Japanese Language Education and Me
At the age of 18, I moved to Australia with the goal of becoming a Japanese language teacher. When I was 22, I became a kindergarten teacher, which was the first step to becoming an educator. After that, I started my journey as a Japanese language teacher and taught at pre-schools, primary schools, high schools, language schools, and companies.
Currently, I am teaching Japanese at a primary school, alongside teaching at the Institute of Modern Language at the University of Queensland. In 2015, another tutor and I successfully created one-year courses to teach Japanese to the Australian Defence Force in Sydney and Melbourne. These experiences were amazing opportunities for a Japanese teacher. Throughout my career, I have devoted myself to Japanese education.
Japanese books, including children’s books, are not easy for learners of Japanese to understand
As both a Japanese teacher and a mother, I have not come across many books that were published in Japan and are easily comprehensible by learners of the language. Although there are many good books in Japan, those books are targeted at Japanese people, thus they use native-level Japanese. “I cannot read Japanese books,” “my students cannot finish reading a book by themselves,” and “I bought a Japanese book for my child, but he cannot understand it” are some examples of comments that I hear from teachers, students, and parents. People often believe that children’s books are easier to understand. However, this is not the case because children’s books not only use standard Japanese but also other variations that textbooks do not usually teach, unless they are designed for advanced-level learners.
In the Japanese language, there are many words that have the same meaning. For instance, the word ‘I’ can be said in more than ten different ways, such as 私、わたしく、あたし、 僕、おれ、わし、吾輩、and 自分. The sentence “shall we eat?” can be translated as 食べましょうか・ 食べようか・食べるか・食うか・頂きましょうか・頂こうか・ごちそうになりましょうか and more.
As referenced above, there are many different vocabularies, such as formal, informal, situational, regional, age-appropriate, and fork tales. Additionally, the word choice depends on many factors, such as the relationship between the speakers and listeners—between children, children and adults, family, friends, older or younger, boys or girls, or animals talking. A person’s age, sex, personality, social status, and role can also create more variations. These variations are so vast that learners of Japanese cannot possibly be familiar with all the word choices unless they have lived and used the language in various settings in Japan for a long time.
The fonts are difficult to read
Learners of Japanese are used to textbook fonts or something similar, as most Japanese learning materials employ these fonts worldwide. However, the fonts in children’s books that are published in Japan are either standard, comical, or designed fonts. Children who have been brought up in Japan have no difficulty with this; however, it is challenging for learners of Japanese to read and understand the various fonts.
I decided to create my own books
Ultimately, my frustration, which was associated with the lack of suitable books for learners, combined with my love of writing and teaching the Japanese language, motivated me to create my own Japanese books. From a young age, I have been gifted with high Japanese literacy skills, receiving various awards for excellence in writing as a student. I was brought up in a family of teachers, where both the fun aspect and the importance of reading for literacy development were encouraged early in life.
My passion as both a founder and an author is offering levelled Japanese books that improve readers’ comprehension using visuals, provide an enjoyable and cultural reading experience, and support a gradual improvement in Japanese language learning. My aim is to help readers to experience successful reading so that they say, “I could read a story by myself” and “I enjoy reading Japanese books now.” I want to help readers to enjoy the journey of becoming a more confident and avid reader in Japanese.
My mother and education
My mother, Mitsuko Tashiro, was both an author and a former registered teacher with the Board of Education in Japan, and she taught at primary schools for more than 30 years. She contributed toward improving the quality of both teaching and reading education as the head of teaching and learning and the head of reading and library education.
Moreover, Mitsuko played a significant role in reading education for children in Japan. For many years, Mitsuko was a member of the Japan School Library Association (JSLA), which is a nationwide association that aims to enhance and develop school libraries and promotes reading for young people. She performed as a selection committee member for “good books” for public schools and acted as a judge for the annual wiring competitions, ranking the compositions written by the school children.
Furthermore, she received the best nationwide award for her research treatise on reading education for teachers twice, as well as an achievement badge from JSLA in the presence of the Crown Prince and his wife. Additionally, she accepted the best award for her paper on education by the Utsunomiya Department of Education. Moreover, Mitsuko has written 18 children’s stories, all of which were granted by the Japan Children’s Literature Association. As a result, these books were published by well-known publishers for children’s books, namely the Kaiseisha, Kodansha, and Puplar publishing companies. Nowadays, Mitsuko enjoys her retirement, travelling and pursuing her passion for photography. She is currently supporting me as the photographer for our books and my adviser.