Teaching of Japanese as a Foreign Language in Tertiary Institutions in Kenya: Opportunities and Challenges
Wamuti, Lydia Wangu
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Japanese is one of the foreign languages taught in tertiary institutions in Kenya. However, a majority of the learners of the language do not progress beyond the basic level. This research explored the status of the teaching and learning of Japanese language in tertiary institutions in Kenya. The objectives of the research were to: establish the preparedness of the teachers of Japanese language in tertiary institutions in Kenya; examine the methods used to deliver the Japanese language course content; investigate the availability and use of resources in teaching and learning of Japanese language; find out how learners of Japanese language are evaluated; examine the perception of learners and teachers of the language and explore the opportunities and challenges in the teaching and learning of Japanese language. The research applied exploratory survey research design and involved a target population of 644 Japanese language learners, 18 Japanese language teachers, a staff of Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) and a staff of Japanese Information and Culture Center (JICC). The students were selected using systematic random sampling technique while a census was done for the teachers. Data was collected using questionnaires, interview schedules, and classroom observation schedules. The validity of the research instruments was evaluated by lecturers who are experts in foreign language education. The reliability of these instruments was pretested through a pilot study. Cronbach's alpha method was used to determine internal consistency and reliability of the questionnaires while scores inter-rater was used to establish the reliability of the observation schedule. Data was analyzed using Microsoft Excel® 2016, software, in form of percentages, frequency, correlation and means, and presented in narrative, frequency distribution tables, graphs and charts. The study revealed that the teachers have the requisite training and experience to effectively deliver the Japanese language course content, but they require deeper knowledge of Japanese culture. During instructions, they incorporate technology in form of audio and audio-visual media with authentic content. Some teachers do not consider Kanji as necessary for learners, and some institutions do not teach Kanji. Further, learners of Japanese language perceive the language as a tool for socialization and a means for professional advancement. The main factors that hinder progression of the language learners to advanced levels were found to be lack of emphasis on Kanji, perceived difficulty of the language, and the perception that the language is a tool of socialization of which basic level is sufficient. It was also seen that learners are evaluated using both selected response and constructed response methods, but there are no standardized evaluation guidelines. It is recommended that a programme for training teachers of Japanese language locally be developed, a common national curriculum be designed, and students exchange programmes be encouraged.