SHSU Adds Japanese Class For Fall

SHSU students who need four semesters of a foreign language and aren’t interested in learning American Sign Language, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Korean or Spanish will be given an eighth alternative beginning this fall.

Thanks to a grant from The Japan Foundation in Los Angeles, the foreign languages department will temporarily add Japanese to the curriculum from 9-10 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays this semester.

The "Program for the Donation of Japanese-Language Teaching Materials (for the U.S.)" grant, a 100,000 yen (approximately $930) stipend, will provide teaching materials, including CD-ROMs and books for students to use outside of the classroom.

The first elementary Japanese I class, which will be listed under FL 261 X “Directed Reading,” will be taught by Yuki Waugh, who was born in Fuji, Shizuoka, Japan and grew up in a suburb of Tokyo and Fuji.

The class will focus not only on speaking, listening, reading and writing “useful conversations in Japanese,” but also on the culture itself, “because it is important to understand the culture when they learn the language,” Waugh said.

“Because Japanese culture and language are unique, students will find it interesting to learn,” she said. “The surface Japanese culture is similar to English, but the deep level of the culture is different.”

Waugh also plans to bring Japan into the classroom by recruiting volunteers from Japanese groups in Houston to demonstrate cultural events such as the tea ceremony, as well as outside of the classroom by sponsoring a Japanese culture club, hosting a Japan festival on campus and encouraging second-year students to participate in a speech contest in Houston.

Waugh, who has taught both English and Japanese in both countries, said that while the Japanese language is written in a combination of three kinds of scripts—two types of letters, hiragana and katakana, and the Chinese character kanji—the language isn’t necessarily harder for native English-speaking students to learn.

“The pronunciation of Japanese would be easier than other languages because Japanese has less sounds than English,” she said. “It will take longer time to master written Japanese than European languages because Japanese has many more letters and characters.

“Once they learn hiragana (which is what will be taught first), I can say they mastered the basics because hiragana shows pronunciation,” Waugh said.

Throughout her years of teaching, Waugh said she has found that the Japanese culture is what draws students to learning the language.

“When I tutored Japanese at a college in Texas last semester, I observed some students who were interested in Japanese culture such as samurai, martial arts, origami and anime (animation),” she said. “I have met some college students who chose Japanese because they want to be able to understand Japanese movies including anime without English subtitles.”

Because Japan has the second largest economy in the world and is a strong business partner of the U.S., Japanese is also a useful language for business students.

Wikipedia estimates that more than 130 million people in approximately 13 countries speak the language.

“Houston has a large number of Asians, including Japanese. Houston and The Woodlands have Japanese companies and American companies dealing with Japan. Houston has events and festivals related to Japan too,” she said. “Therefore, the greater Houston area has a good environment to learn Japanese.

“Japanese is a popular language to learn among ‘less commonly learned languages’ in the United States,” she said. “Japanese language education is growing in the U.S. too.”

Waugh, who will only be teaching the one Japanese class at SHSU this fall, earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Tokoha Gakuen University in Fuji, her master’s degree in urban studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and her doctorate in educational studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

While Japanese is only being offered on a temporary basis, the remaining courses needed to fulfill a language requirement will be scheduled through the Spring 2010 semester, according to foreign language chair Debra Andrist.

“If we have good enrollment, we will consider extending it, continuing and building on it,” said John de Castro, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “It’s going to be based upon student interest; that’s going to be the key. For example, last year we started offering American Sign Language, and the students came out in droves; so now we’re expanding on it.”

The elementary Japanese class, CID 7865 Section 05, will only have occasional lab hours, so students will not need to sign up for a separate lab.

For more information, call the foreign languages department at 936.294.1441.


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SHSU Media Contacts: Jennifer Gauntt
July 29, 2008
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