Yomiuri: Govt to help NJ primary- and secondary-ed students learn Japanese


Hi Blog. Speaking of language requirements for visa renewals, this may be good news, albeit it only applies to youth (very good news in itself). Sorry I left this article sitting in my inbox for so long. Friend who sent me this has this comment immediately below. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

There is one line that bothers me though: “Because these students do not speak Japanese, some have had trouble fitting in with classmates, which has led to behavior problems or even crimes.” They just had to throw that in. Reminds me of the anti-Mexican comments my grandfather is always sending me.

Govt to help foreign students learn Japanese
The Yomiuri Shimbun Nov. 6, 2007

The Education, Science and Technology Ministry will launch a program to help the increasing number of foreign students at public primary, middle and high schools to acquire Japanese language skills.

Currently, local governments handle Japanese language education for foreign students at public schools.

The ministry plans to provide financial and other support to the local governments to employ part-time instructors, who are proficient both in Japanese and a foreign language, with the goal of enhancing students’ understanding in classes and Japanese lessons.

According to the ministry, foreign nationals at public primary, middle and high schools throughout the country numbered 70,936 as of May 2006.

Of those students, 22,413 at a total of 5,475 schools did not understand Japanese sufficiently to absorb their lessons.

The number of these students increased by 8.3 percent from the previous year, and had been increasing annually.

Since the Immigration Control Law was revised to permit the employment of ethnic-Japanese foreign nationals for unskilled jobs in 1990, a growing number of people have come to Japan from South America.

Portuguese, spoken in Brazil, is the most common language among foreign students at 38 percent, followed by Chinese at 20 percent and Spanish at 15 percent.

Because these students do not speak Japanese, some have had trouble fitting in with classmates, which has led to behavior problems or even crimes.

The ministry is taking the increase in problems associated with Japanese language ability seriously and decided the central government needs to support local governments in this concern.

It has included 1.96 billion yen in its budget request for the next fiscal year for hiring about 1,600 bilingual instructors around the country by the end of that year.

(Nov. 6, 2007)

10 comments on “Yomiuri: Govt to help NJ primary- and secondary-ed students learn Japanese

  • “Because these students do not speak Japanese, some have had trouble fitting in with classmates, which has led to behavior problems or even crimes.” Debito, I couldn’t agree with you more.
    Case in point: Friday Feb 22 2008 1930h on NHK General after the news they had a regular show called “Navigation” which usually deals with some aspect of life in Japan. Yesterday’s was “The Problem of Foreigners” in Izumi-shi, Toyama-ken. Many Pakistani and Russians have opened legitimate used-car-for-export businesses, taking unwanted Japanese vehicles and sending them overseas. They are legally in Japan, speak excellent Japanese, and the pay their taxes. But Japanese townsfolk took a 135,000 strong petition to protest their very existence among them. Kids are escorted to school for “fear of foreigners” and pamphlets are handed out at shopping centers to warn people about “the foreigners” among them. The biggest problem the foreigners have caused is a little on-road parking, but that was solved. The show dripped pure and total xenophobia. It doesn’t matter how well one speaks Japanese. The “fitting-in” is not the foreigners problem. It’s that they’re NOT ALLOWED into the group, no matter if they twist themselves into a pretzel to try and comply. Izumi proved that they just don’t want foreigners. I reckon that it is a microcosm of the country as a whole.

  • This are excellent news in my opinion. Finally biggest barrier to integration, language, is going to be taken into account by the government. This, with the plans for expedited visa with japanese language knowledge, looks like Japan is taking baby steps towards integration of NJ. A antidiscrimination law (specially for fudosans) would be very welcomed too.

  • Scott Reynolds says:

    This is certainly very welcome. My son was fortunate to have the advantage of extra tutoring that was provided by our local government (Shibuya-ku, Tokyo) when he was in grade school. This took the form of a part-time teacher who came to the school to assist my son and the other kids without native level Japanese skills (some of whom, like my son, are not “foreign,” BTW) several days each week, and special Japanese classes on Saturdays at a central location. Some families we knew who lived in other wards of Tokyo did not have such resources available, though they certainly would have benefited from them.

