Sakura Hot

Increasing enrollment allows SU’s Japanese Language Program to expand while other language programs face cuts. This piece also appeared in the Fall 2009 issue.

By Amy Su

Ten years ago, Syracuse University only had three sections for Japanese 101.  Yet this semester, the Japanese Language Program not only expanded Japanese 101 to six sections in total, but also began to offer Japanese 300, a three-credit course that focuses on high-level Japanese language learning.

“It’s the first time in SU.  I’m very excited about it,” says Tomoko Walter, the Japanese Language Coordinator at the College of Arts and Sciences.

One of the 21 undergraduate programs in the Department of Language, Literatures and Linguistics, the Japanese Language Program offers first- and second-year Japanese courses, which include Japanese 101, Japanese 102, Japanese 201 and Japanese 202.

In the past decade, enrollment has doubled in all Japanese classes.  To fulfill student needs, Walter plans to expand the program to include higher-level courses.  The one-credit Japanese 300 course has been offered for years, but this semester, the three-credit Japanese 300 officially began, offering students a chance to advance to their third-year of Japanese learning at SU.

Currently, 15 students are taking Japanese 300, and several graduate students are auditing the class as well.  The enrollment is beyond expectation, Walter says.

“It’s quite big for a first-time Japanese course to be offered,” she says.

Walter attributes the high interest in the Japanese language to the globalized world in which we live.  In recent years, American society has become more aware of Japanese culture through the mass media, such as the popular Japanese animation TV series, Pokémon, as well as through Manga.

Also, more high schools across the U.S. now offer Japanese courses and programs.  With more freshmen coming to Syracuse University with some background in Japanese, they are more likely to take higher-level Japanese classes in college, Walter says.

Megan Banks, a junior currently taking Japanese 300, first became interested in exploring the Japanese language and its meaning after a visit to Japan.  She attributes her involvement in the Japanese Language Program to the engaging professors and community-driven atmosphere.

“This program is small, and everyone gets on so well.  The atmosphere here is great,” Banks says.

Sayumi Suzuki, a graduate student in Language, Literatures and Linguistics, is one of the teaching assistants for Japanese 101.  She agrees that the culture is the most important thing to keep students passionate about the language.

“Learning language is kind of tough, but learning the culture makes grammar and background learning more interesting,” Suzuki says.

Although the Japanese Language Program has made great progress, work still needs to be done to reach the minimum standards for creating a minor.  A minor requires full-time faculty and at least 18 credits in the subject where 12 credits are at the 300-level or above.  Walter, however, doesn’t want to stop there.  He hopes the University will one day have a well-developed East Asian Studies Program.

“I would like to see a bigger skill in cultures and Asian-focused courses in other departments,” Walter says.  “Hopefully, someday these good things will happen here.”  The growth of the Japanese Language Program is definitely a good start.

Asian and Asian American Studies Program Update

Class enrollment for the Asian and Asian American Studies Program is much lower than expected, unlike the successful expansion of the Japanese Language Program.  For a program proposed to become a minor, it is a difficult situation to manage, says Professor Prema Kurien, Acting Director of the program.

“The required courses are open, especially for this program,” Kurien says.  “If they also can’t get enough enrollment, we won’t teach them again, and there will be no other faculty who will teach it.”

Sixty-nine percent of the Asian American population is comprised of immigrants molded by their Asian heritages, based on the results of the 2000 census.  The Asian and Asian American Studies Program at SU grows out of an awareness that it’s impossible to understand Asian Americans without understanding the histories and cultures of Asia, Kurien says.

Kurien proposed the Asian and Asian American Studies Program to become a minor this past October.  The Curriculum Committee is reviewing the proposal and will make the decision in spring 2010.  “If the committee approves the proposal, we can officially be a minor in fall 2010,” Kurien says.

However, only eight students enrolled in the required Asian and Asian American Studies course this fall semester.  It’s much lower than Kurien’s expectations of 30 students in class.  Even if the minor is approved, if students do not take the required courses for the Asian and Asian American Studies minor, all efforts will be in vain, she says.

Currently, the program has developed a flier to post and send out via e-mail to promote the required course in the spring.  Kurien also worked with undergraduate volunteers involved in Asian American organizations on campus to host a reception as well as a talk to publicize the program this past November.

“I hope this will yield results and that we will have a strong enrollment for next semester,” Kurien says.


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