The Japanese-Language Institute, Urawa
The Japan Foundation has been operating the Japanese-Language Institute, Urawa as an organization specialized in offering training for non-native teachers of the Japanese-language and producing Japanese-language educational materials and teaching resources. Since its establishement in July 1989, the institute has been active in Saitama City (formerly Urawa City), Saitama Prefecture for two decades.
To commemorate its 20th anniversary, the Institute held a lecture and ceremony on October 9, 2009.
The lecturer was Ms. Susan Schmidt, the Executive Director of the Alliance of Associations of Teachers of Japanese (AATJ) in USA that received The Japan Foundation Award for Japanese Language 2009. Under the theme of "Japanese-language Education in the U.S. and Activities of AATJ," Ms Schmidt described the development of Japanese-language education in the U.S since the late 20th century. She showed specific data to indicate significant changes in the number of learners and their motives to learn Japanese language, and to reveal the fact that such changes produced a wide variety of issues that Japanese-language teachers are facing today. Then, AATJ's activities to improve the situation were presented.
The activities include: participation in planning of The National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project; involvement in developing the Japanese course and tests in Advanced Placement Program (AP) that allows high-school students to obtain college credits in advance; provision of information, resources, lectures and seminars for Japanese-language teachers.
Since FY 2000, AATJ and the Japanese-Language Institute, Urawa have been co-organizing a project to invite Japanese-language teachers in the U.S. to Japan to participate in training programs. It was our great honor to have Ms. Schmidt, the Executive Director of AATJ that has been contributing to enhance the network among Japanese-language teachers in the U.S., to present a lecture to commemorate their reception of The Japan Foundation Award for Japanese Language 2009 as well as our 20th anniversary.
In her lecture, Ms. Schmidt said, "It is important for a Japanese-language teacher to feel that he or she is a member of Japanese-language teachers across the country and the world, even if he or she is the only teacher of the language in the town." She also said, "The most important thing for all the Japanese-language teachers to discuss with and help each other no matter where they are or whom they are teaching." These messages must be very encouraging for Japanese-language teachers not only in the U.S. but also in other countries around the world.
This lecture attracted a large audience, including the Japanese-language teachers from 30 countries who have been participating in training programs at the Japanese-Language Institute, Urawa. After the lecture, comments and questions came from the audience: for instance, "It amazed me that Japanese-language teachers in the U.S. are facing the same issues as we are in Indonesia. I would like to know more specific measures taken in the U.S. to improve the social status of the teachers," "The number of learners is increasing while that of teachers isn't. How do you cope with such situation?," and so on.
The lecture was followed by the ceremony to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Institute. In addition to those participated in the lecture, many people attended the ceremony where the activities of AATJ were presented and Japanese-language educational materials produced by the Institute in 20 years were exhibited. The Governor of Saitama Prefecture, Mr. Kiyoshi Ueda and the Mayor of Saitama City, Mr. Hayato Shimizu gave us messages of congratulations. His Excellency, Mr. Rentsendoo Jigjid, the Mongolian ambassador to Japan also attended the ceremony, who once participated in Japanese-language program for foreign-service officers and public officials at the Institute. It was our pleasure to share this memorial moment with people from the local community who have been supporting the Institute since its establishment. Now we have a renewed determination to further enrich Japanese-language education around the world.