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 and that Japan is fairly insignificant on the world scene. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • 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.
  • Japanese is the ninth most commonly spoken language in the world and the fifth most studied language in universities and colleges across North America.
  • 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 (still quite rare in the West!).
  • 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 (or minor)?

  • A six-course Japanese minor can be added to majors in B.A., B.Sc., and BASc. degree programs.
  • A Japanese Language Education minor is available for B.A./B.Ed. or B.Sc./B.Ed. students.
  • Japanese can also be one of the streams chosen for a General Major in the Humanities (see Academic Advising).
  • International Management students are required to take 3 language courses.
  • Japanese language courses are part of the Asian Studies minor.
  • Of course, you can take Japanese courses at any time to fulfill GLER requirements for most majors.

What courses make up the minor in Japanese?

We offer 5 language courses and several Japanese - related optional courses: Society, culture, history, religion etc: 

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 – 2024, 2026, 2028 - only in Fall)

Good to know:

  • All courses are 3 classes per week and 1 asynchronous lab (e.g., students do lab on their own time outside of class)
  • Students with no knowledge of Japanese start with JPNS 1000 in the Fall (NOT JPNS 1100 – that is second semester Japanese)
  • Students who register in JPNS 1000 are required to fill out the Student Information Form
  • Students who have ANY prior knowledge of Japanese (e.g., self study, Japanese native speaker parent(s), missionary work, high school/univ./college course, study abroad etc.) are required to take a fill out the Student Information Form and possibly take a placement test to determine which level they should register in. Please contact the Program Coordinator, Abigail McMeekin (abigail.mcmeekin@uleth.ca) if you have questions.
  • For Japanese language classes, if you started in Fall 2023, the timeline would look like this:
FALL 2023
FALL 2024
FALL 2026
JPNS 1000
JPNS 1100
JPNS 2010
JPNS 2020
JPNS 3001
(Only offered every other
year: Fall 2024, 2026, 2028…)

Optional Japanese - related classes

  • Asia 2020 - Japan, Asia, and the World (Taught by various professors, offered TBD)
  • IDST 2008: Japanese Culture (Usually offered in Fall – check the Dynamic Schedule for the most current offering)
  • IDST 2600: Study Tour of Japan (offered every other Summer 2025, 2027)
  • RELS 2360: Japanese Religions (Taught by John Harding, usually offered TBD)
  • JPST 3400/ASIA 3400: Japanese Society and Culture (Taught by Abigail McMeekin, Summer only - set to become an online, asynchronous course)
  • HIST 3290 - Japan, 1570 to 1890 (Taught by Gideon Fujiwara, usually offered in Summer)

How does the minor work?

  • Students can add a Japanese minor by talking with an Academic Advisor.
  • For the Bachelor of Arts and Science Japanese minor, students are required to take six classes:
    • 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 optional courses (listed above) can count toward the minor.
    • Important to know: It states in the Undergraduate Calendar that you can count a Modlang 2850, 3850 course., OR an Independent Study (JPNS 1990 etc.), OR an Applied Studies (JPNS 2890…), but these are NOT viable options right now because of a faculty/staffing shortage.
  • For the Bachelor of Education Japanese Language Education minor, students are required to take six classes:
    • Four Japanese language courses
    • Education 4272
    • One linguistics course

Good to know:

  • The Japanese language classes are taught by Abigail McMeekin (Program Coordinator) and Tomoko Greenshields.
  • 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 funds to support our program and 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 Outstanding Student Award: Every year two awards are given to students in the JPNS 2000 and/or JPNS 3001 classes who excel in Japanese writing and oral communication.

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