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University of Pittsburgh

Japanese: FAQ—Graduate Students

I have had some formal language training in Japanese. Do you offer anything that meets my needs?

If your previous training in Japanese makes it unnecessary to take fourth year Japanese (JPNSE 1050), you should sign up for tutorials (JPNSE 1800 or EAS 2701), in which you can read the materials of your research area. We recommended you get tested when you arrive in Pittsburgh. Contact Professor Mills for a placement test.

Is more emphasis placed on speaking and listening?

At the beginning of our curriculum, yes. As you make progress in our program, you will be spending increasing more time on how to read and write.

How large is language class?

The First Year Japanese class may contain 40-50 students in each lecture class but most of the class time is in Act (practice) classes which have about 12 students and are taught by native speakers of Japanese. This permits daily practice using language in real and simulated situations. Second Year and Third Year Japanese classes are structured the same way with fewer students.

How often does language class meet?

In the first two years, class meets seven times a week, two for lecture and five for recitation. In third year Japanese, class meets five times a week, 1 1/2 for lecture and 3 1/2 for recitation. Fourth year Japanese meets four times a week. Tutorials meet once a week.

What is expected of students during lecture class in the first four years?

You must come to class having read and understood the assigned section in the textbooks. The teacher will give important grammatical and sociolinguistic information, facts about Japanese culture and society, time for your questions about language or culture, and quizzes. These classes are conducted in English and you may also ask questions in English.

What is expected of students during practice (recitation) class in the first four years?

This gives you a chance to put what you learned in lecture class into practice by speaking with a native speaker of Japanese. You will act out situations in the textbook and practice expanding on them to deal with new situations using learned grammar and vocabulary. Recitation is conducted strictly in Japanese.

How much time would I need to dedicate to the study of Japanese?

As much as you can, but to do well, you cannot probably go with less than 1 1/2 hours a day, if you are an average foreign language learner.

What language skills am I likely to have after studying Japanese for four years at Pitt?

If you a good learner of language, apply yourself diligently over your career at Pitt, and take advantage of our study abroad program, you are likely to be able to have no problem in social and occupational use of the language in speaking (OPI scale of Advanced). In reading, you can expect to be able to read contemporary materials (Web sites, books, newspapers, letters, and e-mails, to name a few) with help from dictionaries.

How good is Pitt’s Japanese language program?

Very good; it’s small, but one of the best in the nation.

I have studied Japanese before. Do I need to take a placement test?

Yes. Contact Professor David Mills to schedule a placement interview as early as possible. Keep in mind that in our experience previous language study in high school does not get you far enough to skip the first course in the language sequence. Also be aware that if your previous training did not emphasize oral communication, you may find our program to be challenging.

Does Pitt offer other courses related to East Asia in general?

Pitt is one of the largest centers for Asian studies in the nation. Close to 50 courses are listed at the University as having 100 percent East Asia content and many more dedicate a substantial portion of the content to East Asia. Approximately 2,500 students enroll in these courses in an academic year.

Do you offer summer courses in Japanese?

Yes, we do. We offer intensive First Year Japanese and Second Year Japanese courses through our SEALS (Summer East Asian Language Study) Japan Program. Become a SEAL and complete one year of language study in 10 weeks! And there are some tuition scholarships available.

Do Pitt students participate in a program in Japan for language training?

Many graduate students have gone to the Inter-University Center in Yokohama for language study. There are a number of other language programs in Japan that will help you gain language proficiency at an accelerated pace.

Are scholarships available for studying Japanese in the United States during the summer?

Scholarships are available for the summer intensive language program at Pitt. Contact Paula Locante.

Does your library have a large collection of Japanese language materials?

Yes, our East Asian Library has a collection of more than120,000 Japanese language books in the permanent collection and subscribes to more than 200 Japanese journals. Our East Asian library is one of the largest in the nation and is part of Hillman Library with a holding of more than 7.5 million titles.

Where can I go to find more information about Pitt’s Japanese Language Program?

Come and visit us! You’re welcome to observe our classes. We are on the 7th floor of the Old Engineering Hall (3943 O'Hara Street). You find more information about us from Professor David Mills.