More Japanese teachers needed in ASEAN, Abe is told

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

An expert panel to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed bolstering support for Japanese-language education in ASEAN countries by increasing the number of teachers, as more people in the region are learning Japanese.

The proposal, submitted to Abe on Monday, calls for boosting the dispatch of Japanese-language teachers by utilizing university and graduate students, as well as seniors, to work for up to one year in member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Preliminary figures by the Japan Foundation in July show many ASEAN members saw a rise in the number of people studying Japanese in 2012. Among them, Indonesia had 872,000 learners, up 21.8 percent from 2009, Thailand had 129,000, up 64.5 percent, and Malaysia had 33,000, up 44.7 percent.

As a benefit for learning the language, the panel urged the government to cooperate with domestic firms to create job opportunities for those who studied Japanese.

The 11-member panel, headed by University of Tokyo professor emeritus Masayuki Yamauchi, and whose members include director Takeshi Kitano and fashion designer Junko Koshino, also called for enhancing cultural exchanges.

The panel stressed that Japan should strengthen efforts not only to promote Japanese culture in the region but also to import that of ASEAN countries via TV programs, films and animation.

It urged the government to work hand in hand with relevant organizations in the ASEAN region for cultural preservation and inheritance.

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    So not: More Japanese need to learn a foreign language beyond the level of reciting verb tables and basic greetings? More foreigners need to learn the language of a country whose population is about to decline by a third in the next 40 years. Right.

    • Esther

      Makes sense, declining population will need to import a new workforce of young people, no?

    • Expat88

      If the countries in question are seeking out Japanese language proficiency, I don’t really think this is any kind of linguistic imperialism.

      For example, my town has a partnership with an Indonesian town, and my office just had a visiting Indonesian studying Japanese with us.

      To the east, we have a LOT of Asian students at the agricultural school studying various things for their government’s benefit.

      That’s not even getting into the money that’s going to places like Bali or Guam where almost everyone in the tourist industry speaks some Japanese for work.

      Normally, I’d be on your side with this one. Japan needs to work on their xenophobia and J-privilege – I do agree. But I think in this case, this might actually be something good Japan is contributing to the world.

      You’re right, insofar as anything to do with Abe’s hawkish government needs to be taken with a grain of salt – this DOES sound like a whole lot more of Japan’s tendency to ask foreigners to praise them at every opportunity, but, really, I think they’re at least TRYING here.