IKEGAMI, Makiko : Director, Center for Japanese Language, Waseda University
The Center for Japanese Language (CJL) is an entity that provides integrated Japanese language education at Waseda University. There are 5,783 foreign students enrolled in our university, out of which 2,441 students are studying Japanese in CJL (as of the Spring semester 2018). With our core mission of internationalizing our university, our intake of international students continues to be the largest in Japan.
Our efforts to promote internationalization not only include accepting more international students, but also having a greater diversity of students enroll at Waseda. Coming from 115 countries, students enroll in undergraduate or graduate courses as regular students or exchange students, while some enroll in short-term programs. Students come to this university with a variety of goals and ambitions. In order to serve these international students, CJL seeks to support both the large numbers of students and the diversity of their characteristics through the educational structure detailed below.
- Establishment of Comprehensive Japanese Courses and Theme Courses
Comprehensive Japanese Courses: Beginner to intermediate level learners; standardized syllabus and teaching materials; balanced acquisition of the four language skills
Theme Courses: Beginner to very advanced level learners; unique syllabus and teaching materials; varied course content depending on theme
In the Comprehensive Japanese Courses, class work is based on a predetermined, standardized syllabus and teaching materials, where students practice speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The Theme Courses offer courses based on themes formulated by the teaching staff in charge. For example, theme titles include “reading newspapers,” “learning Japanese through anime,” and “writing a personal memoir.” Students can choose their subjects according to their interests.
- Building the Learning Environment
Teaching Assistants (TA) / Volunteer Japanese tutors / Waseda Nihongo Support
As we see students increase both terms of numbers and their diversity, besides the course content mentioned above, we are also starting to offer online video classes in class settings. However, what we consider to be more crucial is maintaining the learning environment. Many Japanese students are now participating in the Japanese language learning environment as teaching assistants (TA) and volunteer Japanese tutors. There is also a support system called Waseda Nihongo Support. In this system, the staff members offer students support by getting together to think about the best ways for each student to learn Japanese. These staff members include CJL faculty members, graduate students, and undergraduate students. The goal is to empower the students to be able to pursue Japanese language learning themselves.
When building a crucial learning environment that supports both the increasing numbers of students and their growing diversity, we must be conscious of providing Japanese learning resources that are not limited to just teachers and teaching materials, and a learning space that is not limited to just the classroom.
- Who is Japanese Language Education For?
So far, we’ve covered the details on how to meet the needs of increasing numbers of foreign students and their growing diversity. However, the closer we examine the underlying factors behind this diversification of students, it becomes clear that we must reconsider who benefits from Japanese language education, or rather, who Japanese language education is for. There are students who are Japanese citizens who take the courses for Japanese language credits, as well as Japanese students who enroll to enhance their education by providing support for international students. As a university-wide educational entity, can CJL contribute to the education of the entire university through its specialization in Japanese language education? By focusing on the keywords of “resources” and “space,” I believe we can find our answer by removing the boundaries between international and Japanese students with respect to participating in Japanese language education.
With the 650 weekly classes offered by 200 plus teaching staff at the core, all those who participate in CJL as a space for learning seek the provision of a wealth of resources. In order to support the quality of our university’s Japanese language education, we hope to cooperate with other sections of the university, as well as with society as a whole, to accomplish our mission here at CJL.