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University of Pittsburgh

Japanese: FAQ —Undergraduate

Is Japanese really hard?

It is one of the more challenging languages. For speakers of English, Japanese does take more time than, for example, Spanish. However, students every year make significant progress toward achieving advanced skillls. Everyday conversation is emphasized, along with reading and writing.

How good is Pitt’s Japanese language program?

Very good; one of the best in the nation.

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 increasingly more time learning 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 (or fewer) 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.

What is expected of students during lecture class?

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 either 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?

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.

Do students enjoy studying Japanese?

Yes, a lot of our students actually enjoy studying Japanese. If you'd like to ask a current Japanese student a question, here is a list.

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 are 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 acquire language skills adequate for 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.

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. You will get credit for earning an AP score 4 or 5. Keep in mind that in our experience previous language study in high school does not normally get you far enough to skip the first course in the language sequence.

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.

What are the requirements to major/minor in Japanese?

To obtain a major in Japanese, you must complete six semesters of Japanese (or equivalent), an additional course beyond the third year level, three courses from departmental courses in literature, drama, film, and linguistics, and three Japan-related courses in other departments. See our Web page on this topic.

To obtain a certificate in Asian Studies, you need two years of East Asian language, twelve credit hours on East Asia, and three credits on East Asia in your major department. More than 300 undergraduate and graduate students are currently enrolled in this program. Learn more about certificate programs.

To obtain a minor in Japanese, you need

  1. One year of Japanese language study and three from departmental courses in literature, drama, film, and linguistics, or
  2. Five departmental courses in literature, drama, film, and linguistics.

See our Web page on this topic.

Is there an anime club at Pitt?

Yes. Visit the Pittsburgh Japanese Animation Club web site for more information.

Is there a way to meet other students of Japanese on a regular basis at Pitt?

The Japanaese Speacking Society is an active group of students interested in Japan. In addition, there are any number of social and academic activities organized by the Asian Studies Center.

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 you have courses that will enable me to learn advanced Japanese?

For students beyond our Fourth Year Japanese level we offer courses which provide advanced individualized training in both speaking and reading skills.

Is there a study abroad program?

Currently we have exchange programs with Ritsumeikan (Kyoto), Kobe University, Okayama University, and Kitakyushu Universities (Kitakyushu). We are also a charter member of the Konan-Illinois Year-in-Japan Program (Kobe). Of course, you can go to any good program in Japan and the credits you earn there usually transfer back without any trouble. For additional possibilities, go to the Study Abroad Office.

Any financial aid for study abroad?

We give out more than $50,000 in study abroad scholarships every year. Pitt is very committed to sending students abroad. Most students get some type of financial aid from the University. For scholarship information to do study abroad, see this web page or contact the Asian Studies Center. Also, look into other opportunities like Bridging Scholarships though the American Association of Teachers of Japanese.

Are scholarships available for studying Japanese in the United States?

Scholarships are available for the summer intensive language program at Pitt. Contact Professor Mills for details.

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

Come and visit us! We are on the 7th floor of Old Engineering Hall (3943 O'Hara Street). You can find more information about us in Pitt’s Undergraduate Bulletin or e-mail the Coordinator of the Japanese Language Program Professor David Mills.