English Brings Sailors, Local Japanese Students Together
Sailors put their English teaching skills to the test when 31 local Japanese fifth graders visited the Navy Exchange Food Court on Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi.
The visit was part of an initiative started over five years ago to help the students with their English lessons and to give volunteer Sailors another opportunity to interact with the local Japanese communities, explained Host Nation Relations Office Protocol Specialist Ikumi Tanaka.
“It was interesting just to experience the Japanese culture through these kids,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class James Wilson. “It was also interesting to see how the kids reacted to interacting with a different culture.”
According to Host Nation Relations Office Community Relations Specialist, Sumie Maruyama, Terao Elementary school students begin learning English during their second semester of first grade, and continue to grasp the language as they progress through school.
To help their understanding of the language, Sailors from NAF Atsugi volunteer once a week at the school to help with English lessons.
Only fifth and sixth graders are given the opportunity to visit the base and test their English knowledge.
“It is different for them,” said Maruyama. “They are used to interacting with volunteers that they know and see on a weekly basis. Now they must meet someone they don’t know, introduce themselves and engage that other person in conversation. It’s a challenge for the students to say ‘hello’ to someone they’ve just met for the first time.”
Upon entering the food court, the children made their way to a designated volunteer two or three at a time. After shyly introducing themselves, the children engaged the Sailors in conversation and traditional Japanese games such as “kendama,” a game consisting of a wooden handle tied to a bright red ball with string, and “fuku-warai,” a game similar to pin the tail on the donkey.
“Some of them are a little shy, but for the most part they were excited,” said Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 2nd Class Brittney Robertson. “When you want to learn their games, they’re excited to teach you. I appreciate this opportunity. It’s nice.”
The meeting lasted only a hour, but it left both children and Sailors laughing and talking excitedly. “I will be doing this more often,” said Robertson. “This was cool and I think everyone who is coming to NAF Atsugi or is here now should experience this.”
For more information about how you can volunteer to teach English, contact the Fleet and Family Support Center volunteer coordinator at 264-3372.