Heartland Community College offers Japanese language courses as elective (101, 102, 201) and Humanities and Fine Arts (202) credits that you can put towards your degree. These classes are great for those who have an interest in foreign languages as well as those who have an interest in Japanese culture. Many of those who take these classes already have a basic knowledge of Japan through exposure to Japanese media, though this is not required. These classes could be vital for those interested in studying abroad through ISU's program or those interested in traveling to Japan to teach English. This class sometimes offers opportunities to meet and speak with transfer students from Bloomington-Normal's Japanese sister city, Asahikawa, Japan.
Japanese varies from other languages in that before you can begin to learn the basics, you must learn the alphabets. The Japanese language has three different alphabets you must learn—Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Hiragana is the most basic of the three, consisting of 46 symbols each representing a different one syllable sound. Katakana is 46 symbols representing the same sounds as Hiragana, but this alphabet is used primarily to write foreign words. You would use this alphabet to write untranslated English words, such as a name, in Japanese. Kanji is an alphabet of symbols imported from China that represent words or concepts. Kanji as an alphabet consists of approximately 2,000 to 3,000 symbols commonly used in Japan. Between the two texts books that are used from the 101 to 202 levels of the course, students are only expected to learn and memorize 317. This seems daunting to most looking to take the class, but the class is well paced over four semesters and because of the constant use of these alphabets, it can be a fairly easy task. Hiragana and Katakana are learned at the beginning of Japanese 101 and Kanji is learned throughout all four courses, about 15 per unit.
- 101 and 102: Genki (http://www.amazon.com/GENKI-Integrated-Elementary-Japanese-English/dp/4789014401/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443154184&sr=8-1&keywords=genki) and its corresponding workbook
- 201 and 202: Genki II (http://www.amazon.com/Genki-Integrated-Elementary-Japanese-English/dp/4789014436/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1443154184&sr=8-3&keywords=genki) and its corresponding workbook for 201 and 202.
These books walk students through the basics of the language in an engaging and useful way, with written, listening, and oral exercises that aid in memorization. They feature many images and recurring characters throughout the textbook to create interest and sometimes add humor as students learn. There are many partner activities and activities done by the class as a whole that make these classes very engaging and interactive. Projects such as powerpoint presentations give opportunities to do research about Japanese culture and present findings to the class.