Department of Japanese Kanbun Instruction and Research Program, Nishogakusha University

An International Research Project Based on Kanbun Sources to Reconstruct a View of Japanese Culture

Program Introduction Overseas Activities Education Program Others Kanbun Database

Summary Report of Overseas Kanbun Course Section

Chief: Yamabe Susumu

Academic 2007-2008

In April 2007, in the year before the establishment of the Overseas Kanbun Course Section, the first overseas kanbun kundoku course was held at the Department of East Asian Languages, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literature, at Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Italy (participants: 9; instructors: Machi Senjurō and Yamabe Susumu).

In October, Internet-based classes were started (participants: 17; instructor: Yamabe).

In February 2008, a second overseas course was held at Ca’ Foscari University as a continuation of the Internet-based classes (instructors: Machi and Yamabe).

In September, an overseas course was held as part of the regular curriculum for master's students majoring in the Japanese language and Japanese literature in the Department of Eastern Languages, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand (participants: 5; instructors: Machi and Yamabe).

In September, an Internet-based study group for reading the Xiaofu was started with Aldo Tollini (overseas COE leader), Laura Moretti (collaborating researcher), and graduate students at Ca’ Foscari University, and it continues to be held (coordinators: Machi and COE research fellow Kawabe Yūtai).

In December, Yamabe and Kawabe presented a paper at a study meeting of the Japan Association for East Asian Text Processing entitled "Report on Running Internet-based Kanbun Classes and Study Group with Ca' Foscari University of Venice."

Academic 2008-2009

In August, the COE Program co-sponsored a workshop on Manase Dōsan at the University of Oregon (coordinator: Machi).

In September, an overseas course was held at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University, Hanoi, Vietnam (participants: 31; instructor: Yamabe).

In August-September, a second overseas course was held at Chulalongkorn University as part of the regular curriculum (participants: 5; instructors: Tanaka Yukie and Yamabe).

In November, Internet-based classes were started with the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and they continue to be held (participants: 10; instructor: Yamabe). These Internet-based classes are student-initiated study sessions run by the students.

In February 2009, an overseas course was held at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford (participants: 11; instructors: Machi and Yamabe).

In the same month, the third overseas course was held at Ca' Foscari University, and for the first time it was run as part of the regular curriculum (participants: 10; instructors: Machi and Yamabe).

The classes at Ca' Foscari University continued to be held via the Internet from March to May, whereafter an examination was held to approve credits (coordinator: Yamabe).

In addition, a joint workshop on "Kanbun Education: Its History and Future Issues" was held at Ca' Foscari University (14 participants), and there was lively discussion in particular about how to teach kanbun overseas.

Internet-based Classes

Internet-based classes began in October 2007, and currently we are using a video conferencing system (Aethra) for Italy and Skype for Germany with an ADSL 50M circuit. In the case of universities with no provisions for video conferencing, classes can be held quite adequately by using the Skype conference call function.

Mailing List

Activities other than Internet-based classes include Web sites focusing on our overseas activities and providing a user's guide in English for the Kanbun Database, as well as a mailing list aimed at Japanese academic librarians living overseas. With regard to the latter, seven librarians in Great Britain, France, Germany and Norway are participating, and in addition to sending an e-mail every two months or so with information about books related to kanji that have been published in Japan, it is also intended to reply to queries about books and so on. Participants have been asked to publicize the Nishōgakusha University COE Program in their respective countries. In Great Britain and France, the information sent by us is being forwarded to other people affiliated to libraries.

Future Issues

When conducting overseas courses and Internet-based classes, a uniform mode of course administration is unsuitable since the circumstances of each university differ. Even though we may be teaching one and the same kanbun, the objectives of the students at each university are different, depending on whether they want to specialize in kanbun studies, use kanbun as a subject for comparative research, acquire knowledge about kanbun as an aspect of Japanese culture, and so on. Therefore, one needs to carefully consider the actual circumstances of each university and then prepare the curriculum in a flexible manner.

These two years of dealing with students whose mother tongue is not Japanese have also been a time of feeling the limitations of past methods and textbooks for teaching kanbun. It is impossible to gain the students' understanding through teaching methods that emphasize experience and a kind of osmosis, exemplified by the dictum "Practice makes perfect," and by means of anthology-like textbooks. For example, evasive explanations invoking "idiomatic readings" do not work with overseas students, and one needs to explain in a logical fashion why a certain phrase is read, is better read, or must be read in a particular way. This is because the students approach the act of kanbun kundoku, which straddles the two languages of classical Chinese and classical Japanese, as the study of a foreign language.

What these sorts of experiences make one acutely aware of is the urgent need for the establishment of teaching methods and the compilation of textbooks for learning kanbun kundoku as a foreign language, teaching methods that differ from past methods and textbooks and do not just provide samples of "passages that ought to be read." Towards this end, the exchange of information with people engaged in teaching classical Chinese and kanbun overseas is indispensable. The teaching of Latin, another classical language, also ought to be instructive.

This is of course a difficult issue and cannot be solved overnight. But we believe that it will be by means of such teaching methods and textbooks that it will become possible not only to achieve our initial goal of introducing and spreading kanbun kundoku overseas, but also to offer fresh proposals regarding the teaching of kanbun within Japan too from a vantage point that differs completely from past perspectives.

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Department of Japanese Kanbun Instruction and Research Program, Nishogakusha University