Why learning French may be a rewarding experience for Japanese

Why learning French may be a rewarding experience for Japanese

The Japanese booth at the French Language World Forum in Liège, July 2015.

The second round of the French Language World Forum, held in Liège from July 20-23 July 2015, will be remembered as a successful experience by members of the Japanese delegation attending the event.

Seven young Japanese worked hard in preparing for a 90 minute presentation on Japan. Each of them presented on a topic of their choice related to Japanese culture, economy and society. The audience for this well attended session was mostly native French speakers from all parts of the world.

The following examples show the originality of topics on Japan, chosen by each participant. In their talks, each presenter mentioned what they had gained from studying the French language. Learning a foreign language is both rewarding and can provide a greater understanding about how Japan is perceived from abroad, as well as the role it plays in the world.

Seven examples

  1. On the eve of the Olympics, one participant from Kobe mentioned that she wants to become a Japanese / French interpreter during the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. French is an official language of the Olympics and a third of all participating countries are members of the International Organisation for La Francophonie.
  2. Another student drew inspiration from her knowledge of the efforts being made to promote French language studies in Japan, to describe her vision of how to improve the teaching of Japanese abroad. She stressed the lack of qualified Japanese language teachers to respond to the demand, as there are currently four million people learning Japanese abroad.
  3. A Japanese participant who wants to promote tourism in Japan, asked young francophone people what type of activities they would be looking to do if they visited Japan. He mentioned that Japan aims to attract 20 million tourists by 2020. However, he argued that in order to achieve this goal Japan needs to be able to communicate its message in many languages, including French language, which is spoken on all five continents.
  4. The role of women in the economy as well as corporate governance reforms have become hot topics of debate in Japan. A Japanese participant suggested that it would be beneficial for young francophone to know about these issues. She proposed using the French Language World Forum as a platform for gathering and sharing information, so that French speaking Japanese can learn about methods of good corporate governance from francophone countries.
  5. One young Japanese woman spoke about her experience in Cambodia as a volunteer with a French NGO. During her time there, she volunteered as a storyteller reading stories from the book “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry to young children. She combined her knowledge of French with kamishibai, the art of storytelling from images that is a tradition in Japan.
  6. How to improve the Japanese education system? This was the question posed by a Japanese participant who studied in a French speaking country for one year. He suggested that the best education system might be achieved by combining aspects of the Japanese and Western education systems. He stressed the importance of developing skills in critical thinking among Japanese students and the need to maintain personal qualities such as self-discipline, and striving for perfection, which argued are traditional Japanese values.
  7. Lastly a Japanese student told the audience that her interest in photography was her primary motivation for learning French. She said she always felt to be an affinity between the Arts and the French language. She said that currently, she faces the dilemma of whether to work as a photographer or choose a more secure career. She believes that learning French has allowed her to acquire a different set of values and a new way of thinking.
Celebrating with the participants of the Forum. The Japanese booth at the French Language World Forum in Liège, Belgium, July 2015.
Celebrating with the participants of the Forum. The Japanese booth at the French Language World Forum in Liège, Belgium, July 2015.

The participation of the Japanese delegation in Liège was part of an initiative of the Council for the Promotion of La Francophonie in Japan. This project was made possible with special collaboration from the Global Communications Office of Prime Minister Abe, and also thanks to the contribution made by Turkish Airlines.

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