>>2019.03.19: still a WIP >>


This page details how it was for me to major in Japanese and get a 2-year (Associate's) and then 3-year (Bachelor's) from Högskolan Dalarna in Sweden, as well as (later on, once I add it in) what you can do with or without those degrees. The courses are taught entirely in English and online, so you don't need to know Swedish or reside in Sweden to get the degree.

└◆ Official Class List (now obsolete, but was current when I began the degree)
└◆ 95-98% dropout rate
└◆ Free for Europeans or residents of Europe (=free for people in Europe on a spouse or work VISA. On a student VISA it isn't free, thanks to EU laws)

1 full-time semester = 30 credits = 20 weeks
└◆ 2-5 hours of class time a week (in comparision, the same amount of credits at a Japanese, American, Chinese or Taiwanese university would be 8-12 class hours a week)
└◆ including expected self-study time, equivalent to a 45 hr/wk job


As of Jan. 2019 this page has been reorganized into sections and separate pages:

(This page)
1. Degree breakdown
2. Description of Högskolan Dalarna's classes
3. Description of Miyagi University of Education's classes (the exchange classes I took in Japan)

Page 2:
4. Timeline of my Japanese learning progress
5. Description of JLPT levels + some practice tips
6. My tips for how to study before and during the Japanese degree

#1 Degree Breakdown:

Associate's Degree + Work VISAs in Japan: 

Something I wish I'd've known before I started studying at Högskolan Dalarna:

1. If you take an exchange year, it won't count for anything towards your Japanese degree. The credits will count as "university credits" but don't actually transfer and can't be used to replace even a single one of Dalarna's courses with, so it's more like taking a vacation year.

2. Any page where Dalarna says "this class is a prerequisite to take this other class, or you can bypass it if you have equivalent knowledge" is just a lie. You can't bypass anything unless, possibly, you have Japanese credits from specifically another SWEDISH university. As of 2019 you can supposedly skip the first year of the degree if you've passed the JLPT N4, or so my junior told me.

3. By the end of my degree I had learned around 20% of my Japanese through Dalarna's classes, 30% from classes during my exchange year in Japan (80% of my speaking and listening), and 50% through anime, manga, doujinshi, Twitter and videogames. If you want to get good at Japanese you absolutely cannot rely on these classes or textbooks; the most useful stuff in manga or daily conversation, that I teach my students on days one and two, is stuff you won't learn until 2nd or 3rd semester in these classes.

4. Legally, to work in Japan via a work VISA you only need a 2-year degree (Associate's; "Högskoleexamen"). However most companies won't hire you until you have a 3-year's (Bachelor's; "Kandidatexamen") simply because it's more risky that your application will get rejected on an Associate's.

5. The rules for sponsoring your own work VISA via having your own business have recently become considerably more relaxed, now you basically only have to have a company that's 3 or more years old... as far as I remember. Similarly the requirements for getting a work visa are getting more lax.


For an Associate's Degree (AA / Högskoleexamen) you need 120 credits (=4 semesters) in the Japanese subject. 7.5 credits come from the "Japanese II: Academic Writing" (=Associate's degree essay writing) course. Then you can apply online at "Ladok" for a 2-year degree diploma on the subject of Japanese, which takes around 8 weeks to arrive in the mail.

For a Bachelor's Degree (BA / Kandidatexamen), you need 60 more credits (=2 semesters) than the AA, but it takes 3 semesters. Of these, 30 credits (=1 semester) must be Japanese IV courses that aren't the general Japanese proficiency courses; these determine what you're allowed to write your final BA paper about. Then in the 2nd semester you take the 15-credit "Academic Writing and Research Methodology" (="BA topic proposal essay writing") course, and in the 3rd you take the 15-credit "Japanese: Bachelor's Degree Work" (="Actually writing and finishing your BA essay") course.

If you've already gotten a 120-credit (AA) degree either in Japanese or something else, you can reuse all the same credits in the 180-credit (BA) degree. If your AA was in the Japanese subject, you can reuse the same topic and expand it for your Bachelor's paper.

