AP Japanese Language and Culture Course Perspective

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Authored by

  • Michael Kleinkopf
    Boulder High School
    Boulder, Colorado

The AP Japanese Language and Culture course is the equivalent of a college-level course that prepares students to successfully take the AP Japanese Language and Culture Exam. The course is usually the fourth year of study at the high school level. Students in the AP course not only continue to refine skills in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and culture, but also develop a familiarity with the exam itself. For example, students become familiar with the format, test preparation resources, scoring criteria, and types of tasks on the exam.

Japanese Keyboarding Skills

Computer skills in Japanese are essential to success on the AP Exam. Unlike most other AP courses, the AP Japanese course is taken entirely on the computer, so students must learn to efficiently type Japanese. In addition to typing skills, students also need to become comfortable reading Japanese text on the computer, and using headsets for listening and speaking tasks. Fortunately, there are many useful websites that students can access to help them during their studies.

Internet Resources

Japanese language websites provide valuable learning tools for the AP Japanese Language and Culture course. The course homepage provides students and teachers with an explanation of the different types of exam questions, access to previous years’ questions, and examples of student responses with commentaries. It is also where you can find the course description and the scoring guides for the different exam tasks. The AP Japanese Teacher Community is another helpful site to find and share resources with colleagues. Students can access online materials such as kanji practice, pictures, advertisements, Japanese newspapers, etc., on the student course page. There are also numerous AP prep sites that have been developed by teachers, including several dedicated to learning the AP kanji list. These sites are especially helpful for students to improve reading comprehension by learning kanji combinations. Throughout the course, students use sites like these to practice.

Scoring Guide Language

Teachers can evaluate their students' Japanese language and cultural knowledge using language from the AP scoring guidelines posted on the exam information page. Receiving grading done using the AP scoring guide gives students a familiarity with the terminology and an understanding of the grading expectations on the exam. Having students practice giving an appropriate response with elaboration and detail or giving a higher score for rich vocabulary and a variety of grammatical structures are examples of phrases from the AP Exam scoring guides that can be used to evaluate students' work.

Types of Tasks

During the AP Japanese Language and Culture course, students focus on developing proficiencies in three modes of communication: interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational.

  • The interpretive mode of communication is both reading and listening. In the AP Exam students read and listen to authentic Japanese and answer multiple-choice questions in English. Students practice reading and listening to AP Exam–type tasks throughout the course.
  • Interpersonal mode activities are essentially exchanges of information, either written or oral. The interpersonal tasks on the exam are a written text chat and an oral conversation. Useful skills for the interpersonal tasks are being able to explain preferences, justify opinions, give examples, and provide appropriate set responses (greetings, etc.).
  • The presentational mode of communication on the exam involves making both oral and written presentations on given topics. An important aspect of the presentational tasks is being organized and addressing all of the requirements stated in the prompt. For example, the Cultural Presentation task on the exam instructs students to discuss five aspects or examples of the topic and to "Begin with an appropriate introduction, give details, explain your own view or perspective, and end with a concluding remark." Four minutes of preparation time is given before students begin the actual presentation. In order to succeed on the presentation tasks of the exam, students should be doing presentational activities throughout the course following the AP test guidelines.

The AP Japanese Language and Culture course and exam reflect the skills required to work and interact successfully in the modern world. In addition, students who are comfortable using a computer and other electronic devices in Japanese have gained valuable social and work skills. The benefits of taking the course and the exam make the challenges involved worthwhile!