More students opt for second language classes

By Erin Shumlich

Watching anime throughout junior high may actually come in handy for some students.

Many University of Calgary undergrads are required to take a second language as a part of their degree. Students in the new faculty of arts including English, art history and communications and culture, are either required or strongly encouraged to take a language course.

“Japanese is by far my favourite class,” said third-year English major Courtney Ho. “It’s so interactive, I feel like I am in kindergarten. Plus it’s so nice to learn something that is directly applicable to the world outside of academia.”

For all English majors a second language is a requirement, but many like Ho are simply excited for the opportunity to learn a new language.

“If I had room for another option I would definitely take a language, maybe Spanish or French,” said Nick Scott, third-year sociology student.

According to the U of C, the most popular language for undergraduate students is French but recently Mandarin and Spanish have gained popularity.

For U of C Japanese instructor Yoko Kodama, learning English as a second language has opened up many opportunities. In Japan, students are required to take English starting at 13.

“I liked English and wanted to pursue it,” said Kodama. “It is the second language in Japan and it has given me the opportunity to come to Canada and teach. I have always been teaching a second language and it has been very beneficial so that I myself could also grow and learn.”

There has been a recent rise in the level of base knowledge students are bringing with them into beginner classes says Kodama. He thinks that this has to do with the rising popularity of Japanese pop culture in North America.

“We try to eliminate students who have too much knowledge because then it is unfair to others,” said Kodama. “These days with Japanese anime, music and drama many students are used to recognizing or have already begun to learn Japanese. We try to start students off on the same level but I see more and more variety these days.”

It is difficult to determine whether a student can skip intro classes because aspects such as writing, reading and conjugation must be considered. University administrators assess individuals case-by-case.

Many students taking beginner Japanese continue on to the higher levels and travel to Japan on exchange programs, like a one-month program at Senshu University in Tokyo.

Linguistics professor Susanne Carroll pointed out that English contains elements of many languages. By learning another language we can gain a better understanding of new views and ideas, she said.

“There are all sorts of reasons that second languages are beneficial,” said Carroll. “There is a multitude of different levels of knowledge of a specific language and the ability to read and access information on the internet can provide an alternative perspective.”

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