The Filipino Language Use of Japanese Students of Filipino Descent
Keywords:Filipino language, Filipino subject, Japanese student, heritage language learner, choice of language
The Filipino language is taught and studied as a second or foreign language in and outside the Philippines. It is also taught in Japan, however, compared to the students of the Filipino language in America and Europe who are mostly "heritage language learners (HLLs)", the students in Japan are Japanese students who study the Filipino language because of some socio-political and socio-economic reasons (Laranjo, 2020). From time to time there are also some Japanese students whose mother or father is a Filipino (Nagaya, 2022). It has been argued that the curriculum for HLLs should be different (Kagan, 2012) from second and foreign language learners. The purpose of this study is to determine the difference between HLLs and other students of the Filipino language and the importance of considering them in the teaching of the Filipino language in Japan. To do this, semi-structured interviews were conducted on two categories of Japanese students of Filipino descent at one of the top state universities in Japan offering the Filipino language as a major - (1) three students who took or are taking Filipino as a major and (2) three students who did not take Filipino language as a major. Their answers were analyzed through thematic analysis and the two questions of this study were (1) How did the target students’ background influence their decision in choosing the language they studied or are studying? (2) What do the target students know about the Filipino language and Filipino culture that non-Filipino students do not know? It was found that the students' language major choices were influenced by their proficiency in Filipino, shaped more by home exposure than residence in the language's country. Heritage learners excel in familiar sounds, everyday vocabulary and certain cultural concepts, but struggle in speaking, writing, and reading Filipino.