Gov’t drafts guidelines for teaching Japanese to foreign residents

A government subcommittee has drafted guidelines for the first time on teaching Japanese to foreign residents of Japan in order to support them in their daily lives, government officials said Thursday.

The draft guidelines compiled by a Council for Cultural Affairs subcommittee lists examples of words and phrases that foreigners should be encouraged to learn for smooth communication in 10 main types of situations, including health care, travel and activities related to consumption and safety.

The main types are subdivided into 48 categories in which recommended words and phrases are situated in more concrete scenarios such as how to use trains and medicines in Japan.

The number of registered foreign residents in Japan stood at around 2.22 million at the end of 2008, according to the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Justice.

Many government officials concerned with language education believe it would be desirable for at least 1 million of the foreign residents to learn Japanese so that they can live their lives smoothly.

However, there has been no previous attempt to compile government standards on the extent to which foreign residents should learn Japanese.

The draft, due to be submitted shortly to the Japanese language division of the Council for Cultural Affairs, estimates that the total learning period under the proposed guidelines would be around 60 hours.

“(The curriculum) would mean a great deal if it serves to demonstrate the government’s intention to support foreigners living in Japan for a long period,” says Takeshi Yoshitani, a professor who heads Tokyo Gakugei University’s Center for Research in International Education.

Public support will be necessary for foreign residents to secure the 60 hours of learning, he added.