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

created on Jul 31, 2015 modified on Jun 21, 2018 01:37


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: 

Easy Japanse Newsletter


National Foreign Language Resource Center
Naoko Nemoto

Language: Japanese

Subject Area(s): emigration/immigration, social networks, ethnic identity, society, values, communities, global challenges, language and literature, lifestyles, national identity

Instructional Context

Product Description:
Website/newsletter including: (1) What our students think of "Easy Japanese" (including, for example, what makes Japanese difficult, what kind of language they want to learn, etc.) (2) Comparative studies of "Easy Japanese" and our students' country/community strategies of language and immigrants (3) Suggestions and proposals to "Easy Japanese"

Target Audience Description:
People who do and will communicate with non-native speakers of Japanese in Japan; researchers of "Easy Japanese"; junior high and high school students in Japan who is using textbooks that include a chapter discussed about "Easy Japanese"

Audience Role:
Some will exchange opinions with our students but mostly this is for them to learn from our website/newsletter

Product Target Culture:

Heritage Learners:

Audience Location:

Language Proficiency

ILR Scale Writing:

ACTFL Scale:
6 7 8 9 10

ILR Scale Writing:

ILR Scale Reading:
2 3 4 5

ILR Scale Listening:
2 3 4 5

ILR Scale Speaking:
2 3 4 5

ILR Scale Writing:
2 3 4

World Readiness Standards

Making Connections

Language comparisons


Relating Cultural Practices to Perspectives

School and Global
Lifelong Learning


Cultural comparisons

Acquiring Information and Diverse Perspectives

21st Century Skills

Life and Career Skills
Productivity and Accountability
Leadership and responsibility

Information, Media, and Technology Skills
Creativity and Innovation
Information Literacy
Media Literacy
Technology Literacy

Life and Career Skills
Initiative and Self-Direction
Social and Cross Cultural Skills

Interdisciplinary Themes
Global Awareness
Civic Literacy

Project Sequence Overview

Preparing for the Project

1. Priori to the PBLL section of the course - Students in this course learn how to conduct peer reading, group presentations, and self and peer assessment more detail

2. Introduction to Website/Newsletter language - Find out what kind of language is used on website/newsletter more detail

3. Find out who lives in Japan now - Watch film trailers and short video lectures and consider the issues related to recent immigrants in Japan more detail

4. Ask a specialist questions - Ask questions to confirm your understanding of video lectures and film trailers more detail

5. What is "Easy Japanese" and what does it mean to us? - Find out what "Easy Japanese" is and whether you can contribute to the Easy Japanese project. more detail

6. Group Presentation 1: What is Easy Japanese and our thoughts on it - Inform peers about what you found out from the article that your group selected and what your group discussed more detail

7. Group Essay 1: Introduction to Easy Japanese - Write summary of your group presentation more detail

8. Individual Presentaiton: Compare Japanese situations with your country/community - Let people in Japan know how your community is dealing with similar situations more detail

9. Prepare for writing formal e-mail messages and conduct interviews - Practice formal e-mail writing and how to conduct interviews more detail

10. Creating video messages and conducting on-line interviews - Learn how to create group video messages and how to conduct on-line interviews more detail

11. Group Essay 2: Conducting inquiries - You will create inquiry e-mail, or short-video to make contacts with people in Japan with group members more detail

12. Group Presentation 2: Results of inquiries - Share what your group find out through inquiry activities more detail

13. Group Essay 3: What we found out via inquiries - Write summary of what you found out via inquiries more detail

14. Individual Essay: So what do you think about Easy Japanese now? - Share your thoughts, suggestions, and proposals to Easy Japanese more detail

Launching the Project

1. Gallery Walk: Examine essay compoments - Look at each essay components for the final product and make suggestions more detail

2. Put essays and visual aids - Try out the design of website/draft by putting everything on it more detail

3. Checking the Final Product Draft - Look at the final product draft and make appropriate adjustments more detail

4. Publish your website/newsletter - Publish your website/newsletter more detail

Managing the Project

1. Forming Group for presentation 1 - Make a group to conduct a presentation on the article and your thoughts on Easy Japanese. more detail

2. Forming Groups for Inquiries and Group Presentation 2 - Select one of the given activities to contact people in Japan to find out more about Easy Japanese more detail

3. Visualize the final product: Create teams to produce the final product - Discuss how we can build the final product (website/newsletter) to inform our opinions on Easy Japanese to Japanese people more detail


1. Peer Assessment on Group Presentation 1 - Give feedback to your own and your classmates' presentations more detail

2. Peer assessment: Group Essay 1 - How do you make your group essays be parts of one product together? more detail

3. Peer Assessment on Group Presentation 2 - Give feedback to your own and your classmates' group presentations more detail

4. Peer Assessment on Group Essay 3 - Read your classmates' essays and consider how you put them into the final product together with yours. more detail

5. Peer Assessment on Individual Essays - Read your classmates' essay (Gallery Walk) and consider how they contribute to the final product more detail

6. Peer Assessment on the Final Product - Reflect what you just accomplished more detail