Because the BA thesis prep course doesn't actually teach you anything, I've gathered info for how to write it here.

#2 Description of Dalarna's classes


★ Started with 200 students; ended with 50 after the 1st 10 weeks, 30 after the 2nd 10 weeks.

∇ 1st 10 weeks: Japanese IBasic Proficiency (15 credits, autumn 2015)

Genki I, ch 1-61 chapter per week.
└◆ Homework: Audio/reading quizzes, forum & handwriting tasks once a week. Occasional recording tasks. "Forum tasks" are just 1-2 sentences. "Do you like dogs? I like dogs."
└◆ Bonus PPT presentations about ourselves/our countries to Spanish students studying Japanese.
└◆ Final essay400-500 letters, our topic was about "your best memory".
└◆ Final exam: verb conjugation, single kanji writing, single kanji reading.

∇  2nd 10 weeks: Japanese ILanguage Proficiency (15c, autumn 2015).

Genki I: ch 7-end1 ch/wk
└◆ Homework: same as previous class.
└◆ Final essay400-500 letters, our topic about "something in Japan", I wrote about dog cafés.
└◆ Final exam: same as previous class + simple questions in Japanese about our essays. "Have you ever been to a dog café? Do you own a dog?".

Japanese I: Modern Japan: Culture and Society: (7.5c, spring 2019)
└◆ Prerequisite for Japanese IV Cultural Anthropology.
└◆ Homework: 1 online test that's mostly multiple choice but ends in a 3-paragraph long answer, every 4-5 weeks. Some reading homework that's really easy and all gets covered during the actual lecture anyway.
└◆ Final essay: (dunno yet)
└◆ Final exam: (dunno yet)


★ Genki I JLPT N5 level
└◆ You don't even know all the basic verbforms and can't understand any "real Japanese". In English terms, "I... dogs" level.
└◆ You can self-study Genki I from start to finish in 1-2 months.
└◆ 1st year uni studies in USAFranceGermany1st semester in Sweden.

Level II

★ Ended with 20 students. At least 6 had visited Japan for long stays, were living in Japan, or had Japanese parents/girlfriends etc.

Θ Japanese II:  Oral Proficiency, Written Proficiency (30c, autumn 2016)

Genki II: ch 1-end1 ch/wk.
└◆ Homework: same as previous semester + forum tasks graduate from sentences to paragraphs.
└◆ Final essay1,000 letters; I wrote about family/marriage relationships.
└◆ Final exam: instructions are in Japanese. Reading paragraphs aloud; reading and translating sentences. Questions on our final essays are in English and just things like "I didn't understand what you meant here, can you clarify?".

Japanese II: Academic Writing: (7.5c, spring 2019)
= The course that gives you a 2-year (Associate's) degree. Started with 23 students.
Paper topic: 5 pages; anything to do with Japan or Japanese. Sources must be actual academic papers (not random blog posts or random books).
★ Ideally you find an academic paper that studied something (ex. "This word was used in manga y, I found it by z") and copy-paste its exact method and goal to another target ("This word was used in manga x, I found it by z"). You're not allowed/supposed to come up with original topics or original research methods whatsoever (this is the same rule for the Bachelor's thesis paper).
★ You're supposed to do a "case study", which means you pick one single manga (or manga volume) to compare to and get your answer, not compare 5 different manga series and synthesize the results to get your answer. The same rule is true for the BA thesis.
★ See this other page for how to pass this course.

★ Genki II = JLPT N4 level
└◆ You know all the "basic, polite" verbforms (no archaic, informal, very formal, or slang forms). "I like dogs" level. Classmates who went to Japan at this stage said they felt like they didn't know a word of Japanese.
└◆ You can self-study Genki 2 from start to finish in 1-2 months.
└◆ 2nd year in USA2nd or 3rd year in France2nd semester in Sweden.
└◆ The average exchange student (world-wide) begins their exchange with Genki II knowledge.

