Joint MBA/MA and JD/MA: Japanese Language and Culture Program

An underlying premise of the Lauder Japanese Language & Culture Program curriculum is that effective cross-cultural management requires both a high level of language proficiency, which demonstrates abstract thinking and conceptual communication, and a correspondingly strong understanding of the history, culture, politics, and business practices of the Japanese-speaking world. The curriculum develops both dimensions and prepares students to understand the larger cultural context in which Japanese business takes place.

Japanese Language and Culture courses integrate applied language study and cultural analysis in a comprehensive program made up of the following phases:

May Courses
Summer Immersion
Academic Year

May Courses
Japanese program students take two classes in May, including International Political Economy of Business Environments (INTS 721) with all first-year MBA/MA and JD/MA Lauder students. In addition, students take an East Asian Area History course (INTS 71X) with students in the Chinese program. Students also receive Japanese language instruction and do coursework in May to prepare them for the upcoming overseas summer immersion in June and July. May language course activities are required, and along with the summer immersion, count toward the first academic unit of the INTS Japanese Language and Culture curriculum. Activities related to the Japanese Language and Culture Program include, but are not limited to, a review of the current social, economic and political issues; introduction to the business environment in Japan and relevant business topics; preparation of résumés in Japanese; and one-on-one interviews in Japanese, all of which are geared towards increasing language proficiency and cultural understanding.

Japanese Summer Immersion
A core component of the program is the eight-week summer immersion in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nagoya region. The primary goals of the Japanese summer immersion experience are to advance students’ language proficiency for academic and professional contexts, expand their cultural literacy/knowledge and develop an increased disposition for critical reflection. These are achieved through in-language classroom instruction, seminars, excursions and company visits.
Students complete about 100 hours of in-language classroom instruction focused on economic, social, political and business topics. The content complements the East Asian Area History course from May and provides an opportunity for students to reflect upon the historic, linguistic and cultural context of Japan. Over the summer, students develop the ability to discuss complex social, political, cultural, and economic issues; develop increasingly formal and culturally appropriate communicative abilities; and work towards obtaining a Superior level of language proficiency as defined by ACTFL guidelines. Students also conduct research and interviews in teams in order to write a short article on a business, economic, cultural, or political topic related to their summer immersion site. These articles are published by Knowledge at Wharton, as part of a new series called the Lauder Global Business Insight Report. Recent articles by students in the Japanese program have included such diverse topics as Japanese energy policy, Meibutsu and the economic and cultural significant of traditional Japanese products, the role of foreign direct investment in Japan, Japanese eco-technology, and the entrepreneurship in Japan. Although student teams write the article in English, research for the topics includes gathering information and conducting interviews in Japanese, and teams deliver an oral presentation on their topic in Japanese at the end of the summer immersion.
Through a diverse agenda of national and multinational organization visits and guest speakers, students are exposed to the current economic and business landscape and future outlook of the region. While visits may change from year to year, previous visits have included Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citi Bank, Bain, Cerberus, Toyota, and Fujitsu. During these visits, students discuss issues related to specific companies and industries as well as the social and political environments in which they operate.  Students can also expect cultural excursions and opportunities to meet Lauder alumni.

Academic Year
Upon their return from the immersion program, students complete their academic degree requirements through INTS Japanese Language and Culture Program courses. The program complements the international MBA business and management skills developed at Wharton and in Lauder’s International Studies curriculum to prepare both MBA and JD students to confidently navigate a rapidly changing global economic, political, social and cultural landscape. The Language and Culture Program during each semester of the two-year program includes classroom instruction and specialized activities. Thematic content during the two years typically drawn upon political, legal, socio-economic, and market issues; literature, history, and philosophy; contemporary business and industry concerns; arts, film, media, and sports as contemporary expressions of a culture and its values; and issues related to current events. Our small, focused classes emphasize mastery of the language, with the goal of reaching a Superior-level of language proficiency, and develop students’ ability for critical thinking and problem solving within the framework of Japanese culture.  Students are expected to demonstrate their linguistic proficiency and content awareness through activities that range from debates, presentations, reports, and discussions. Some examples of specific themes that may guide the classroom include Japanese social dynamics, comparison of the corporate culture between Japanese and foreign companies, the Japanese consumer and branding, the financial crisis and its impact on Japan, energy issues, issues in the Japanese medical system, the Japanese economy and how it relates to the global economy, and the role of Japanese culture in the form of movies and social networking.

In addition to class, students explore the different facets of the target culture in contexts that take them outside the classroom. One example is the spring semester mini immersions. These extended two-day, in-language activities vary from year to year but are usually related to the themes of the academic curriculum. Last year’s mini immersion was to a Japanese film viewing and students also have various opportunities to explore the aesthetic values of traditional Japanese arts such as composing Haikus and practicing the art of the tea ceremony.

Lauder students complete their MA degree with a course sequence that includes International Political Economy of Business Environments and the Global Economic History, two approved electives from the School of Arts and Sciences, and the Global Knowledge Lab research project.