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There are a variety of settings in which Japanese language for children with Japanese backgrounds (Japanese Heritage Language, JHL) is taught and learned in the United States.  

Some JHL students study at community-based schools that are typically run by non-profit organizations and are sustained at the grass-roots level through support from local stakeholders.  Japanese language and culture are also taught within public educational institutions in the United States either as world language subjects, or under the umbrella of dual-language immersion Japanese programs.  JHL students are enrolled in these programs, though their curricula are not designed around the students’ unique position of familiarity and experience. 

The landscape of JHL education in the U.S. is further complicated by the fact that there are many students with Japanese backgrounds who learn Japanese as kokugo (国語) at hoshuko (補習校), supplementary Japanese schools which are supported by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.  This lack of uniformity and articulation between JHL programs and learners creates challenges for educators to provide classes and resources that suit their student’s specific needs. 

JFLA is proud to unveil this first step in bringing all players in JHL education throughout the United States closer together. One of our tools is our free-to-register community forum (Chat Café), where users can ask for help and exchange ideas with one another. We hope this platform will assist both guardians as well as educators of JHL learners throughout the United States. 

JFLA welcomes and appreciates any advice, suggestions, or requests sent to us in the interest of improving this platform. JFLA will continually update the site to keep it ever more informative and beneficial to parents and educators nationwide.

Message from Keisho Nihongo Advisory Committee Members

This platform is dedicated to connecting guardians, teachers, schools, and educational organizations throughout the United States that provide Japanese as a heritage language (JHL) education to children with Japanese backgrounds. An endeavor of this scale, and one made by a public organization such as the Japan Foundation, will be a gamechanger in the long history of JHL education in the U.S. and one that is long overdue. 

JHL education in the U.S. has a long history and originated as a way to cater to the educational needs of children whose parents immigrated from Japan to the U.S. prior to WWII. Until very recently, there was a lack of acknowledgement and support for heritage language education by public government agencies due to English Only language policies. With no teachers, no teaching materials, and no funding, most JHL programs in every region of the country are self-run and sustained by the hard work of volunteer parents and other community members. 

It is our hope that this platform will help connect and close the gap between all who provide and support JHL education in the U.S., thus encouraging a lively exchange of information and ideas to bring about a new chapter in American JHL education.

-Toshiko Calder

Adjunct Professor, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
Former Representative, The Japanese Society for Mother Tongue, Heritage Language, and Bilingual Education (MHB) Heritage Japanese Language SIG
Board Member of Princeton Community Japanese Language School

-Dr. Masako Douglas

Professor Emerita, Department of Asian and Asian American Studies, California State University, Long Beach
Board Member of Bilingual/Multilingual Child Network (BMCN)
Board member of National Coalition of Community-Based Heritage Language Schools

-Dr. Hitomi Oketani

Professor, Department of World Languages, Eastern Michigan University 
Vice-President of Bilingual/Multilingual Child Network (BMCN)

Board Member, Michigan Japanese Heritage Center (MJHC)