Edinburgh primary leads way with Japanese lessons pilot

Liberton pupils with their Japanese teacher Dr Yoko Matsumoto-Sturt
Liberton pupils with their Japanese teacher Dr Yoko Matsumoto-Sturt
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THEY already love manga, Pokemon and Nintendo and now schoolchildren in the Capital have been given the chance to learn about the language behind some of their favourite pastimes.

Liberton Primary School has become a language trailblazer thanks to a new scheme designed to introduce youngsters to Japanese from an early age.

The Japanese for Young Learners project has seen two P5 classes give the language a go, as well as learning about the history and culture of the far eastern country.

While Liberton already teaches a number of other languages – such as French, German, Spanish and Mandarin – it is the first Edinburgh primary school in many years to add Japanese to its offering.

Headteacher Paul Ewing said Japanese gave pupils the chance to try something “exciting and different”, adding investment in the Capital from Japanese companies meant it was a logical option to explore.

He explained: “It’s gone really well. Giving children a breadth of language is really important.

“We have been very lucky, it’s been a privilege and we want to be able to share that with other schools certainly.”

Prior to the start of the six-week project Mr Ewing joined a small group of teachers on a trip to Japan, which included a visit to the Gakugei University Oizumi Elementary School.

Mr Ewing said he hoped the two schools would develop strong ties in future years.

The Japanese for Young Learners project is a result of collaboration between Edinburgh University, the city council, the Japan Foundation and the Japanese Consul General.

Teaching the Liberton pupils was linguist Yoko Matsumoto-Sturt, who teaches Japanese as a foreign language as well as lecturing for the university’s Japanese Studies course.

She explained it was vital to get children interested in languages at a young age because “they don’t get scared learning a new language”.

“They know a lot about Japanese culture already through things like Pokemon and Nintendo so they are very keen to learn a new language,” she said.

“Their attitude is really positive and natural, they are so keen and they can continue to learn Japanese online.

“It’s just so amazing that they responded so well and they engaged in all the possible activities.”

While the Liberton pilot is drawing to a close, a number of teaching packages are being created by Dr Matsumoto-Sturt in a bid to help other schools give Japanese a go.

At least three other Edinburgh primary schools have expressed an interest in getting involved in teaching project in the future.

Cammy Day, education leader at the city council, said: “We have a truly diverse school population and it’s really encouraging that pupils at Liberton Primary are learning Japanese which is one of many modern languages available in our schools.

“Teaching different languages can only enrich wider learning for our young people from an early age. Languages are key in equipping them for a modern world in which they are global citizens.”

florence.snead@jpress.co.uk