The Tokyo Foundation Sponsored 15th Symposium on Japanese Language Education in Europe
The 15 th Symposium on Japanese Language Education in Europe was held at the University of Bucharest, Romania, for three days this summer from August 25, 2010. This symposium is an annual meeting on Japanese language education organized by the Association of Japanese Language Teachers in Europe, an association of Japanese language teaching professionals from all around Europe, and a local association of Japanese teachers of the country where the meeting is being held. As the core members of the Association of Japanese Language Teachers in Romania, the co-sponsor of this time’s symposium, were teachers at the Japanese language section of the University of Bucharest, the first university to be endowed with the Nippon Foundation Fund for Japanese Language Education Program , the Tokyo Foundation agreed to provide cooperation to the symposium.
This year, the symposium gathered 150 people from not only Europe, but from a total of 30 countries around the world including Japan, South Korea, and the United States. The participants engaged in lively discussions centering on the symposium’s theme of “Japanese Language Education in the Age of Globalization – Collaboration across Linguistic and Cultural Areas: Towards Collaboration between Native and Non-native Teachers.” Many teachers from the University of Bucharest also gave presentations on their research. In order to help promote Japanese language education in Europe, a region highly advanced in language education, the Tokyo Foundation had been supporting the project on the oral Japanese assessment, and the translation of software for Japanese kanji learning into the local languages. The accomplishments of such projects were also reported at the symposium.
In addition to sponsoring the symposium, the Tokyo Foundation invited Ms. Madoka Mayuzumi to give a special lecture there. A renowned Haiku poet, Ms. Mayuzumi has been appointed Japan Cultural Envoy by Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs, and she is actively engaged in this assignment in France and other parts of Europe. Under the title of “ Haiku: The Heart of Japan in 17 Syllables ,” she gave a talk on the eloquent expressiveness of the Japanese language and the power of words.
Special Lecture by Madoka Mayuzumi
At the symposium Ms. Mayuzumi, while explaining the Haiku feature of following a formal pattern and including a word depicting the season, also spoke about Japan’s unique culture and the Japanese sense of aesthetics and view of nature. Looking at the season word “rain,” for instance, she said that there are over 400 ways to express this in the Japanese language, with the different kinds of rain falling in the four seasons reflecting the emotions of the Japanese. By learning the rich vocabulary cultivated by the Japanese from days of old, you will come to see what you had been missing up to now. This is the power of words.
We received many comments by the Japanese language teachers who attended the special lecture. Among them, “This talk on the power of words encouraged me in my work as a language teacher,” and “It was a thrilling talk that sent shivers up my spine. Not only was I reawakened to the beauty and richness of the Japanese language, but it showed me the importance of maintaining such sensitivities when teaching.”
Launch of the University of Bucharest Center for Japanese Studies
The opening ceremony for the University of Bucharest Center for Japanese Studies was also held at the symposium. With the aim to nurture young researchers of Japan, this center plans to conduct joint research with universities of Japan and Europe and undertake activities such as hosting international symposiums. At the foundation of firm research on Japan would be Japanese language proficiency to read and understand the research materials in their original form. The Japanese language section of the university had successfully built the educational foundation to teach its students such high Japanese language skills, and had then followed by opening the Center for Japanese Studies for further advancement in research on Japan. This is a fine example of what 16 years of contribution by the Nippon Foundation Fund for Japanese Language Education Program can achieve.
Speech by Hideki Kato, President of the Tokyo Foundation
Hideki Kato, President of the Tokyo Foundation, delivered a congratulatory address at the center’s opening ceremony. Click here for a summary of the speech.