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Unified standards for Japanese proficiency to soon be created

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe Cultural Affairs Agency will shortly start creating new standards for describing Japanese proficiency levels of foreigners.

By creating such standards, the agency aims to make it possible to evaluate results of multiple Japanese language tests existing in Japan using the same standards. This will aid companies and educational institutions in easily understanding the Japanese language levels of the foreign workers and students they might accept.

The Council for Cultural Affairs will start discussions on the issue from Friday and compile the outlines of the standards before the end of this fiscal year.

The move to create new standards for Japanese proficiency levels is aimed at responding to the needs associated with the expansion of the acceptance of foreign workers the government began in April and to enable foreigner language learners to take appropriate Japanese language education.

The new standards will be created using as references the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR,) an international index for describing foreign language ability, and the JF Standard for Japanese-Language Education, which was introduced by the Japan Foundation in 2010.

More specifically, the new standards will specify Japanese proficiency levels on a six-level scale and describe what a foreigner Japanese language user can do in terms of four skills: reading, listening, writing and speaking. The agency will consider creating a framework to describe proficiency levels of foreigners who have just begun studying Japanese. The agency will show the basic concept of the new standards within this fiscal year and continue to work on specifics.

The most common test to measure Japanese language skills is the Japanese Language Proficiency Test organized by the Japan Foundation and others. This test result is also used as a reference for foreigners to obtain resident status. However, the exam does not test speaking ability. In addition, there are about 20 kinds of Japanese language tests of a similar vein and it has been pointed out that it is difficult to understand what kind of ability is shown by each test result.

In 2010, the Cultural Affairs Agency presented a draft standard curriculum for Japanese language learning for foreigners living in Japan. While the draft shows necessary Japanese skills for specific purposes, such as “being able to understand doctor’s assessment and instruction,” it does not provide Japanese proficiency levels. Under the new standards, the agency plans to show the connection to the draft curriculum so that foreigners can use it as a guide when acquiring Japanese language skills.Speech

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