    Let’s hope this program really takes off. It is long overdue.

    I would question the emphasis on “bilingual” teachers, however. The point of these programs is to help the kids with their Japanese, not to give the teachers a chance to practice their English (or Portuguese or whatever). If the kids are living in Japan it is likely that they can understand basic Japanese, though perhaps not enough to keep up with their classes. A sympathetic tutor can be a real lifesaver in cases like this, explaining things slowly and clearly in a way the kid can understand. There is no need for simultaneous interpretation. In fact, it can serve as a crutch and be harmful in the long run.

    Young children can pick up a new language very quickly, but they sometimes need help for the first several months until they acclimate to the new environment and way of doing things. This was certainly the case with my son, and he definitely benefited from the tutoring that was made available to him.

  • Because these students do not speak Japanese, some have had trouble fitting in with classmates, which has led to behavior problems or even crimes
    What?! In my experience, thinking about ALL the foreign students I encounter weekly, there are perhaps 2 among the 30 or so who could be considered “boisterous” but they are still nowhere in the league of the rest of the students around them! These foreign students are more polite, studious and well behaved than the rest of the school around them. The usual situation is they’re terrified of their classmates who behave like animals while the teachers do NOTHING to control them …! Or they’re emotionally so much more mature that they simply don’t want to mix with their classmates. Or …

    Anecdotal evidence, sure, but I bet that’s more ‘research’ than the Yomiuri did >:-(

  • Self-correction: The name of the city in Toyama, which I mistakenly referred to as “Izumi-shi” should be “Haya-mizu-shi.” My kanji are not up to scratch, gomen-nasai! DR

  • DR this is very bad situation. When we look through everyday`s news and the one here, the only thing I can think of is GoJ try to show they want to do something “good”, but at the same time they “warn” people against foreigners, they make people to scare us and so on. First of all media which are fully controlled by GoJ have power in this country and whatever they show people believe, at least most of them do. I`m wondering where all of these 135,000 signatures on petition will be sent, what will be done about it? As DR said, even if you try to fit, you will be refused anyway. This is the same with Japanese Citizenship. What`s different? Only “red book” (paper) That`s it. You are still foreigner and very sad is that sometimes kids are thought to avoid us, though their own citizens kill own or someone`s kids. I`m happy that government try, but it won`t change peoples mind from day one. This is just about money and to show in statistic how many foreigners learn our Beautiful Country language.

  • Adam, yes, it’s bad. Maybe unscientifically, and maybe devoid of any logic, but this is how I try to make sense of serious crime numbers in Japan. I’m talking of assault and death by assault here.
    Check http://www.japantoday.com/jp/news/429135 February 25th 2008 for an average day of news in Japan. The usual mixed bag, no particularly unusual crime on the main page or the sidebars.
    So, today we have 2 reported attacks, and the day isn’t over yet. One confirmed killed by his brother, with two injured but alive. Another is a firearms related mob-hit, par for the course. If we take today as an average day and extrapolate a bit we get something like this:
    Daily attacks two. Sometimes more. Number of deaths, usually two. Sometimes more. Number of injured two. Sometimes more. It’s rarely less than these numbers. This is just one news source. I often have occasion to see the regional round-up of local stories on BS1 from 1300h-1400h M-F. And many of the other stories of assault, assault resulting in death or other serious injury never make it to the page linked above, nor any of the online pages for the main English language dailies.
    But, to err on the conservative side, my accounting gives me about 180 people dead every quarter. This doesn’t account for the multiples of deaths in a single attack that we hear about more and more frequently. I am sure the real number is closer to or above 200. I don’t have the numbers from the J-police, but I’d guess that they are higher than mine, as they have a fuller picture of events. (And these are just the cases that are reported.) I haven’t even included cases of child physical and sexual abuse in these numbers. Seems like it is an unaddressed and spreading problem here. Much like the suicide problem.
    It is most disconcerting to me the level of hullabaloo that gets raised about the odd event involving non-Japanese, many of which are not proven. The individual is vilified in the press simply because of nationality, and publicly convicted before trial.
    In the NHK show from Toyama last week the very existence of the guys who’d set up shop selling used cars was the source of the problem. And they’d committed no crime, except to be of a different ethnic group and of a different nationality. Yup, it’s bad! In one scene in they showed a Japanese woman who turned her back to the camera said, “I can’t walk down that road there. It’s full of foreigners.” Friendly, bilingual and business savvy foreigners, but foreigners, ergo bad. Brought back memories of South Africa’s “Whites Only” signs.
    Might I suggest yet again, that foreigners are not the source of Japan’s crime problems? Statistically, the law of numbers precludes that possibility. But we’re not talking logic here. We’re talking about fear based on ignorance. Sometimes chosen ignorance.

