Some Iowa high schools offer only Spanish, German or French as foreign language courses, but in recent years, other options are beginning to make a stronghold in the curricula.
Dan Carolin teaches Japanese and is co-chair of World Languages at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School.
Carolin is among seven teachers in Iowa high schools who exclusively teach Japanese.
“It’s important for students to really learn about any foreign culture they have an interest in,” Carolin says. “That’s what I think is terrific about having the program here. We’re not limited to European languages as many schools are, that our students do have other options to explore.”
Some 25 years ago, there was a renewed interest in Japanese language thanks to the island nation’s growth as an economic power, but Carolin says that’s shifted in this age of the Internet.
“These days it’s really sort of more Japanese pop culture which is very often driving an interest in the study of Japanese,” Carolin says. “Video games, anime, manga, Japanese pop music are very often some of the interests my students have and what motivates them to study Japanese.”
While Japanese is also offered at high schools in Des Moines and Davenport, he say the Cedar Rapids school district is very dedicated to offering a host of foreign language options.
“Kennedy has Spanish, French, German, Japanese and Chinese,” Carolin says. “I’ve been here for 11 years and I have a steady stream of students and that’s true at the other schools as well. Both Jefferson and Washington have full-time Japanese programs. Washington also has Arabic and Russian programs as well.”
Carolin is a New York native who got hooked on the Asian culture in the late 1980s after taking a job as teacher of English in Japan.