Creating Spaces for “Marugoto” Users (Teachers)

The Japan Cultural Institute in Cologne

It has been roughly eight years since the “Marugoto: Japanese Language and Culture” (hereinafter “Marugoto”), JF Standard for Japanese-Language Education-compliant teaching material, was first published in 2013. Additional resources completed during that time are the “MARUGOTO Plus” website, and the “Marugoto’s site ” offering downloadable support teaching materials and teaching materials for teachers. Furthermore, the “Marugoto Japanese Online Course” became available in eight languages in additional to the original Japanese via “JF Japanese e-learning Minato”, a Japanese-language learning platform operated by the Japan Foundation. Finally, a long-awaited e-book of “Marugoto” was published in 2020.

Meanwhile, thanks to the publication of the “Marugoto” in Germany by the Buske publishing company, the “Marugoto” is currently available at local German bookstores. The number of printed copies of “Marugoto” that are sold is apparently higher in Germany than in other European country, due to the strong demand for the use in Japanese-language classes offered to general adults via the so-called Adult Education Centre, a continuing education provider, and there has been almost no decline in the number of copies shipped to Germany despite the instability caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Germany is also responsible for the greatest number by far for downloads of the e-book version (from Google Play), yet another example of the popularity of “Marugoto” in Germany.

The Japan Cultural Institute in Cologne has been using “Marugoto” in our own Japanese-language course since the trial version, and even served as a model course to assist in the creation of the courseware while translating the support materials into German. Since the publication of “Marugoto,” the Institute has also been actively hosting “Marugoto”-themed teacher training programs throughout Germany, in cooperation with the Japanese teachers association in each region, to help as many Japanese-language teachers as possible to know about “Marugoto.” While the frequency of “Marugoto”-themed training program hosted by the Institute has declined since the publication of “Marugoto” Intermediate 2 (B2) in 2017, we have begun to receive inquiries from teachers who have been using the “Marugoto” teaching materials for some time regarding their questions and concerns, due in part to the fact that “Marugoto” does not follow the common teaching materials and style of gradually building grammar. There are also those who show an interest in using “Marugoto” but are experiencing anxiety and confusion about doing so.

Marugoto Seminars and Workshops

In March 2020, we held a “Marugoto” themed seminar to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Japan Cultural Institute in Cologne. The workshop was designed for everyone from experienced users to beginners, and those who were interested but still undecided about using “Marugoto.” It condensed the essence of the text, including theory and practice, and provided a demonstration class covering how to teach “Marugoto Katsudoo” and “Marugoto Rikai.” Comments from experienced users included that they were able to return to basics that they had forgotten about, while beginners and potential users said they were able to understand the concepts of “Marugoto.”

We then held an online “Marugoto” workshop entitled “Let’s Design ‘Marugoto’ Classes Online” one year later in March 2021. We held the workshop several times due to the large number of applications, and in the end, a total of more than 100 people participated in the workshops. While the majority of the participants had attended from within Germany to the previous year’s face to face workshop, the online workshop in 2021 was attended by participants from throughout Europe, including Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, and Belgium, who worked together to design their class programs. We intend to continuing offering these types of learning opportunities for teachers using “Marugoto,” and Japanese-language teachers interested in using “Marugoto,” at least once per year.

The picture of a scene from the “Marugoto” seminar
A scene from the “Marugoto” seminar

The picture of another scene from the “Marugoto” seminar
Another scene from the “Marugoto” seminar

The “Marugoto” Online Salon

In addition to the yearly seminars and workshops, we have also started the “Marugoto” Online Salon which encourages casual and carefree participation. My hope is that the Salon will help solve the concerns and fears of the teachers regarding their daily use of “Marugoto” in a casual atmosphere, but it is also becoming a place for teachers to share their classroom methods and for more experienced teachers to give advice to first time users. We also have a “What do you do when...” corner where we post information about what we do at the Japan Cultural Institute in Cologne for the given situation. To date, the Salon has been held in November 2020 and February 2021, with roughly 50 teachers applying to attend each time. We intend to continue the Salon at a pace of about three times per year. Incidentally, given that the Salon is held online, the teachers participate using “Marugoto” not only in Germany, but in countries throughout the world.

Given the current availability of the “Marugoto” website and online courses as well as downloadable support materials, “Marugoto” is both easy to use and easy to teach. However, despite the increasing number of teachers who use “Marugoto,” there are few opportunities for those users to interact and learn from each other. Therefore, I intend to continue building environments where the Japanese-language teachers who use “Marugoto” think that “I’m glad I used Marugoto” in Germany here where “Marugoto” is well accepted and used.

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