Department ends Japanese program

By Saj Sri-Kumar

Japanese will no longer be taught after the current school year. The school began to phase out the program, which was cancelled due to declining student interest, in the 2008-2009 school year. The class of 2011 was the last class offered the option of taking Japanese I.

“It’s an issue of declining numbers that aren’t holding steady and the growth of other languages,” Upper School Foreign Language Department Chair and Latin teacher Paul Chenier said.

Caroline Maeda ’12, the only junior enrolled in Japanese, said that she wants to continue her study of Japanese next year even though the school does not offer it.

“I’ve looked into taking classes at [California State University, Northridge], but I’m not quite sure yet if I can manage to fit it in with my Harvard-Westlake schedule,” she said.

Chenier said he regrets that future students would not be able to take Japanese.

Japanese teacher Kyoko Tomikura said that despite the cancellation of the program, she has still seen significant interest from students who want to learn Japanese.

“I’m so sad that I can’t teach them,” she said. “It’s very difficult for me to say ‘sorry’ because I know that the students really want to study Japanese.”

Japanese was added to the school’s foreign language department along with Chinese in 1996. Until recently, students were only able to take those languages starting in ninth grade.

In the fall of 2008, the first year that students could no longer enroll in Japanese, the school expanded Chinese program, allowing students to begin taking Chinese in seventh grade. Chenier said that the cancellation of Japanese was not directly caused by the expansion of Chinese. The last language cancelled by the school was Russian, which was phased out in the early 2000s. Like Japanese, Russian suffered from dwindling enrollment.

“With the changes in Eastern Europe in [the] mid-1990s, the interest for the ‘language of the enemy’ dwindled and the program enrollment started to plummet, especially after the school started offering Chinese and Japanese,” Psychology teacher and school counselor Luba Bek, who used to teach Russian, said.