Kelaniya University rejuvenates diplomatic ties between Sri Lanka and Japan | Sunday Observer

Kelaniya University rejuvenates diplomatic ties between Sri Lanka and Japan

12 June, 2022

Our mutual friendship with Japan started in 1893. The pioneers of the Buddhist renaissance in Sri Lanka Anagarika Dharmapala and Sir Henry Steel Olcott sowed the seed of a longstanding friendship with Japan by introducing Buddhism to Japan.

The diplomatic ties with Japan became inseparable after World War-2. Quoting the words of the Buddha: “hatred ceases not by hatred but by love”, J.R. Jayewardene ,who represented Ceylon at the San Francisco Conference, made a remarkable speech in which he articulated that the Japanese should be allowed to flourish as an independent nation.

No doubt that his speech laid the foundation for the everlasting friendship between Sri Lanka and Japan. The University of Kelaniya which is guided by the vision: “to become a centre of excellence in creation and dissemination of knowledge for sustainable development,” and the mission “to nurture intellectual citizens through creativity and innovation who contribute to the national development,” rejuvenates our diplomatic ties with Japan for decades.

The University of Kelaniya has garnered even the international recognition and reputation being the only university to offer a wide range of language courses up to the degree level. The Department of Modern Languages better known as the centre for learning foreign languages is one of the oldest departments in the university.

The department which was established in 1974 offers both general and special degree programs in seven languages including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, French, German, Russian and Spanish. It would not be an exaggeration to mention that the University of Kelaniya is the only university with the largest population of language graduates occupying prestigious positions in Sri Lanka and abroad.

Sri Lanka’s flagship English language newspaper, the Sunday Observer caught up with the present head of the Department of Modern Languages, Prof. Dilrukshi Rathnayake to discuss the commendable contribution made by the University of Kelaniya for strengthening the mutual friendship with Japan. Prof. Dilrukshi Rathnayake is the first senior lecturer and PHD holder in Japanese.

Japanese Language Unit:

Back in the early seventies the Japanese Language Unit started to offer a certificate course in the Japanese language. As time passed, many students encouraged by the certificate course wanted to quench their thirst for learning Japanese language as a foreign language.

Therefore, in the early eighties, the University of Kelaniya introduced Japanese language as a subject for the BA General Degree program with the support of the Japan Foundation. For the commitment and dedication made by many lecturers to bear fruit, there must be a proper guidance and direction. Dr. Dilrukshi Rathnayake deserves credit for pioneering both the Honours Degree Course and the Postgraduate studies in Japanese language at the university, broadening the horizon of language studies.

Being the only university to offer the postgraduate diploma in Japanese studies, the University of Kelaniya has made history in the field of language studies. Commemorating the 70th anniversary of our mutual friendship with Japan, the University of Kelaniya established postgraduate diploma in Japanese studies on April 1.

Prof. Nilanthi de Silva Vice Chancellor of the University of Kelaniya, and Ambassador Mizukoshi graced the ceremony.

The Japanese Language Unit does not confine students to traditional lecture halls. Organising many workshops and events such as cultural-exchange programs with the participation of native Japanese students, the Japanese Language unit allows students to get a better learning experience with the exposure to the live Japanese culture.

No doubt that most workshops which are open for both internal and external students arouse their curiosity in learning Japanese. Significantly, the highly committed lecturers conduct island wide-seminars for both O/L and A/L students are to brush up their knowledge.

Japanese Language Research Institute

Back in 2016 the Japanese Language Research Institute was established in the university. Equipped with modern technologies and learning tools, the research institute creates a better learning atmosphere for students to thrive in Japanese language studies.

Not only does the research institute encourage students to seek new knowledge through analysis, innovation and insight but also sharpen their inborn skills. It is significant to stress that it is the Japanese Language Research Institute which publishes Japanese language text books for Ordinary Level Examinations and Advanced Level Examinations in the country. Moreover, the language laboratory donated by the JICA to ensures the betterment of language studies.

As told by Prof. Dikrukshi Rathnayake, the special degree program in the Japanese language covers a wide range of subjects including ‘Teaching Japanese as a foreign language’, ‘ICT’, ‘ Intercultural communication’, ‘Japanese Culture’, ‘Business Japanese’, ‘Translation Methods and so on.

There are many career opportunities for language graduates. For instance most graduates are working as language teachers at schools, language coordinators in software companies and the members of the diplomatic services.

Surprisingly, Japanese language graduates have established themselves in the tourism industry and the diplomatic services. Speaking of the opportunities for scholarships, Prof. Dilrukshi said that the University of Kelaniya in collaboration with the Embassy of Japan in Sri Lanka provides students with scholarships to leading universities in Japan. In addition, Prof. Dilrukshi said: “Our mutual friendship with Japan has a long history. To strengthen our bilateral relations with Japan, we should learn not only the language but also their culture. We should have a good understanding of their culture.”

Message from Prof Nilanthi de Silva, Vice-Chancellor

“We are delighted to commemorate 70 years of diplomatic ties between Sri Lanka and Japan, because the Japanese Unit of the Department of Modern Languages in our Faculty of Humanities is a pioneer in the Japanese language education in Sri Lanka.

With the best-qualified academic staff in the country, the Unit offers a stand-alone certificate course in the Japanese language and Japanese as a subject for undergraduate students. This year, the Unit launched a program leading to a Postgraduate Diploma in Japanese Language Studies. It also contributes immensely to secondary education in Japanese and offers help to the other Sri Lankan universities as well.

Over the years, the University of Kelaniya has played a major role in strengthening the bridge of friendship and understanding between Japan and Sri Lanka. Japan has stood by our country through good times and bad and contributed in innumerable ways to our development. The University of Kelaniya is proud to be an integral part of the ties that bind our nations”.

Message from Prof. Dilrukshi Rathnayake

“The University of Kelaniya is the oldest and most well-established University teaching the Japanese language for over 40 years since 1978.We have contributed a lot by teaching the Japanese language and culture in the university to strengthen the friendship and understanding between Japan and SriLanka. Japan is one of the most cooperative countries in all over Asia and has supported our country whenever needed. The Department of Modern Languages in the University of Kelaniya expects further to enhance the opportunities of teaching the Japanese language in the University in order to continue the existing strong friendship between Japan and Sri Lanka”.

Message from Katsuki Kotaro Acting Ambassador of Japan

“I would like to begin by expressing my heartfelt thanks to the University of Kelaniya for commemorating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relations by issuing this special supplement. I would also like to extend my warm greetings to the readers of this esteemed weekly. The proficiency in foreign language allows the aspirant learners to develop true insight of the country in which one takes interest, through closer and deeper interactions with the people of that country, and gaining greater access to the pure knowledge.

Since 1978, the University of Kelaniya has been spearheading the Japanese language education in this beautiful island, and today, it has evolved into the center of excellence in Japanese studies, and the emblem of friendship between Japan and Sri Lanka.

I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to Senior Prof. Nilanthi de Silva, Vice Chancellor, University of Kelaniya, Professor Dilrukshi Ratnayaka, Head of the Department of Modern Languages, and all the faculty staff for working relentlessly to promote such vital cause of our relationship, and for cultivating the rich ground from which the buds of our promising future shall sprout.

As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic journey this year, we are determined to extend our unqualified support to further developing the Japanese language programs in Sri Lanka. Towards our common aspirations, we will continue to walk hand in hand with the University of Kelaniya, to build kokoro no kakehashi (a bridge of hearts) between our two people together.