Tokyo University of Foreign Studies has reported a sharp rise in the popularity of Armenian language courses, Asahi Shimbun reports.
Stay-at-home lifestyles prompted by the pandemic left many Japanese with time on the hands to pursue studies they might not have gotten around to.
To play a part in helping Japan become a multicultural inclusive society, the university has been hosting extension courses to teach languages, cultures and histories of other countries at its campus in the western Tokyo city of Fuchu and elsewhere.
Due to the difficulty of hands-on lessons with the spread of COVID-19, it started offering classes online from November.
Applications to study unfamiliar languages suddenly spiked.
For example, a beginner class for East Armenian, which is spoken in Armenia, had an enrollment rate of 43 percent in the 2019 academic year ending in March 2020.
But the figure rose to 100 percent the following year after the class switched to online with the novel coronavirus pandemic in full swing.
“I’m glad to learn that so many people are interested in unique languages,” said Takayuki Yoshimura, a researcher in residence at Waseda University’s Institute for Russian and Easteuropean Studies, who serves as an instructor in East Armenian.
The number of students attending classes increased 1.5-fold to 4,652 in the 2020 academic year from 3,139 the year before.
University officials believe that the popularity of online classes is due to the fact students have no need to go to classrooms in Tokyo and risk becoming infected.
The number of students from outside the Tokyo metropolitan area accounted for just 4 percent of the intake in the 2019 academic year. But when classes went online the following year, the figure rose to 25 percent, with 81 students joining lessons from overseas.