Language teachers to go to U.S. for exchanges

Kyodo News

Japan will beef up people-to-people exchanges with the United States this year by dispatching young teachers of the Japanese language and English to the country, government officials said Friday.

Tokyo will launch new programs to send those teachers in the fiscal year starting in April amid concerns that bilateral ties could weaken with declines in the number of Japanese students enrolled at U.S. universities and cuts in the Japanese budget for a project to invite American and other foreign university graduates to teach English at Japanese schools.

The government has earmarked ¥500 million in the fiscal 2011 budget to send 100 Japanese teachers of the English language aged 40 or younger to U.S. universities to learn English teaching methods for six months, the officials said.

The government-linked Japan Foundation, which offers training programs for Japanese language teachers abroad, will newly start Japanese language courses for the general public in Los Angeles and New York. Young Japanese teachers will be sent to those cities to teach a few thousand students annually.

The teacher dispatch program is in line with Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s pledge last November in his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama to effect bilateral exchanges of several thousand people over five years.

Kan’s initiative also includes sending young Japanese researchers to the United States, inviting U.S. Asian study experts to Japan and promoting short visits to Japan by American students.