Rising Interest in Japanese Language Education in India: Insights from Koji Sato, Director General of The Japan Foundation

In an interview with Digpu News, Mr. Koji Sato discusses the growing trend of Japanese language learning in India, the increasing job prospects for language enthusiasts, and the initiatives by The Japan Foundation to support this educational expansion.

Question 1: What are the recent trends for Japanese Language Education in India? Is the interest growing?

Koji Sato : Yes, it keeps growing. According to the Survey on Japanese-Language Education Abroad, which the Japan Foundation conducts every three year, twenty-year ago, the number of learners in India was just more than 5,400. The record in 2012 was about 20,000 and the one in 2021 was about 36,000. 2021 survey was heavily affected by COVID-19, so I think in 2024 survey we will see more steady increase in learners. And since the survey covers only those who learn at institutions, you should know that there are another lakhs or more of people who are studying through tutoring, or self-learning using online materials or apps. Many institutes also have started to provide online courses. 

Question 2 : How does Japanese language education help promote Japanese cooperation?

Koji Sato: At the actual working places of Japanese cooperation, high-level communication on technical matters and policy matters become necessary and those who are capable are really in need. Not all the Japanese specialists in the fields are necessarily fluent in English hence The fields require Indian specialists with high Japanese proficiency.

Another merit of learning the Japanese language is to acquire actual knowledge of the culture and customs of Japanese society, which helps them adapt themselves to another set of value codes. Of course, the effort of adaptation is required for both sides, but I want to stress that with the participation of Indian youths with high proximity to Japanese work culture, cooperation will work more successfully.

Question 3 : Please share the initiatives of the Japan Foundation to promote Japanese language education in India?

Koji Sato: The challenge in India is scarcity of teachers and learning opportunities vis-à-vis the increasing demand for learning Japanese language. To solve this issue, the government of India and Japan signed MOC on the promotion of Japanese language in 2017 and based on that launched Teachers Training Centre in 2018, where The Japan Foundation executes the courses. Since then, more than 100 Indian nationals from many parts of the country have completed 360-hour certificate courses and many of them are teaching Japanese language now. The governments and the JF also work to assist educational institutions which have wish to start new language courses, by providing course designs and syllabus and training local teachers.

JF provides infrastructure of studying Japanese Language in India, through such programs as Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), JFT-Basic, and self-run language course called JF-Koza.

We also develop varieties of self-learning materials on the web, such as ‘IRODORI Japanese Online Course’ (https://www.irodori-online.jpf.go.jp/) and ‘JF Japanese e-Learning Minato’ (https://minato-jf.jp/). I hope the information of access will reach many people in India who want to start learning Japanese but find it difficult to find any opportunity where they live.

Question 5 : With the current geopolitical situation, there is a shift in traditional student mobility in India. Do you think Japan will be an ideal country for students seeking education abroad? What could be the merits?

Koji Sato: Yes, I am also observing the shift, at least on the mindset level. We really want to shift their look to Japan, which deserves more attention and attraction. Experienced people always say that Japan is a country where you feel at home and accommodated once you embody the deep understanding of its unique culture. Hence, I recommend that they go to Japan at an early stage, live and study while deepening their understanding of Japan’s culture, and choose Japan for their jobs and longer term of their life. Now the level of respect by Japanese people towards Indian people is so high that people in Japan’s companies will definitely want to work with talented Indian youths who got educated and skilled in Japan with naturally spoken Japanese language.

Overall safety in society, and relatively economical tuition base of higher education are also very important and attractive factors of study in Japan, which should be known to more people.

Peeush Srivastava

Peeush is an International Media Specialist with 25+ years of experience with Indian and International Media Platforms f More »

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