A PIONEERING new style of teaching languages is being planned at Hongkong University. Backing is being sought for a programme which would put students on an intensive Japanese course in Hongkong and then send them to Japan, all in their first year at university, writes Rachel Clarke. Traditionally students reading for a language degree do not go abroad until their third year. The head of the university's history department, Dr Tom Stanley, said: ''We would like to set up an intensive course giving students nothing but Japanese for the first six months and then send them for at least three months to Japan. ''After that, they would have accomplished about as much language learning as we can provide here in the first, second and third years of our Japanese course. ''The most efficient way of learning a language is to go to the country where that language is spoken and for the longer the better. ''But finance can be a problem for students going to Japan for a long time which is why we have thought about this three-month programme.'' Dr Stanley and his colleagues are seeking financial support and are trying to identify a potential host university in Japan. Hongkong University has a student exchange programme with the International Christian University in Tokyo and a new student exchange agreement with Hitotsubashi University has just been signed. ''We are hoping that within a year or two we can arrange this kind of course for 20 or 30 students a year,'' Dr Stanley said.