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Japanese Takes Off at Priory School in East Sussex
Year 7 students at Priory School trying Japanese with StepOutNet volunteer Asami Harada
Year 7 students at Priory School trying Japanese with StepOutNet volunteer Asami Harada

Priory School, a secondary school in East Sussex specialising in language, arts and science, has been introducing Japanese in 2007-8 and is planning on taking it further. Japanese is the sixth foreign language the school has been offering recently, in addition to French, German, Spanish, Mandarin and a short course in Greek.

The school's interest in Japanese started when Sarah Timlin, now Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for Modern Foreign Languages, attended the one-day Head Start Course at the Japan Foundation London Language Centre in March 2008. "As a language college we are always open to seeing how we can increase number of languages offered and the number of students studying a language," said Sarah.

Sarah was so enthused by the Japanese language taster at Head Start that she got her school's backing to set up an after-school club for Year 9s as a pilot project, to give her students an introduction to Japan and Japanese. Having picked up the basics of Japanese, Sarah used the Ready Steady NihonGO! resources and video clips of everyday life in Japan from the Tobu CD to introduce some simple aspects of the language.

Sarah was keen that her colleagues in the language department also became familiar with the language, especially given the school's long-term plan to develop Japanese further. She therefore asked our Language Advisor, Shoko Middleton, to run a half-day language course in basic Japanese for ten of the school's language teachers. Shoko said "I was very impressed with the teachers' enthusiasm, quickness to learn, and the way they used their experience of other languages to help them with Japanese."

The teachers put their knowledge of Japanese to use at the school's International Day on 18th July 2008. Here, they worked with two StepOutNet volunteers, Asami Harada and Riko Sherratt, to give Japanese language tasters to 250 students across Year 7 to Year 10. The students tried many activities, including writing their names in Japanese, Japanese numbers and actions, and learning animal names and noises. They also tried aspects of Japanese culture such as taiko drumming and origami, and even had the chance to make their own samurai costume. The Japanese activities were partly funded by the Japan Society.

In 2008-9, Priory School is planning on offering Japanese as an extra-curricular subject taught by a Japanese-speaking teacher, and also hopes to offer accreditation for this. The school also plans to offer Japanese as one of a carousel of languages to mainstream students with SEN (Special Educational Needs) in Years 7, 8 and 9.

If your school would like to follow the example of Priory School, please contact Kim Woodruff ( at the Japan Foundation London Language Centre for more information.