The Japanese department is part of the Modern Languages department, situated in the Library block. Japanese has been taught for the last 20 years at Gresham’s.
Class sizes are comparatively small, affording pupils plenty of individual attention and results are excellent (100% of students achieved a GCSE grade A* – B in 2015).
The majority of pupils are complete beginners when they start in Year 9 and enjoy learning not only the language but also about manga, martial arts, traditional food and other aspects of Japanese culture.
The Japanese department’s aim is to give pupils an edge, having studied a more unusual language. We also aim to demystify the language and show that it is as accessible as any European language. Japanese skills are highly valued by many prospective employers and the Office of National Statistics recently reported that graduates in Japanese have the highest lifetime salary of graduates from any foreign language due to the careers pathways that open up in the fields of international business, translation and education.
Pupils also have the opportunities to visit Japan and to host visiting Japanese students.
Pupils start as complete beginners in Year 9 and are introduced to the hiragana alphabet and learn things such as the basics of counting, introducing themselves and describing their hobbies and their family. We also provide lessons to advanced and native Mandarin Chinese learners who wish to take IGCSE second language or first language examination.
We follow the EDEXCEL GCSE which provides an excellent grounding for study post-16. Pupils start by learning the katakana alphabet and then extend their knowledge of kanji characters. We then build up vocabulary and grammatical structures by studying a range of topics. The GCSE is taken at the end of Year 11 with speaking and writing modules contributing 27% each and listening and reading contributing 23% each.
In the Sixth Form, Japanese is offered at AS/A-Level, IB ab initio (complete beginner) and IB Language B Standard Level:
A-Level – Pupils learn to recognise and use Japanese in relation to the following general topic areas: youth culture and concerns, lifestyle: health and fitness, the world around us: travel, tourism, environmental issues and the Japanese-speaking world, education and employment. For the A level we also study two contemporary short stories.
IB Diploma Language B Standard Level – Students study three core themes: communication and media, global issues, and social relationships as well as two options.
IB ab initio (beginners’) Standard Level – The language ab initio course is a course for students with little or no experience of the language. Students develop the ability to respond and interact appropriately in a range of everyday situations.
The Japanese society runs termly events such as sushi making workshops and movie nights. Recent showings have included Studio Ghibli’s “The Wind Rises” and “Ponyo”.
Japanese cooking hobby
In the summer term pupils can sign up to join the Japanese cooking hobby on Saturday mornings. Previous menus have included katsu curry, sushi, nikujaga (meat and potato dish) and green tea ice cream.
Manga lending library
Thanks to support and funding from the Japan Foundation in London, we have been able to create a new manga lending library with over 100 copies of popular shonen and shojo manga titles translated into English. You can now borrow your favourite copy of Naruto, Hunter x Hunter, Attack on Titan and many more. Visit Room 23 in the Library building to browse through our newest arrivals.
Hakuho award 2015
In 2015, Gresham’s was awarded a trip to Japan by the Hakuho Foundation. The school competed in a field of about 80 schools and was selected as one of 13 schools worldwide to participate. Four Gresham’s pupils spent two weeks in Tokyo with students of Japanese from countries such as Mongolia, Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, India, Turkey, and Vietnam. They participated in language workshops, homestays, school visits and cultural experiences which culminated in a presentation in Japanese about their stay to an audience of over 300 people.
The Japanese department runs an exchange with Doshisha Kori Junior and Senior High School in Osaka. The Japanese students usually visit us every other year in March and we are planning to visit Osaka next in June 2016. Pupils will have the chance to visit Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima and Tokyo as well as experiencing a home stay with a Japanese family for a few days.