In today's competitive business environment, many Japanese corporations regard a good command of their language as a prerequisite for top positions in their companies.
Japan is Hong Kong's third largest trading partner, after China and the US, while Hong Kong remains Japan's ninth. "About 2,100 Japanese companies have offices in Hong Kong," says Hideaki Sugai, associate professor, Department of English, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). "In recent years, there has been a steady increase in demand for professionals who have practical business and communication skills in Japanese." This is partly because Japanese companies tend to hire candidates who can communicate in the language.
In light of this, the PolyU's Department of English launched a Postgraduate Diploma in Japanese Studies for the Professions programme in 2001 and it was upgraded to a Master of Arts programme in 2005. "It is a platform for bachelor's-degree holders who have passed the grade two Japanese language proficiency test devised by the Japan Foundation and the Association of International Education," says Dr Sugai who is also the programme leader.
"The programme is business communication-focused. Its objective is to equip students with an understanding of the concepts and skills that underlie the use of Japanese in professional contexts," he adds.
The programme offers a number of subjects, all meeting different needs, but the principal objective is to provide students with key theoretical knowledge, together with practical abilities such as negotiation skills and discourse strategies in Japanese. Emphasis is placed on written and spoken communication through authentic business tasks and business simulation.
"Although we offer full-time and part-time study modes, most of the students are part-time learners. We understand that it can be difficult to balance work and part-time studies and therefore provide students with three study options," says Dr Sugai. "Students who complete 10 subjects are awarded the qualification of Master of Arts in Japanese Studies for the Professions. Alternatively, they may opt to obtain a postgraduate certificate or a postgraduate diploma, depending on their own agendas."
The department plans to offer doctorate studies in Japanese in future to further expand its portfolio of language programmes. "We encourage students to understand the importance of life-long learning. If a student wants to do a PhD in Japanese Studies, we will be more than happy to provide the student with such an opportunity."
Past students have spread the word, which has been a boost to the programme. Dr Sugai says, "Our alumni have been positive about the department and the programme. They have also established a culture club to connect all graduates and students of the programme. In addition, some of our existing students are organising a project presentation to share their learning experience with the public later in May."