In Depth: Orient Expresses Close Friendship; Japan and North Wales Are Forging Ever-Closer Links in Culture and Trade These Days,as Ian Parri Reports

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), May 9, 2003 | Go to article overview

In Depth: Orient Expresses Close Friendship; Japan and North Wales Are Forging Ever-Closer Links in Culture and Trade These Days,as Ian Parri Reports


Byline: Ian Parri

PRIMARY school pupils in this country have long had to learn to cope with Welsh mutations and English declensions from an early age.

Now many of them will face the altogether more mystifying sights and sounds of the Orient,as Wales takes the lead in the UK in teaching Japanese to children as young as seven.

The Institute of Japanese Studies, which is based at the University of Wales in Bangor, is recognised as the UK's leading such body. It has forged strong links with Japan under the guidance of director Dr Sacha Kitanaka,and helps the University attract ever- increasing numbers of students from Japan.

Now it is set to co- ordinate a brand new National Assembly-sponsored Japanese Studies scheme to bring the language to primary schools throughout Wales.

Students who are following foundation and degree courses,at Bangor and other universities, will spend some of their time at local schools teaching elements of Japanese language and traditions to Welsh youngsters.

Keith Marshall is helping to co-ordinate the new scheme,and is understandably cock-a-hoop that Bangor is leading the way in this show of international co-operation.

``This is a resounding endorsement for language teaching in Bangor and Wales - not just for the narrow community of education,but the wider community too,''he says.

While many might question the usefulness of learning a language so geographically and culturally removed from the Welsh experience,others welcome it with open arms and minds.

Take Meriel Parry,head at Ysgol Gynradd Tregarth,a few miles from Bangor. This thriving primary school is already strongly bilingual and the head insists the children take to other languages with gusto,having already had a taste of Japanese before the launch of this latest scheme.

``The Japanese students teach the children about the traditions of Japan,how to write their names in Japanese,and a few songs.

``It gives them a taste,and perhaps when they're older they'll get further opportunities to take it up seriously. They lap it up,and are usually by the school gates waiting for the students to arrive.''

Japanese Ambassador Masaki Orita was present when the Japanese Studies scheme was launched in Bangor recently.

He has no doubt that Wales and Japan have much in common.

``Family values, respect for tradition and community solidarity are common to both our nations,providing a foundation for the strong Japan-Wales co-operation that has flourished for over 100 years,''he says. …

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