
Hope this article helped you get a feel of what it's like to learn at a Japanese language school. 

Rashid Almasoud