Center for Japanese Language Education,the University of Tokyo

Philosophy and features of Japanese language education offered by the Center for Japanese Language Education

 

The Center for Japanese Language Education aims to offer Japanese language education that suits the University of Tokyo and international students of the University of Tokyo. Below is our philosophy and features of our Japanese language courses.

1. Philosophy and features of our educational programs
2. Features of Japanese language classes

 


1. Philosophy and features of our educational programs

We aim to provide Japanese language education that suits the University of Tokyo and international students of the University of Tokyo to fulfill their needs and objectives. We design and coordinate Japanese language courses taking the following points into consideration.

  1. (The needs of international students of the University of Tokyo): "What kinds of Japanese skills do our students require for their research, campus activities, and social activities?"
  2. (Nature of international students of the University of Tokyo): "How will our students, who prefer intellectual and logical learning methods, properly and effectively acquire the necessary language klowledge and language skill?"
  3. (Efficiency and meeting goals):"What can we do to provide this kind of Japanese education with maximum efficiency in the limited time and conditions and to guide the students to a higher level?"

To be more specific, we take in account that these international students who wish to study Japanese language have some common points even though they are from different countries, their special fields of study are different, and their Japanese language proficiency levels may vary. They are all studying at the University of Tokyo and most of them are conducting their own research at the graduate school level. Therefore, there are important factors that we can not ignore in terms of 1) needs and 2) nature of the students, and we need to cater to them. Take 1) for example, the University of Tokyo international students, especially the research students, have unique "needs" of the Japanese language. In other words, one of their most important objectives is learning "Japanese required in their research activities (including seminars and conferences outside the research center)." The specific needs and level of the students vary according to each student's area of specialization and their needs, but they share the objective to learn Japanese that they can use in their "research activities." That is why we strive to develop Japanese education that effectively supports our "international students involved in research." In other words, we set one of our goals as "to support students to make Japanese language a tool for their research activities" and always provide the right education to meet this goal for all levels of students from elementary to advanced. Some may think that this is a challenge for the intermediate level and above, however, we believe that "we can use our creativity to integrate such aspects into our curriculum, even from the introductory level."

For example, many introductory texts generally only contain simple contents, but at our center, we develop learning material for reading comprehension that makes the students recognize the rules of text structure such as conjunctive relation, continuation/conclusion of topics (technically called "scope of the topic") etc. even if the contents themselves may be simple. Moreover, for the final step in the introductory classes, the students conduct an interview survey and report their findings in Japanese, or they introduce their countries' culture in Japanese. Making such presentations in Japanese from the elemaentary level is undoubtedly a valuable experience that prepares them for the future when they actually present their papers in Japanese. As for 2), as nature of our university's international students, there is a tendency to seek intellectual / logical understanding even in their study of the Japanese language. Therefore, our teaching methods attach the greatest importance to deductive, systematic and logical approach.

For example, a) when teaching a certain item, we always indicate its position in the systematic perspective, b) when teaching rules, try to illustrate them in a deductive and logical manner, and c) when taking an inductive approach, we try to give the joy of discovery to our students and always go through a process to allow students to organize and review their knowledge at the final stage. (A typical Japanese class may give many examples first for any topic so that from there students can acquire Japanese knowledge inductively followed by mechanical exercises. However, from our experience, we know that such a teaching technique is not enough to satisfy the international students of the University of Tokyo.)

Needless to say, we do not offer a Japanese education that merely teaches the "knowledge" of the language. We believe that the most important thing for the students is to acquire "practical abilities" to use Japanese freely as a tool, and for this, sufficient practice opportunities must be given to them. However, again, the methods and contents of the practice must also appeal to the "intellectual curiosity" of the international students of our university. We cannot completely ignore the routine drills but neither can we enforce ones that are too childish. In reality, Japanese learning materials and drills, especially in the introductory levels, often seem to be designed for children because of the limited vocabulary and grammar. We do our best to avoid them, and we try to find methods that agree with the students' nature and command their interest. As for development of conversation skills, we do not make them memorize the entire conversation in the textbook, but rather, we try to instill various strategies for how to carry a conversation.

This is how we provide Japanese education which suits the intellectual nature of our international students in terms of acquiring "knowledge" and, more importantly, developing and establishing "practical abilities" of the Japanese language.

On top of that, it is clearly our duty to provide 3) efficient education in order to guide the students to a higher level.

Although it is not easy to achieve all the above objectives, we always strive to improve our educational systems by pursuing studies on the Japanese language itself, teaching methods, and psychology of learning.

Moreover, we believe through our efforts of formulating unique and valuable "Japanese language education at the University of Tokyo" aiming to enhance "intellectual" understanding and "practical abilities" of our students that we can contribute to Japanese education as a whole. In this sense, although our basic duty is to teach Japanese language to the international students, we are also responsible to perform our roles as a research institute of Japanese language education.

Thus, we value both education and research of Japanese language and seek ideal Japanese education "suitable for the international students of the University of Tokyo and the University of Tokyo itself".

2. Features of Japanese language classes

Features of Japanese language classes offered by the Center for Japanese Language Education in comparison with other Japanese classes at the University of Tokyo

Apart from the Center for Japanese Language Education, some graduate schools or departments of the University of Tokyo also offer Japanese language classes mainly for their students. In order to help you understand the difference between those classes and our classes, we would like to explain our institutional features and other aspects as follows.

  1. Acceptance of a large number of students as a university-wide facility : The Center for Japanese Language Education is a neutral and university-wide organization and accepts many students from all graduate schools and departments including the Komaba and Kashiwa campuses. We have various courses and some of them are open to foreign researchers or the spouses of international students and researchers as well. The total number enrolled is between 600 to 700 students per year.
  2. Commissioned by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to provide Japanese education to government-financed international research students (recommended by the embassies): this was in fact the original objective of the Center for Japanese Language Education's establishment. We soon started receiving requests from various sections within the university and opened our courses to people such as those mentioned above. At any rate, a successful administration of the "Intensive Japanese Course" offered to government-financed research students is still one of our most important roles.
  3. The Center for Japanese Language Education has a full-time staff comprising five specialists in Japanese education and its research (professors, assistant professor, full-time lecturers).
  4. All part-time lecturers are recruited widely from among the public.

As you can see, there are some differences in terms of nature and roles between the university-wide Japanese education offered by the Center for Japanese Language Education with the characteristics described above and education offered by each school or department that cater to its own needs. Both are however necessary and each has a different role for each purpose.

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