Japanese Club offers learning experience

Maytinee Kramer/ Staff Writer

What comes to mind when you think of Japan? Perhaps it’s anime, sushi, manga, geishas, ninjas or even game shows. These are just a few of the millions of things that make Japan unique, but what truly makes Japan special is its language.

FIU is home to the Japan club, a place where students can gather to expand their knowledge base of almost all things related to Japan. Throughout the semester, the club holds meetings where members engage in discussions about Japanese food, technology, music, fashion, literature, history, Japanese language, and much more.

Japanese is definitely one of the more popular languages to learn, for both personal enrichment and career advancement. Japanese itself is an East-Asian language spoken by about 130 million speakers, primarily in Japan, and is approximately the ninth most spoken language in the world.

The Modern Language Association reported that among American students, interest in Japanese language continues to increase. In 2009, 73,434 American college students were enrolled in Japanese language classes, up 29 percent from 2002, and a 60 percent increase from 1990.

Japanese also represents eight percent of all non-Spanish enrollments and is the fourth most popular non-Spanish foreign language. Japanese language has gained so much popularity that American students took Japanese classes at 708 institutions in 48 states, while, according to the College Board, 102 colleges and universities offer Japanese as a major.

FIU is one of the many colleges that offers Japanese as a major. The Asian Studies Department offers a Japanese area studies major where Japanese language and culture, as well as other courses in area studies, are emphasized.

Due to Japan’s strong business presence in the U.S., along with long running and well-established trade and communication networks, students of the Japanese language have many opportunities to expand their horizons and have access to many opportunities in international relations.

Most people would agree that to even begin to understand a culture, one has to understand the language. And since many people have a love of Japanese culture, learning the language helps to understand it more deeply.

According to the president of the Japan club, Miguel Rischmaui, a computer science and Japanese major, the Japan club was established year ago by students who loved Japan.

“By forming a club, they were able to find other students who had a similar interest relating to the Japanese culture and language,” Rischmaui said. “Throughout the time I started college, I joined the Japan club and I was able to find students who were as excited about Japan as me. This was one of the stepping stones for me.”

According to Rischmaui, pop culture is what initially brings people to the club.

“With the multitude of pop culture from Japan, there is something for everyone. As far as FIU, most people first get interested in Japan through anime and manga. It is usually the first thing they mention whenever we talk to others about Japan,” Rischmaui said. “It tends to be the gateway into everything else.”

Despite pop culture being one of Japan’s biggest exports and being known throughout the world, the Japan club does try to emphasize other areas of interest such as culture and scenery.

There is always something that helps shape a person, and for Rischmaui, Japanese was it.

“It has become a part of who I am and it is something I want to continue.”

As current president of the Japan club, he hopes to “ignite something in everyone so that they can expose themselves to a new language or a new culture.”

Dario Encalada, an active member of the Japan club stated that the club’s goal is “to enrich our members’ lives through study and appreciation of Japanese culture and language, as well as help share this opportunity to anyone willing to participate.”

Alongside the Japan club, Encalada is currently helping to create an intensive Japanese study group where the goal is to bring together students of all Japanese language levels through the use and practice of Japanese language.

“[The Japan club] can help them decide if Japanese is something they want or if it’s something they do to meet new people,” said Rischmaui. “To some, being part of the club means being able to have fun with others. To others, it may be a step into the Japanese life. There is just so much to learn, which is why I think that there is always something there for everyone.”

Japanese class also brings together students and teachers. Friendships and relationships are formed due to the bond of personal interests, passion and cultural exploration. It has helped bring about confidence, courage, and most importantly, helped shape the identity of many.

Stephanie Sosa, a junior majoring in chemistry is currently in level four Japanese and has greatly benefited from joining the club.

“It has opened me up as a person and has made me look outside the box for my future.”

In addition to the many new friends she has made and new experiences, Sosa said she would be able to use these experiences from Japanese to build a career with her major.

This goes to show that no one is restricted to one thing. There are many opportunities out there so long as a person knows where to look.

While the Japan club does not require students to speak Japanese or to know about the culture, members do participate in Japanese-related activities that promote the learning of both the language and the culture itself. The club was established to show people what Japan is and what it can do for them.

“If I can describe Japan club, it’s to influence others to find something that they can enjoy. The club helps students to be exposed to a culture that they may not know too much about,” said Rischmaui.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of FIU Student Media Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.


Image retrieved from Flickr.

About the Author

Maytinee Kramer
Call me May. I’m a senior double majoring in Asian studies and broadcast media and minoring in international relations. I’m a K-pop and Disney junkie, but I also enjoy watching anime and cosplaying. Some of my favorite shows are “Once Upon a Time,” “Supernatural,” and “Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma” while my favorite music artists are 2PM, GOT7, DEAN and Eddy Kim. After college, I hope to work as a news anchor, but I’d eventually like to host a show/segment that focuses on traveling. I am fluent in Thai and currently learning Japanese and Korean.

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