Tertiary Japanese studies educators from around New Zealand at the Manawatū campus.

 

Teaching Japanese to Gen Z


 

Creating language communities and using animated visual tools to teach grammar were among ideas canvassed during a weekend workshop for Japanese language teachers held at the Manawatū campus recently.

The workshop was for New Zealand tertiary level educators in Japanese studies. It focused on how to attract and engage Generation Z, the children born since the mid-1990s as they enter universities and polytechnics.

Titled Tertiary Japanese language education in New Zealand – are we giving Generation Z what they want?, the workshop was co-hosted by the School of Humanities and Japanese Studies Aotearoa New Zealand (JSANZ), and funded by the Japan Foundation, with support from the Sasakawa Fellowship Fund for Japanese Language Education.

Former New Zealand Ambassador to Tokyo Ian Kennedy said in his opening speech that "Gen Z-ers"  inhabited a more globally-connected world and that Japan and New Zealand had a special relationship with many opportunities. “It's a big, wide world out there and the more it becomes a global village the more important it is that the new generation of New Zealanders is well prepared to step into it with confidence,” Mr Kennedy told workshop participants.

He said real fluency in any language requires an understanding of the culture, and students of Japanese language have a head start because New Zealanders and Japanese people get along well. “In addition to being the third largest economy in the world, Japan is a fabulous place to visit and it's safe. Its state-of-the-art social media and creative industry sits alongside some of the most progressive trading companies and manufacturing industry in the world."

Keynote speaker Professor Chihiro Thomson, from the University of New South Wales, shared details of an approach at her institution to encourage Japanese language students to use the language in their daily lives, through communities of practice. She said the students’ participation in the scheme connected them with classmates, teaching staff, members of the Sydney Japanese community and also prepared them for future participation in their respective professional workplaces.

The University of Auckland’s Harumi Minagawa discussed a method of presenting Japanese grammar using animated Power Point slides, which has greater appeal than text-based explanations of grammar and linguistic jargon for visual media-oriented young people.

Massey Japanese Language Programme convenor Dr Penny Shino presented the findings and recommendations of last year's Sasakawa Report on New Zealand Japanese language education, which was prompted by a downtown in the numbers of learners of Japanese at secondary and tertiary level. It contained recommendations for projects, activities and research to ensure Japanese language education in New Zealand can recover and thrive.

“It was a really energising and productive workshop with some awesome ideas for teaching and inspiring our students,” Dr Shino says. “Everyone had a can-do attitude about encouraging Japanese and all language studies in New Zealand."

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