With the influx of Japanese business in America, Japanese is "emerging as a critical-needs language," according to one Provo School District official. And to participate in that growth, the district will offer Japanese in next year's secondary school curriculum.
"At one time, Japanese was a highly select language," said Merrell Hansen, Provo School District's director of secondary education. "Now it is emerging as a critical-needs language."By supporting a Japanese-American student exchange program, the district has already shown interest in Japan and its culture. Eleven Japanese students are in Utah to become acquainted with American living. And this July about 10 to 15 students from the Provo School District will go to Japan.
These students will have no formal instruction in Japanese, but Hansen said he hopes that will change the following year. Japanese instruction will be available to high school students in next fall's registration.
"If enough students sign up, we will offer it," Hansen said. "We want to have a part in the effort of learning that new business language."
Les Case, director of Outreach Programs for the Brigham Young University's David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, said a large number of Asian businesses interested in locating in Utah has "forced us to have a greater understanding of those cultures.
"They seem to know more about us than we know about them. Some instructors feel it is important for us to become more knowledgeable about them. That is why we have programs to implement more critical languages in the schools."
He said Russian, Arabic, Chinese and Japanese are called more critical languages because Western Europe and its languages play a lesser role in today's world.
Japanese instruction in the district will work in conjunction with the BYU Asian Outreach Program and Japanese Language Department. BYU has agreed to provide an initial teacher to conduct the class, Hansen said.
BYU Asian Outreach already helps with Japanese instruction in several Utah Valley schools. The language is a part of the curriculum at Alpine School District's American Fork High School and Provo's Waterford School.
"French and German have been a part of the district curriculum for years," Hansen said. "Now it is time to add Japanese."