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By Agnes M. Abrau

KOROR (Palau Horizon, Sept. 6) - There is a growing number of young Palauans studying the Japanese language.

The Embassy of Japan here said that Japan Foundation-sponsored programs such as the Japanese Language Program for Outstanding Overseas Students now offered in Palau for the first time due to the increase in the number of local students studying the language.

Some students said they want to gain "global competitiveness," while others consider learning Japanese as an intellectual pursuit.

Elementary and high schools here are offering Japanese language instruction as an elective. Palau Community College also offers this subject to its hotel management students as a prerequisite.

In a 2003 survey conducted among the three Freely Associated States - Palau, the Marshalls and the Federated States of Micronesia - it was learned that there were 149 elementary and high school students as well as 42 college students studying the Japanese language.

The embassy said the increase in the number of Japanese tourists visiting Palau may have been attributed to the growing interest in the Japanese language among local students.

Palau Community College student Zillach Riuch Mereb said because more Japanese tourists are coming to Palau, some schools are now offering programs related to tourism.

"And students find it interesting to learn a foreign language," Mereb said.

Mandarin is also offered at Palau Community College.

Mereb said she became interested in the Japanese language during her junior year at Palau High School, which offered the subject as an elective.

Now a sophomore at Palau Community College, she is one of the best students in her Japanese class.

Junko Kobayashi, a Japanese language instructor at the college, said she has 23 students.

Palau, like most of the other Micronesian islands, was once administered by the Japanese.

September 7, 2005

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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