Of the estimated 24,000 students studying Japanese in India, as many as 3,000 are learning the language in Pune, making a strong statement of the city emerging as one of the national hubs for this language.
After well-established courses being conducted by the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), Indo Japanese Association (IJA) and Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth (TMV), the famed Deccan College is set to introduce a certificate course this year.
Every year, the Japan Foundation by the Government of Japan conducts Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) at more than 128 centres in 50 countries on the same day (first Sunday in December and July). The objective, said Kousuke Noguchi, director, Japan Foundation (Japanese Language and Japanese Studies) is to evaluate and certify Japanese Language Proficiency of non-native speakers. The purpose was to send experts to train teachers to teach Japanese to students. “We have experts teaching in Delhi, Chennai, and Kolkata but Pune has amazed us with rising number of students recorded through JLPT,” he said.
A welcome figure of 654 students from Pune appeared in 2011 and the number reached 1,070 in 2015. “There is dedication, sincerity and an academic approach by students in Pune ,” he said.
Before 1993, there was only one centre (New Delhi) for JLPT in India. Students from Maharashtra and southern parts of India had to go all the way to the Capital to appear for the test. Considering the need for a centre for JLPT in this part of the country, a group of senior Japanese language teachers in Pune, led by a veteran teacher Michiko Tendulkar took tireless efforts to start a centre for JLPT in Pune, with a strong encouragement from Dr Govind Damale, the then Head of the Department of Foreign Languages, University of Pune (SPPU), and Japanese language teachers Dr Hari Damle and Dr VN Kinkar. The Consulate General of Japan, Mumbai, also helped in setting up the centre.
“In 1993, about 375 students had appeared for JLPT from Pune centre and the number grew enormously,” said Hari Damle, teacher of Japanese language.
“Pune was one of the early cities which had a connection to Japan. Late Dr Ramesh Divekar played a pivotal role in connecting Pune with Japan in 1964. Japanese language teaching began in Pune in 1965, by late Ramesh Divekar with the valuable help from late DD Gangal (who is the senior most person to visit Japan in the 1930s and the author of the first textbook of Japanese in Marathi called Japani Bolbasha,” said professor Dr Prashant Pardeshi,one of the early students of Japanese language of the Pune University batch and currently working with the National Institute for Japanese and Linguistics-NINJAL Japan.
“Pune with its IT base is very well suited for Japanese language education as the ties of the IT industry and the Japanese bilinguals are very deep. As a result, the demand for interpreters, translators, accountants and human resource professionals is high,”said Prajwal Channagiri, who heads the Japanese Section, Department of Foreign Languages, Savitribai Phule Pune University, which has more than 350 fresh students, every year.
Manasi Shirgurkar, assistant professor at Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth (offering Japanese BA courses since 2008) feels that learning the nuances of a foreign language from a native also helps to add to the skill set of students in Pune. The university became the first in the western region to have native Japanese language experts to guide students studying in BA course.
According to Japanese multinationals, campus interviews have been on a rise for students with Japanese language abilities. Varun Modgill, director of a private firm said, “ My company coordinates for and represents the Nikkei HR Recruitment Forum in India, which is a recruitment forum for recruiting the best of Asian students to work in the headquarters of large-scale Japanese companies. We have found that there are exceptionally talented Japanese speakers in Pune.”