Why study Japanese?
Tourism: Every year, millions of Japanese people travel abroad, and not as many of them speak English as well as might be expected. On the other hand, equal numbers of American visit Japan each year, and most do not speak any Japanese. As a speaker of Japanese, you can have better cultural and social experiences when studying abroad in and traveling to Japan. After graduation, you will also encounter many options for translating and interpreting for travelers, businessmen and women, and other visitors to and from Japan.
Media and Entertainment: In recent years, Japanese popular culture such as anime, music, movies, video games, and even books are gaining increasing popularity throughout the country, and Japan is the source of some of the world’s favorite things, including sushi, martial arts, and origami. In addition, Japanese is the third most common language used on the internet. Knowing Japanese can open you up to a whole world of people and entertainments, and can introduce you to a unique culture through various windows of information.
Culture: It’s well-known that knowing the language of a country is a gateway to knowing that country’s culture. While learning Japanese, you will learn about Japanese social practices, religion, music, and literature, all in one class. Studying Japanese and Japanese culture will serve as a gateway to the cultures and languages of China, Korea, and other parts of Asia, whose cultures are similar, and provide the roots of Japan’s culture. Through combining a Japanese minor with an East Asian Studies major, you can acquire a comprehensive education in not only the language, but the history, religion, and societal values of Japan, as well as East Asia in general.
Business: According to the IMF, Japan’s nominal GDP puts it as the third largest economy in the world. Not only is it the home country of many major companies, including big names like Sony, Toshiba, Canon, and Honda, but its people consume billions of dollars’ worth of American products each year. Additionally, Japan, being an island nation with limited resources, is also a nation full of innovators and highly productive companies. Finally, Japan’s cultural and linguistic connections with China puts those who speak Japanese in a more ready position to work with China, the second largest economy in the world. Speaking Japanese can lead you to a multitude of business career opportunities, and combining a Japanese minor with a Business major can serve as a launchpad in that direction.
Personal Well-Roundedness: Including “Japanese language ability” on your resume will add a very useful boost to your impression on potential employers. You will be seen as well-cultured, adaptable, responsible, and experienced. Knowing this language will inevitably be a helpful for you when it comes time to enter the working world after college.
Wittenberg’s Japanese language program offers four years of Japanese language study to its students, a rare accomplishment for a small liberal arts school. It offers small, personalized classes with intensive study in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. In addition to three hours of class time per week, the first and second year Japanese classes require an extra ninety minutes per week in the Foreign Language Learning Center, where students work with native speakers and fourth year students who have achieved tutoring certification, honing speaking and listening skills and gaining invaluable language capabilities. The program holds regular events, including a weekly Japanese Conversation Table, Moon-Viewing party, Japanese Ghost Story Telling, End-of-the-Year party, and, in conjunction with the East Asian Studies and Chinese departments, Chinese New Year Festival. Students who wish to study abroad have more than five location and program options, including at least two that are direct exchange.
As a fourth year student of Wittenberg’s Japanese program, I have nothing but good things to say about my experience. After two years of studying Japanese at Wittenberg, I was well prepared for a year-long study in Japan, where I barely used any English, and I was able to pass the Level N2 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in the summer after my junior year. The teachers are all fantastic; they are experienced, and they know how to help students achieve their best. For a small liberal arts school, the Japanese department is extremely active, and has its graduates working in Japan in the JET program, for Japanese companies, and for American companies working in Japan. If you’re planning on studying Japanese, this is the place to go!
Written by: Dale Angles, East Asian Studies Major, Japanese and Business Minor, Class of 2012.
Japanese Conversation Table (日本語会話テーブル – Nihongo Kaiwa Tēburu): Students of Japanese of all levels, professors, and Japanese exchange students meet weekly in the CDR annex to have an hour of immersion in Japanese language and practice conversation skills. Fourth year students who have been abroad often use this as a way to talk about their experiences in Japan, and practice their Japanese to avoid getting rusty. Younger students come for listening practice, speaking practice, and inspiration to continue their studies of the Japanese language.