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  5. Is it possible to become bilingual in Japanese and English at school?

Is it possible to become bilingual in Japanese and English at school?

For most overseas students coming to Japan, the first step is to attend a language school and study Japanese full-time for a year. Then, upon attaining the required level of proficiency, they can go on to pursue studies at a school or university. However, students following this pathway tend to study in a purely Japanese-speaking environment, with little opportunity to improve their English.

What about the situation in English-speaking countries? Students in countries such as the US and Canada can enrol in a 4-year Bachelor’s degree in Japanese Language, Japanese Studies or Asian Studies with a major in Japanese. In the UK, it takes only 3 years to complete a degree course but students can choose to add a year abroad in Japan. These options are available to students leaving school with no prior learning of Japanese language. Upon completion, they acquire a fairly advanced proficiency; many land jobs in Japanese companies. Besides, Japanese is also available as an elective at a small number of high schools.

Attending an international boarding school in Japan is another way of becoming proficient in both English and Japanese at an early stage. Students arriving in Japan for the first time can choose ab initio Japanese Language. Those who have lived in Japan for a while, or have studied the language before, can attend classes at a higher level. Other subjects being taught in English, in 3 years’ time, bilingual proficiency can be achieved, unlocking university options within Japan as well as worldwide.