Japanese in the British Isles by Viv Edwards
Japanese is spoken by approximately 125 million people worldwide. It is sometimes classed as a member of the Altaic language family, but its exact relationship with other languages remains to be determined.
Japanese writing is extremely complex and is made up of three different systems:
• kanji, a logographic script derived from Chinese characters, and often used for the main content words
• hiragana, a syllabic script used for additional grammatical information
• katakana, also a syllabic script, used for representing English or any foreign words other than those of Chinese origin
In newspapers and magazines, Japanese is usually written from top to bottom in columns which run from right to left. However, the print in many textbooks runs horizontally from left to right.
The number of Japanese speakers overseas has increased as the Japanese economy has expanded and there are currently approximately 50,000 in the UK. Most are sent by companies or the government for varying periods of time, or come as students. There are also long-term settlers - restaurateurs, estate and travel agents, and retailers serving the Japanese community.
The overseas Japanese tend to move periodically from one place to another, ultimately returning to Japan. This poses a range of difficulties for children's education.
Schooling in Japan is highly pressured as young people compete for the highly coveted university places which will ensure them a management position and a job for life. Children educated outside Japan will inevitably find themselves at a disadvantage. Some attend Japanese boarding schools abroad; others go to Saturday schools. Special consideration is also given to children who are returning to Japan from overseas.