Newsletter No. 54 (July 2009)

Conference Report: the Joint Conference of JSAA and ICJLE in Sydney, 13-17 July, 2009

Ayako Hatta
Japanese Studies Librarian
Monash University


From the right: Prof. Ikuo Kawakami from Waseda University, Japan and
Ms. Miho Inaba, Monash University PhD student and Ayako Hatta

The joint conference of Japanese Studies Association of Australia (JSAA) and International Conference on Japanese Language Education (ICJLE) brought together educators and researchers of the Japanese language and Japanese studies.  Indeed, there were nearly 600 participants from more than 20 countries around the world.

During this four day conference, I met, talked and discussed with many people over interesting sessions, relaxing tea times, lunches and dinners to broaden my knowledge and network.  I was very excited to know that so many educators and researchers around the world are involved in Japanese language and studies and influence many students through their everyday activities, especially to discover the current situation of active Japanese language education and to compare various methods, techniques and technologies to bring their students to a high level of Japanese language proficiency.

Here are some activities conducted in various university programs:

  • Volunteering program at primary schools and promotion activities (writing letters to politicians, attending events, writing articles in newsletters etc.) in the communities were included in the course so that the students can learn not only the language but also disciplinary rule, communication skills, culture and responsibilities in communities. < Portland State University, USA>

  • Oral communication skills, including the way of reporting, consulting and emailing with the knowledge of culture difference, is crucial in the real business world. The course has approached this by selecting some scripts of Japanese television dramas and analysing the scenes involving social rejections. This is to let the students expand their oral communication skills and introduce rules of communication in the Japanese business world.    < Tamkang University, Taiwan>

  • Implemented a communication program for advanced learners by playing roles of theatrical performance as a group.  After learning the theory of theatrical performance, they created their own script and performed and learnt the natural way of communication through acting.    < University of New South Wales, Australia>

  • Video conferencing between Japanese students learning English and American students learning Japanese.  A certain topic was selected in each lesson with face to face communication in pairs.  It became an effective way of learning each other’s culture and helping language problems.    <University of California, Irvine, USA>

  • A group discussion was conducted by Korean students and Japanese students through the notice board on the web.  Topics were selected by teachers, and the students communicated as a group.  Some topics were discussed harmoniously, but some topics produced differences of opinion and frustration.  It was a difficult moment for teachers to decide when they should get involved and guide the discussion.    <Keimyung University, South Korea>

Besides programs for language learning students, there was also a professional development project for teachers in the United States called Japanese Online Instructional Network for Teachers, using Web 2.0 interactive technology and conducted by free technology such as Google Apps, Skype, Google groups mailing list and Adobe connect Pro.  Their goals are to provide professional development and resources for creating content-based instruction (CBI) lessons, and to develop reading skills and content or cultural knowledge.  It was also reported by one of the participants that the course was very successful for learning the principles of CBI, to create their own reading materials with guidance and feedback from professional instructors, and sharing ideas with other participants.

The CBI approach is well known as one of the effective methods in language-learning. This method involves learning various subjects in the language that is being learnt.  For example, in Canada where the country has two official languages, English and French, this method is widely applied in public schools to achieve French language fluency.  At Monash University, learning how to use library resources in Japanese language is included in the advanced language class as a session.  Learning language through creative arts such as music, drama, arts, or any kind of interesting phenomenon in the society will attract students and help them to learn the language smoothly.

A library session was also included in this conference.  Currently available online databases and e-resources were introduced by University of Melbourne and the National Library of Australia.  It was pointed out that online full text databases are more in demand because of the lack of student interest in index only databases and limited document delivery services.  However, Japanese databases are only used by academic staff and students with a higher level of Japanese language proficiency as searching is time consuming with language difficulties.  Therefore, there is a great demand for English language database resources on Japan. 

Obtaining copyright permission of images for publications was introduced by the North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources.  They have created an “Image use protocol guide” explaining what to do for using images from Japan for publication.  It also includes a permission request letter template in both Japanese and English versions.

New online database products and several major newspaper databases that cover articles since the Meiji period (the past 135 years) were introduced by the Japanese vendors. It was also reported that the Japanese government has announced that the budget has included an allocation for improving e-resources and digitalization at a national level.  We can expect more online full text articles available in the near future.  Language and copyright issues have to be cleared as a priority, but it all depends on the use of the budget by the National Diet Library and the policy of publishers.

Another highlight of this conference was the discussion of bridging the gap between Japanese language and Japanese studies.  Japanese language has been mainly taught and learnt as building up language proficiency, and the aim is to improve communication skills for listening, speaking, reading and writing.  On the other hand, Japanese studies includes research about Japanese classic literature and interpretation, and one of the aims was to provide and share knowledge of language structure. Most of the panellists tend to agree that the trend in Japanese studies will be more towards specialised knowledge about Japan in combination with other subjects.  Japanese language as the medium of instruction will still be a popular part of Japanese studies, but English and other languages will take an important role in introducing Japanese studies to students.

In Australia in the past, the Japanese language was thought of as a rare and exotic language, but now all the efforts and achievements of Japanese educators and researchers have normalised the language and made it familiar. The Australian government even chose Japanese as one of the four key Asian languages in 1994 (The National Asian Languages and Studies in Australian Schools (NALSAS) Strategy).  This means that learning Japanese language for the aim of trade, economics, tourism and business is past, and we are now in the next era of using Japanese language to communicate and understand Japanese society, culture and people at a personal level.  It is also interesting to know that some Australians who have achieved a high level of Japanese language proficiency often move to learn Chinese and Korean as their third language. 

Most educators wish their students to be effective communicators, to be critical and analytical thinkers, and to be flexible and responsible in the community through learning Japanese language. Therefore libraries have a very important role to support educators, to provide current information of Japanese society, culture and people through library resources, and to meet students’ individual needs.

The great opportunity for me of joining this conference was to realise the importance of exploring with my information antenna through networking.  The Library has a vital role in selecting and keeping up-to-date resources to influence educators and researchers for further studies.  I am inspired to keep developing our Japanese collection and Japan related materials in English together with other Asian language collections at Monash University.


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