Do you have questions about the Japanese Language and Culture Program?
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- Why learn a foreign language in elementary school?
- Why learn Japanese?
- How was Japanese chosen?
- Who takes Japanese?
- What do the students learn?
Why learn a foreign language in elementary school?
Current brain research shows that the age of 10 represents a
closing of one of the “windows of opportunity” for learning
languages. After that, the brain begins to destroy its neural
connectors that are not being used. Children who learn any
second language before the age of 10 exercise and use
the “bilingual” portion of their brains. These children should do
better in any language that they study in the future. In
addition, students develop the cultural knowledge and excitement
about language learning that is at the heart of global awareness
and future language class success. Research strongly indicates
that younger learners have the best chance of attaining native-
like pronunciation. Finally, they gain strong communication
skills that can be transferred to any situation, such as “looking
for clues” in context, listening skills, and existing
in “foreign” situations with ease and calmness. Therefore,
whether or not your child is able to continue Japanese after
Maloney (we are working on a high school option), their time
learning a language will not be wasted.
Why learn Japanese?
The Japanese language is spoken by more than 125 million people
worldwide. It is a language that has been labeled as “Critical”
to economic and national interests by the U.S. Secretary of
Education. Speakers of Japanese are needed for careers in
business, travel, finance, interpreting, teaching, and the
military. Those who study Japanese (especially in elementary
school) have a unique experience that helps them stand out during
college applications. The study of Japanese helps children to be
aware of and appreciate a very different language and culture.
Japanese has only a few words that sound like English and none
that look like English! Therefore, students develop strong
listening, decoding, and observation skills in a Japanese
How was Japanese chosen?
When Maloney Magnet School was originally created, a group of
teachers and administrators knew that a foreign language
component would compliment the multicultural curriculum. At the
time, grant funding was needed to start a new program. Funding
was only available for “Critical” Languages (those of national
security and economic importance rarely being taught) as
determined by the U.S. Secretary of Education. Those were
Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Korean and Russian languages. Of
those, Japanese seemed the best in terms of being able to find a
teacher and materials. A model Japanese program already existed
in the East Hartford-Glastonbury Magnet School. The committee
chose Japanese, hired a teacher (Jessica-sensei) and designed
the program. The JLC Program began at Maloney on February 3,
1994. It was funded by the federal Foreign Language Assistance
Program (FLAP), with matching funds provided by the City of
Who takes Japanese?
Currently, all students receive Japanese language instruction.
Grades K through 5 have class three times per week for 25
minutes. Kindergarteners begin in October each year.
Pre-K begings in February for once per week for 25 minutes
There are two full-time Japanese teachers, Kazumi
Yamashita-Iverson and Kanako Itano-Malstrom.
What do the students learn?
The JLC Curriculum is based on the World-Rediness Standards for Learning Languages.
There are five main goals (the five “Cs”):
Communication, Culture, Connections (to other subjects),
Comparisons (to their own language and culture) and Communities
(using the language in and out of school). Keeping in mind all
of these large goals, we determined the type of tasks that
students should be able to do in the language, and combined that
with some of the concepts they are learning in their regular
classrooms. We try to “recycle” vocabulary and concepts often,
adding new material each year. The best way to deliver these
concepts is through thematic, story-like or project-based units
that incorporate a variety of vocabulary, grammar, and subject
area content. By the end of fifth grade, we expect students to
be able to carry out a variety of tasks in the language, such as
introducing themselves, asking for directions, shopping, ordering
food, and talking about their interests. We’d be happy to talk
more with you about curriculum - please contact us anytime. We
also hope to have the curriculum on the web this year!