An interactive system to teach Japanese, first piloted in Georgia, is now available to schools across the country. Created by the Georgia Public Broadcast System, it’s called “Irasshai”–“welcome” in Japanese. The series is a complete learning system which provides school districts with video instruction and interactive components leading to two years of high school credit in Japanese.

The Irasshai system allows schools to offer courses in Japanese without an on-site Japanese-speaking facilitator. With a telephone, computer and modem, students can interact with native speakers and other students in the course, use custom-designed web pages in lessons and, link to web sites for information about Japanese language and culture.

The program is delivered through PeachStar. A division of Georgia Public Broadcasting, PeachStar delivers educational programming via satellite to Georgia’s educational institutions and libraries. All schools in Georgia are equipped with satellite dishes, thanks to funding from the Georgia State Lottery.

Irasshai was built as an interactive system using multiple technologies because, according to Joey Baughman, Division Director of Education Services at PeachStar, “The old model of delivering instruction doesn’t work. We must tailor instruction to the needs of the masses.”

Baughman said that the Japanese language program–which would ordinarily require an instructor fluent in the language to teach on-site–is perfect for distance learning. The video lessons, broadcast over the satellite as well as on George Public Television, can be taped for later use by the school.

Students enrolled in the Irasshai class view the video lessons, and then complete classroom activities under the guidance of the classroom teacher. To reinforce and practice ongoing lessons, students dial into a conference call via speakerphone, and speak conversational Japanese. The Irasshai office provides flexibility for schools utilizing block schedules by scheduling audio interaction which fits these schools’ schedules.

Irasshai’s web component was developed in cooperation with Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). In addition to the web site, the Irasshai series is enhanced through use of a listserv.

Schools interested in receiving the Irasshai course must have a color television with a programmable VHS videocassette recorder, a speaker telephone and a dedicated telephone line. The Irasshai program is available to those schools who do not have satellite access through a set of videotapes.

Teachers of the Irasshai program may also earn college credit for the course. Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia, allows facilitators of the class to register for four hours of Japanese 101 and four hours of Japanese 102 during instruction. Teachers complete the Irasshai lessons along with their students and receive college credit.

Irasshai Home Page