Early literacy policy and practice in Japan

Authored by: Eiko Kato-Otani

The Routledge International Handbook of early Literacy Education

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138787889
eBook ISBN: 9781315766027
Adobe ISBN: 9781317659204


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There are things taken for granted in one’s native language and culture. The Japanese orthographic system is such an example. It is natural for Japanese people to use four different orthographic systems: Hiragana (Japanese syllabary), Katakana (used for foreign or borrowed words), Kanji (Chinese characters) and Romaji (romanized Japanese). In this respect, Japanese is a unique language because it has four different modes of written expressions. A sentence can be written in Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji and Romaji. In addition, Japanese script can be written horizontally from left to right, or vertically from top to bottom. Having four different writing systems seems to be complicated to people who need to learn only one. Japanese children, however, grow up in such a literacy world and acquire necessary literacy skills. When formal schooling begins in the first grade, elementary school teachers teach their students step by step how to read and write these four different scripts according to the policies established by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT).

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