FILIPINO LANGUAGE EDUCATION IN JAPAN- THE CASE OF TOKYO UNIVERSITY

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FILIPINO LANGUAGE EDUCATION IN JAPAN:

        THE CASE OF TOKYO UNIVERSITY OF FOREIGN STUDIES



Historical Background

         The Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS) was set up in its earliest

form as a government translation bureau in 1857, and was then known as the Institute

for Research of Foreign Documents. In 1899, it was transformed into an independent

educational and research institution and called the Tokyo School of Foreign Languages,

having 5 language departments; namely, English, German, French, Russian and Chinese.

In 1949, it was reorganized as a university under the new postwar educational system.

At present, approximately 50 languages are taught in the regular curriculum while

several more are being researched there. The Faculty of Foreign Studies offers 26

languages in seven areas of study.   Asian languages comprise around half of the total

number of languages being taught, with some of them taught only at our university.

        Filipino comes under Southeast Asian Studies, and is grouped together with

Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Laotian, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Burmese.

Southeast Asian Studies is offered as a four-year undergraduate course within the

Faculty of Foreign Studies.

        Tagalog was first offered as a major course in 1945. It was started in the

belief that Japan would win the Pacific War, and since the Japanese would be occupying

the Philippines they would need Tagalog speakers. However, it was only offered for

four years until 1949, one reason being that nobody could teach the language properly.

The Tagalog teacher during that time was a Spanish teacher connected with the

university who got hold of a Tagalog grammar book and used it in class. The other



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reason, of course, is that Japan lost the Pacific War so there was no further need to offer

the course. Twenty students each year majored in Tagalog when it was offered from

1945-1949.

        The present Philippine Studies Program was officially established in 1993.      In

1992, some students who were accepted to major in Malaysian were asked if they

wanted to shift to Filipino. Five of them volunteered to do so, and they became the first

Filipino majors in the present program.       When Filipino was officially offered the

following year, 15 students were admitted, which was the maximum number that could

be admitted to the program at that time.         However, in 2006, when all national

universities including ours were partly privatized, the maximum number was increased

to 20. So far, we have filled the allowed quota in our program every year since

inception. Moreover the number of applicants wishing to enter our program has

increased year after year and now Filipino is one of the more popular courses in the

Southeast Asian Studies program.



Challenges and Issues during the Early Stage of the Program

        One major challenge during the early stages of the program was the absence of

a Filipino textbook written in Japanese. All the Filipino conversation and grammar

books that we were able to obtain were either written in Tagalog or English. However,

most Japanese students have difficulty understanding English, even if they have studied

it for several years in middle school and high school. Therefore, using a textbook

written in English would have been futile. The only way forward was for us to create

our own.

        Four years before the Filipino program was officially offered at the university,



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Prof. Michiko Yamashita and yours truly taught Filipino to police officers from all over

Japan at a language institute designated by the National Police Academy of Japan.

This Filipino language program was a 10-month intensive course consisting of 3 hours

of language lessons daily, 5 days a week. We taught this program for 5 consecutive

years. During the initial stages of the program Prof. Yamashita and I started making

our own lessons to use in our classes. It was a furious effort on our part to be able to

produce as many lessons as we did, due to the intensive nature of the program. We used

several published conversation and grammar books as references, including Tagalog for

Beginners by Teresita Ramos and Videa de Guzman, and Intensive Tagalog for

Expatriates by Wilfredo Muyargas. We therefore used the same self-produced materials

at the university during the first year.

         Another challenge that we have constantly faced is the absence of a

Tagalog-Japanese and/or Japanese-Tagalog dictionary. All available dictionaries are

either Tagalog-English or English-Tagalog. As mentioned above, most Japanese do

not understand English well. Using these dictionaries is quite a challenge for them,

and it is a long process just to look up the meaning of a word. If a student wants to

know the meaning of a Tagalog word, he has to look up the English equivalent and then

use an English-Japanese dictionary to properly grasp the meaning of the word, albeit

through an English filter. He has to follow the same process in the opposite order if he

wants to find out the equivalent of a Japanese word in Tagalog.

         This issue has not been addressed satisfactorily to date, since no

comprehensive Japanese-Tagalog or Tagalog-Japanese dictionary has ever been

published. While a few Japanese-Tagalog mini-dictionaries and word lists do exist, they

are only useful for beginners. Teaching staff members at our university have compiled a



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simple Japanese-Tagalog dictionary with a total of over 20,000 words, for the exclusive

use of our students, but it is still not as comprehensive as we would like.

         Another challenge which we face is the unavailability of Tagalog-English or

English-Tagalog dictionaries in Japan. They are not available in the university library

and very few bookstores sell them in Tokyo. Moreover, if they are available at all, they

are quite expensive. And with the increasing number of students who want to enter the

Filipino program, whatever stock is available in local bookstores is not enough. So the

only way we can supply all of our students is to order the dictionaries from a bookstore

in Manila and have them sent to our university. In spite of the shipping charges, the cost

of one dictionary is still cheaper than if it is bought in Tokyo. We order these

dictionaries before the end of each school year, so that by the time the new school year

starts the dictionaries will have already arrived, ready to be distributed to the incoming

freshmen.

         The lack of teachers who are qualified to teach the program is also an ongoing

issue. As we all know, just being a native speaker of a language does not mean that the

speaker can systematically teach the language. A proper educational background and

training are necessary to be able to teach any language effectively, including Filipino.

There was only one regular faculty member and one part-time teacher when the

program started, which was good enough for the first 2 years.            But because the

maximum number of students was always admitted to the Filipino program since the

third year of the program, the need arose to hire more teachers. So, part-time teachers

were hired, but none of them had the proper background or training. Moreover, since

the language of instruction to date has been Japanese, a teacher of Filipino has had to be

able to teach in Japanese. To this end, one of our graduates from the Philippine



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Studies Program who acquired his master's degree at the University of the Philippines

has been a part-time member of our teaching staff for several years now.



The Curriculum and Textbook

         One aim of the Faculty of Foreign Studies is to provide students with a deep

understanding and knowledge of the languages, cultures, and societies found in various

regions of the globe. Therefore, a student who chooses to major in Filipino is expected

to develop a deep understanding and knowledge of the language, culture and society of

the Philippines in particular and Southeast Asia in general. As a school policy, the

students spend their first and second years intensively studying the language of their

major.

         In the Philippine Studies program, all language classes are semestral. Students

are required to take six 90-minute weekly classes of Filipino per semester, during their

freshman and sophomore years.        Four of these classes are Basic and Advanced

Grammar while the other two are Oral Communication. However, in their junior and

senior years, the required number of Filipino classes decreases dramatically to only one

a semester: Reading and Composition.

         Classes in Area Studies are designed to allow students to obtain a basic and

comprehensive understanding of the culture and society of a particular area.     Students

must take four such classes by the time they complete their second year. These classes

concentrate on the culture, art, history, geography, economy and politics of the

Philippines.    The classes offered include Introduction to Philippine Studies,

Introduction to Philippine Literature & History etc. In their junior and senior years,

students are required to complete six classes pertaining to Southeast Asia in general.



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