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The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

OPINION: Students have an interest in adding a Japanese minor, the university should listen

Max Hoelker / Hilltop Views
Professor Risa Ginther is going over her lessons in the adjunct professor offices. She makes an effort to integrate popular culture and her students’ interests with the textbook lessons to make sure students stay interested and engaged.

At St. Edward’s, there are four foreign languages to study: Spanish, French, German and Japanese. Of these languages, only one of them doesn’t currently have a minor option: Japanese. I believe that St. Edward’s should change that. 

There are a few factors that could support this goal. Firstly, demand. 

“Japanese for many years has been very solid in (Japanese 1) and (Japanese 2), and I think in some cases it’s done better than German and French,” Philppe Seminet, professor of French and Chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, said.

The introductory courses are almost always at or near capacity, and pull similar enrollment numbers as German and French on campus, the two languages with minors other than Spanish. Additionally, according to the Modern Language Association (MLA), Japanese is the only foreign language in the U.S. with enrollment decreasing in the single digits (-4.8%), other than Korean, which is the only one with an increase in enrollment. 

Both on-campus and nationwide, Japanese is a thriving language worth expanding on in a university setting. So why does SEU not offer a Japanese minor? The main reason is lack of enrollment in upper-division courses. Japanese 3 had nine students enrolled in Fall 2023, and this semester, Japanese 4 only has seven. This is obviously a problem: not a lot of students are taking these classes, and thus students cannot demonstrate a demand for the minor. 

Above are some of the current Japanese 4 students. On the board is a collection of recent anime series to use as examples in sentence practice. They are practicing how to say that two items are equal in some respect. (Max Hoelker / Hilltop Views)

There is an obvious answer as to why this is: there is no incentive. Considering how demanding many majors are, many students don’t see a reason to add intentionally difficult classes like higher-level language courses to their course load. In my opinion, adding the minor would create the incentive for students to take these classes. Giving students the minor credit would incentivise them to enroll in these higher level classes because they’ll then have a label on their degree to show for their language literacy skills.

The second piece of support: demographics. As I mentioned before, Japanese had the lowest decrease in enrollment aside from Korean. Seminet pointed out another important detail to me: as of the 2021 MLA report, there are more students enrolled in Japanese than German nationwide. 

Japanese programs are rare in the U.S., especially in a place like Austin. Celia Corujo Gomez, current Japanese 4 student and former Japanese TA, commented on this fact.

“Would we be able to find students to fill Japanese minor classes? Absolutely,” Gomez said. “Especially because a lot of students here at St. Edward’s come to study Japanese for the sake of going to Japan for study abroad.”

These students have a passion for the language and I believe that they aren’t pursuing these higher classes because of the lack of minor credit. Newly hired SEU Japanese professor Risa Ginther, known to her students as Ueda-sensei, holds a similar opinion.

“I really like to see students engage, using that learned language, into something a part of their life,” Ginther said. “And not only learning languages, just learning the language per se, but actually you are opening up the world and learning the different culture, knowing how to live, and receiving a different perspective. So having said that, having a minor in Japanese, that really encourages and motivates students to continue their language learning, meaning the cultural learning. Life learning.”

I believe that a Japanese minor would be a valuable addition to the St. Edward’s curriculum. Students have the passion for it, and the teachers and TA’s can clearly see it. To anyone enrolled in Japanese 1 or 2, I urge you to consider taking Japanese 3 and 4. The only way to bring this minor into reality is to enroll in those classes and demonstrate to administration that there is an interest. And to any St. Edward’s administration, please consider these words. St. Edward’s University would greatly benefit from a minor in Japanese.

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About the Contributor
Max Hoelker, Copy Editor
Max is a sophomore English literature major with a minor in psychology. Although this is his first year with Hilltop Views, he is ecstatic to dive into writing, editing and all things in between. In his limited free time, Max loves to spend time with friends and read.

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