Can revived Japanese course survive as a language at SHS? Should it?

April 1, 2020 — by Alan Zu

Because of students advocating for a Japanese class and it being a popular program in the past, the school has decided to implement the foreign language option next year. 

With 28 sign ups so far, the class is likely to run. 

But it shouldn’t.

In the end, the class is just one of the many foreign language classes students take to fulfill the foreign language requirement for colleges. Having another option will most likely harm other foreign language classes, even crowding out ones like French.

Most students are interested in majors in colleges other than foreign languages, such as engineering, biomedical sciences or psychology. The percentage of students in college studying a foreign language is dropping in recent years, becoming 7.5 percent, a very small portion of all students. 

Colleges are even dropping foreign language requirements and shrinking selection for language majors. The University of Wisconsin has announced to eliminate 13 language majors to eliminate the costs in hosting the classes due to low student enrollment. Even the most taught foreign language, Spanish, has faced a decline in enrollment from 2013 to 2016, and is projected to remain low in the near future.

If colleges are already diminishing foreign language requirements, what other reason exists for students who are not interested in learning a foreign language to continue taking these classes in high school? Even if schools require students to take a foreign language, forcing all students to select a class, most students will most likely learn the language they are most familiar with just to complete the requirement.

Current language classes are still popular among current and incoming students. Spanish remains the most popular foreign language class option, followed by Chinese.

Implementing the new Japanese class will also be costly for the school. A new class means new textbooks and other materials.

Having another language option causes more problems for existing language options. If given a language option of Japanese, fewer students might take French classes. French already has the lowest number of signups for foreign languages; introducing another language option will only make future signups for French even more difficult, eventually crowding the language out.

If the majority of incoming and current students already prefer current language options, the school should not spend more effort in implementing a new language option when the school can improve current language classes.