Japanese language classes benefit students’ missions, careers

At left, La Sierra Japanese language instructor Yoshi Mineyama, Goh and Dr. Lourdes Morales-Gudmundsson, chair of La Sierra’s World Languages department. At right, La Sierra senior Jaggers.
At left, La Sierra Japanese language instructor Yoshi Mineyama, Goh and Dr. Lourdes Morales-Gudmundsson, chair of La Sierra’s World Languages department. At right, La Sierra senior Jaggers.

Nov. 20, 2009
By Darla Martin Tucker

Spanish and Modern World Languages double major Zachary Jaggers is hitting the books in preparation for a level three Japanese Language Proficiency Test next month. The test is another milestone toward the senior’s goal of teaching in Japan following graduation and of forging a career in foreign language instruction.

“I hope to, upon obtaining a doctorate degree, teach languages, mainly Spanish and Japanese, at the university level as well as linguistic theory,” Jaggers said of his long-term goals. He is one of two La Sierra students who passed the level four Japanese proficiency test last year following a four-hour exam at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Michelle Goh, a music major and pre-dentistry student who graduated in June, also took the test. She hopes to one day use her Japanese language skills as a dentist missionary in Japan after studying dentistry at Loma Linda University. She is currently continuing to take pre-dentistry science classes at La Sierra in preparation to apply for dentistry school. “Going as a missionary to Japan to teach has been one of my goals because that would be the best immersion technique to become fluent and also would be a good experience,” Goh said.

Japanese national boards for medical work and other professions require candidates from abroad to pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test level one before they take board exams to work in that country. The proficiency test is divided into four levels: level four requires 150 hours of Japanese language study, level three requires 300 hours of study, level two requires 600 hours of study and level one demands 900 hours of Japanese language study.

About 500,000 individuals around the world took the tests last December. Japan’s Ministry of Education developed the language proficiency tests and the Japan Educational Exchange Services and the Japan Foundation administer them.

La Sierra offers Japanese language classes and other language instruction in part to prepare students for international missionary work. “If the undergraduate students in LSU master the basic level Japanese language and personally keep up with Japanese language by enjoying Japanese Manga and video in their spare time, they can study and pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test level one,” said La Sierra Japanese language instructor Yoshi Mineyama. “…and they can become missionaries with the professional skills who can contribute greatly in Japan.” Additionally the computer and video entertainment industries value workers with Japanese language skills, he said.

Jaggers and Goh took Intermediate Japanese 201 with Mineyama. Jaggers also studied Japanese in Japan for six months at the KCP International Language Institute in Tokyo. In preparation for last December’s proficiency test, the students reviewed grammar, practiced vocabulary with flash cards, reviewed kanji, a form of Japanese writing based on symbols, and practiced speaking and listening to Japanese. Goh and Jaggers practiced with each other and took practice tests from Mineyama who also provided extra material for test preparation.

Jaggers and Goh are Mineyama’s first students without formal pre-college Japanese education to pass the level four exam, he said.

Mineyama believes relations between the United States and Japan, its nearest western neighbor and greatest Asian ally, will grow closer in coming years, all the more reason students can benefit from enrolling in Japanese language classes and passing Japanese Language Proficiency Tests.

“If a person goes west from California, the first country he or she arrives in is Japan,” Mineyama said. “…I believe the communication between the United States and Japan will be closer in the future.”

The Japanese language program is part of an effort by La Sierra’s World Languages department to expand the language offerings LSU students can take. The department also offers a Spanish major, and beginning and intermediate courses in Arabic, Chinese, French, Italian and Korean. In collaboration with Adventist Colleges Abroad, students may also obtain minor degrees in French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

“In 21st Century America, university students in nearly every field of study need language and cultural education that will allow them to compete in a global community,” said Dr. Lourdes Morales-Gudmundsson, chair of the World Languages department. “Knowing another language and culture is no longer an option – it’s a necessity,”



PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University
Riverside, California
951.785.2460 (voice)


  • Last update on  December 07, 2009