The enrollments of some non-European language courses have increased in the past five years because of more focus on those parts of the world.
Spanish, French, German and Italian accounted for more than 75 percent of the foreign language enrollment at the University in 2007, according to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. However, more students took non-Western language courses in 2007, such as Chinese, Arabic and Japanese, than they did in 2002.
The enrollment of Chinese courses has doubled since 2002.
The number of the three languages' enrollment hours have increased from the academic year of 2002-2003 to the academic year of 2007-2008.
Xu Zhou, Xian, China, graduate student and graduate teaching assistant of Chinese, said China became more important in the world in the time period of the enrollment increase. He said some knowledge of the language would benefit students who were interested in any area, from Chinese politics to history and business. He said the language skill would bring better job opportunities to students and help them be successful, particularly in business because China produces so many goods for the United States.
The enrollment of Arabic courses has increased by 45 percent since 2002, according to the college.
Peter Ukpokodu, chairman and professor of African and African-American studies at the University, said the department had only one instructor in the late 1990s. Now there are six Arabic instructors. He said people had shown interest in Middle East and Arabic languages because of oil business and Islamic culture, but he noticed the sharp increase of students right after the the Iraq War started.
He said he hoped students would have interactions with Arabic-speaking people through studying language, learning the way they would think and identifying barriers between different cultures. He said studying Arabic would allow students to learn about Africa along with the Middle East.
Andrew Fox, Salina senior, said he had been studying Arabic at the University for two years. He said he planned to study abroad before graduation to improve his Arabic and learn about the culture. He said he decided to study Arabic because he belonged to the Naval ROTC.
"When we graduate here, we get a permission to become officers," Fox said. "You get bonuses for knowing language and you get better jobs, too. You got a strategic skill and language."
Neill Barnes, Iola junior, is enrolled in an elementary Chinese class this summer. He said he wanted to learn Chinese because he was interested in Eastern architecture, martial arts and religions like Buddhism and Taoism.
Japanese was ranked as the fifth-most popular foreign language course at the University in 2007, following Italian.
Elaine Gerbert, associate professor of East Asian languages and cultures, said some students took Japanese courses in high school and continued to study at the University. She said she had seen an increase of students who studied Japanese since the 1990s, but she also noticed the shift of the interest of students who were enrolled in Japanese.
"In the 1980s, a lot of students wanted to study Japanese because of business opportunities," Gerbert said. "Now it seemed more students are interested in Japanese culture because of the Internet, pop culture, manga and anime."
More students study Japanese than Chinese at the University. Gerbert said some students started to learn Chinese or Korean after they took Japanese courses.
"Japanese culture is more familiar to American students," Gebhart said. "The country seems safer, it's more highly developed economically. It's democracy."