What is Japanese Heritage Education?
Heritage Japanese language learners have one or both Japanese parents. Many children start learning their heritage language from the preschool or kindergarten age. The learning methods are different from those primary languages or foreign languages. Heritage learners go to regular schools where they speak the language of their residence. They learn heritage Japanese at Saturday Japanese schools or other private schools. How fast children acquire their heritage language depends on their circumstances: the language at home, the amount of time they are exposed to the language, and the connection to the language. The amount of support from parents also affects their learning. Studying heritage language and culture hopefully encourages students’ interest in Japan and helps shape their identity.
Is this school Hoshuko (Supplementary Prep. Japanese School)?
No. This is a Japanese language school and after-school program. We only teach Japanese language. Some Hoshuko Japanese prep schools teach all subject in Japanese to prepare students planning to return to Japan.
What kind of textbooks do you use? Do you use the textbooks that are published by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Technology?
We use textbooks and other teaching materials that published by the CAJLS (California Association of Japanese Language Schools), ones by the Japan Foundation and others. The Japanese textbooks published by the Ministry of Education are for native Japanese language education.
Are classes taught in Japanese or English?
Classes are taught in Japanese. All our teachers are native Japanese speakers and the program is Japanese immersion.
What level of Japanese are your students able to reach?
The level of Japanese depends on an individual. The student’s home language, language talent, interest, enthusiasm, and parent’s support are some of factors that affect students language learning. We have many students who start coming to this school from young age and continue on to high school. They reach a high level of proficiency. Mastering any language is a hard and takes a long time. It is a big commitment. The levels of the middle and high school are pretty high here.
Do students converse in English?
All our teachers encourage their students to speak in Japanese, at least in the classrooms. But, students often speak to each other in both languages.
What is semi-lingual?
There are various definitions of semi-lingual. When children grow up learning two languages, there is a risk of children becoming semi-lingual. Semi-lingual children have a problem developing an age/grade appropriate level in both their primary and heritage languages. Since they speak both languages well enough with native speaker’s accent and pronunciation, parents tend to misjudge their language acquisition in both languages. While children can converse in both languages in daily life, they have trouble conveying, communicating or understanding abstract content. Some semi-lingual children have a difficult time at their regular school due to their low level of primary language development.
For children learning Japanese in America, parents need to take some facts in consideration such as where children will live in the future, where they receive higher education, and where they work.
It is crucial to determine the primary language and help them focus on the primary language development first so that they can excel academically at the local school. Ideally, children acquire both languages simultaneously, a challenging goal.
Do students have a Kanji test every Saturday?
Teachers usually give students kanji tests regularly after every chapter. However, the number of kanji our students are required to learn here are a lot less than the number of kanji that students learn in Japan or even in hoshuko (Japanese prep schools in America.)
Is it possible for students to study Japanese along with American regular school study, sports and other afterschool activitie?
Regardless of how busy students are, it is important for them to keep up with class instruction diligently each week, especially when they miss classes for other activities. It is necessary to do their homework and parents need to help their children to keep up with class and support their children constantly. As long as students keep at it, they learn each time. Continuing is the key.
Is the Buddhism taught here?
The study of Buddhism is not a part of the curriculum of Japanese language education.
However, students occasionally attend an optional short Buddhism lecture conducted by our reverend. The Church offers the Buddhism education for both children from preschool to high school age (Dharma School) and adults. Anyone, who is interested in learning the religion, is welcome to join the classes.