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How do we teach Japanese?

NIS is an international community providing a unique learning environment for students from many different backgrounds. Within the framework of the PYP, MYP and DP programs, NIS promotes dual language acquisition as one way to learn about and enhance social interaction with others.

Japan is our host country, and learning Japanese is both a window to better appreciate the Japanese culture and an important tool for students needed to contribute meaningfully to our greater community. 

The NIS Japanese program develops an appreciation of the nature of language, as well as improve the linguistic skills and knowledge of language in each student.

NIS supports Japanese language development to meet the individual needs of students by providing a differentiated course structure that varies depending on age, grade, and growing stages.


ELC Kindergarten

The earliest age NIS students explore Japanese is from the ELC Kindergarten, and students are placed in the same class regardless of ability. This mixed group of levels (both native and non-native level speakers) enables students to share their language experience through play, and also to nurture a better understanding and appreciation of the Japanese culture by learning the Japanese language through a cultural lens.


Elementary School (Grades 1-5)

Elementary school students are grouped into three levels: JNL (Japanese as a Native Language)JFL 1 (Japanese as a Foreign Language 1) and JFL 2 (Japanese as a Foreign Language 2).  All three classes are based closely on PYP learning concepts to establish literacy skills for different purposes. Elementary students have Japanese class for five, 50-minute periods across the alternating weekly schedule.

Elementary JNL courses nurture a basic understanding of the Japanese language. Utilizing the Kokugo textbooks authorized by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (and used in Japanese elementary schools), JNL courses at NIS provide opportunities to learn in depth about the Japanese language through a wide variety of genres such as fiction, non-fiction, poetry and other ways. The JNL curriculum progresses through the elementary and develops skills in Kanji, idioms, grammar, and the techniques of language use.

Elementary JFL courses explore Japanese as a communication tool. Students gain the communication skills and strategies to deploy linguistic features in culturally appropriate ways.

JFL 1 courses are for students who have limited or no experience with Japanese. Through the learning process of discovering and solving problems in our daily lives, students will be able to think logically and express themselves in simple ways about our daily lives.

JFL 2 courses are for students who have successfully completed JFL1 or the equivalent. JFL2 students continue to improve their language acquisition skills and their abilities to express themselves in more detail and with a deeper understanding. Students are required to learn Kanji and to read and analyze long and complex stories.


Middle School & High School (Grades 6-10)

Following the MYP program, Japanese courses are divided into two broad levels to develop their linguistic skills at different levels for different purposes – Language A and Language B.

Language A (Language and Literature) courses continue through grade 10, and students study both modern and classic Japanese literature. Students will develop their literary analysis skills in addition to connections to the background and history of the works studied, as well as the author’s intentions.

Language B1, B2 and B3 courses are divided into levels and are unique to NIS. Regardless of the grades/ages, students are assessed their Japanese levels based on MYP phases. As their language acquisition progress, students are placed at their most suitable levels of;

  • Language B1: students have very little or no previous Japanese language experience
  • Language B2: students have limited experience with Japanese language but are able to discover varying levels of Japanese language and culture (phases 1-2)
  • Language B3: students are able to express themselves and maintain a conversation of current affairs (phases 3-4)
  • Language B4: students are able to discover literary works as well as join in high level discussions about both current affairs and global issues (phases 5-6)


High School (Grade 11, 12)

Students in grades 11 and 12 are in their final journey of Japanese language within the IB Diploma Program. Courses run for two years (four semesters). The IB final examinations are held in May of their grade 12 year.

Typically at the end of grade 10, after close consultation with the Japanese teacher, parents, and the IB coordinator, students are able to choose the appropriate Japanese language option best for them. Ultimately, however, the Japanese teacher must approve the final placement based on the previous performance of each student. All three courses encourage students to go beyond the confines of the classroom, expand their awareness of the world and foster respect for cultural diversity.


Language A:  Language and Literature (HL/SL) (Japanese)

Students who completed Japanese Language A in grade 10 are considered eligible to join the Language A: Language and Literature course at Higher Level (requiring 240 hours) or Standard Level (requiring 150 hours). Two of the assessment tasks in HL are significantly more difficult than the comparable tasks in the SL course. The first major difference is the “Paper 1” test on textual analysis in which SL students address and analyze one passage, as opposed to HL students who must make a comparative analysis of two passages. The second difference between the HL and SL classes are the written tasks, in which HL students must produce four whereas the SL students only do three. Two of these tasks are submitted for external assessment at HL, while only one is submitted at SL. One of the assessed tasks submitted at HL must be a critical response that addresses one of six pre-determined questions and requires students to explore the values, attitudes and beliefs that are implied in the texts that they select for this task.


Language Acquisition: Language B (HL/SL) & Language ab initio (Japanese)

There are three language acquisition courses designed to provide students with the necessary skills and intercultural understanding of Japanese in NIS, to enable them to communicate successfully in an environment where the target language is spoken: Language B HL, Language B SL, and Language ab initio.

Language B (HL/SL):  Language B is a language acquisition courses designed for students who previously have learning experiences of Japanese. It may be studied at either Higher Level (requiring 240 hours of instruction), or Standard Level(requiring 150 hours). The course is organized into themes. Three core themes are required: communication and media, global issues, and social relationships. In addition, at both HL and SL, teachers select two more themes from five options provided. Finally, two works of literature are studied at HL only. Students are assessed both externally and internally throughout the courses. Students are exposed to a variety of authentic texts and they produce work in a variety of communicative contexts. Such material will extend from everyday oral exchanges to literary texts, and should be related to the culture concerned. Intercultural understanding and plurilingualism are key goals of the course.

Language ab initio:  The language ab initio course is a language acquisition course for students with little or no experience of the language. The course provides Standard Level only (requiring 150 hours of instruction). The course is organized into three themes: Individual and society, Leisure and work, Urban and rural environment. Each theme has a list of topics that provide students with opportunities to practice and explore the Japanese language as well as develop intercultural understanding. Students are assessed both externally and internally. Interactive, productive and receptive skills are developed through contextualized study of language, texts and themes. Students are exposed to a variety of authentic texts and they produce work in a variety of communicative contexts. Intercultural understanding is a key goal of the course.