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Japanese-Language Education Overseas

Building Japanese-Language
Education Infrastructure Overseas

Promoting the JF Standard for Japanese-Language Education

For mutual understanding through language communication, two competences are important: one is in accomplishing tasks and the other is in intercultural understanding obtained by broadened views through experiences in diverse cultures.

Based on this principle, the Japan Foundation developed the JF Standard for Japanese-Language Education (JF Standard) as a tool to help think about teaching, learning and assessing in Japanese. To publicize and promote the JF Standard, we have provided information widely and presented possible uses through seminars and workshops at home and abroad.

In fiscal 2014, the first printing of the third edition of the JF Standard for Japanese-Language Education 2010 was published and a pamphlet to widely publicize the JF Standard was also produced.

Also, based on the JF Standard, the "Role Play Test" has been developed to measure the instructor's mastery of verbal communication in the teaching environment. It is available on the JF Standard website. The website also provides manuals, testing procedure videos, model voices, and role-play cards in 13 languages, making it convenient for examinees.

Also, the Minna no Can-do website's database was expanded to include 162 new Can-do statements (72 JF Can-do statements and 90 Marugoto Can-do statements).

In addition, we provided grants for seminars, workshops, surveys and symposiums, and sent instructors to explain and demonstrate possible uses and practical application examples of the JF Standard.

Photo of JF Standard pamphlet and Role Playing Test manual
JF Standard pamphlet and Role Playing Test manual

Photo of Japanese-language proficiency levels according to the JF Standard
Japanese-language proficiency levels according to the JF Standard

Publication and sale of Marugoto: Japanese-language and Culture

The coursebook Marugoto: Japanese-language and Culture based on the JF Standard has the word Marugoto to mean "everything about language and culture," "complete and natural communication using the Japanese-language," and "to learn everything about Japanese life and culture."

The two main coursebooks, Katsudo and Rikai, were published in 2013 for the Starter (A1) level and in 2014 for the Elementary 1 and 2 (A2) levels. A total of six coursebooks in the series have been produced. Seminars for Japanese-language teachers to learn how to use the coursebooks are being conducted in Japan and overseas.

Japanese-language education incorporating the JF Language Course and Marugoto: Japanese-language and Culture is spreading around the world. We will continue to develop Marugoto: Japanese-language and Culture so we can publish Pre-intermediate (A2/B1) and Intermediate 1 and 2 (B1).

Photo of Seminar introducing Marugoto Elementary 1 (A2) in Tokyo on June 28, 2014
Seminar introducing Marugoto Elementary 1 (A2) in Tokyo on June 28, 2014

Photo of Marugoto: Japanese-language and Culture books (International Fair 2014 in Kita-Urawa.)
Marugoto: Japanese-language and Culture books
(International Fair 2014 in Kita-Urawa.)

Photo of Marugoto: Japanese-language and Culture (Elementary 2 (A2) - Katsudo / Rikai)
Marugoto: Japanese-language and Culture (Elementary 2 (A2)
- coursebook for communicative language activities: Katsudo /
coursebook for communicative language competences: Rikai)

JF Language Course

The new type of Japanese-language course conforming to the JF Standard is a Japanese-language learning model that makes learning and teaching Japanese easy. We also emphasize comprehensive learning of language and culture and promote mutual understanding through Japanese-language education.

To meet the diverse needs of Japanese-language classes overseas, The Japan Foundation is further developing the JF Language Course for learners. Rather than studying Japanese for a practical purpose such as studying or working in Japan, many students in recent years have been pursuing a personal interest in the language or in Japanese pop culture such as J-pop music, anime, and manga, thus wanting to study the language as well.

Taking this into consideration, the JF Language Course has introduced a new curriculum based on the JF Standard. The course has thus been expanded and revamped. By integrating Marugoto: Japanese-language and Culture, the course now emphasizes the understanding of Japanese culture more than ever before.

In fiscal 2014, over 21,000 people took the JF Language Course at the Japan Foundation's 22 overseas branches and eight Japan Centers.

