Skip to main content

Japanese-Language Education Overseas

Building Japanese-Language Education Infrastructure Overseas

Promoting the JF Standard for Japanese-Language Education

To understand each other in a form of language, 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 assessment 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 2013, second printings of the second editions of the JF Standard for Japanese-Language Education 2010 and the JF Standard 2010 User's Guide were published and distributed at the above-mentioned occasions. We also launched a new page on the JF Standard website introducing a series of coursebooks titled "Marugoto: Japanese Language and Culture" (hereinafter, "Marugoto"), designed based on the JF Standard. The page has been improved in order for the website's users to get familiar with Marugoto as well as for Marugoto users to know more about the information on the JF Standard. Further, 56 "JF Marugoto can-do statements" describing Marugoto's learning objectives were added to the Minna no "Can-do" website to expand the site's database.

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

Image of JF Standard Tree
JF Standard Tree
Figure of Japanese-language proficiency levels defined by the JF Standard
Japanese-language proficiency levels defined by the JF Standard
(click the image to enlarge)

Publication and sale of Marugoto: Japanese Language and Culture

The coursebook Marugoto was developed by the Japan Foundation based on the JF Standard as a framework for assessing Japanese ability, setting levels of study, setting learning goals and evaluation methods. The word Marugoto means "whole" or "everything", and was chosen as the title of the coursebook because the course encompasses both language and culture, features communication between people in a range of situations, and allows users to experience a variety of aspects of Japanese life and culture. With these concepts of Marugoto, Starter A1 — the first coursebook was offered for sale in September 2013.

In November a seminar for introducing Marugoto's contents and teaching methods was held in Tokyo, and in December in Osaka.

We are currently aiming to offer for sale in the following levels: Elementary 1 A2, Elementary 2 A2, Pre-intermediate A2/B1, and to publish trial version of Intermediate 1 B1.

Cover Photo of "Marugoto: Japanese Language and Culture"
Marugoto: Japanese Language and Culture (Starter A1 - coursebook for communicative language activities: Katsudo / coursebook for communicative language competences: Rikai)

Photo of the seminar for introducing Marugoto Starter A1 in Osaka on 14 December 2013
A situation of the seminar for introducing Marugoto Starter A1 in Osaka (on 14 December 2013).

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 current needs of Japanese-language education overseas, we have been expanding the Japanese-language course (JF Language Course) since 2011 to also target the general public.

The Japanese-Language Education Institution Survey conducted in fiscal 2012 found that the number of people learning Japanese overseas had increased. Rather than studying Japanese for a practical purpose such as studying or working in Japan, many of them were pursuing a personal interest in the language or in Japanese pop culture such as J-pop music, anime, and manga. This segment has increased compared to the previous survey's number.

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 2013, over 16,000 people took the JF Language Course at the Japan Foundation's 23 overseas branches and seven Japan Centers. In fiscal 2014, the JF Language Course will be offered in Cambodia so they can learn the Japanese language and culture.

Photo of JF Language Course

Cultural Japanese Course

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

The Japan Foundation, New Delhi held the "Learning Japanese with Maiko" lecture and demonstration by two maikos and their okami manager in February 2014. They demonstrated Japanese buyo dance and tea ceremony. The okami explained about the geisha world, the maiko's clothing, and taught some expressions from the Kyoto dialect. A Q&A session with the maiko also made it eventful to standing-room-only crowds each time.

Since many Japanese companies have expanded to India in recent years, local interest in Japanese culture and language has been increasing. However, people in India still have few opportunities to directly encounter Japanese culture and Japanese people. This maiko event therefore became a precious and memorable opportunity for many local people who saw the maiko's dances, mannerisms, and speech in person. The experience was something that can never be experienced through the Internet or other media.

Photo of two maikos at the 'Learning Japanese with Maiko' lecture and demonstration

Cover Photo of "Survey Report on Japanese-Language Education Abroad 2012"

Survey Report on Japanese-Language Education Abroad 2012

Every three years, the Japan Foundation conducts a worldwide survey called Japanese-Language Education Survey. It is to grasp the current state of Japanese-language education and to help formulate future policies. The survey was conducted in 2012 and the results have been summarized in a publicly available report called Survey Report on Japanese-Language Education Abroad 2012.

This 2012 edition of the Survey Report (main book) and summary booklets in Japanese and English were published in fiscal 2013. Summary excerpts were also published separately.

The summary excerpts are available online:

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.

Spanish Version of Marugoto+ Starter (A1) and Sister Site Marugoto no Kotoba Online

A Spanish version of the Marugoto+ Starter (A1) website has opened to assist learners using Marugoto: Japanese Language and Culture. It joins the existing Japanese and English versions.

We also started a new website called Marugoto no Kotoba which summarizes the vocabulary and expressions used in the textbooks. It is of practical use for many learners by displaying romanized words and enabling searches with romanized words. They can also download illustrations showing basic words.

