Japanese lessons immerse Emirati pupils in language and culture of the East

Teachers recruited from Japan in government school trial

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More than 250 pupils at three UAE public schools have embraced the Japanese language since it was introduced in a trial two years ago.

Secondary Model School for Boys in Sharjah is one of three in the UAE to have introduced Japanese classes for pupils in Grade 9 and Grade 10 — aged 14 and 15 — following a collaboration between the Emirates Schools Establishment (ESE) and Japan International Cooperation Centre.

Spoken by more than 120 million people, learning Japanese has helped broaden the pupils' minds and prepare them for a better future, said Zaina Al Hassooni, deputy academic director at Secondary Model School.

As well as learning a new language, pupils are being introduced to a different culture, Ms Al Hassooni added.

I love the country and love my classes. I believe I may remain here longer than I expected
Hozumi Takigawa, teacher

“Many parents felt proud when they saw their children expressing themselves in Japanese,” she said.

“It's a step forward to achieve the vision and aspirations of the country which believes that today's pupils are the leaders of tomorrow.

“Japan is among the world's pioneering countries in most fields and our children's knowledge of the Japanese language will pave the way for them to shape a better future.”

She said learning the language could help pupils with scholarships in Japan to pursue higher education.

Excited to learn

In one class of 22 pupils at Secondary Model School, the boys were focused, fully engaged and eager to learn, when The National visited this week.

Answering their teacher’s questions in Japanese, they have been studying the language for a few months and are keen to keep it up in the future.

“I was very excited when we were told earlier this year that we will be studying the Japanese language,” said Emirati pupil Ibraheem Jamal, 14, in Grade 9 at the school.

“I used to watch many Japanese shows and films before this happened. In seventh grade, we read a story about a Japanese boy who in a very interesting way spoke about his nation’s habits and culture, and I loved it,” he said.

“I intend to continue taking courses when the school no longer offers Japanese language lessons.”

His classmate Majid Abdulkareem was drawn to Japanese by anime movies.

“I picked up few words but what I learnt in school is much more and I’m very happy about it,” he told The National.

“After learning the basics, I would really love it if my family took me to visit Japan.

“It would be wonderful if the Japanese language is taught across all school years.”

Fellow pupil, Habeeb Asad, from Iraq, said he enjoys the teaching methods.

“Of course, I am very happy about learning the language and whenever we find some lesson a little difficult the teacher uses activities to make it easier,” he said.

“His methods of teaching are very encouraging.”

Cultural lessons

Japanese teacher Hozumi Takigawa believes the language programme also introduces pupils to his culture. Chris Whiteoak / The National

According to the online learning platform Duolingo, Japanese is the fifth most popular language, behind English, Spanish, French and German.

Three teachers, one for each school, were recruited from Japan to teach in the UAE as part of the programme.

“I love the country and love my classes. I believe I may remain here longer than I expected,” said Japanese teacher Hozumi Takigawa, 30.

“I wasn’t aware of their needs at first and how to best approach them in order to deliver a successful lesson.

“But weeks later and as I saw the pupils’ interest and responsive behaviour, it has become much easier.”

Mr Hozumi believes the programme not only introduces UAE children to the Japanese people’s language but their culture as well.

Meanwhile, ESE also introduced Chinese to schools in 2019. So far, the programme has taught 54,000 pupils in 158 public schools.

Updated: February 22, 2023, 12:36 PM