The Kanagawa Prefectural Government is opening a language and cultural institute in Yokohama in January to help foreign residents learn basic Japanese, while assisting schoolteachers and local government officials as they try to deal with foreign residents.

Kokusai Gengo Bunka Akademia will also offer training to English- and other foreign-language teachers as well as lectures on foreign languages and cultures.

With some teaching staff expected to come from the Kanagawa Prefectural College of Foreign Studies — which will close at the end of the 2010 academic year through March — officials expect that the facility will be popular with people wanting to nurture their understanding of languages and cultures and help Japanese and foreign residents live in harmony.

“We hope the facility will be used by as many people as possible,” said Kosuke Ishii, a prefectural government official. “We also wish people to inform their friends and people in need of the facility and use it.”

The institute, to be established in the Kanagawa Plaza for Global Citizenship, known as Earth Plaza, in Sakae Ward, will offer a Japanese course for foreign parents and young children, primarily preschoolers. The class will accept around five families and will be held about six times. The lessons are free, Ishii said.

After April, the institute will offer other Japanese classes for foreign adults and children. Lecturers will teach them basic Japanese so they will later be able to catch up with classmates at their community language classes, Ishii said.

Each class will be held around five to 10 times with about five to 10 students. There will be a charge for the textbook, he said.

Ishii said the prefectural government is considering application procedures so they will be easy and accessible for foreign residents.

The institute will provide lectures for schoolteachers, local government officials on how to help foreign residents, and Japanese teaching volunteers on how to teach their students effectively, he said.

The prefectural government is starting these programs because the number of foreign residents in Kanagawa has jumped 2.3 times to about 175,000 as of the end of last year from around 77,000 in 1990.

“Many foreign residents of the prefecture do not understand Japanese and find their daily lives inconvenient,” the prefectural government said in a statement, adding that the purpose of its policies is to make their lives in the community easier.

Noting that residents now interact daily with people from different cultures, the institute will offer foreign-language and cultural courses.

The institute will also help train teachers ahead of the introduction of classes taught in English at elementary schools and high schools in accordance with central government policy.

In addition, the institute will train high school lecturers that teach foreign languages other than English.

The institute plans to have around 20 teachers and expects about 7,000 people to participate annually, Ishii said. It will have a hall with capacity for around 300 people, four rooms with a capacity of 70, 10 rooms that can seat 10, and five rooms that can seat 20.

“Kokusai Gengo Bunka Akademia will attempt to promote mutual international understanding so that people of different nationalities and races will acknowledge the differences of their respective cultures and backgrounds, and contribute to realizing multicultural cohabitation in which they live together as equal members of the local community,” the prefectural government said.

Inquiries will be accepted in Japanese either by telephone at (045) 210-3790 or at the prefectural government’s web-site at www.pref.kanagawa.jp/sosiki/kenmin/0203/index.html

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