The Acquisition of Japanese Language and Culture by JET Participants; Discussion Summary

This is the summary of the Spring 2012 Opinion Exchange Meeting between AJET, the Council for Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR), the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). The following is a summary of the discussion regarding the report, “The Acquisition of Japanese Language and Culture by JET Participants.”  AJET’s questions are in italics, followed by summaries of the responses. To access the full report, click here.

The Acquisition of Japanese Language and Culture by JET Participants
Written by Amelia Hagen, L
isa Marie Cross, Miriam Rollason, and Sarah Jane Blenkhorn
Presented and Interpreted by Allison Yoneyama

AJET: One of the most common requests made by JETs [in this report] was to be granted study leave. While we understand that CLAIR is not in a position to require that contracting organizations grant study leave, it is our understanding that they can recommend certain practices as they pertain to the ALTs terms and conditions. We would like to ask that CLAIR add a study leave provision to the recommended JET terms and conditions or the manual for contracting organizations that contracting organizations receive, provided that the JET has no other stipulated duties during extended holiday periods.

CLAIR reiterated that any type of leave, other than the stipulated paid leave already stated in the contract, is at the discretion of the individual contracting organizations or host cities. Because this is determined at the local level, it must be up to local circumstances if individual JET participants are able to receive leave for Japanese language study, not CLAIR.

AJET: What can the Ministry of Foreign Affairs do to help alumni JETs and JETAA to promote Japanese language and culture overseas?

MOFA summarized the variety of resources for embassies and consulates for JETAA activities abroad, such as support for JETTA-run cultural events, networking events for JET alumni, regular JETAA chapter meetings, and career support. If AJET has additional suggestions for how embassies and consulates can provide support, MOFA requested that AJET contact them directly via the JETAA chapters.

AJET: Can CLAIR work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help improve the text in the book “Japanese for JETs” by including katakana and hiragana instruction?

CLAIR explained that the textbook is written largely in romaji because it is geared towards complete beginners of the Japanese language, though by the last three chapters no romaji is used. When the book comes up for revisions again—though it is at this time undecided when revisions will be instated—CLAIR is open to suggestions AJET may have regarding improvement, including a reconsideration of the ratio of hiragana to katakana to romaji, linguistically, that should be incorporated into the lessons.

AJET: Can CLAIR make the JET CLAIR language courses more web-based and assist the participants in receiving feedback from teachers and other students?

CLAIR pointed out that participants should be able to reference grammar points in each lesson, even if individual answers are not always accompanied by explanatory text. CLAIR recommended that the official JET forums be used to exchange this kind of explanatory information. Recently, monthly tests have been able to be submitted online and other methods of using web-based content will be explored, though providing the textbook itself online is not being considered because the means to do so is not available at this time.

AJET: Can CLAIR and MEXT work together to better align the JET Programme Japanese Language course books with the JLPT levels?

CLAIR explained that the aim of the language course books is to help participants become accustomed to living and working in Japan through improving basic communication. This aim is different than that of the JPLT, so an alignment is not imperative. AJET suggested that such an alignment could encourage more participants to take part in and complete the language courses.

AJET: How can CLAIR mitigate obstacles to taking the Linguistics & Pedagogy course and the Translating & Interpreting course such as budgeting constraints and lack of study leave opportunities? What is the reasoning behind the scheduling of the workshops for the Linguistics & Pedagogy course and the Translating & Interpreting course?

Again, CLAIR explained that participation in such courses is at the discretion of each JET’s contracting organization and dependent on the individual budgets of local governments. The week-long seminar courses are held at a training facility for government employees, so the employer must cover the cost of the seminars as part of the agreement decided by this facility. Therefore, it is not possible for JET participants to cover the cost themselves. In regards to timing, it is placed in the middle of the course for participants to apply the skills they’ve learned.