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Notre Dame High School

Notre Dame
High School


From anime to noodle bars, karaoke to manga, bonsai to origami, Japanese culture has become part of international culture. A knowledge of the language will give you access to Japanese film, animations, and comic books; give you an insight into the special terminology used in your favourite martial art; help you understand the cultural basis for kamikaze training and the origin of the samurai warrior; and develop your ability to order sushi like a native at your favourite Japanese restaurant!


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Japanese has been taught at Notre Dame for the last twelve years and during this time we have been developing links with Notre Dame High School in Kyoto. We have taken a number of very successful trips to Kyoto and, depending on the international situation at the time, hope to take the new cohort of GCSE students in the second year of their course.

The course assumes no prior knowledge of Japanese so all students start together as absolute beginners. This is however a demanding two year course which many schools teach in more than two years. Students are expected to learn quickly, with over 300 Japanese characters needed to complete the course. As such there will be a number of lunchtime sessions in the second half of the summer term this year when students will be introduced to and expected to learn hiragana (46 characters) with homework being set over the summer holiday to help with this.  Your application will be based on factors such as having achieved a grade 6 in French or Spanish by the end of Year 9, and your overall attitude to learning and progress in other subjects.

If you are confident with languages and have an interest in Japan, then take this unique opportunity to learn Japanese and within weeks of starting you will not only be speaking a new language but also reading and writing in a completely different pictorial alphabet. For more information, please contact Mr Pritchard.

GCSE Japanese Curriculum 

  Year 10 Year 11
Aut.1 Identity and culture:
Who am I?
Local area, holiday and travel
Aut.2 Identity and culture:
Daily life
Local area, holiday and travel
Spr.1 School:
What school is like
International and global dimension
Spr.2 School: 
Timetable and school day; teachers etc
International and global dimension
Sum.1 Future aspirations, study and work Orals and revision
Sum.2 Future aspirations, study and work  

How is it assessed?

The two-year GCSE course consists of four units based on speaking, listening, reading and writing. There will be exams in each of these units at the end of the course. You will develop your understanding of Japanese in a variety of contexts and develop a greater understanding of Japan and its unique culture.

Revision Resources 

Our resources are shared via our Google Classroom

The code is: efamdhz


Career Pathways 

Choosing a less commonly learned language will pop out on your résumé and distinguish you from the crowd; and don’t forget Japan has one of the largest economies in the world. Japanese companies are among the largest, most efficiently run, and most well-known firms in the world. Familiar names like Sony, Toshiba, Sanyo, Casio, Canon, Nintendo, Honda, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and many others have permeated the world market in a variety of sectors and have offices in major cities all around the world.

Whether you’re interested in business, engineering, design, research, economics, or politics, chances are you will be competing with, if not working for, a Japanese company at some point in the future.

For advice on apprenticeship courses, click here.

Career Options

You can watch a great series of videos of young people who are working in jobs that use foreign languages on the BBC Bitesize website.

For example careers leading from this subject, click here.

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THINK Languages THINK Apprenticeships from Amazing Apprenticeships on Vimeo.

GCSE Japanese FAQs 

Do I need to know any Japanese before choosing GCSE Japanese?

No. The course starts from ‘zero’. In your first lessons you will learn to say, "Nice to meet you, my name is ….", in Japanese. You will then learn to count to 10 in Japanese. So, no knowledge of Japanese is required to start the course. An interest in Japanese culture helps though!

Is Japanese difficult?

Not if you are hardworking and good at learning languages! You need to be prepared to spend time learning to read and write different alphabets (hiragana, kanji and katakana) which makes it different from learning European languages but not any harder. Your application will be based on factors such as your grade in French or Spanish by the end of Year 9, and your overall attitude to learning and progress in other subjects.

Is the exam different in Japanese?

The structure of the exam and language themes covered are exactly the same as for French and Spanish.

Will there be a Japan trip?

At the time of writing, we are unsure what will happen with educational visits next academic year due to the global events. If safe to do so we would very much like to run a trip to Japan in your second year of studying Japanese.

Is Japanese a new subject at Notre Dame?

No, we have been teaching Japanese at Notre Dame for 12 years.

How many hours of languages will we have a week?

You will have 5 hours of Japanese language lessons per fortnight.

Is one bit of the exam more difficult than the others?

You all have your strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, which subjects and which sections of the exam you find easy and difficult depend on you. However, remember that the more effort you put in, the more you get out. The exam becomes easier the more practice you do!

What grades can I get with each tier?

The Higher tier targets grades 9 through to 4. The highest grade if you do Foundation tier is a grade 5.

How do I know whether I’ll be doing Foundation or Higher tier?

No decision on your tier of entry will be made now. You will have mock exams in Years 10 and 11 and these practice papers will help both you and your teacher determine which tier is appropriate.

Can we do double languages? Say for example if we've done French, can we start Spanish?  or, if we have done French can we do Japanese too?

Yes, there is the possibility of doing two languages of all combinations.

The decision whether to run the group will depend on the numbers who choose this as an option.

When second language groups are viable, they tend to be small groups.  This is a huge advantage as it means you get more individual attention and opportunities for feedback as well as increased participation on your part.