The Japan Foundation, London
The Japan Foundation London Office supports Japanese language education in the UK in many different ways. Our main activities are aimed at teachers, for example, providing teacher training workshops and developing teaching materials. However, we also hold courses and events to motivate learners of Japanese. Here are two programmes that we have recently held.
Firstly, in February we held the Third Japanese Speech Contest for University Students. This year, students from 14 universities around the UK applied. The finals were held at Imperial College London, and the ten finalists competed for prizes while demonstrating the hard work they had put into their Japanese studies. The winning finalist in the category for those majoring in Japanese spoke about "The unique Japanese approach to showing consideration for others". Giving examples from the novel Saga no Gabai Baachan (Gabai Granny from Saga) he gave a persuasive explanation that this is characterised by showing consideration while trying not to let the other person notice the care you are taking. The quality of the speeches has been increasing from year to year and made the listeners notice unexpected things they had previously overlooked. There were also many enthusiastic suggestions for Japanese people, and the audience of over 150 enjoyed the event very much.
Another of our programmes is the advanced Japanese language course Talking Contemporary Japan, which allows participants to study aspects of Japanese culture in Japanese. This four-part course is targeted at those at or above level 2 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. It aims to allow them to learn about Japanese culture and society while improving their language skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening. To date, the participants have used television news and newspaper articles as source material for debating current social issues, and also considered the culture and history of a specific region, in this case Okinawa. In the February course, the participants watched Akira Kurosawa's film "Dreams" and discussed the relation between humans and nature, environmental issues, and attitudes to death. Some differences between Japanese and British ways of thinking became clear, and the course content was extremely interesting.
Our regular activities to support Japanese language education are usually focussed on schools, and we have few opportunities to make contact with adult learners of Japanese. However, musicians, financial workers in the City, and natural science researchers are among those who have signed up for repeat courses of Talking Contemporary Japan. Through activities like these courses, we want to continue to enlarge our network of Japan-enthusiasts who speak Japanese.