Photo of JF Language Course intermediate class in Hanoi during the opening ceremony
JF Language Course intermediate class in Hanoi during the opening ceremony

Cultural Japanese Course

Backed by the Japan Foundation's cultural exchange activities, the JF Language Course offers cultural field trips besides just classroom lessons. Students can see and experience music, movie, art, food, and other Japanese culture. We hold interactive programs on contemporary Japanese culture and provide information about Japan. By having such cultural experiences, students can broaden their views of Japanese culture and attain a deeper understanding of the Japanese-language.

For example in Paris, the Japanese Culture Atelier covered kanji characters, Noh plays, movies, and other specific themes. Also, "NIHONGO Shaberon" was a Japanese conversation event with native Japanese living in Paris. In Madrid, a new Japanese conversation club called "¡Vamos a nihonguear!" was formed to hold games and cultural activities.

Photo of Cultural Japanese course's hands-on Japanese cooking event in Budapest
Cultural Japanese course's hands-on Japanese cooking event in Budapest

Marugoto expanding at El Liceo Mexicano Japonés, A.C.

From the summer of 2013, The Japan Foundation, Mexico together with El Liceo Mexicano Japonés, A.C. school in Mexico started a pilot program using Marugoto as part of the school's Mexico Course high school class. In fiscal 2014, the program was expanded to certain junior high school classes.

El Liceo Mexicano Japonés, A.C. is a unique school that has both a "Japan Course" conducted by a school for Japanese students and a "Mexico Course" mainly for Mexican students. Both schools share the same grounds. Students from both courses regularly have classes and sporting events together for international exchange.

Since the school's establishment, the Mexico Course has required their students to study Japanese. Upon requesting cooperation from El Liceo Mexicano Japonés, A.C.,The Japan Foundation, Mexico started introducing Marugoto. However, since Marugoto was geared for the general public, some adjustments had to be made for the school. There was a period of trial and error as the school's teachers worked with specialists from The Japan Foundation, Mexico. They repeated training and model classes and repeatedly created and implemented lesson plans.

Thanks to the mutual cooperation of the school and The Japan Foundation, Mexico, the results have exceeded expectations. Classes using Marugoto have introduced shodo (calligraphy), picnics, and other diverse Japanese culture. Workshops conducted by artists visiting Mexico for a Japan Foundation project are also held. Marugoto has proven to be so good that students who do not use Marugoto express envy at students in Marugoto classes. Due to such praise, from fiscal 2015, the use of Marugoto will be expanded to both the junior high and high school classes (total of 26 classes with 360 students).

Although this program still has many improvements to be made, we are encouraged by the students' eager faces in Marugoto classes and determined to improve the lessons.

Online Education Tools

Our website for assisting Japanese-language teachers provides content for making teaching materials and an online forum for knowledge sharing among teachers. We also have a website for learners to compliment whatever they are learning.

Marugoto+ (Marugoto Plus) Elementary 1 (A2) published.
Marugoto+ (Marugoto Plus) Starter (A1) grammar section added.

The Marugoto+ (Marugoto Plus) website to assist learners using Marugoto: Japanese-language and Culture has published Elementary 1 (A2) in June 2014 as a followup to last fiscal year's Starter (A1). This was in line with what continuing learners hoped for. The "Life & Culture" section of Elementary 1 (A2), which was originally in Japanese and English alone, now has an Indonesian version for the world's second highest number of Japanese-language learners. Also, the grammar section (Japanese, English, and Spanish versions) was added to Starter (A1) in October 2014.

To make it easier for people around the world to access the Marugoto+ (Marugoto Plus) website, a content delivery network (CDN) server has been employed.

Photo of Marugoto+ (Marugoto Plus) website home page
Marugoto+ (Marugoto Plus) website home page

Photo of Marugoto+ Elementary 1 (A2) top page
Marugoto+ Elementary 1 (A2) top page

Photo of Marugoto+ Elementary 1 (A2) Life & Culture
Marugoto+ Elementary 1 (A2) Life & Culture

NIHONGO-e-NA Users Increasing

NIHONGO-e-NA is a useful portal for learning Japanese and deepening your understanding of Japanese culture. In fiscal 2014, we continued to provide information through the PC website and iOS and Android apps. As a result, the number of users have been increasing. The PC site has 253 articles, while the apps have 44. Japanese-language learners around the world are using NIHONGO-e-NA.

