Monika Dix hadn’t planned to study the Japanese language, much less teach it.
As an undergraduate student at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, the native of Germany was an Asian art history major, developing a deep appreciation for Japanese art. When she continued in graduate school at UBC, she had to learn — really learn — Japanese to better understand the art she was studying. In time, she earned a Ph.D. in Japanese literature through UBC’s Department of Asian Studies.
After spending three years in Tokyo, Dix joined SVSU’s Department of Modern Foreign Languages in 2010. At the time, the university didn’t have a Japanese program, so she was able to shape it from the beginning. Now there are eight courses that contribute to a minor in Japanese, including first-, second- and third-year Japanese.
“Some students are interested in Japanese because they are interested in Japanese pop culture, including manga [Japanese comic books] and anime,” Dix explained. “I use elements of culture in my classes. We see films, read and create manga and sample Japanese food. Language is more than language study, so I try to bring in the cultural aspects.”
Japanese culture has a growing following in the United States. SVSU students can share their love of all things Japanese through the Japanese Culture Club. Dix advises the group, which discusses a variety of topics, including Japanese history and mythology as well as media and art.
“The students pick their topics for meetings each week, invite faculty to talk and help at the annual Japanese Festival [at the Japanese Tea House and Cultural Center in Saginaw]. It helps nurture their interest and understanding.”
Bringing East to West, Monika Dix helps broaden the horizons of SVSU students.