What is Japanese about?
Subject-specific terms can be found in the glossary.
This subject is about developing the ability to communicate in Japanese with other speakers of the language.
Learners will acquire the capacity to convey their ideas in new and dynamic ways and discover the rich history, customs, and cultures of the communities in which Japanese is spoken.
Through this subject, learners will also understand that each language has its own ways of expressing meaning, and that each has intrinsic value and special significance for its users.
"Ko tōu reo, ko tōku reo, te tuakiri tangata. Tīhei uriuri, tīhei nakonako.
Your voice and my voice are expressions of identity. May our descendants live on and our hopes be fulfilled."
(Learning Languages Whakataukī, New Zealand Curriculum, 2007)
Languages are inextricably linked to the social and cultural contexts in which they are used. Languages and cultures play a key role in developing national, group, and personal identities. As learners acquire the skills of communicative competence, they simultaneously reflect on their own personal identity and explore their own culture from a new perspective.
Big Ideas and Significant Learning
Big Ideas are derived from the Learning Area essence statement and capture the essence of a subject, ensuring coherence rather than fragmentation of learning. At the subject level, they inform the Significant Learning – learning that is critical for students to know, understand, and do in relation to a subject by the end of each Curriculum Level. This covers knowledge, skills, competencies, and attitudes and also includes level-appropriate contexts students should encounter in senior secondary education.
The Significant Learning is collated into a Learning Matrix and progresses across Curriculum Levels 6-8. Teachers can use the Learning Matrix as a tool to construct learning programmes that cover all the 'not to be missed' learning in a subject. There is no prescribed order to the Learning Matrix within each level. A programme of learning might begin with a context that is relevant to the local area of the school or an idea that students are particularly interested in. This topic or context has to relate to at least one Big Idea and may also link to other Big Ideas. The Learning Matrix is designed so that educators have the freedom to create courses that are both flexible and coherent.
Learning languages is about communicating with people across cultures
Learning an additional language allows students to engage in effective communication across cultures. As they do so, they begin to expand their own world and to open up a whole range of new possibilities for personal development and pathways.
The ability to communicate in an additional language is a rewarding experience. It makes it possible for learners to establish relationships with people from other cultures within and outside of Aotearoa. It enables them to read, understand, and produce texts in order to participate in, and reflect on, the discourses of other societies, and to travel, study, and work in other countries.
Proficiency in communication to meet a range of needs is the main goal of all language learning. While this draws from the knowledge of the linguistic building blocks of a language, the primary focus is the communicative, not the linguistic accuracy.
Ultimately, communication in an additional language is the future-focused prerequisite for intercultural understanding and global citizenship.
Every language expresses meaning through unique spoken, written, and visual forms
Languages create and represent meaning by employing unique systems of linguistic building blocks – be they oral features, vocabulary, grammar and syntax, or punctuation – that give rise to endless possibilities for expression and exchange. They are also repositories of the historical and cultural aspects of the language.
Students who learn Japanese get to explore its unique linguistic workings by comparing and contrasting it with their own language. They learn how speakers adjust their language when negotiating meaning in different contexts and for different purposes, and how different types of text are organised. This helps them, over time, to communicate with greater clarity, creativity, and confidence.
Japanese belongs to a different language family than English or te reo Māori and has developed in different historical and social contexts. The resulting linguistic differences will give learners the opportunity to reflect back on their first language(s) and to develop an awareness that languages can make meaning in a variety of ways not encountered in European or Pacific languages. Most obviously, this includes script, but also word order and sentence structure, and the importance of registers of language to express respect or recognise social status. There are, however, similarities, as well. Those provide another opportunity to include not just English but also te reo Māori as the first language reference point in additional language learning. By exploring both the similarities and differences learners will build an increasing understanding of how linguistic elements work together as they develop their linguistic proficiency in Japanese.
Language, culture, and identity are inextricably linked
Language and culture continuously evolve together, influencing one another in the process. Language encodes culture and provides the means through which culture is shared and passed from one generation to the next – contributing to a sense of personal, community, and national identity.
Learning an additional language gives learners the richest possible access to another culture because it enables them to communicate with the people that live it and allows them to explore the authentic spoken and written expressions of it. In that way, they gain an understanding of that culture which provides a strong foundation for intercultural respect and acceptance as well as an appreciation for the diversity that all cultures encompass.
Equally, learners gain an insight into how their own 'cultural lens' shapes their perceptions and ways of doing things. This helps to deconstruct cultural stereotypes and moves language learners away from automatically defaulting to the dominant culture, honouring tangata whenua and the multicultural nature of modern Aotearoa and welcoming the rich knowledge each individual brings to the learning environment.
Learning more than one language encourages diverse ways of thinking
"Another language opens up a whole new window on the world. It might be small and difficult to see through at first, but it gives you a different perspective, and it might make you realise that your first window could do with a bit of polishing and even enlarging."