★ After 2 semesters you're officially able to study abroad but still can't understand daily conversation, read the average manga etc. Class hasn't taught informal language yet and your "respectful language" (keigo) is almost nonexistant. I heavily recommend you take 3rd semester as well as self-study until you reach JLPT N2 level before going on exchange; more details below.

Level III

★ Ended with 14-17 students. 4-5 had Japanese parents or had been living in Japan for at least a year already etc. 3 had never been to Japan (including me).

Λ Japanese IIILanguage Proficiency (15c, spring 2017)

Tobira ch 1-71 ch/2 wks. Tobira's 90% in Japanese and instead of a "textbook" it's more of a "learn by immersive reading" book.
└◆ Class is taught 90% in Japanese. We start learning informal speech.
└◆ Homework: info is given out 90% in Japanese. Kanji reading quizzes/grammar worksheets every 2 weeks. 5-minute recordings & PPTs, 1500-1700 letter essays, 1-2 paragraph forum posts 2-3 times in the semester.
└◆ No kanji handwriting (and none for the rest of the degree).
└◆ Class activities: Reading aloud, discussing, summarizing, finding info in nonfiction paragraphs. Learning how to complain, ask questions politely, say "your own" opinions.
└◆ Final essay1,500 letter research paper + 5-minute PPT on a topic within the first 7 chapters of Tobira. Mine was "Do Japanese people think about their religion on a daily basis?" (Answer: no, even if they do "religious" stuff they don't see it as "religion").
└◆ Final exams: 10 minutes of kanji pronunciation (fill-in-the-blank); 20-minutes of grammar worksheet (mostly multiple-choice). Passing grade = 70% or higher.

Final paper info:

★ Advice:
└◆ Learn N3 and N2 vocabulary ASAP.
└◆ Translate reading passages before they're taken up in class so you can remember the contents better.
└◆ Tobira explains things "lightly" at first, then much better 5-10 chapters later, so I recommend starting at chapter 15 and going backwards to chapter 1 if possible.
└◆ Do grammar homework the same day as that grammar appeared in class so everything's fresh in your head.

Λ 1st 10 weeks: Japanese IIIShort Stories (7c, spring 2017)

1 太宰治の海 (In class I understood 70% with a dictionary; at JLPT N2 without a dictionary, 99%)
2 林芙美子の絵本 (In class 40%; N2 80%)
3 芥川龍之介のトロッコ (In class 20-30%; N2 80%)
4 林芙美子の蛙 (In class 30-40%; N2 90%)
5 岡本かの子の愛よ愛 (In class 20-30%; N2 80%)

Some of these have archaic spelling, the teacher will give you a modernized PDF.

└◆ Class is 70% in Japanese.
└◆ Homework1-page book reports (in English), easy reading comprehension worksheets (in Japanese) every 2-3 weeks ("What happened in the story, and what are your thoughts about it?" etc).
└◆ Class activities: Reading aloud and translating sentences. The teacher points out dialectal stuff, kanji differences (木 vs 樹; 聞 vs 訊 etc). You can read your answer directly from the text instead of answering from memory.
└◆ Final essay1,000-1,500 letter book report (in Japanese).

★ Advice:
└◆ Learn N3 and N2 vocabulary ASAP.
└◆ Translate the entire story as best you can before it's taken up in class. Your translation'll be full of errors but still helps a lot.
└◆ The in-class PDFs are unreadable. I used two computer screens to get around it but some people printed out the stories and read them from paper.

