TATEOKA, Yoko : Director, Center for Japanese Language, Waseda University
Since the Meiji era, Waseda University has been a doorway to Japan for a great many international students. Even today, the 4,917 international students accepted by Waseda (as of November 1, 2015; the same applies hereafter) represents the largest such number in Japan. Of these, 2,157 international students take Japanese language courses in the Center for Japanese Language (CJL). Japanese language education at Waseda University is integrated into the CJL, which provides Japanese learners with 650 hours of classes a week supported by a 190 person strong teaching staff.
This large-scale undertaking of the CJL has two major characteristics. The first is diversity. This diversity is evident in the courses that are offered. All CJL courses fall into one of two categories: Comprehensive Japanese Courses utilizing a systematically arranged, general Japanese curriculum and Theme Courses involving independent coursework overseen by members of the teaching faculty. The Comprehensive Japanese Courses are aimed at beginner and intermediate level learners and utilize a standardized syllabus and teaching materials to facilitate balanced acquisition of the four language skills. Meanwhile, the Theme Courses are unique and varied, running the gamut from intensely creative focuses like poetry and drama to practical focuses like getting a job in a Japanese company. In addition to the creativity of its courses, the CJL is also strongly characterized by the diversity of the students which it attracts. These international students represent 89 countries throughout the world, span a range of undergraduate and graduate school majors and include many with business experience. Furthermore, there are a great many Japanese students who participate as volunteers in CJL classes. As a place where people of various languages, cultures, experiences and backgrounds come together and learn from one another, the CJL itself can be described as a resource-rich learning environment.
今In order to get the most benefit from this diversity, it is important that the individuality of participants be respected. Thus, individuality is the second characteristic of the CJL. For example, in the CJL, placement tests are used to assess the Japanese level of each student, and the results are then used as a reference for each student in arranging an individually tailored learning program. Students select from among the Comprehensive Japanese Courses and Theme Courses mentioned earlier those which match their goals and interests, and they build a learning environment suited to themselves. It is this sort of “personal program” building which most directly expresses the CJL emphasis on individuality. Also, students are supported in their individualized learning by the Waseda Nihongo Support support system. Students in the Graduate School of Japanese Applied Linguistics talk with each international student about his or her Japanese learning plan and provide tailored support in achieving it. This support is also carried out on an individual basis by the graduate student staff with the help of the teaching staff in the CJL. The Japanese students who volunteer in the various classes are also acting of their own individual initiative. Through the individual, multi-layered activity of everyone connected with the CJL, an environment of mutual learning is built.
For the future, the CJL seeks to grow to become the Japanese educational institution of a university welcoming more than 10,000 international students. For international students, the CJL provides an entryway to learning at Waseda University as well as a supportive process towards achieving self-actualization during university. For such actualization to be achieved, connections with different organizations on campus, off campus and in society at large are becoming more important than ever before. As globalization continues apace, a learning environment rich in diversity and individuality for international students must not be confined to the CJL but be cultivated within undergraduate and graduate schools and the university as a whole. The CJL offers openness in addition to diversity and individuality and has a core role to play in building a robust learning environment.