Wednesday 18 September 2019

Leaving Cert students turn towards Land of the Rising Sun

Katherine Donnelly

THE latest textbook for Leaving Certificate students is nothing like double Dutch -- it's called simply Nihongo Kantan.

For those who have not mastered the language of the Land of the Rising Sun, that translates as Easy Japanese.

And it's getting easier for members of the new generation of Irish second-level students, who have embraced it as a Leaving Certificate subject.

Now, in a first in Irish educational publishing, a 300-page Japanese textbook and CD, written by an Irish teacher, has been launched.

The author of the book, Ursula Zimmerman, a French and German language graduate from DCU, was on the first JET exchange teaching programme to Japan in 1988.

She subsequently taught English in a Japanese university and, since returning to Ireland, has taught Japanese at third-level and now, to Leaving Certificate students.

Japanese was introduced into Irish second-level education as a transition year option and first examined as a Leaving Cert subject in 2004. Although the numbers sitting the exam are still small, they are growing -- from 49 in 2005 to 101 last year.

Japanese is taught in a small number of schools and in two in Co Wexford where Ms Zimmermann teaches the subject, it is on the timetable and offered as a choice against other languages such as French and German.

She has 50 students in Gorey Community School and a further 30 in Loreto, Wexford, where 25pc of transition year students opted to keep it on as a Leaving Certificate subject.


As well as teaching the language in oral and written form, the syllabus also covers Japanese culture, offering students an opportunity to inhabit a different world.

The teaching of Japanese is encouraged under the National Development Plan -- given official support in schools that actively encourage transition year students to take the subject on to Leaving Certificate.

The language is spoken by 125m people worldwide and, with Japan ranked as the second economic power in the world, and trade between Ireland and Japan increasing at a faster pace than with any of the Ireland's EU partners, the opportunities are considerable.

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