Volunteers are taking an outsized role in Japanese language support

Every week in community centers and other public spaces across Japan, thousands of volunteers work alongside a much smaller number of professional teachers to help foreign residents learn the country’s language through low-cost “Japanese classroom” initiatives.

Receiving government support, the classrooms are the only ones that many foreign residents will enter to improve their Japanese skills once they arrive, meaning that they play a key role in helping the acclimatization process.

But as Japan sees its foreign population rise again after the hit from the pandemic, is it fair to rely on the goodwill of volunteers — many in their 50s and older and who outnumber trained teachers more than 3 to 1 — to provide a lifeline to so many people new to the country?

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