    –Of course, I completely agree, and I have been arguing that on Debito.org for quite some time now: That NJ crime receives an inordinate amount of J media attention. Then again, I consider Okinawa a special case–I think they’ve suffered on many fronts due to the US Forces there, and it comes to a head every time some beigun acts irresponsibly.

    Anyway, the thing I don’t understand is why people think Japanese society is any different than any other in terms of crime. It happens every day. Is everyone, J and NJ, so invested into the narrative of Japan being some kind of inordinately “peaceful society” that crime, essentially inevitable in any society (especially one of this size), comes out in such stark relief? I wish Japan would stop tying allegedly low crime statistics (along with, say, Japan’s artificially low unemployment statistics) into some sort of nationalist point of pride…

  • Grant Mahood says:

    “Because these students do not speak Japanese, some have had trouble fitting in with classmates, which has led to behavior problems or even crimes.”

    What I find interesting about this sentence is that it’s unclear who, Japanese students or non-Japanese, have behavior problems and commit crimes due to the non-Japanese students’ difficulty with the Japanese language. Is the Yomiuri so biased against non-Japanese that its writers and editors can’t imagine that the sentence could be taken in any way except that non-Japanese are the ones exhibiting behavior problems and are the culprits of the crimes?

    Or does the Yomiuri have such a low opinion of its readers that they are expected to simply assume that any trouble that occurs between Japanese students and their non-Japanese classmates has to be the fault of the non-Japanese?

    (And if the facts do reveal that non-Japanese were actually the victims, I suppose that we would be expected to think, “Well, their Japanese classmates were provoked into attacking them by their poor language ability. We don’t want any troublemakers in the classroom who provoke attacks by being different.”)

    I would like the meaning of the last half of that sentence to be clarified.

  • Grant, you’ve hit a nail on the head. I will go and search my extricated hard-disk for letters to the Yomiuri on which I’ve been cc’d. One, never published if memory serves me correctly, lists 10 or 12 crimes by Japanese against Japanese on the page 2 sidebar (English Daily Yomiuri) but the same issue’s page 1 headline read “Government to act to stem crime by Brazilians.” Give me a day or two and I’ll see if I can retrieve it. Anyhow, the p2 list (100% J criminals) and the p1 headline were so juxtaposed as to be humourous. If they weren’t so tragic!

    –This is the sociology of crime. If J do it, oh well–can’t do much about it–they’re citizens and we can’t kick them out. If NJ do it, well, they shouldn’t be here in the first place if they’re going to be criminals… easier to justify policy. Debito

  • Does anyone know where I can obtain statistics on crimes committed AGAINST foreigners?

    I have been a “victim” of theft twice and reported it to the police…so they have a report somewhere, and following the logic, other reports by foreign victims as well. So if they know how many crimes are commited BY FOREIGNERS, then they should also know how many were commited AGAINST FOREIGNERS. In fact, the later should be easy to calculate by the aproximating method of looking for katakana(ized) names on police reports.

    I would really like to conduct a comparative study but am having trouble locating these stats of foreign victims of crime (assuming they exsist somewhere). The police (as usual) have been of zero help….basically stating that they keep no such stats (in Shizuoka-ken).

    Any leads? email me diectly…. jon@imaginationink.biz


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