Λ 2nd 10 weeks: Japanese IIIReading Manga (7c, spring 2017)

Textbooks (don't use scans, they have missing pages & out-of-order chapters!). Note that these are NOT easy manga to understand for learners at our stage and the teacher chose them due to them being famous culturally and not due to them being easy.
1 ドラえも1 Fujiko. F. Fujio ISBN 4-09-140001-92
2 落第忍者乱太郎1 Amako Sobee ISBN 978-4-02-275001-33
3 ちびまる子ちゃん1 Sakura Momoko ISBN 4-08-618115-04
4 ゲゲゲの鬼太郎1 Mizuki Shigeru ISBN 978-4-12-204821-8

└◆ Homework: understand the most basic plot-points (usually they're almost understandable from the images alone). Weekly worksheets, sometimes with 300-letter answers. One 5-10min PPT on a topic the teacher chooses (mine was "school events in Japan", ex. cultural festivals and sports days).
└◆ Class activities: No reading aloud. The teacher asks questions about the basic chapter contents or if we know a word/cultural reference. In the last few weeks we start learning informal Japanese.
└◆ Final essay1,200 letters, our topic was on "how is manga good for learning Japanese?".

★ Advice:
└◆ Learn N3 and N2 vocabulary ASAP.
└◆ Watch the anime, listen to the drama CDs etc of the respective chapters before reading in Japanese.
└◆ Do the homework as you read through the manga for the first time in Japanese. Read through the chapters a 2nd time the day before class.
└◆ Ideally you'll have tried to read some much easier manga (ex. random shoujo or BL) before taking this class so you'll already be more used to informal Japanese, which hasn't really been taught in the degree thus far.

★ Tobira = JLPT N3 level
└◆ After finishing Tobira you'll understand 30-80% of most modern Japanese (30% = war, political, legal or dialectal talk; 50% = daily conversation, shounen manga; 80% = shoujo, yaoi, porn or slice-of-life manga). "I like dogs and I had a dog when I was a kid" level. After Tobira is a good enough base to start living in Japan with, though you're still far from understanding "everything".
└◆ You can self-study Tobira from start to finish in 2 months.
└◆ 3rd-4th years in USA3rd-4th semesters in Sweden.
└◆ N3 is the average (world-wide) level of a finished Bachelor's Degree, excluding Sweden. It's also the average level of a Chinese or Taiwanese person after just one semester of Japanese study.
└◆ The average exchange student (world-wide) returns from Japan with N3-level knowledge.


• Japanese IV: Academic Writing and Research Methodology (15c, spring 2018)

6 people took the class, only 1 seemed to pass.

└◆ See this other page for how to pass this course. I myself failed it, had to take certain classes to get a different, good supervisor, and retook the class later.

• Japanese IV: Introduction to Linguistics: (15c, spring 2019)
• 言語学入門―これから始める人のための入門書 by 淳一 佐久間

└◆ The textbook was much easier to understand than the one I used for my linguistics class in Japan during my exchange year. Also you're not supposed to like "memorize everything", you're just supposed to get the general idea of what kinds of things the study of linguistics can be about.
└◆ Homework: a worksheet of 3-4 questions every week, but it doesn't matter even if your answer's totally wrong, what matters is that you explain why you're guessing/answering that way.
└◆ Final Essay: (dunno yet)
└◆ Final Exam: (dunno yet)

Terms you might want to learn before you start reading the textbook (you don't have to know both the English and Japanese, just pick one to memorize). Linguistic department names:

論 -ology (as in "phonology"), 学 -etics (as in "phonetics"), 音声 phon(etics), 音韻 phon(ology), 統語 syntax, 形態 morph(ology), 意味 seman(tics), 語用 pragma(tics), 歴史 historical, 言語 linguis(tics), 地理 geographical, 社会 social

General linguistics terms:

母音 vowel, 子音 consonant, 調音 articulation, 唇 labial, labio- (ex. "labiodental"), 法 manner (ex. manner of articulation), 歯 dental, 口蓋 palate, 声 voiced, 鼻 nasal, 両 bi- (ex. "bilabial"), 歯茎 alveolar, 後部 post- (ex. postaveolar), そり舌 retroflex, 硬口蓋 palatal, 軟口蓋 velar, 咽頭 pharyngeal, 声門 glottal

Manners of articulation:

ふるえ音 trill, はじき音 flap, 流 liquid, 閉鎖 (glottal) stop, 破裂 plosive, 有気 aspirated, 無気 unaspirated, 無声 unvoiced, 摩擦 fricative, 接近 approximant


#miyagi exchange year


The other exchange students, somehow knowing in advance, took Högskolan Dalarna courses alongside their normal exchange courses throughout the exchange year but I didn't know this was allowed until my second semester there.

