Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
I disagree here.
If you live in Japan, I think it is matter of courtesy to your Japanese teachers that you make some effort to learn the language. Recently, Tada Sensei gave a course here in Hiroshima and he spent quite some time explaining the purpose of the solo exercises he expected us to do. Of course it was all in Japanese and the Japanese-less foreigners who were participating looked totally lost. They could do the exercises eventually by watching others, but had no idea why they were doing them.
I agree here.
If you are in Japan, learn to speak as much Japanese as you can. As my skills have improved, my sensei, sempai,and cohai have all warmed up, to me.
However, if you are not in Japan, I wouldn't worry so much about learning Japanese "prior to joining a class." As your first day turns into weeks into months, you will have picked up most of what you need.
In my general, day to day classes, there is not a lot of talking going on. It's more of a "do as I do" kind of thing. However, during special training sessions, with guest sensei, I'm postive that i've missed many verbal training points.
The following tape might be helpful:
(I have a copy in a box in a storage building- I wish i brought it with me!)