Why study Japanese?

Want to study one of the most interesting languages in the world? Something different, challenging and COOL? Fascinated by all things Japanese? Absolutely love the geeky cool factor of Manga, Anime, Ninja, Otaku, Karaoke, Video Games, CosPlay, Martial Arts, J-Pop and J-drama? Or are you into Japanese culture, film, business, literature and history? Then you are a perfect candidate for Japanese language classes!

People think that Japanese is an uncommonly spoken language. Nothing could be further from the truth. Japan is a significant player on the world scene.

  • Japanese is the ninth most commonly spoken language in the world and the fifth most studied language in universities and colleges across North America.
  • Japan has the third-largest economy in the world (after the U.S. and China), and Japanese pop culture attracts millions of fans all over the globe.
  • According to the last Modern Language Association report (MLA, 2016), while foreign language enrollments of major languages were down approximately 9.2%, Japanese saw an increase of 3.1%, replacing Italian as the fifth most studied foreign language.
  • Japan is a small country with a cool language that has a huge impact on a global level.

Beyond these are all the benefits of studying Japanese such as:

  • Getting a job that requires you to speak a second language – education, government, military, business, translation, travel industry, foreign affairs etc.
  • Becoming a global citizen by studying an Asian language and culture (very different from Western ones).
  • Being able to communicate in another language is a vital feature of a well-rounded education.
  • Being accepted into the JET Programme to teach English in Japan (bonus points for applicants who speak Japanese!)
  • Learning how to read and write in completely different writing scripts (hiragana, katakana, and kanji). (Helps in getting that tattoo exactly right!)
  • Being able to engage in your favourite Japanese activity (manga, anime etc.) in Japanese (vs English)

What will I learn in a Japanese language class?

We focus on all four skills; how to speak, read, write (hiragana, katakana, and kanji) and listen. This learning is layered with learning how to act socially and linguistically appropriately such as learning how to: bow, address people with the right title or use appropriate levels of speech (casual, polite, honorific) etc. Ultimately, the goal is for students to be able to engage in conversation and communicate in situations that occur in daily life.

How does Japanese fit into my major?

  • We have a six-course Japanese minor that can be added to majors in BA, BSc, and BASc.
  • Of course, you can take Japanese courses at any time to fulfill GLER requirements for most majors.
  • Japanese can also be one of the streams chosen for a General Major in the Humanities (see Academic Advising).

What courses make up the minor in Japanese?

We offer five language classes and a handful of society and culture classes: 

Japanese language classes:

  • JPNS 1000: Beginner Japanese I(Offered only in Fall)
  • JPNS 1100: Beginner Japanese II (Offered only in Spring)
  • JPNS 2010: Intermediate Language I (Offered only in Fall)
  • JPNS 2020: Intermediate Language II (Offered only in Spring)
  • JPNS 3001: Advanced Language (Offered every other year -2020, 2022, 2024 - only in Fall)

Japanese society and culture classes:

  • IDST 2008: Japanese Culture (offered almost every semester – check current calendar)
  • IDST 2600: Study Tour of Japan (offered next in Summer 2021, 2023, 2025….)
  • RELS 2360: Japanese Religions (starting in the 2020/2021 calendar – offered Spring 2020, 2021…)
  • JPST 3400/ASIA 3400: Japanese Culture and Society (Currently on suspension due to staffing needs)

How does the minor work?

  • Students are required to take six classes to obtain the minor.
  • A minimum of four Japanese language classes (listed above) must be taken, but ALL FIVE can count towards the minor. One course at the 3000 level is required (i.e., JPNS 3001 – offered every other year).
  • In addition to the language classes, a maximum of two of the Japanese society and culture classes (listed above) can count toward the minor.
  • Students should discuss viable options for the Japanese minor, and/or add the minor, by talking with an Academic Advisor.
  • For Japanese language classes, if you started in Fall 2019, the timeline would look like this:

Good to know:

  • Students who have not studied Japanese before start with JPNS 1000 – in the Fall semester.
  • Students who have studied Japanese before are required to take a placement test. Please contact the Program Coordinator, Dr. Abigail McMeekin (abigail.mcmeekin@uleth.ca) to schedule a test.
  • JPNS 1000, 11000, 2010, and 2020 have 4 classes per week: 3 lectures and 1 lab.
  • It’s noted above, but be aware that JPNS 3001 is offered only every other year.
  • Students in International Management can take Japanese to fulfill their language requirement.
  • Japanese language is a requirement for those who declare an Asian Studies Minor.
  • We have a Conversation Café (Jpn-Eng language exchange) every semester, so students can practice and make friends with international students from Japan.
  • Several of our students have been gone on to teach in the JET Programme! Contact the JET Programme Facilitator, Diane Minamide (minadk@uleth.ca), for more information.

Are there any study abroad opportunities?

Absolutely! There are currently several opportunities to study in Japan. These programs are set up and handled by the International Centre. For more information on all of these locations, click the links below, or visit the International Centre’s website or contact Gizelle Tiponut, (gizelle.tiponut@uleth.ca), the Education Abroad Coordinator-Outgoing.

Are there any Japanese Scholarships or Awards?

Yes! The Nikkei Cultural Society of Lethbridge and Area generously donates these to our students:

  • Nikkei Cultural Society of Lethbridge and Area Study Abroad Scholarship: Every other year, one $500 scholarship is given to a student who has been accepted into a Japanese study abroad program and who is studying or has previously studied Japanese at the University of Lethbridge. Students who declare a Japanese minor are especially encouraged to apply.
  • Nikkei Cultural Society of Lethbridge and Area Japanese Minor Scholarship: Every other year, when JPNS 3001 is offered, one $500 scholarship is given to a student at the 3001 level who has declared a Japanese minor AND who will have completed the Japanese minor at the end of the 3001 class.
  • Nikkei Cultural Society of Lethbridge and Area Book Prize for Excellence in Writing: Every year, Japanese books are given to a student in the JPNS 2000 or JPNS 3001 class who excels in Japanese writing.
  • Nikkei Cultural Society of Lethbridge and Area Book Prize for Excellence in Oral Communication: Every year during our Book Prize Ceremony, Japanese books are given to a student in the JPNS 2000 or JPNS 3001 class who excels in oral communication in Japanese.

To learn more about these awards, please contact Dr. Abigail McMeekin.