More students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will be able to study a foreign language thanks to rRecent Changes in General Education Requirements.
Indeed, foreign language credits will soon be an option to complete the 40 to 41 hours of fundamental courses that students must take, regardless of their specialty, before obtaining their diploma.
“This is a game-changer for us,” said Joshua Davies, head of UTC’s Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures and associate professor of classics. “The study of languages and the cultures that are alive in those languages is what we contribute to the campus, and it allows us to expand our mission and reach more students.”
Prior to UTC’s overhaul, foreign language courses were only incorporated into Bachelor of Arts and a few other programs.
“Now a language, as an option, will tick a box for all students and count towards the credits they need to take anyway. Students can even just try a language semester to see how they like it Davies said.
The language department is the first at UTC to bring back its study abroad program since the pandemic, which allows students to earn credit outside the country.
“Our goal is for students to not only find it exciting but valuable as part of their curriculum,” he said.
The gen ed revamp, designed to provide a more robust experience for students, does not take effect until fall 2023, giving faculty members and department heads like Davies time to adjust programs and to make the transition as seamless as possible.
“It’s about making sure our courses meet new learning outcomes and align with new requirements,” he said, “and it also allows us to think about what new courses we’ll want. offer to a potentially wider audience”.
Starting this fall, Davies’ department is bringing Japanese back by popular demand. Summer has just started and the class is already full.
America’s appetite for Japanese culture is booming.
“It’s the second most requested language that we don’t currently offer – German being the first,” Davies said.
Go to any popular streaming service and search for “anime” (short for anime movies and TV shows), and you’ll find tons of Japanese anime. So much, in fact, that anime is often subcategorized into popular genres like suspense, romance, and supernatural.
A literal appetite for sushi, one of Japan’s most famous modern cultural exports, has grown so much over the past 30 years that it has practically become a standard dish in the United States. You can even buy sushi on the UTC campus.
The university has offered Japanese in the past, but it’s always been difficult to retain instructors, Davies said.
Enter Takeo Suzuki, Executive Director of the UTC Center for Global Education. A native of Kobe, Japan, Suzuki has brought Japanese and international students to UTC to study English since joining the university in 2015.
Suzuki will teach the class, starting with a section this fall.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in class and I’m connecting more with students and interacting with more students,” Suzuki said.
Classes will focus on basic grammar and cultural touchstones like anime and manga, a style of Japanese comics and graphic novels that, like anime, has become increasingly appealing to children , teens and American adults.
“A lot of young people really like anime and manga these days,” Suzuki said. “It’s popular and they want to learn more about Japanese culture, so this class will be the perfect starting point for them.”
Tokyo is Japan’s largest and best-known city, but Suzuki will be teaching his native Kansai dialect over the Tokyo dialect.
The Kansai region, which includes Kyoto, Kobe and Osaka, is considered the comedy capital of Japan. Osaka, the country’s third largest city, has long been home to traditional Japanese entertainment such as rakugo comic storytelling, manzai comedy duo and naniwa-bushia form of musical storytelling
“It’s more fun and it has cultural significance as well,” Suzuki explained.
He said students will study the basic pillars of the language – Katakana, Kanji and Hiragana – and “there will be a lot of study required”.
“I’m going to teach them the basics, but with an emphasis on culture,” Suzuki said. “When you have a genuine interest in a culture, studying the language is more engaging.”