Language Skills, Life Experiences, Friends and Cultural Understanding Are Benefits of Japanese Immersion Program

The Anchorage School District currently has German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish immersion programs in 14 different schools.

I’ve been enrolled in the Japanese Immersion Program for 13 years now, and firmly believe in the success that being bilingual brings.

Not only does it give you important life experiences and knowledge, it also gives you life long friends.

Students can start the immersion program as early as kindergarten and spend half the day taking classes in Japanese, and half in English up until elementary school.

Once Japanese Immersion students reach middle school, they take a Japanese language class in addition to learning history in Japanese.

In high school, students are limited to only a single Japanese language class.

Senior Jacob Kinder said, “I think knowing Japanese gave me more opportunities and made me stand out when applying to colleges.”

There are many opportunities throughout to program to show off your skills and win awards for your hard work.

Senior Bryce Davis said, “I love learning different Japanese songs and performing them in competitions. Last year I sang a song for the Japanese Speech Contest at the University of Alaska Anchorage and plan to sing another next year.”

Although most teachers don’t require participation in speech contests, many immersion students still love to be involved.

Senior Lucas Katz said, “I won multiple Japanese language competitions and was even sent to the finals in Los Angeles last year. I’ve been able to put that on my college applications, and I believe that it helps to separate me from other applicants.”

Many students plan to continue and improve their Japanese language skills in college.

Senior Claire Dieckgraeff said, “I’m going to major in international business, and knowing Japanese will help me get a head start.”

Japanese Immersion students even get the opportunity to visit Japan during the summer after fifth grade.

Davis said, “I still remember a lot from my trip to Japan. After the regular tour with the school, my dad and I stayed in Japan for an extra week to experience the country on our own.”

I was lucky enough to go to Japan two separate times, one when my older sister went on her 5th grade trip, and my own trip.

The memories from my second trip are especially special to me, because I went with my father who passed away a few years ago.

The two trips provided a good opportunity to practice my speaking skills.

Having a wide range Japanese vocabulary is much different than knowing speech patterns and how to effectively communicate to native Japanese people.

Many students in immersion still have strong friendships with each other to this day. This is mostly likely because being in the program and having special events within the community leads to spending more time together and getting to know each other.

I strongly believe that being in the Japanese Immersion program has given me and other participants a huge advantage when it comes to applying to colleges.

Being bilingual and having different cultural experiences is something that not a lot of applicants can say that they have.

When eventually have my own kids, I plan to make it a priority to enroll them in some kind of language program, and I strongly advise others to consider it.

As the world is changing it is becoming more important to have global knowledge and an understanding of other languages and cultures.

At the end of the school year there is a special ceremony for Japanese Immersion graduates in which the graduates each make small speeches and recall their favorite memories throughout the program.

This is also when members receive an immersion cord to wear during regular graduation.

Dieckgraeff said, “I like the immersion graduation more than honor grad night or regular graduation because it’s more personal. All of our old teachers show up and even people who used to be in the program but dropped out before their senior year.”

The Japanese Immersion graduation will be on May 5 at 7 p.m. in the Dimond Auditorium.