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Students learn Japanese at ULV

Gloria Montebruno teaches Beginning Japanese, currently the only Japanese class being taught at La Verne. Montebruno, who has worked in the Department of East Asian Languages at the University of Southern California, has published an article in the International Journal of the Humanities on Japanese writer Kawabata Yasunari’s novel “Beauty and Sadness.” / photo by Warren Bessant

Branden del Rio
News Editor

This year the University of La Verne added a new course to the modern language department.

A group of 15 students enrolled in Japanese 100 with Gloria Montebruno, adjunct professor.

The class, which teaches students the Japanese alphabet and basic phrases, meets three time a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for an hour from 12:40 p.m. to 1:40 p.m.

On top of the class students must also attend a tutoring session in the Learn­ing En­hance­ment Center once a week for half an hour where they work with a Japanese language graduate student.

The class of students, with majors varying from English to criminology, has learned all of the basic things one would learn in a Spanish or French class including the pronunciation of their names, the names of foods and utensils and items in the classroom.

There are a few factors that make learning Japanese slightly different from learning Spanish or French. For instance there is a certain amount of respect and politeness students must learn when they speak Japanese.

In one of her lessons, Montebruno stressed the way a young person would reply to an older person or a woman would reply to a man. If these guidelines were not followed one may come off as rude.

Something else that makes the class different is the degree of culture that comes with learning the language.

Living in Southern California, students are familiar with the Latin culture that comes with Spanish and the European culture is not too different from that of American. But with Japanese, students get a taste of Eastern culture.

In fact a previous exposure to Japanese culture may be why a student chose to take the course.

“Japanese culture overall has always interested me. Manga, Japanese cartoons and anime have always caught my interest so I decided to take this class,” Johnny Vallejo, freshman criminology major, said.

“I wanted to learn a different language that was different from any other language I had learned. I also had Professor Montebruno for Writing 111 and she was a magnificent professor,” Arely Ortega, sophomore criminology major, said.

The real beauty of the class is the amount of class participation because every student is actively involved in the discussion.

When teaching about items in a restaurant, Montebruno broke the class up into pairs and had them act out a scene between a waiter or waitress and a customer, entirely in Japanese.

As for the difficulty of the course, Monte­bruno said that it requires an immense amount of practice to grasp the language and many hours outside of class are dedicated to studying.

With a lot of practice, though, students learned the basic hiragana alphabet in about two and a half weeks.

They even began to learn the katakana alphabet which is several characters used to describe foreign sounds such as English vowels.

Most students seem to enjoy the class which therefore makes it easier for them.

“It’s not too hard because I haven’t learned any other language except Spanish. It’s more of a fun challenge,” Elizabeth Buchner, freshman photography major, said.

The class also hopes to visit Little Tokyo in Los Angeles in the near future.

Regarding the future of the class, Montebruno and some students wish to advance in the study of Japanese and gain a foothold in the language department.

Students who wish to take the course will be able to do so in the fall 2011 semester.

Branden del Rio can be reached at

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