York professor guides University of Havana faculty in art of teaching Japanese

Bringing York’s expertise to other countries is what York Professor Norio Ota, Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics in the Faculty of Arts, is all about, and that led him to the University of Havana last month where he taught faculty there how to teach Japanese. The three-week program Ota taught is part of the exchange agreement between Havana and York.

"We are close to Cuba and we do have special expertise in TJFL – teaching Japanese in an environment where Japanese is not spoken," said Ota. This was his third time on the island. The first two times were to hold two-week seminars and workshops on TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) and foreign language teaching.

The seminar/workshop was given to seven faculty members of the Japanese Program at the University of Havana’s Facultad de Lenguas Extanjeras with a focus on the communicative approach in second language acquisition and Japanese linguistics for teaching purposes. Each faculty member already teaches another language, such as French, German or Russian in addition to Japanese.

Right: Norio Ota (left) poses with his Cuban students

Ota considers this an extension of York’s initiatives in offering technical cooperation in the Teaching of Japanese as a Foreign Language (TJFL) across the border as well as to more remote institutions in Canada through distance education courses.

"This will open up a new door for us to export our expertise to other countries, newly developing countries in particular," said Ota. "I believe we should engage ourselves in this kind of international technical cooperation as a part of global education."

This is the first attempt by York to offer a teacher education and training program directly without going through Japan. Professor Mayumi Usami of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, visiting professor at the University of Hawaii, participated in the final week of the seminar from Hawaii by giving two talks on the use of videotaped authentic conversations that could be used for teaching and learning, and on discourse politeness.

"This was a good indication that York’s Japanese Program had been recognized very highly not only in Canada, but overseas as well," said Ota. "I strongly feel that Canada should take more initiatives in assisting newly-developing countries like Cuba."

Ota says he hopes to invite faculty members to York for a short training session in the future and has already been invited to offer the second part of the program in the upcoming months.

"After I spoke with all the instructors and many students in my class visits, I saw great potential for future development in their Japanese program," said Ota.

For more information about York’s Japanese program, visit the Japanese Studies Program Web site.