★ October 3rd2017: Here's my English exchange blog, which has extra info like how much it all cost. Here's my Japanese one, which I didn't edit much after writing so you can watch my Japanese level grow.

★ Japanese uni is very similar to American uni. Instead of 2-3 classes per semester, 3-5 hrs/wk on degree-focused topics like in Nordic unis, you have 8-10 classes on various topics, 12 hrs/wk. I didn't know this before going, but the exchange credits weren't worth anything in the Högskolan Dalarna Japanese degree (meaning I now have 62 completely useless Japanese credits due to the exchange).

Σ MUE: (Autumn 2017) = 32 Swedish (ECTS) credits, 8 Japanese credits
All classes at Miyagi University of Education are entirely in Japanese unless otherwise stated.

1 日本語能力試験 20日で合格 N1文字・語彙・文法本
2 日本語能力試験問題集N1文法スピードマスター 
3 アカデミック・ジャパニーズ (listening and reading classes)

Required Classes: Each class meets once a week, 1 1/2 hrs x 8 = 12hrs of class per week. No tests/quizzes/exams, and basically no homework.
1 Speech (writing), 2 Speech (reading/speaking) 
= Short speeches, with a written script or not, on topics explaining stuff about our countries or comparing our countries to Japan etc.
3 Culture, Conversation (+ field trips, essays) 
= playing Japanese games, writing haiku, taking short field trips and then writing short essays about what we noticed during the trip. We were basically elementary schoolers in this class.
4 N1 Kanji
= going through textbook pages (10 kanji meanings + pronunciations a week). mid-term & term-end assignments were to write 20 sentences using kanji we've learnt. No kanji handwriting practice.
5 N1 Grammar, 6 N1 Vocabulary
= going through workbook pages and guessing at the answers, then the teacher explains the answers.
7 Reading comprehension (+ Pronunciation)
= we read a paragraph of a text aloud, the teacher then reads it aloud in pieces and we repeat it aloud after them.
8 Listening comprehension
= we hear a text once, fill out a worksheet as we hear it a second time, then finally get the transcript as we hear it a third time.


Ω  Miyagi University of Education (MUE):
Spring 2018. 14 Japanese credits = 32 Swedish credits

1 日本語総まとめ N1 文法 ISBN 4872177266 (Grammar class)
2 日本語能力試験問題集N1文法スピードマスター  (2nd grammar class)
3 アカデミック・ジャパニーズ (Listening and Reading classes)

Required class list:
1 Speech (writing/speaking) 
2 Culture, Conversation (+ field trips, essays) 
3 N1 Grammar 1
= Going through 12 grammar points a week, with practice exercises
4 N1 Grammar 2
= Going through workbook pages and guessing at the answers, then the teacher explains the answers.
6 N1 + N2 Reading
= Doing half N1 and half N2 reading practice questions each week, with a time limit of 10 minutes less than the real test would require. Then the teacher goes over the answers.
7 N1 Listening/Reading comprehension (+ Pronunciation)
= We read a paragraph of a text aloud that's equivalent to JLPT N1 or higher, answer reading comprehension questions, and then go over the answers. And/or we hear a text once, fill out a worksheet as we hear it a second time, then finally get the transcript as we hear it a third time.

Non-required classes:
Note that some Japanese teachers simply do not give out A's to anyone and the highest grade anyone can get is a B. This goes for native Japanese students as well as exchange students.

8 International Comprehension (国際理解教育支援)

The teacher showcases examples of different cultures, for example the inside of American and Budan houses, photos of an Australian university campus, what spices people use in foreign countries, what's banned by the Koran, what's in the declaration of human rights, and so on. The general focus is on Asia. Sometimes we filled out simple questions about short reading tasks or the lecture topic, for example reading about the Koran answering "does the text mention anything about women?".

