CU, CSU To Forge High School Links To Teach Japanese More Effectively

Published: March 4, 1998

The University of Colorado and Colorado State University have teamed up with two Colorado high schools to create a statewide model for learning Japanese.

The Modern Language Association awarded a grant of nearly $6,000 to the universities to work with Eaglecrest High School in Aurora and Boulder High School over the next two years. It was one of eight such awards made nationally.

High school classes have generally emphasized the ability to communicate, while entry-level college classes have traditionally taken a more analytical approach to linguistic structures, said Professor Laurel Rasplica Rodd, chair of the CU-Boulder department of East Asian languages and literatures.

"Of particular concern is finding a way for students to move smoothly from level to level of instruction, and we hope to do this by integrating the two approaches," she said. If not, students may either lose interest or feel overwhelmed, resulting in poor performance or dropped language classes.

Because college brings together students from a large number of high schools, it makes sense to construct an integrated approach to learning languages, Rodd said. Another important factor is that it takes about three times as long for most students to become proficient in Japanese or Chinese as it does in Spanish.

"Letting students start early and continue their achievement is vital in these languages," she said.

According to Masako Beecken, president of the Colorado Japanese Language Education Association, “The model being developed will help more high schools to begin offering Japanese classes. It will provide a stucture schools can use to build a program, and it will help teachers offer effective instruction that will link to college classes," said Beecken, also a professor of Japanese at CSU.

Japanese has been taught at Eaglecrest for eight years and has an enrollment of 105 students this year. Boulder High enrolls 65 students in four different levels of Japanese instruction.

About 300 undergraduate students study Japanese at CU-Boulder each semester. CSU enrolls about 80 students in its classes.

CU-Boulder and CSU were the only schools receiving an MLA grant to do curriculum work on Japanese instruction. The other seven universities receiving grants for working on languages with high schools and community colleges were Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida State, Southern Oregon, East Carolina, Massachusetts at Amherst and Illinois at Chicago.

CSU offers a minor in Japanese. CU-Boulder offers a bachelor's degree and is the only Colorado school offering a master's degree in Japanese.