"Easy Japanese" & How We Want It to Be: Messages from Japanese Learners in American Colleges

A Project Prototype by Naoko Nemoto

not published

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.

http://human.cc.hirosaki-u.ac.jp/kokugo/EJ1a.htm

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.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/easy/

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: 

Easy Japanse Newsletter

 

Overview files comments

Preparing for the Project

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?

Launching the Project

Gallery Walk: Examine essay compoments

Put essays and visual aids

Checking the Final Product Draft

Publish your website/newsletter

Managing the Project

Forming Group for presentation 1

Forming Groups for Inquiries and Group Presentation 2

Visualize the final product: Create teams to produce the final product

Assessment

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

Implementation Info

News Letter to promote "Easy Japanese"

Preparing for the Project

Priori to the PBLL section of the course

Each segment of the course throughout the semester, students in the course conduct peer reading, group presentaiton, and self and peer assessment

Technology Tips

Peer assessment by Google Forms

Introduction to Website/Newsletter language

Prior to opening the project, check what kinds of sentence patterns (e.g. formality, politeness, vocabulary) are used on Japanese websites and newsletters

Find out who lives in Japan now

(1) Watch two film trailors: 

Saudade (2011) 

3-5-4 Soccer (2015)

(2) Watch two short video lectures by Professor J. Oba

Answer the questions on Project entry question sheet. 

 

 

 

Technology Tips

The short video lecturers will be prepared during the fall semester of 2015 and stored on Moodle.

Task Extension

This task helps students understand the history and basic issues of so-called "new-comers" in Japan.

The task will help them prepare their meeting with Prof. Oba to find out more about Brazilians in Japan in the following class.

Ask a specialist questions

You will meet Prof. Oba, who gave you video lectures. She has been conducting research in the town in which the two film trailers that you just watched. (She watched both films too.) Prepare to ask her question in order to (1) confirm your understanding on the video lectures and film trailers; (2) find out more about the issues on recent immigrants in Japan.

What is "Easy Japanese" and what does it mean to us?

Choose one of the following articles:

Sato, K. (2008)  Newspaper essay; Tanaka, H. et al. (2013) Academic essay; Ozaki, A. (2011) Academic article. (See Reading reference file)

Form a group with people who want to read the same article. Conduct peer reading with them and discuss whether/how Easy Japanese impact you and your learning of Japanese.

You will create a presentation to explain this article to your classmates who did not choose it to read together.

Technology Tips

I am preparing a video clip to show how to do peer reading

Task Extension

Each of the three groups will conduct a presentation about the article of their choice

Group Presentation 1: What is Easy Japanese and our thoughts on it

You will conduct a seven (7)-minute presentation to inform your peer and Prof. Oba about Easy Japanese from the article that your group selected (, which the other students have not read) and what your group discussed about Easy Japanese. Prepare power point slides to aid your presentation.

Group Essay 1: Introduction to Easy Japanese

You will write a summary essay of the article that your group presented with group members. Note that this will be a part of the website/newsletter that the class is building.

Individual Presentaiton: Compare Japanese situations with your country/community

Does your county/community have similar issues with new immigrants?  How are they dealing with the issues? Or what do you think will be the biggest issues if/when a large number immigrants come into your country/comminity?

Prepare three (3) minute presentation.

 

Prepare for writing formal e-mail messages and conduct interviews

Practice writing formal e-mail messages.

Practice how to conduct interviews.

Creating video messages and conducting on-line interviews

You will learn how to create video messages

You will learn what you have to be careful when you conduct interviews on-line

Technology Tips

Use Video Thread or a similar product for video messages

Use Zoom for on-line interview

 

Group Essay 2: Conducting inquiries

In order to find out more information about Easy Japanese and examine whether your thoughts and suggestions are valid ones, initiate a contact with a person/people whom your group selected. Ask questions in e-mail, video-mail, or set up an interview date.

You will conduct a group presentation later to share what you have found later.

Task Extension

Students will send e-mail, video messages to relevant party in Japan; they will read replies to their messages and report them in class.

Or conduct on-line interview and report the summary of it in class.  

Group Presentation 2: Results of inquiries

Conduct 10 minute group prensetation to discuss what you find out through inquiries and how the new knowledge reflects upon your thoughts and suggestions on Easy Japanese

Group Essay 3: What we found out via inquiries

Write a summary of what you found out via inquiries.

Individual Essay: So what do you think about Easy Japanese now?

Share your thoughts, suggestions, and proposals to Easy Japanese, after all the activities you have conducted.

Focus on whether/how your thoughts and suggestions have shifted as you find out more about the situations in Japan and your classmates' countries/communities.

Launching the Project

Gallery Walk: Examine essay compoments

Each group put the latest essay draft for the final product on the wall.

Give comments to the other groups' essays individually by putting your comments, questions, and suggestions in post-it.

Put essays and visual aids

Turn in each essay component to the group that is resposible to the whole design to see how the final product will look like.

 

Checking the Final Product Draft

Examine the draft of the final product.  Look at the given assessment guidelines and discuss how you can improve the draft.

Publish your website/newsletter

Open website/newsletter to public and send a link to appropriate people and organization.

Managing the Project

Forming Group for presentation 1

Make a group with classmates who read the same article.
Discuss what to present to peer who did not select to read the article and share your thoughts on Easy Japanese.

Forming Groups for Inquiries and Group Presentation 2

You will learn more about Easy Japanese by contacting people in Japan. Choose one of the following activities.  Form a group with classmates who selected the same activity.

 

  

               Write e-mail inquiry to Ms. Shikama, who has been helping new immigrants from Brazil in Hamamatsu City, and ask questions (e.g. whether/how Easy Japanese is used in Hamamatsu, whether she think a strategy from their own community works in Japan)  

Or

Write e-mail inquiry to or (On-line) Interview people (non-Japanese citizen) who experienced big disasters in Japan

Or

Communicate with junior high students who have learned about Easy Japanese (e.g. ask questions such as whether they were aware of the issues of immigrants, use of Easy Japanese in their communities, what they think they can do about the issues)

 

Visualize the final product: Create teams to produce the final product

Discuss what tasks there are to create a wesite/newsletter.

Divide into groups and assign each group necessary tasks.

Make the time line of the project.

Assessment

Peer Assessment on Group Presentation 1

Using the assessment guidelines, give feedback to your own and your classmates' presentation.

 

Technology Tips

Google forms

Peer assessment: Group Essay 1

Read other groups' essays and give feedbacks, using the assessement guidelines . Consider how you make them to be parts of the final product together.

Peer Assessment on Group Presentation 2

Use the assessment guidelines, give feedback to your own and your classmates' group presentations.

Technology Tips

Google forms

Peer Assessment on Group Essay 3

Assess your classmates' group essays according to the assessment guidelines.

Consider how you put all of the group essays into the final essay to be on the website/newsletter.

Peer Assessment on Individual Essays

Assess your classmates' essays according to the assessment guidelines.

Consider what parts of each essay should be on the website/newsletter. 

Peer Assessment on the Final Product

Examine the final product with the assessment guidelines.

Reflect your project activities and discuss what went well and what was difficult and why.

Implementation Info

News Letter to promote "Easy Japanese"

This project was implemented in the spring semester of 2016. The final product can be viewed at this link.

Easy Japanese Newsletter Mount Holyoke College 2016

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