Reframing Heritage Language Education from an Intercultural Perspective: The Case of Japanese Language Schools in Greater Vancouver




Kawaguchi, Mayo

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This thesis examines how Japanese language schools in the Greater Vancouver area function in the diversification of their pupils’ backgrounds. The schools provide curricula which mainly consist of practices of Japanese language and cultural learning. Applying the content analysis of qualitative data derived from interviews with the school principals, the thesis investigates what emphasis the schools put on their educational policies and practices of the curricula. The maintenance of the learners’ heritage language and culture have been argued as a primary function of heritage language schools such as the Japanese language schools. However, currently most of the Japanese language schools accept Japanese as a heritage language (JHL) learners who are not limited to those children of whom both parents are of Japanese descent and whose first language is Japanese. In addition, the schools accept learners who wish to learn Japanese as a foreign language (JFL) as well. The complexity of the learners’ backgrounds indicate that the schools’ function cannot be explained only as the heritage language/culture maintenance of those who are Japanese descent. The results of this study reveal that the school principals greatly consider the importance of nurturing pupils’ intercultural competence (Byram & Zarate, 1997; Liddicoat & Scarino, 2013). In the current situation of the Japanese language schools, pupils naturally gain intercultural experiences inside and outside the classrooms. The schools’ intercultural perspective enables us to reframe heritage language education to that which is connected to learners’ development of accepting cultural differences.



heritage language education, Japanese language, intercultural learning, Greater Vancouver