Japanese FAQ - Undergraduate

Is Japanese a difficult language?

It is one of the more challenging languages. For speakers of English, Japanese does take more time than, for example, Spanish. Speaking and listening skills develop more quickly (and their difficulty is comparable to Western languages) than reading and writing. However, students every year make significant progress toward achieving advanced skills. Everyday conversation is emphasized, along with reading and writing.

How good is Pitt’s Japanese language program?

It is one of the best in the nation.

Is more emphasis placed on speaking and listening?

At the beginning of our curriculum, yes. As you progress in our program, you will spend increasingly more time learning how to read and write.

How large is a language class?

The First Year Japanese class may contain 40-50 students in each lecture class. Act (practice) classes are capped at 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.

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 (four 50-minute sessions)

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. Speak to your Japanese language coordinator to get referrals.

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 Stephen Luft 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?

Make sure to look at our course offerings. 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 three semesters of Japanese (or equivalent) beyond second year, an additional language 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.

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.c.

Is there an anime club at Pitt?

Yes, the Pittsburgh Japanese Animation Club.

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

The Japanese Speaking 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 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 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 University. In the Tokyo area, we have formal agreements with Waseda University and Sophia University (Jōchi daigaku). We are also a charter member of the Konan-Illinois Year-in-Japan Program held at Konan University (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 provide 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 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. If you are accepted to study abroad at a university in Japan, you should check if the school gives JASSO scholarships.

Are scholarships available for studying Japanese in the United States?

Scholarships are available for the summer intensive language program at Pitt. Contact Stephen Luft for details. You're qualified to apply for other types of financial aid fro, the Asian Studies Center.

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

Come and visit us! We are on the 27th floor of the Cathedral of Learning. You can find more information about us by e-mailing the Japanese Language Coordinator Stephen Luft.