The study of Japanese language has increased tremendously throughout the major regions of the world. The language is been taught in many Latin American countries and also in the United States. This essentially highlights the increasing demand for skills in the foreign languages among people looking to expand their resource base as the entire globe becomes more interconnected and thus highly interdependent. Various approaches are taken into consideration while establishing the best didactic methods to use to promote the teaching of Japanese as a foreign language. These approaches must essentially capture a lot more than just the basic building blocks of the language itself; they must also reflect the rich culture of the Japanese people. As such, much of this paper’s focus will be on the expansive and all-inclusive area of didacticism as it applies to the teaching of the Japanese language.
The analysis evaluates the delivery methods used by instructors, the specific aspects of the language acquisition and its influence on culture. People learning Japanese as second languages are faced with different challenges as the language is a bit complex due to the dialectics involved. Most of the characters appear almost similar and differentiating them and retention of the same proves to be difficult to most of the learners. There is need to distinguish those who learn the Japanese language as a second language from the native learners. This is aimed at assisting the teachers reduce chances of errors and come up with the best strategies for teaching the language to second-language learners. Both learners have different cognitive abilities for the language.
The first language of the learners is also seen as influencing the learning process and comprehension of the language. To help learners acquire proficiency in both communicating and writing of the Japanese language learning curriculums, materials ,strategies and methodology have been developed in response to the growing increase in the number of people learning Japanese worldwide.
Brief History of How Current Japanese Language Teaching Methods Developed
There has been an increasing demand in the learning of Japanese language in the recent past. A high number of people are learning Japanese as a second language. These has created a rise in the number of research and publications been done on Japanese as a second language. Japanese language teaching is different from other teaching methods conducted in other languages.
The study analyses the current method used in teaching of Japanese language. The focus is mainly on people who learn Japanese as a second language. Japanese language writing system is different from other languages in terms of representation. The data used in the study was collected through inferences in conducted research, electronic source of information and general observation. The study covers the development of the teaching methods which involves study of the vocabularies used by the second –language learners, class discourse, curriculum design and the findings of the study and recommendations for further improvement.
The country has many immigrants who moved in search of jobs during the economic recessions in when the country was experiencing shortage of labor and the government asked the descendants of the native Japanese who were residing in other continents to move back in the country. The migrant moved in with their families including children. As a result they had to learn the Japanese language for them to fit into the Japanese culture and environment. It is easier for a child to learn the language the than an adult. The migrants have problems catching up with Japanese social studies and Art classes which require one to have a good mastering of the Japanese language. They are thus tutored separately from the native students.
People learning Japanese as a second language mainly concentrate on Kanji. This involves the learning of written word and vocabularies. Research has show that learners who start learning by reading comprehend more vocabularies than those who use reading only method.(Y.Mori 2003).The mode of delivery for the instructors should be designed in such a way that student are able to retain and gain insight in the language. Instructors use devices that enhance memory such as images and pictures, reference of similar objects with the characters, and interpretation of words and video recorders. Successful learning of the language calls for skills in and efficiency to process the linguistic process.
Japanese language writing system is different from other languages in terms of representation. Other languages have the same alphabetical system standing for the same symbols like the once used in English. Japanese language has two syllabaries which are not dependent on each other known as Kana and Kanji. To able to read text in Japanese text, one must learn Kanji symbols which are mainly referred to as Characters. The characters represent both meaning and sound while kana represents sound. Kanji is taught in high school while kana is mostly taught to young Japanese students. There are usually two kana syllabaries; hiragana and katana each representing forty six different syllables. Katana is mainly employed in reference to foreign words while hiragana is used to transcribe words such as verbs. In kanji the reader may know the meaning of a word but may not know how to pronounce it. Learning how to write in kanji is a very involving task that takes event he native speakers nine years to learn. Students must learn the characters first and then know how to combine them.
The learning of kanji has been perceived as been difficult by many learners .These is as a result of the repetition of same characters, characters which appear similar and retention capacity is very low. On the other hand there have been positive attitudes in kanji learning; it has been perceived as interesting, culture oriented and very useful. This perception are built by the educators and the strategies they use to deliver their instructions and the contextual learning
Dictionaries are used to enhance reading and writing but those students who are proficient in the language gain more from using dictionaries as a mode of reference, while marginal glosses are used to enhance learning of words. The learners have to learn reading and writing skills since learning materials are usually print outs. The learners usually have difficulties in comprehending complex texts compared to their native speakers (Horiba 2000).Research have shown that second-language learners cognitive abilities for phonetic codes comes before semantic code.
The curriculum was usually designed by the Japan foundation .The materials are developed to suit learners needs, objective and specifies the ultimate goal of the learner.den method is the most commonly used the United States. It mostly involves learning of functional culture, natural talk, introduction of Katana, grammar and speech primacy. This method is used mainly in teaching individuals who want to become language instructors.
