UAB expands to meet demand for Japanese language instruction

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japanese streamStudents who study Japanese language might be drawn by their affinities for subcultures such as anime and manga, but it offers more than accessible entertainment, says Yumi Takamiya, assistant professor in the Department of Foreign Language and Literatures.

The language is one of the most difficult to learn. According to the Foreign Service Institute's School of Language Studies, Japanese is a Category IV Language, meaning it is exceptionally difficult for native English speakers to learn. Yet, more than 50 students are pursuing the Japanese minor program at UAB.

“These students are highly motivated and go through a tough process to learn Japanese and become proficient,” Takamiya said. “In this global world, having experience in a foreign language and culture is a great benefit for any future career path students choose.”

At UAB they are provided the opportunity to attend cultural events on and off campus, study abroad in Japan for up to one academic year and learn alongside UAB exchange students from Japan or Japanese residents of the city.

Now those opportunities are expanding. UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences Department of Foreign Language and Literatures received a $30,000 grant from the Japan Foundation Los Angeles in September. Consul-General Takashi Shinokuza, attending via Skype, and Mark Jackson, Alabama’s honorary consul general of Japan, presented the award to Provost Pam Benoit in a room filled with students, alumni, city residents, faculty and staff.

The grant will enable the department to hire a full-time visiting language instructor, something Takamiya says is important because enrollment numbers in UAB’s minor in Japanese are growing. The program also plans to expand its course offerings and would like to establish a major concentration in Japanese in the near future.

“In this global world, having experience in a foreign language and culture is a great benefit for any future career path students choose.”

“We have a high demand for more courses,” Takamiya said. “This grant will be crucial for our Japanese language program to grow.”

Birmingham has a long partnership with Japan. Birmingham has called Hitachi, Japan, its sister city since 1982, and a 10-foot statue of Vulcan sits in a park that overlooks Hitachi. In 2017, Maebashi, Japan, became Birmingham’s second Japanese sister city. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ Japanese Gardens were officially opened by the Ambassador of Japan to the United States in 1967 and feature traditional architecture and elements, and large stone lanterns, a gift from Hitachi, greet visitors at the Botanical Garden’s entrance.

The Japan Foundation Los Angeles promotes international awareness and mutual understanding between Japan and the United States through cultural exchange, programs and grants for introducing Japanese art and culture, support for Japanese studies and language education and Japanese publications and translations.

The Consulate-General of Japan is responsible for strengthening relations between Japan and the United States; the Atlanta consulate’s jurisdiction includes Alabama, Georgia and North and South Carolina.