Ms Akiko Harada, Japan Foundation Japanese Language Senior Specialist


Ms Akiko Harada was dispatched by the Japan Foundation to New Zealand’s Ministry of Education as a Japanese Language Senior Specialist in October 2013. Based in Auckland, she is the National Language Advisor for Japanese at ILEP (International Language Exchanges and Pathways).

Foreign language study is not compulsory but an optional subject in the New Zealand education system. Previously many schools taught a combination of French and Japanese but recently there is greater diversity in the range of foreign languages taught with Spanish, Chinese and Pasifika languages increasing. According to Ministry of Education statistics (2014), Japanese is being taught at 193 schools to 19,000 students at the primary level and it is fourth most popular after French, Spanish and Chinese. At the intermediate level it is taught at 188 schools to 12,000 students, so despite being in second place after French the decrease in student numbers is continuing. Among higher education institutions Japanese is taught at 7 national universities, 1 private university and 1 training college but the decrease of Japanese language learners continues to be a challenge.

Against this background, Ms Harada has been making great efforts to promote Japanese language education in New Zealand, tirelessly travelling around schools all over New Zealand, holding workshops and school visits, supporting and advising Japanese language teachers at elementary, junior and senior high level. She plays a vital role in Japanese language education in New Zealand, and maintains a strong network of people involved in teaching Japanese at university through activities such as speaking at seminars and judging speech contests.

Speaking about her work, Ms Harada says “The aim of my work is to make as many New Zealanders as possible gain an interest in Japan and the Japanese language. As part of my job I meet many Japanese language teachers and it’s always a pleasure to meet people with the same passion as myself. Although I don’t have my own class I feel it is very rewarding to work for the promotion and development of Japanese language education, and satisfying to see that through workshops and training sessions each teacher is having a positive effect on their students. Even now I feel nervous before holding workshops, but all the effort of preparation is forgotten when I receive comments such as [It was very useful, I want to use this in my classes tomorrow], [So much fun, I definitely want to come again] [This is interesting and I think my students will enjoy it]. My greatest encouragement is seeing how happy the teachers and students are. I will continue my efforts so as many schools as possible are teaching Japanese.”