This panel addresses how teaching Japanese as a second foreign language has been shaped by social, political, and economic factors in Southeast Asia and how it has contributed to employability and mobility in the region and Japan. This is part of a large project on Japanese language teaching in Southeast Asia, building on the chair’s edited book, Japanese Language and Soft Power in Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). The interdisciplinary book—in the fields of language policy, language teaching, socio-linguistics, cultural studies and history—argued that Japan needed to understand and adapt to local context in order to exercise its influence through the language in the region.
In 2009, ASEAN officially adopted English as the working language. This is in stark contrast to the European Union, which has 24 official languages. The decision has changed the nature of multilingualism of the region, and some argue that English has replaced local and indigenous languages other than the national language. The impact on other foreign languages, however, is unknown, and Japan seems to be indifferent to the language situation in the ASEAN community. Inside Japan, due to the population decline, the necessity for increasing the foreign labour intake has become inevitable even though the government has vehemently denied discussing the matter in relation to migration policy.
This panel consists of four independent papers in the interdisciplinary fields. The first paper by Kayoko Hashimoto focuses on Japanese language education in the tertiary sector in Vietnam and Thailand and explores how it has contributed to enhance learners’ employability and mobility within the countries, the ASEAN community and Japan from perspectives of learners and teachers. The second paper by Ruriko Otomo examines the EPA programs with the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam. She argues that the program has been structured with an assumption that mastering the language is ultimately foreign workers’ individual responsibility, rather than governments. The third paper by Motohiro Kurokawa is a comparative analysis of consumer preference in Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, and Myanmar, which provides valuable information to understand people’s views on Japanese products in the region. His argument for the necessity for localising products appears to be applicable to Japanese language education. The last paper by Daeul Jeong examines experience of ex-Laotian students in Japan in terms of their employment and mobility, providing important insight into the effectiveness of Japan’s ODA schemes.