(Hone Tuwhare, Die deutsche Sprache und ich, NZCTE, Goethe-Institut, circa 1997)
Language and thought are intricately intertwined and impact one another. Our language(s) can direct our thoughts and influence our perspectives without us always being aware of it. Therefore, engaging with another language gives us new metacognitive tools to think about how language functions.
Learning an additional language allows students to compare and contrast their own languages and thinking with those of other cultures, gaining a deeper insight into how languages function. This equips them with the tools necessary to navigate between them.
Furthermore, the ability to critically examine diverse cultural and personal points of view, which is facilitated by developing proficiency in another language, is an invaluable skill in our increasingly diverse and globally connected world.
Language learning is an empowering process that requires risk-taking and fosters resilience and perseverance
Acquiring an additional language, much like learning to play an instrument, is a process that requires regular commitment, practice, and repetition. It fosters perseverance and allows students to take ownership of their own learning.
Language learning also builds resilience because learners continually negotiate situations with emerging communicative competence and take the risk of being misunderstood. This encourages them to reframe 'mistakes' as rich opportunities for learning and development. It will give them the confidence to seek out opportunities to use the target language outside of the classroom where language learning truly flourishes.
Students are made aware of the hidden processes of language acquisition and gain some insight into the most helpful strategies for progression. This can include pattern recognition, trial and error, techniques to memorise vocabulary, and effective use of tools like dictionaries, verb conjugators, and digital translators. Learners are encouraged to find modes of learning that work best for them and to begin thinking like a linguist.
Key Competencies in Japanese
Developing Key Competencies through Japanese
Learning an additional language is inherently about developing and finetuning linguistic skills and extending the ability to relate to and interact appropriately with others in more than one cultural setting. The language learning process itself requires students to manage self, participate, and contribute. The new ways of thinking about the world they will be exposed to will encourage them to think about their place in it and how they can use those skills to participate in and contribute to their communities and the wider world around them.
Students of Japanese will:
- deduce rules, recognise patterns, and use their problem-solving abilities to make meaning with an imperfect set of linguistic skills
- evaluate and choose from a range of vocabulary, structures, and communicative strategies to engage with different audiences, sometimes having to think on their feet to improvise and adapt for different contexts and purposes
- explore and reflect on the many ways language, culture, and thinking influence each other
- compare their own language(s), culture(s), and ways of thinking to those of the target language and culture and critically reflect on their assumptions and identities in a way that fosters intercultural understanding and global citizenship.
Using Language, Symbols, and Texts
This competency being at the core of language learning, students of Japanese will:
- develop increased proficiency in using language, symbols, and texts effectively to communicate information, opinions and ideas, not just in the additional language they are learning, but also in their own language(s)
- recognise how choices of language, symbols, or text work together and affect people’s understanding of and responses to communications and how they work together differently in different languages
- think about the type of language which is appropriate to use in a range of different contexts and formats and for different purposes and audiences
- expand their ability to express themselves in increasingly independent and imaginative ways and improvise and adapt in a range of communicative situations.
Relating to Others
As communication and understanding are prerequisites of relating to others and the very essence of what language learning is about, students of Japanese will:
- hone their listening skills, recognise different points of view, negotiate, and share ideas
- explore how language, culture, and identity are interrelated and thereby develop the ability to relate to people, both from other cultures but also from their own, with more empathy and insight
- develop an appreciation of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives in the wider world and in a multicultural Aotearoa
- experience how a curious, open-minded, and respectful engagement with the values and identities of others can lead to valuable insights into their own identity and offer opportunities for self-development.
Because learning Japanese requires ongoing commitment and does not lend itself to “cramming”, students will:
- be encouraged to take ownership of their own learning process and find ways of learning and practising that work for them
- use their understanding of how language acquisition works, eg, lots of input, lots of output practice, making mistakes as part of the process, etc, to actively engage in the practice necessary to make steady progress
- build on their own strengths and address their own identified learning needs, setting and meeting their own learning goals
- be involved in reporting processes
- participate actively and responsibly in group activities.
Participating and Contributing
Students of Japanese will:
- be encouraged to take risks, learn from mistakes, and take responsibility for initiating and maintaining communication; through this they will gain confidence to participate and contribute in and outside of the classroom with the skills they have
- mature as local and global citizens by getting to know the world views and needs of other people
- recognise the interconnected nature of societies and communities in the world and Aotearoa and be encouraged to think of their place in and responsibility to it.
This section of New Zealand Curriculum online offers specific guidance to school leaders and teachers on integrating the Key Competencies into the daily activities of the school and its Teaching and Learning Programmes.
