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Tenri School of Japanese Language
By Kazuko Takizawa

  There are many Japanese language schools in New York City. There are schools that offer the same curriculum as Japan for children who are going back to Japan in two or three years. There are schools that cater to children born and raised in the US who have a better command of the English language than the Japanese language, and there are schools aimed at children without any Japanese backgrounds but are interested in learning (the language). Since each school has different goals and differs in the students’ progress, curriculum, and homework routines, we as parents must make a decision on what school to enroll our children in when they reach the respective age. When both of my American born sons reached the age to enter kindergarten, I chose Tenri’s Japanese Language School.
In Tenri Japanese Language School, despite being born to Japanese parents or having only one parent being American, many of the children speak English in daily life. Therefore, the curriculum has been paced to allow ample time to learn the material.
Meeting once a week, an hour and half each class, (the class) will finish one Japanese Kokugo elementary school textbook in a year. The child has the opportunity to choose the class depending on his/her understanding of the language; it is therefore possible to be placed in a lower grade in order to spend more time with the material.

Teaching Origami at the TCI New Year Party

  Besides the Japanese Kokugo textbook, tongue twisters and shiritori are also taught to help students remember Japanese. The first thing they learn is the AIUEO song with the same melody as the ABC song. My sons often sing the AIUEO song. There are also annual events parents and guardians are encouraged to attend. Every week, after returning from Japanese school, my children tussle with their homework, even though the homework only includes two sheets of Kanji practice and three journal entries. In Japan, these Kanji are learned in lower grades; however, it is especially difficult for children growing up in a primarily English-speaking environment.

  In other Japanese language schools, I have heard that many children often drop out because it is too difficult. However, in Tenri Japanese Language School, everyone is looking forward to their class every week. (Of course they do not particularly like tests…).

  During classroom breaks, because everyone begins to speak in English, there are comments; such as, “Isn’t it better to forbid English-speaking while in Japanese language school?” The good thing about Tenri is that we believe that it is all right when the children are relaxing. Although the progress of students in reading and writing is slow, the children are steadfastly learning Japanese, day by day. We are very satisfied when we see that the children have become more familiar with Kanji.

  One disappointing factor is that every two years the teachers return back to Japan. It is sad for the students and the parents when the teachers we have become close to leave. Of course we also look forward to meeting the new teachers coming from Japan every year, but I feel it might be nice to have them for at least three years.



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