View Full Version : Foreign Lang HPs in Tokyo
A question: should Tokyo's 23 wards provide local information and advice in other languages than Japanese?
Personally I think so but realistically it can't be in every single language under the sun.
The main languages should / would be (in Tokyo) - Korean, Chinese and English would they not?
The following may be a surprise then. My local area home page of Adachi-ku is STILL Japanese only.
It has changed style again recently but the big message it that it is only useful for those people who read Japanese. This is in spite of Adachi-ku having what I understand to be either Tokyo's largest number of foreign residents or one of the largest.
(about 21000 of a Tokyo registered figure of 327000)
Only 6 - including Adachi - of the 23 wards offer (or do not obviously display otherwise) home pages limited to the Japanese language.
Shinjuku-ku offers 3 languages it would appear and Taito-ku a brilliant 6 (six) languages.
And so the question again : should Tokyo's 23 wards provide local information and advice in other languages than Japanese?
Any answers boys and girls?
2003-05-26, 01:26 PM
What do you think of the idea floating around to make English Japan's second national language? Then it would be the law to make everything in English to. But do you really think it would help?
2003-05-26, 01:38 PM
MB - Good questions - but would also suggest Spanish/ Portugese and Tagalog - they usually come before English on a residential head count.
See also the thread on the site "Tagengo" - 13 languages, but that is by CLAIR.
What kind of information do you need? This is often not known to the -ku.
They only prepare what they think people need.
Is it a mixture of general and local information?
Is it already accessible through other media than the internet?
Do commercial sites also provide similar information?
How many foreigners actually are participating in local government matters?
Do all local authorities have budgets for establishing and maintaining sites?
In Kanagawa, we found that many local authorities were making materials in many languages, but few staff knew about them and even fewer would distribute them, there was tremendous duplication, and most were very amateur, often from an enthusiastic staffer, who would not consider a native check or professional input. And after the staff member transferred, no-one else would continue the job. Cupboards in the backs of ward offices are full of old pamphlets!
Communication of information (jouhou dentatsu ๎๑`Bjis under discussion, and you might find that your local authority has a group responsible for that. Why not offer to join it, or support it, it could be a great way to learn more about how Japan works.
thanks for the comments th.
Many of them hit various nails firmly on the heads when I apply the words to local issues here.
Kanagawa sounds to some extent an enviable place. The area I live does have various groups active and sounds 'international' on paper if nothing else. I talk having been a volunteer in the international sector who was asked to do nothing whatsoever in the year served. Ideas were given 'serious consideration' and 'sincerely appreciated' but nothing happened, nothing changed and a year later the same questions remain being 'seriously considered'. You know the score.
Locally, here and throughout the nation I can tell you that budgets do exist for internationally related activities at the local level but usage is vastly different in different areas and is a whole subject in itself.
Oftentimes though I have found myself giving local information to ward officials who themselves had no idea as to what, when, where etc. This I do happily but to see nothing ever change despite lots of talking the talk does get a bit much sometimes. Many areas are walking the walk a little now but not yet the place I call home.
The original question idea was therefore something to make people think a bit more along international cooperation lines by looking at what they have and what they don't.
Lastly and numerically though, your mention of the languages to potentially be used, whilst probably allowing for length of period of stay don't really fit in with numbers on the ground to be honest. In the last Tokyo census info I have available, the main (top 10 in order) languages of use by non-Japanese are
English (about 40k)
Tagalog (about 20k)
Portuguese (4.5k or so)
If non Englsih native nationals from such areas Scandinavia and Holland are added (usually very proficient in English) the English figure would be pushed up by about 1500 or so.
One day perhaps, one day.
2003-05-26, 11:43 PM
MB - quite a challenge for you!
I used the All-Japan and Kanagawa residents figures for estimating the proportion of languages, but I forgot the large number of corporate expats and diplomats living in the Tokyo 23-ku area distorts the figures. Kanagawa has about 150,000 foreigners residing there legally, and there are a large number of South American Nikkei-jin working in light industry.
You might want to go beyond the foreign volunteers groups, who you rightly point out are rather cosmetic in nature, and approach the NGOs, who are more active, but usually constituted only of Japanese! They decide for us!
One difficult area I have found is the situation of the zainichi Koreans and Chinese, who being fluent in Japanese and having lived their whole lives in Japan, have a rather different view of the country, and often cannot envisage the problems of migratory foreigners, as they are more assimilated into the society here. They sometimes concentrate on the political issues of nationality, rights and residence, whilst ignoring the practical aspects of being here. They have their own identity crisis.
Interestingly. they seem to have less desire to improve the conditions for Japanese here, despite the potential support of the majority of the community.
Many people divide residents into the Japanese community and the foreign community, but to my mind, there is only one community, and we all live in it. We just have different needs, expectations and ways of communicating.
Any thoughts on that?
your post of last night was again so close to being on the mark (as I see things) that I felt as though I could have written it. Ever get that feeling? Totally agree with your comments on paricular nationalities and that they perhaps feel 'less foreign' than ID cards and legalities suggest them to be. The advice and ideas I sincerely appreciate
Your "Many people divide residents into the Japanese community and the foreign community, but to my mind, there is only one community, and we all live in it. We just have different needs, expectations and ways of communicating." comment is the ideal I consider to be true also and the challenge you indicated I face is not likely to end soon.
Other topics and conversations will come up here on gaijinpot no doubt but until then - I but hope readers think a little more about the community they live in and the problems we all face.
2003-05-27, 09:12 AM
MB - I can recommend this paper - The Self-Identities of Zainichi Koreans by
Jin Saeng So - http://www.wm.edu/SO/monitor/spring2000/paper1.htm
Although it only deals with one group, many of the issues it raises and discusses can be applied to almost anyone who has been brought up in a foreign country. The children of many of the posters here, if they stay in Japan, will no doubt have very different posts to write than their parents, esp. in terms of family environment, local/ international education, assimilation into schools and society. In a broad sense they can apply to many families who choose to work and live in a country other than their place of birth.
There is also a 3D matrix related to the people who live here, in very simple terms: 1) from short term temporary employees through to permanent residents and those who decide to take Japanese citizenship; 2) the country of origin from North America/ Europe/ Oceania to Asia, Central/ South America Middle East etc; and 3) type of work - corporate/ business owners, IT/ engineers, ESL, factory workers, entertainers and CSWs. Each one of us is classified as a foreigner, but our needs, resources, support and reasons for being here can be very different.
Many of the lofty aims of the NGOs such as "developing a multicultural society" or "improving cultural understanding in schools" are doomed from the start, as measurable no goals or objectives are set, and there is no clear way of evaluating such long-term slow changes; but a simpler "let's change the procedure for in absentia divorces at the ward-office" can be handled at the -ku level, and a small successful project can inspire further small changes, to the benefit of everyone in the community. No quantum leaps, just small changes in the fabric that binds us together.
The six thousand ri journey begins with a single step.
Thanks for the Zainichi Koreans link th - very interesting start to it - the length may well be the first step of the 6000 ri journey