Cymru will echo to sound of Japanese

Adi Bloom

KONICHIWA Cymru. Wales is to be illuminated by the rising sun.

Every primary school in the principality is to get the chance to offer Japanese language lessons. The Institute for Japanese Studies at Bangor University is to provide native Japanese speakers to teach the lessons.

The scheme is part of a broader initiative by the Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research in Wales to encourage language-learning in schools.

Keith Marshall, director of Cilt Cymru, said: "The more you know about another language and culture, the better you are able to operate as a global citizen. We are not just introducing Japanese. We're introducing multilingualism."

Several Japanese companies have set up bases in Wales, so Japanese will be useful as Welsh employees find themselves working alongside Japanese nationals.

The Institute for Japanese Studies anticipates that six teachers will be available each year to teach in schools. It was hoped that the scheme would be launched this September, but no applications have yet been received.

But Jingling Hu, the institute co-ordinator, is not discouraged:

"Economically, Japan is an important country. People are interested in having a relationship with Japan and learning about its culture."

She anticipates it is not just the pupils who will benefit. A number of Japanese teachers are likely to be placed in primarily Welsh-speaking schools. "Almost everyone learns a bit of Welsh," said Ms Hu. "They can greet pupils. But they won't be teaching in Welsh."

The initiative has received the backing of the Welsh Assembly.

Supporters of the Welsh language do not see the new scheme as a threat. Huw Lewis, chair of the Welsh Language Society, has no fears that impressionable pupils may be confused: Y Bnr Jones will not become Jones-san overnight. He said: "The Welsh language belongs to everyone in Wales. If people want to learn Japanese, that's the point of an outward-looking Wales."

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