Image of Marugoto no Kotoba website.
Home page of Marugoto no Kotoba website.

Introducing apps for iOS and Android on NIHONGO-e-NA

Image of NIHONGO-e-NA page for iOS devices
NIHONGO-e-NA page for iOS devices

As smartphones and tablets get popular, people can now learn Japanese almost anytime and anywhere. We added lists of useful applications for iOS and Android devices to NIHONGO-e-NA web site. We will continue providing information about online content for learning Japanese.

Japanese in Anime & Manga Users Increasing

All the content in the Japanese in Anime & Manga website got available in 2011. Many users come from Facebook and by word-of-mouth which keeps spreading. The Japan Foundation's overseas offices also offer Japanese classes based on the Japanese in Anime & Manga theme.

Image of "Quiz: Whose line?" from the website "Japanese in Anime & Manga"
Quiz: Whose line? from Japanese in Anime & Manga.

Revised Culture Quiz at Erin's Challenge! I can speak Japanese. website

Since we added the Indonesian and French versions, the number of the website users has been growing. The Culture Quiz now offers quizzes about modern Japan and useful functions. The a-i-u-e-o table with ruby characters has also been added. The site has been expanded to enable more Japanese-language learners to have fun with Japanese language and culture with Erin.

Image of Culture Quiz Section 8 (Japanese food quiz), from "Erin's Challenge! I can speak Japanese." website.
Culture Quiz Section 8 (Japanese food quiz), from Erin's Challenge! I can speak Japanese. website.

Minna no Kyozai website Enhanced

Photo of Facebook page of Minna no Kyozai
Notice of new photos added to Minna no Kyozai (via SNS).

The Minna no Kyozai website has been assisting Japanese-language teachers and it has been 11 years since the launch. During fiscal 2013, new photos, illustrations and reading comprehension materials were added to the site. Other improvements such as layout change were also made.

Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)

The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) is a test given in various countries and regions around the world for non-native Japanese speakers. People of all ages from elementary school students to company employees take the JLPT for measuring their Japanese-language proficiency, university admission, employment, job promotions, etc.

570,000 Test Takers Worldwide

The JLPT evaluates and certifies the Japanese proficiency of non-native speakers. The test is offered at five levels from N1 to N5, and test takers can choose the level best suited to their proficiency. N1 and N2 tests consist of two sections: "Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar) & Reading" and "Listening". N3, N4, and N5 tests consist of three sections: "Language Knowledge (Vocabulary)", "Language Knowledge (Grammar) & Reading" and "Listening". The Japan Foundation creates the tests and conducts them overseas. Japan Educational Exchanges and Services, the co-organizer of the JLPT, conducts the test in Japan.

In 2013, the JLPT was conducted in July and December. Test statistics are as follows:

  • First Session (July 7)
    Overseas: Conducted in 101 cities in 21 countries and regions. Approx. 200,000 test takers from 230,000 applicants.
    Japan: Conducted in 42 prefectures. Approx. 60,000 test takers from 65,000 applicants.
  • Second Session (December 1)
    Overseas: Conducted in 202 cities in 63 countries and regions. Approx. 240,000 test takers from 280,000 applicants.
    Japan: Conducted in 44 prefectures. Approx. 70,000 test takers from 75,000 applicants.

A Wider reach of JLPT

The JLPT was conducted in more countries and cities, and the number of times which the test was given increased this fiscal year as well. In December, the JLPT was conducted for the first time in Algiers, Algeria and Antananarivo, Madagascar. In Indonesia, the July test was newly started in Manado in addition to seven other cities which have already been selected as test sites. In Cambodia, Siem Reap joined Phnom Penh for the December test. The opportunities to take the JLPT increased to twice in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Photo of JLPT N3 sample test questions.
JLPT N3 sample test questions.

Expanding JLPT Online Presence

To make the JLPT more accessible to Japanese-language learners, its online presence has been expanded. Online applications have already been available in Japan and ten other countries and regions including Korea and China. In fiscal 2013, the online admission service covered tests held at cities in Australia and at Hamburg, Germany. All overseas examinees and examinees in Japan who turned in their applications via the Internet can view their test results online. The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test Official Practice Workbook (including Listening Section audio files) can also be downloaded from the JLPT official website: External link

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. The Immigration Bureau of Japan also awards points for N1 certification holders. In accordance with the Points-based System for Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals, they were previously awarded with 10 points, but the number of points increased to 15 points since December 2013.

In the second issue of the JLPT Bulletin (February 2014), past test takers who are currently active in Japan discuss how JLPT certification was advantageous or required for school admission, graduation and/or employment, and how it helped them in schools and careers. External link

Photo of the Test site in China
Test conducted in China.

Photo of the Test site in Thailand
Test conducted in Thailand.