Last week senior faculty of the Department of World Languages and Literatures were surprised to learn that Japanese had become the most widely enrolled language within the department.
Since last fall, a new major has been offered in Japanese, resulting in a surge of interest among students. This makes Japanese the second most popular language at WMU behind Spanish, which has its own department.
Dr. Lynde-Recchia, department Chair and professor of French at WMU, examined the department’s enrollment totals last week.
“Enrollment trends in Japanese have continued to go up so we have more and more students studying Japanese. We had a minor and then we had a major. There was a big jump and lots of people signed on for the major and it’s now our strongest right now in terms of numbers, just edged over French, by four I think,” said Recchia.
Currently there are 38 majors and 59 minors of Japanese at WMU, which makes for 97 students studying the language.
Dr. Jeffry Angles is an Associate Professor of Japanese and the Director of the Soga Japan Center at WMU. In 2004 he began working for the university and has driven the program’s expansion.
“I was kind of the architect of the Japanese major, so it has been fun, rewarding work to watch Japanese grow so really rapidly,” said Angles. “Last year was the first semester that we offered a major in Japanese and so there were a lot of students that did the Japanese minor.”
Angles said several of the students who minored in Japanese took great advantage of the opportunities offered by the program and pushed their experiences to the fullest.
“I knew once we had a Japanese major that there would be a number of students that would immediately enroll, but I hadn’t quite anticipated how many there would be,” he said.
Dr. Angles explained that his office has been flooded with students inquiring about the language and its benefits since opening up the major.
“I think there are a lot of good reasons to study Japanese. Japan still has the third largest economy in the world. The United States has the largest economy. China has the second and Japan has the third. So despite the fact that it’s geographically a small country it has a lot of influence.”
Additionally, Angles said that Japan is the second largest investor in Michigan. High concentrations of Japanese companies in the east and west make the language especially relevant to students within the state.
Western’s Chinese language program has also experienced steady growth in recent years.
“A lot of schools I understand are seeing enrollments in Japanese decline visa vies Chinese. For instance I was just talking to people two days ago and they said that Japanese was kind of taking a dip and Chinese was going up, but we’re not seeing that here yet,” said Angles.