Introduction to sample course outlines
Sample Course Outlines are being produced to help teachers and schools understand the new NCEA Learning Matrix and Achievement Standards. The draft Course Outlines that were published at the end of Phase 1, Level 1 product development are now being taken down. Work will continue on these, reflecting the changes noted in the SEG responses, and the additional detail that will be provided in Phase 2 products. They will be re-published for the next cycle of feedback on the Phase 2 products in early August 2021. Exemplars of student work will be provided after the Pilot phase in 2022.
Unpacking The Standards
These statements help to unpack the ways in which the Achievement Standards assess the Significant Learning in the Learning Matrix.
1.1 (Internal) Interact using basic spoken Japanese to exchange information and preferences related to a personal context
This Achievement Standard focuses on assessing a student's capability to interact with others using spoken Japanese. It connects strongly with the Big Ideas that language learning is about communicating with others and that developing communicative proficiency requires the willingness to select from an emerging rather than perfected skill set to exchange ideas and information.
This standard is similar to the European interaction standard. However, it explicitly recognises that the speed at which linguistic competency is acquired in an additional language varies markedly depending on which target language is being studied and which first language is the dominant reference point. For first language speakers of English, it has been estimated that reaching an equivalent level of linguistic proficiency in Japanese can take two to three times as long as in French, German, or Spanish. That is why all standard titles for Japanese deliberately reflect this slower progression.
The Achievement Standard will be evaluated in a one-off assessment to reduce teacher and student assessment workload. The interaction is intended to be undertaken within predictable contexts and should relate directly to the range of basic language learners have studied, but there is a renewed emphasis on the demonstration of unrehearsed, 'on the spot' language use. Assessment Activities which allow the presentation of entirely rote-learned exchanges or pre-prepared role plays would not met the requirements of the standard.
While the expectations around the level of language will be different, the amount of work each student delivers will be approximately the same across languages. In preparing for evaluation against this Achievement Standard, students should be encouraged to practise spoken interactions as much as possible throughout the year, experimenting with and enjoying the exploration of the vocabulary and structures they have been introduced to. The emphasis should be on supporting the learner's willingness to take risks and persevere in the development of their language proficiency in order to acquire the ability to communicate effectively with others.
1.2 (Internal) Use basic Japanese to demonstrate understanding of a cultural practice related to a personal context
This Achievement Standard recognises that for learners of Japanese without a Japanese background it is particularly important to develop intercultural competency to achieve successful communication. The Achievement Standard strongly connects with the Big Idea that language, culture, and identity are inextricably linked and provides learners with the opportunity to demonstrate the connections and contrasts they have discovered between their own world and the world of others. It also provides a platform to incorporate Mātauranga Māori and Te Ao Māori in particular, but also the knowledge and world views of other cultures present in New Zealand, as reference points of students’ own language and culture.
In preparing for evaluation against this Achievement Standard, students will be encouraged to explore the various ways in which culture and language are intertwined. This can include culturally appropriate forms of interaction, such as greetings and leave-taking, norms of politeness, and strategies for complaints and apologies. It can include culture as social customs, such as information about the family, home life, interpersonal relations, school, leisure activities, traditions, and celebrations. It can also involve culture as culturally-laden words and concepts, or culture as information about countries, art, entertainment, history etc.
The internal mode of assessment for this Achievement Standard allows for the collection of evidence over a period of time as the learner's understanding of language and culture deepens. It also allows the learner to present evidence individually or in teams and in multiple forms, including performance, presentation, visual, verbal, or written. It can be in response to a stimulus with resources provided by the teacher. Alternatively, learners can come up with their own topics and resources.
1.3 (External) Show understanding of basic written and spoken Japanese related to personal contexts
This Achievement Standard focuses on comprehension and combines listening and reading. It recognises that in Japanese, due to the different scripts, students need to develop the ability to make a connection between spoken and written texts. While it draws on all the Big Ideas, it strongly connects to the Big Idea that language expresses meaning through unique spoken, written, and visual forms.
The Achievement Standard requires students to demonstrate the ability to understand and link basic written and spoken Japanese. Basic Japanese refers to short text types like short articles, announcements, infographics, advertisements, text and voice messages, and emails. Both the text types and the topics should be of immediate personal relevance to the learner, such as school, family, hobbies, or basic personal information.
The Achievement Standard will be externally assessed with opportunities to combine listening and reading.
1.4 (External) Produce basic written Japanese to communicate information and preferences related to personal contexts
This Achievement Standard is designed to allow learners to show evidence that they can independently present basic information and preferences in Japanese. One of the focuses of the Achievement Standard is on the cognitive benefits of script writing, one of the differentiating skills of Japanese that keeps students motivated to continue with the language. At the same time, the standard will allow open modes of input in accordance with the principles of UDL.
The stimuli material for the assessment task can be from students' own or the target culture, providing opportunities to incorporate intercultural learning.