Photo of NIHONGO-e-NA home page
NIHONGO-e-NA home page

Erin's Challenge! I can speak Japanese. website boasts more users around the world

Erin's Challenge! I can speak Japanese. is an e-learning website available in eight languages. In fiscal 2014, the site has been expanded to enable more Japanese-language learners around the world to have fun with Japanese-language and culture with Erin.

Photo of Erin's Challenge! I can speak Japanese. website
Erin's Challenge! I can speak Japanese. website

Minna no Kyozai Website Enhanced

The Minna no Kyozai website has been assisting Japanese-language teachers for 12 years. During fiscal 2014, in response to users' demands, more photos, illustrations, and reading comprehension materials were added, making the site even more useful.

Photo of Minna no Kyozai website: new reading material, "Nihon dewa Ima"
Minna no Kyozai website: new reading material, "Nihon dewa Ima"

Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)

The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) is a test for non-native Japanese speakers to gauge their Japanese-language proficiency. Examinees range widely, from young people to company employees. They use the test for measuring their Japanese-language proficiency, job promotions, university admission, etc. The Japan Foundation creates the tests and conducts them overseas. And the Japan Educational Exchanges and Services, the co-organizer of the JLPT, conducts the test in Japan.

The test is offered at five levels from N1 to N5, and examinees can choose the level best suited to their proficiency. The N1 and N2 levels consist of two sections: "Linguistic Knowledge (Characters, Vocabulary, Grammar) & Reading" and "Listening." The N3, N4, and N5 levels consist of three sections: "Linguistic Knowledge (Characters and Vocabulary)", "Linguistic Knowledge (Grammar) & Reading" and "Listening."

590,000 Examinees Worldwide

Test-taking statistics for fiscal 2014 are as follows:

  • First Session (July 6)
    Overseas: Conducted in 105 cities in 23 countries and regions. Approx. 207,000 examinees from 241,000 applicants.
    Japan: Conducted in 45 prefectures. Approx. 66,000 examinees from 71,000 applicants.
  • Second Session (December 7)
    Overseas: Conducted in 208 cities in 65 countries and regions. Approx. 243,000 examinees from 284,000 applicants.
    Japan: Conducted in 45 prefectures. Approx. 79,000 examinees from 86,000 applicants.

A Wider reach of JLPT

In fiscal 2014, the JLPT was conducted in more countries and cities than ever before.
First-time countries: South Africa (Johannesburg)
First-time cities: Wonju (Korea), Arwaïkheer (Mongolia), Columbus and Boulder (United States), Granada (Spain), Strasbourg (France), and Astrakhan (Russia)

Photo of Waiting for the test to start in Budapest
Waiting for the test to start in Budapest

Special Measures for Examinees

JLPT provides special measures for handicapped examinees. Based on the test taker's application and a medical certificate from a doctor, a screening is done by a specialist and the required special measures are decided. The special measures can be test questions and answer sheets in braille, enlarged test sheets, a magnifying glass, a longer test-taking time, a hearing aid for the listening test, or a separate room for taking the test. For the First Session, 78 examinees in Japan and overseas opted for a special measure. For the Second Session, 137 did so.

The JLPT official website also provides the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test Official Practice Workbook and other materials in braille.
http://www.jlpt.jp/tenji.htmlExternal link

Photo of Test taker using a CCTV to magnify the test sheet
Test taker using a CCTV to magnify the test sheet

Advantages of JLPT Certification

With a 30-year history, the JLPT has been used as a qualifying certification in ever-increasing cases. Universities in Japan and overseas use it to admit and graduate students, and for study-abroad programs. Companies use it to promote employees.

In accordance with Japan's Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA), nurse and care-worker candidates from Indonesia and the Philippines are required to attain the N5 level. Those from Vietnam need the N3 level. N1 certification holders are awarded 15 points by the Immigration Bureau of Japan in accordance with the Points-based System for Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals. The N1 certification is also a prerequisite for taking the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare's National Medical Practitioners Qualifying Examination and practical nurse exam.

Photo of A JLPT N3-level sample test question
A JLPT N3-level sample test question