School magazine “Japan Heute” Two languages and many themes

Schoolgirls at the Goethe-Institut Tokyo.
Schoolgirls at the Goethe-Institut Tokyo. | © Goethe-Institut/Anja Schwab

Many schools have a magazine in the local language, but foreign-language school magazines on the other hand are not so common. The school magazine Japan Heute is even published in two languages, Japanese and German. Students at the school address themes that interest them, whilst improving their foreign language skills at the same time. They can be creative, write, take photographs, draw and much more.

The editorial team of Japan Heute meets four times a year at the Goethe-Institut Tokyo. Japan Heute is the school magazine for students at the four Japanese schools supported by the Goethe-Institut within the framework of the "Schools: Partners for the Future" initiative (PASCH). The school magazine was first published in 2012, with four printed issues per year and online at PASCH-Global, the international school magazine blog for the PASCH initiative at With the printed edition, the school magazine team can literally get their hands on the fruits of their labour. A package of printed copies is also sent out to all PASCH schools in Japan. This means that many students and staff come into contact with the school magazine. German learners in other countries can also read the articles in Japan Heute online at PASCH-Global and comment on them.

Comments on a report covering the earthquake in Japan in 2011. Comments on a report covering the earthquake in Japan in 2011. | © PASCH-net

How a new issue is created

Every issue is made up of articles by around 15 students, who work individually or in groups to write texts, take photographs and design the title page. Staff at the schools check the spelling, and the PASCH employees at the Goethe-Institut Tokyo do the final proof and the layout. Japan Heute is bilingual, so students who speak no German or still have only limited skills can read the paper. Apart from one student, all of them write the Japanese words first, and then translate it into German. A long Japanese sentence frequently becomes several short German ones in the process, or the original text is simply reformulated if the translation is too difficult. Reading both texts is worthwhile, because the Japanese and German versions are only occasionally identical.

Editorial team meeting for “Japan Heute” school magazine. Editorial team meeting for “Japan Heute” school magazine. | © Goethe-Institut/Carina Hagl Students decide for themselves what they write about. At the editors’ meeting they are just given tips for potential themes if they do not contribute any suggestions themselves. Mostly they choose themes that are relevant to their everyday lives, such as seasonal celebrations, favourite foods or hobbies – or they write about PASCH activities such as visits to the German embassy or to German companies in Tokyo. People who have been involved in the project for a while and are therefore “experienced in newspapers” venture into the realm of challenging articles. That might be book or music recommendations, or commentaries on current affairs, such as the Olympic Games or the inclusion of Fujisan as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Current feature from Japan Heute on PASCH-Global about the national round of the Internationale Deutscholympiade. Current feature from Japan Heute on PASCH-Global about the national round of the Internationale Deutscholympiade. | © PASCH-net

Tips for working on a school magazine

Students can work on the school magazine during lessons, but also in workshops or study groups. It is important not to plan too many issues per year, because school magazines are work-intensive for all concerned. This includes regular editors’ meetings to discuss theme planning. The students should have as much freedom of choice as possible when it comes to selecting the themes. Ideally the teachers should undertake the correction of spelling and grammar. This enables them to offer tips concerning frequent errors. If the school magazine is published bilingually, it does mean that more work is needed for writing and correction, but the upside is that the paper can be read even by students who do not speak such good German.

Linking school magazines

Logo Japan Heute © PASCH-net Although collaboration on the school magazine is in principle voluntary, and it’s quite a challenge to write German texts of any length, many of the students contribute to each issue with their writing. For them, the school magazine is an opportunity to apply their German skills in practice, and to improve them. For some, this motivation is also linked to the specific desire to travel to Germany, or to write articles on Japanese culture in German.
But a school magazine can do even more than that. In Japan Heute they regularly publish articles by students from the Gimnazija “Uroš Predić” secondary school, one of the PASCH schools in Serbia. In return, these students are sent the latest copy by post. This exchange began in 2011 with many postcards that the Serbian schoolchildren sent after the serious earthquake in Japan. This exchange, which has so far mostly taken place through the school magazine, is set to continue: a Serbian-Japanese get-together is planned for 2015. As a result the school magazine is also a window onto another country about which they can learn more through the German language – for both Japanese and Serbian students.

About the “Schools: Partners for the Future” initiative (PASCH)

Logo PASCH © PASCH-net PASCH stands for “Schools: Partners for the Future”. The initiative networks more than 1700 schools worldwide at which German is considered a particularly important subject.
PASCH is an initiative coordinated by the German Foreign Office in cooperation with the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA), the Goethe-Institut (GI), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Educational Exchange Service of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (PAD).