JUSFC Meet Our Grantees Series: American Association of Teachers of Japanese

March 6, 2017 

JUSFC will host a roundtable discussion at the annual conference of the Association of Asian Studies in Toronto on March 16, 2017 to address why Japanese language study is important and the ways in which to secure interest and support for language study among the next generation of students.  Here, we are highlighting the American Association of Teachers of Japanese (AATJ), a longtime JUSFC grantee, which works to promote study of the Japanese language at all levels of instruction in the field and to broaden and deepen knowledge and appreciation of Japan and its culture.

Since 1997, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission has been a strong supporter of the American Association of Teachers of Japanese (AATJ). In addition to administering scholarships, AATJ provides support and professional development opportunities for more than 1500 teachers and scholars throughout the United States.

Every year, AATJ awards scholarships to hundreds of students, mostly undergraduate sophomores and juniors. The students who apply and are awarded these scholarships major in Japanese or Asian studies; many are also interested in Japanese art, engineering and popular culture. Susan Schmidt, Executive Director of AATJ, has been with the organization since its establishment and has seen a big culture shift over the years. “Back in the early 1990s, students were interested in Japan because of the business opportunities, whether that meant starting a career in business or physically working in Japan,” Schmidt notes. “In recent years, a lot of young people are interested in the pop culture that has emerged in Japan; manga, anime and other visual arts.”

While AATJ students are still interested in career and business opportunities, a big factor in their decision to apply for the scholarship is the experience they take away. For some scholarship recipients, it is their first time traveling outside the United States. “Living in any other country broadens one’s perspective on themselves and the world,” Schmidt points out. “What students find most inspiring are the connections they make with people in Japan, not only with other students but in the communities where they live.”

AATJ holds two annual conferences focused on Japanese language education. Their spring conference, held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Association of Asian Studies, will take place on Thursday, March 16, in Toronto. AATJ will also sponsor a roundtable, on teaching translating and interpreting in Japanese language programs.  AATJ’s second annual conference, held in the fall, is part of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Annual Convention. The organization sponsors a number of sessions with thousands of foreign language teachers ranging from K-12 and university level. AATJ members have numerous opportunities to present their work at the fall conference.

AATJ also publishes a quarterly newsletter and bi-annual journal, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. They offer online courses and webinars through JOINT, specifically designed for the professional development of Japanese language teachers currently working in schools in the U.S. The newest Webinar, which can be joined “live” on March 12 and viewed online for a month thereafter, is on the use of technology to maximize learning in multi-level classes. (Link is http://www.aatj.org/technology-for-busy-teachers)


To learn more about the American Association of Teachers of Japanese, please visit their website and follow them on Facebook. To learn more about JUSFC’s institutional grants and the application process, visit our website here.