Students in Japan go through elementary school, middle school, high school and finally school for the basic education. From high schools those who qualify proceed to higher institution of learning .There has been increasing numbers of students pursuing masters degrees and Ph D.s with and aim of getting lucrative job(.Teaching jobs are among the best jobs in the country. Teachers earn good salaries, pension and are assured of job security compared with their counter parts in the private sector. A person aspiring to become a teacher has to go through the normal schools system after which they have to acquire specialized training and undertake special exams to qualify as a full time teacher.
The teaching career requires one to be highly qualified and the demand for teaching jobs is very high in Japan. Competency of the teachers means they deliver higher quality education which is very important in the education system. Most of the teachers are university graduates while some are master degree holders.The student teacher relationship is close and student are able to get personal attention from their teachers as the students to teacher ratio is big.
Children with special needs like the blind and the mentally handicapped have special classes but the curriculum is the same with other students. The curriculum is developed in such a way that it meets the special needs of the students. Teachers develop study plans for each student which can be done together with their parents and their medical specialist. Most of these students enroll for technical and vocational training which equip them with tactical skills like dress making and art work.
Integration of Culture in Japanese Language Education
Foreign learners have to learn the Japanese culture as they are mainly referred to as outsiders and for them to be accommodated into the Japanese society it becomes a necessity as the culture has some influence on the language . The learning of a language as a second one needs one to learn the culture of the native speakers .Examples of cultures learnt include; floral arrangements, food and clothing. Japanese language forms an integral part of their culture. Learning a language includes comprehending the culture of the native speakers as this forms the basis of interactions. There develops a conflict as the learner tries to internalize the culture of the native speakers given the fact that they have a culture of their own. For example the language expressions used to convey politeness in English are different in Japanese. Giving and receiving verbs are used to make requests. Japanese language portrays more politeness and formalities. Cultural interactions help students to internalize the Japanese language more easily.
The teacher student relationship is interactive and very close in Japanese compared to their American counterparts. Teachers give feedback to the learners on assignments and learners respond correctively. This shows they have understood the points of correction made or noted the errors although they may not have understood them. Cognitive and meta-cognitive strategies are used to ensure maximum learning efficiency. Cognitive strategies help learners to manipulate and change the language. Meta-cognitive are used by learners to evaluate themselves and plan their own self learning. Emphasizes is mainly targeted on comprehension and speaking.
Group works provide an opportunity for learner to participate and assist one another. This creates better understanding of the language and increased retention of what is learnt. The student’s expectations and that of the teacher may not always correspond. The approaches used by instructor my not always yield what they expect but it should correspond to the students own experiences. This may create conflict between the students and the instructor but it offers a chance for the learner to think critically.
Story telling is also very important in enhancing language understanding. Students are allowed to hold discussions in relaxed environment of the classroom. Daily language practice will allow the students to interact with their fellow students and also the teachers. It is also seen as a method of encouraging the students to talk, think critically and explore their knowledge as well as develop learning strategies.
Research Findings and Problems in Research Techniques
Second-language learners face greater challenges because they have to differentiate orthographic, phonetic kana syllabaries and logographic kanji in additional to roman letters. There is a tendency of treating second-language learners like children since they are not conversant with the language. The instructors use the same teaching strategies that are used to teach children.
The first language of foreign learners of Japanese language highly influences their mastering and understanding capacity. Chinese speakers are able to master the Japanese language faster due to the use of similar characters. It is evident that the major East Asian languages share some significant commonalities, which essentially makes people from the region well acquaint with each other’s languages. The same applies to their cultural heritage and backgrounds, which as mentioned earlier, are vital elements of the language as a whole.
Using a combination of different strategies to deliver the training is very important and has proven to be effective. The learners can also adapt strategies that will enhance their understanding such as skipping words that are less important, reading longer phrases at a time, keeping meaning of a word in mind while reading, and having a positive attitude while reading. To use this strategy a learner must be aware of themselves in terms of their cognitive ability and the resources available to them.The research does not elaborate clearly the problems encountered by the second-language learners in terms of cognibility and comprehension of the Japanese language.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Recent studies have proven that learning Japanese is as simple as the learner want it to be .The attitude of the learner and assumptions made will affect the outcome. Instructors must adopt the right strategies to be able to deliver effectively and ensure that the ultimate goals of the learner are met at the end of the course. There is need for more research on identifying whether learners of Japanese as a second language comprehend texts in the same manners as the native speakers and also whether the meaning accessed is proportionate or not to the language proficiency of the native speakers. Learning Japanese a second language can be tasking and its complexity varies among different individuals.
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