Professor Noel Rodriguez Niebla, vice-dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Havana, told the gathering at a recent welcome reception in his honour that although opportunities for Cuban students to study abroad are rare, language education in Cuba is successful.
Cuba attracts between 800,000 and one million visitors from Canada each year, and thanks to York languages Professor Norio Ota’s many years of work in Cuba, teaching Japanese is an important part of the global education there, said Niebla, adding the more access to different cultures, the better.
Recently, the University of Havana approved a proposal to revamp Japanese language studies at the university, offering it as a degree program, which Ota called a "major achievement".
Left: Martin Singer, dean of York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies; Professor Norio Ota, coordinator of the Japanese and Korean sections of York’s Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics; York social science Professor Jay Goulding; and University of Havana Professor Noel Rodriguez Niebla, vice-dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages
Niebla, who had been visiting York since the beginning of October, spoke about “Foreign Language Education and Japanese Language Education in Cuba” at the Japan Foundation, Toronto, prior to the reception. He explained the educational system, as well as Japanese language education in Cuba.
The University of Havana has 15 faculties and more than 30 degree programs along with several research centres. The objective of its School of Modern Languages and School of Foreign Languages is to educate professionals in more than one foreign language. Between 1972 and 1998, the university developed a five-year study program for translation and interpretation. The addition of a second and third language foreign skills program was introduced, including 4,500 hours of foreign language instruction with three periods of field placement.
The foreign languages programs are for both undergraduate and graduate students who wish to study linguistic theories, history and culture, literature and translations, as well as teaching methodologies. The outcome is a professional able to deal with translation in two foreign languages. The challenges still facing the university include better use of information technology in learning and teaching, creating academic exchanges and developing long distance learning.
Ota also gave a talk to the Japan Foundation Toronto, titled “Synergy, Empathy and Communicative Approach”, which looked at Japanese language pedagogy at York University and the University of Havana.
|Right: Professor Jay Goulding (left); York languages Professor Julio Fonseca; Professor Lorna Wright, associate vice-president international; Noriko Saito, program officer of the Japan Foundation; Rev. Frances E. Ota; Professor Peter Avery, chair of York’s Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics; York languages Professor Alejandro Martínez; Professor Noel Rodriguez Niebla, vice-dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Havana; Jorge F. Soberón Luis, consul general of Cuba in Toronto; and Professor Norio Ota, coordinator of the Japanese and Korean sections of York’s Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics|
Martin Singer, dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, told the audience that passion in teaching languages makes for better communications. York, he said, is committed to the internationalization of faculty and students and he envisions more faculty and student exchanges in the future between Canada, Cuba and elsewhere.
Professor Lorna Wright, associate vice-president international, who has lived in many countries, including Japan, China and Thailand, told the audience that Spanish, Japanese and Chinese are the languages to learn today. Wright said she is interested in seeing more cross-cultural language requirements worked into the developing curricula on a wide front. A visibly growing number of relationships with countries in Latin America helps York to appreciate the pioneering work by Ota, she said.
In addition to multiple level Japanese language courses, Ota has developed a cross-cultural course, Contemporary Japanese Culture & Society, currently taught by York Professor Jay Goulding.
Also present at the welcome reception was Cuban Consul General Jorge F. Soberón Luis, Noriko Saito from the Japan Foundation and Peter Avery, chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics at York.
Niebla spent three weeks visiting York and participating in several language classes, before returning to Cuba.