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Japanese has been offered at Treetops for nine years and our program is moving from strength to strength. We are in the enviable position of being able to guarantee continuity of language learning for students from Early Childhood through to Senior Secondary. This ensures students are building on prior knowledge throughout their language learning journey.

Students start participating in Japanese classes when they stay for full days in Children’s House. At this stage, Japanese lessons include songs and games in the target language. Students are encouraged to experiment with the language and sounds, just as they do with English. It has often been observed that students who begin Japanese at this early age have increased accuracy in pronunciation and confidence when engaging in the language.

Starting this year, we have increased our Japanese time allocation at Treetops for Years 3-6 students. Now held twice-weekly, this is to reflect the increasing demands of the new Western Australian Curriculum and will ensure students are given access to all aspects of the curriculum.

This time allocation continues up to Year 10. Students in Years 11 and 12 can choose to continue Japanese via the WACE General pathway or International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP).

With Japanese a compulsory subject at Treetops, new enrolments who have no prior knowledge of Japanese are given support on a modified curriculum. Just as with other learning areas, at Treetops we adapt the learning to suit the individual student in a safe and inclusive environment.

Every successful languages program includes authentic opportunities for interaction in the culture. In the past, we have taken Secondary students on tours to Japan, which included home stay in Osaka and participation in a summer camp. For four consecutive years, education interns from Nishikyushu University stayed with Treetops families and assisted in classes throughout the school.

Whilst the pandemic has led to a temporary pause on travel to and from Japan, we are hoping to be able to continue offering these opportunities in the near future. In the meantime, we are making the most of regular interactions with Japanese pen-pals via video and email exchanges.

For a small school, we are able to deliver amazing learning opportunities. In 2016-17, we were one of only fourteen schools worldwide to participate in the Hakuho Scheme for a Global Children’s Japanese Language Network – the only school in Australia! Four Treetops students and their Japanese teacher attended the 8th Japan Experience Program for Overseas Children. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our students to engage with Japanese speaking peers from all over the world whilst being immersed in the Japanese language and culture.

During the two-week long, all-expenses paid scholarship programme, students participated in Japanese language lessons, a school experience and camp with Japanese high school students, overnight homestay, and sightseeing in Tokyo. Later the same year, Treetops hosted Japanese students from one of the schools we visited in Tokyo. This was a fantastic opportunity for the Treetops community to engage in the unique opportunity provided by the scholarship.

Learning a second language differs greatly from learning mother tongue. Consider how long babies are exposed to a language before they are able to communicate using the spoken word. At Treetops, our philosophy is not that successful students are fluent in Japanese. Instead, we encourage students to see the world through another lens. By observing a different culture and language, and considering how others may view theirs, students build intercultural awareness to become respectful global citizens.

Sharon Crossman
Japanese Teacher