Japan Calling Japan Calling  



– Number of Japanese learners doubles from 5500 in 2003 to 11000 in 2006 –

Relations between Japan and India have been flourishing in recent years, and have especially intensified in the political and economic arena. However, the potential for people-to-people contacts, which is one of the basic pillars of our bilateral relations, has not been fully tapped. During the then Japanese Prime Minister Mr. Junichiro Koizumi’s visit to India in 2005, Mr. Koizumi and Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, agreed to increase the number of Japanese language students in India up to 30,000 by the year 2010, and to introduce Japanese language as an optional foreign language in the Indian Secondary School Curriculum, as part of the Eightfold Initiative for strengthening the ‘Japan-India Global Partnership’.

   Working towards this direction, the Embassy of Japan in New Delhi, in association with the Japan Foundation New Delhi office, organized the “2nd All India Conference on Promotion of Japanese Language Education” on May 18, 2007, at the Ambassador’s Residence, Embassy of Japan, New Delhi. The purpose of this Conference was to understand the present status and difficulties being faced in Japanese language learning in India and, based upon these understandings, to discuss about means to remove them and further promote Japanese language education.

   The Conference began with opening remarks by H.E. Mr. Yasukuni Enoki, Ambassador of Japan, who felt that since last year’s conference, we have made good progress in the area of training new Japanese language teachers through training programs started by the Japan Foundation, New Delhi. Additionally, JICA has started dispatching JOCV volunteers to India, whose number is expected to go up to 7 this year, which will help broaden the basis of our teaching staff. He also mentioned about a new youth exchange program to be introduced soon, through which 500 youths are proposed to be invited to visit Japan every year over the next 5 years. Out of these, 100 seats may be earmarked for those youth who are Japanese language learners. He hoped the experts present at the conference would share their insight, wisdom and experience to devise means to work towards achieving the ambitious target of 30000 Japanese language learners in India by the year 2010.

   This was followed by a Keynote Address by Mr. Ashok Ganguly, Chairman, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), who spoke about CBSE’s role in promoting Japanese language education in India by introducing the language in Indian school curriculum from academic session 2006-07 onwards, in cooperation with the Japan Foundation.

Inaugural Session of the Conference in progress

    Another Keynote Address was made by Prof. V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, Vice-Chancellor of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), who informed that IGNOU has developed a program for mixed mode of Japanese language learning in modular form, with help from the Japanese Dept. in School of Foreign Languages, JNU. He also mentioned about IGNOU’s plans to start another school of translation studies in which Japanese to Indian and Indian to Japanese languages will be taught, in order to create a pool of experts to implement this program.

   Thereafter, Mr. Yoshiyuki Nishizawa, Special Assistant to the President, Japan Foundation, presented statistical figures pertaining to the growth of Japanese language learning in India, according to which the number of Japanese learners in India has doubled from approx. 5500 in the year 2003 to more than 11,000 in the year 2006.

   In the subsequent sessions, eminent panelists from the field of education and bureaucracy discussed topics such as the assessment of the trend and present state of Japanese language education in India, and the initiatives taken by the Japanese side and the Indian side. They also deliberated on the achievements and challenges from the viewpoint of teaching institutes and the measures to be taken to further promoted Japanese language in the country.

   During the conference, an idea was repeatedly proposed to set up a joint working group of Indian and Japanese stakeholders with an aim to monitor development concerning the promotion of Japanese language education in India. It is expected that such a group can keep the momentum of taking continuous steps to expand the number of Indian students of Japanese so as to achieve the target of 30,000 learners by the year 2010, a target agreed by the Indian and Japanese Prime