Language Training

One of the most notable features of the English program is that it offers an undergraduate education in Japan which is conducted in the English language. However, while our English degree programs use English as an instructional language, the world outside of the classroom is, of course, Japanese. In other words, there are only a limited number of situations in which students will be able get by using only English. In order for students to maintain a healthy and enjoyable life while studying and living in Japan, a degree of proficiency in the Japanese language is imperative. It is the primary goal of the English program Japanese and Japanese Issues Course to help students develop their abilities with the Japanese language, as well as gain an understanding of issues which have bearing on life, study and work here in Japan.

In regard to learning the Japanese language, we are concerned with helping students work towards developing proficiency in using Japanese in real-life situations. The notion of real-life situations includes the following 3 areas. The first is ‘survival’, such as asking for directions or getting help in a store, etc. It is usually possible for students to develop these kinds of language skills within their first 3 months to 1 year in Japan. The second is everyday interpersonal interaction, such as chatting with friends, participating in extra-curricular activities, etc. This area roughly corresponds to what some second language acquisition researchers refer to as BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills). Research suggests that these language skills usually develop within six months to two years after having arrived in the country where the language is spoken. The third is academic and professional interaction, such as participating in classes offered in Japanese, making research presentations, participating in formal and professional activities in Japan, etc. This area roughly corresponds to what some researchers refer to as CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency). Research suggests that it may take five to seven years, or longer, for students to reach proficiency in CALP.

Regardless of whether students enter the program with little or no Japanese language ability, a good command of basic interpersonal interactional skills, or higher levels of language ability, it is the mission of the English program Japanese and Japanese Issues Course to help students progress as far as they can along the path to professional level competence in Japanese, and a substantial understanding of Japanese cultural and social issue which have bearing on their daily lives in Japan.

Overview of the Structure of the Course

All English program students at the University of Tsukuba will receive Japanese language training in their first year. 4.5 credits of Japanese are required in first year, totaling 90 hours of in-class Japanese language tuition. However, this is only a very small part of the total picture of learning the Japanese language. In order to gain an actual ability to use Japanese in real-life situations, students will need to put in many additional hours of time outside of the classroom. The classroom should be thought of as a kind of home base from which students will plan and practice in preparation for real language use, and where they will evaluate their progress. Learning another language requires considerable work, but the benefits are commensurate with the effort!

The English program Japanese and Japanese Issues Course offers classes in Japanese as a foreign language, and in Japanese Issues. In regard to the Japanese language classes, at the elementary levels (Japanese 1~4), English is used to give instruction in Japanese grammar, and focus is placed on developing students’ abilities with using daily conversational language (oral, listening, pragmatic, and interactional skills), and reading and writing skills. At the intermediate/advanced levels (Japanese 5~7), the goal is to help students develop higher levels of proficiency in individual skill areas, such as grammar, speaking, listening, reading, kanji, etc. These higher-level classes are taught in Japanese. The Japanese Issues classes are taught using the English language as an instructional medium, and offer foundational knowledge in a broad range of topics on Japanese society, culture, history, etc.

In addition to their required 4.5 credits of Japanese, English program students are strongly encouraged to continue studying Japanese autonomously at the Center for Education for Global Communication. The CEGLOC at the University of Tsukuba is proud to have one of the best Japanese language training programs in Japan, with numerous experienced faculty members helping students progress in steps towards their Japanese language learning goals. English program students who have ability commensurate with the Japanese 4 level (documentable by sitting for a placement test offered at the beginning of every term) are eligible to take individual language skills classes at the CEGLOC. Classes are offered in grammar, speaking, listening, reading, kanji, etc., and are tailored to a range of skill levels from intermediate-low to Advanced-high/Superior proficiency (for more details about these level distinctions, please visit the ACTFL Japanese proficiency guidelines webpage).

An important additional resource for English program students studying the Japanese language and Japanese issues is the Center for Distance Learning of Japanese and Japanese Issues. The University of Tsukuba has been appointed as a Center for Distance Learning of Japanese and Japanese Issues by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. To date, a variety of materials, such as Japanese language textbooks, audio visual language learning materials, web-based Japanese proficiency tests, etc., have been developed at the International Student Center. Based on these experiences and achievements, the Center for Distance Learning of Japanese and Japanese Issues is developing and operating a new bi-directional e-learning system, and related educational materials. This e-learning system supports students’ individually paced studies of the Japanese language and Japanese Issues. Global 30 students should take advantage of these and other online learning resources both before and after coming to Japan.