9 Linguistics (言語学) 
• 教養のための言語学 ISBN 4903742121 (=main textbook)
• 言語学入門 ISBN 4254515715 (=rarely used)

All the various fields of linguistics, basic "linguistics" vocabulary, and a brief history of the study of linguistics in general are explained. The class lectures are almost direct readings from the 教養のための言語学 textbook but the teacher inserts clarifications and examples when needed, and for my personal benefit (me being the only non-Japanese in the class) he usually summarized the info to English as he went. The class was technically about world-wide linguistics but the main focus was on Japanese and English linguistics. The only assignments were: 1 final exam (extremely easy; no memorization of dates or names, only "did you understand the basic concepts in class?" which you'd understand if you just SHOWED UP to class) and 1 essay (3 pages; a summary of one of the topics from the textbooks supplemented by 2 other books on one topic in linguistics).

There were a lot of words I didn't know in the textbook but they tended to repeat themselves, the teacher tended to clarify everything, and we only went through about 6 textbook pages a week. I also knew around half of the concepts (just not the terminology for or history of them) because I've read a ton of language textbooks in English, including some of the famous ones mentioned in the textbook (like stuff by Rasmus Kristian Rask and Basil Hall Chamberlain). I understood 80-90% of the teacher's Japanese.

10 English-American Literature (英米文学)
For some reason this class (2 Japanese credits, 2 Swedish credits) was converted to pre-university level studies credits at Dalarna. I don't need English credits for anything so it doesn't matter.

• Popular Classics of English Literature ISBN 978-4-269-23005-7 (there seems to be a Japanese version called 英国ポピュラー名作講義)
• The teacher's photocopied exerpts (roughly 1 chapter each) with translations of those excerpts, of Alice in Wonderland, Romeo and Juliet, A Christmas Carol and Dracula.

The teacher explained the extremely basic history, geography and literature style history of the UK (simple as in, stuff like what England's flag looks like) or the concept in the book (the history of vampires in literature and movies). We read one chapter of the English textbook (=10-15 pages) and 1-4 pages of exerpts of the original text a week, and watch parts of movie adaptations of the stories (with Japanese subtitles). I had already read all the works chosen at some point in my life and I understood about 95% of the teacher's Japanese. The only assignment was a 1-page paper: read a book from a certain publisher (60+ pages if in English, 200+ if in Japanese translation), summarize it and tell your thoughts on it (written in Japanese of course). The final exam was very easy.


You could take (or attend without getting credits and without having to worry about homework/exams) 1st-year classes meant for normal Japanese students, ex. Braille, Chinese, English, Pottery. I ended up taking Intro to Linguistics (which Dalarna did NOT count the same as its own "Intro to Japanese Linguistics" course), English-American Literature and Multicultural Studies (which was forced on us); I had to drop Braille because it was too hard since the homework revolved around being able to easily read native-level Japanese texts to make the Braille translations.

All classes meant for exchange students included some culture lessons and handwriting practice (on the whiteboard / on worksheets), but you could always write entirely in hiragana and in informal grammar if you wanted. The teachers didn't enforce that we use polite language with them, they cared about us learning to "speak fluidly" instead of to "speak perfectly". We got handouts instead of buying textbooks; there were no expectations that you memorize all unknown vocabulary or grammar. Once a month or so we had either field trips to local places (castle ruins, waterfalls, elementary schools) or big events (speech contests, onsen trips).

We were 11 exchange students who were studying Japanese, 20 (some studying other subjects) were on exchange at the school total. Our classmates ranged from JLPT N3 to N1 level but we were all in the same classes. Throughout the 2 semesters we had Taiwanese, Chinese, Swedish, Estonian, Russian, Malaysian, and Zimbabwean classmates (although most were Chinese and Taiwanese). Those who came with a Japanese level lower than N3 had to take intensive Japanese courses at MUE's sister school (Tohoku University) for their first semester instead of being with us at MUE.

-> Go to Page 2: