In this project, students will contribute to the developing Easy Japanese by making suggestions to those who are conducting research on it and those who are trying to use/teach it to help non-native speakers of Japanese in Japan.
This project will be conducted at the end of a CLIL-style Japanese course for intermediate high to advanced level learners in college. The theme of the course is Japanese linguistics. Prior to this project, students learn the characteristics of Japanese vocabulary, writing system, and dialects. In so doing, they learn to analyze Japanese language in conjunction with history and current social issues in Japan and beyond.
After the Kobe Earthquake in 1995, in which more than 2000 non-Japanese citizens were victimized, “Easy Japanese” was proposed as a path toward faster and more effective means of communication in case of disaster. Today, the team led by Professor Kazuyuki Sato of University of Hirosaki is working on the project.
Some textbooks for middle schools and high schools includes an essay by Sato on his Easy Japanese project.
In addition, NHK (Japan’s public broadcasting station) started a news site using Easy Japanese.
Although the Easy Japanese project does not seem to be well known yet among Japanese people, some communities with a large number of immigrants try to educate volunteers with “Easy Japanese.” In this sense, the concept of Easy Japanese has been used for the language of daily use to/among non-native speakers, although Sato’s project clearly states that their Easy Japanese is a language for special purposes, namely for communication in disaster events.
While the effectiveness of Easy Japanese was reported in the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, some people have expressed concerns over making clear distinctions between the “standard” Japanese for native speakers and Easy Japanese for non-native speakers.
The purpose of our class project is for students to make comparisons and suggestions and to express their thoughts and feelings toward Easy Japanese of both kinds that may help the Easy Japanese project and people who are trying to use it.The central problem of this project is very easy to understand for learners of Japanese, for this is related to their own language learning. Moreover, the issue is a familiar one for American students, since immigrants’ language issues are heavily discussed in the US. International students can contribute by sharing their own experiences and/or strategies for similar issues in their own communities. At the same time, the issues are complex and challenging for college students, for the language policies are, for example, related to political and financial issues. My past courses indicate that students are excited to know about Easy Japanese, and we have had lively discussions. It is also to our advantage that there are two professors who conduct research on Brazilian immigrants in Japan in our area.
The product of this project is a website/PDF newsletter. The target audience includes people who are developing Easy Japanese, instructors teaching Easy Japanese courses for non-native speakers and volunteer native speakers, users of Easy Japanese, and junior high school students in Japan who study about Easy Japanese (an essay on Easy Japanese by Kazuyuki Sato is a part of one of the standard textbooks for eighth grade Japanese courses.)
Through this project, students cultivate 21st century skills such as critical thinking, ability to collaborate, and technology use for learning (through on-line discussion, web-writing, video presentation, etc.) in addition to crucial language skills such as how to interview people and express opinions, thoughts, and suggestions in Japanese.
Prior to creating the website/newsletter, students will conduct various activities, including watching films, listening to lectures, reading articles, talking with people who have worked with immigrants, and making presentations about their experience and/or policies and cases from their countries. (See the model plans for the 2016 spring course file for detailed.)
NOTE: This project was implimated in the spring semester of 2016 in a Content and Language Integrated Learning course in Japanese linguistics at Mount Holyoke College. The final product (Newsletter) can be seen here:
Priori to the PBLL section of the course
Introduction to Website/Newsletter language
Find out who lives in Japan now
Ask a specialist questions
What is "Easy Japanese" and what does it mean to us?
Group Presentation 1: What is Easy Japanese and our thoughts on it
Group Essay 1: Introduction to Easy Japanese
Individual Presentaiton: Compare Japanese situations with your country/community
Prepare for writing formal e-mail messages and conduct interviews
Creating video messages and conducting on-line interviews
Group Essay 2: Conducting inquiries
Group Presentation 2: Results of inquiries
Group Essay 3: What we found out via inquiries
Individual Essay: So what do you think about Easy Japanese now?
Gallery Walk: Examine essay compoments
Put essays and visual aids
Checking the Final Product Draft
Publish your website/newsletter
Forming Group for presentation 1
Forming Groups for Inquiries and Group Presentation 2
Visualize the final product: Create teams to produce the final product
Peer Assessment on Group Presentation 1
Peer assessment: Group Essay 1
Peer Assessment on Group Presentation 2
Peer Assessment on Group Essay 3
Peer Assessment on Individual Essays
Peer Assessment on the Final Product
News Letter to promote "Easy Japanese"