Developing a list of learning items and criteria for goals at different levels in Japanese language education


A major purpose of the project is to define the proficiency of the Japanese language that is necessary for speakers of Japanese as a second language (JSL) to establish solid social basis in Japan as a member of the given community. For example, what do JSL speakers should do in Japanese in order to actively engage in practical activities at workplaces or schools? It is necessary to define such a theoretical basis, including the definition of proficiency, to facilitate JSL speakers to be accepted as community members in Japan. Such a basic research is an issue that requires comprehensive academic backgrounds, to which the National Institute for Japanese Language should contribute. Furthermore, the project will provide an instructional standard, as a practical outcome of the newly defined proficiency, which will be applicable to educational institutions.

In specific, the project redefines communication proficiency by considering the actual use of the Japanese language by JSL learners and the changes in the language use, which are observed in the development of their Japanese proficiency. Based on such a re-framed definition of proficiency, the project will provide a list of objectives of instruction and a set of standard for learners with diverse proficiency levels. These resources are expected to serve as a reference for material and assessment development at educators and researchers of the Japanese language.

The communication proficiency, for the purpose of the project, includes literacy competencies as well as oral competencies, though previous research often focused on oral competencies. In specific, the project focuses on writing competencies, which provide an effective method of communication for learners to obtain opportunities to interact with others, conduct information exchange in the Japanese languages, and establish inter-personal relationships. Thus, writing competencies in the project are viewed as necessary skills that can be learned from the early stages of learning.

Duration of research

April 2006–March 2011


  • Defining the framework and components of communicative proficiency.
  • Develop a list of items to be learned and criteria for goals for various proficiency levels.

Achievement in 2006–2007

The following were conducted as a part of preparation for (1) above:

  • Analysis of previous research related to Japanese language communicative proficiency;
  • Analysis of how communicative proficiency is treated in research on language education policy conducted overseas;
  • Drawing up a list of communicative situations that require the use of Japanese; and
  • Host the 'Communicative Proficiency Research Group'.

Plan for 2007–2008

The project will conduct the activities as described below in the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

  • Development of a list of situations: A list of situations, in which JSL learners need the Japanese language to conduct/achieve/complete the given tasks. Various resources, such as information on immigrant education in other countries and syllabi at various educational institutions, will be referred to for comparison purposes.
  • Pilot test on use of the Japanese language and needs survey: A pilot test will be conducted on the actual use of the Japanese language by JSL learners based on the situations listed in (1). The pilot test will also investigate the factors, of which learners and native speakers are in need.
  • Host symposiums: Symposiums called "Communicative Proficiency Research" will be held, so diverse insights and opinion are exchanged and shared.
  • Establishment of a research group: A group of researchers will be formed for the main survey, which will be conducted in 2008.