Volunteering for helping with English education at Kamigyo Middle School has been good. This volunteer position requires me to help two pupils who are preparing for the English speaking contest. Mostly, my task is to correct them on pronunciations and evaluate the way they give their speech. I decided to give this volunteer a try, because I wanted to place myself in a position where I get to see non-native speakers of English working hard to polish their English. From this experience, it is clear how difficult English language is for the Japanese students. When a student struggles to pronounce the simple word such as “born,” it reminds me how I struggle with using simple words in Japanese. In the same sense, KCJS students also find learning Japanese difficult as well. Foreign language study is a huge challenge that a student takes, and ever since I started learning my first foreign language, I always wondered how to successfully learn a language.
One thing I have learned from the CIP experience is that speaking in foreign language is an uncomfortable task that is usually not approached through the students’ interest. Mimicry is my hobby; thus by doing so, I try to keep my foreign language study to be as amusing as possible. However, I feel that the students I am in charge of at the Kamigyo Middle School practice their speech for the mere speech contest. One of my students said that he does not like one of his stories he has to recite by memory. I feel that foreign language must be accompanied with the students’ interest that serves as the incentive for the study of that language.
It sounds like English volunteering was a good match for you! If you really want to help people who are trying to improve their Japanese, maybe you could try a language exchange group like Klexon next semester. Do you think that foreign language study in Japanese middle school resembles that in the U.S. (i.e. students being required to study Spanish)? Have you thought of any ways on how to students’ interest can be engaged or how English education can be improved?
also, when you say mimicry is your hobby, what kind of things do you mimic?
I believe foreign language study in Japanese middle school resembles that in the US in the sense that the students are required to study it. For me, there must be an incentive to study the foreign language and want to learn it. But as everyone has different interests and goals, it is not an easy task to spark students’ interest in the foreign language they are learning. Individual learners should find some means to grow their desires for learning the language. I, for instance, like to find music and TV shows that fit my personal interests and are in the targeted language I am studying at the same time.
As for mimicry, I try to mimic every possible aspects of the language that I notice. Tone, word phrases, actions are a few to mention. I find great satisfaction in copying other people!
They have an English speaking contest at a middle school? That’s intense! I’m guessing their teachers are not native English speakers, if you’re focusing on the student’s pronunciation. That seems difficult; I’ve always been grateful that my Japanese sensei have been native speakers, who can best demonstrate natural speech, pitch, and accent. It must be challenging for the students to reproduce sounds they don’t hear very often.
How come you wanted to see people working hard on their English? Did it help you stay motivated to keep working hard on your Japanese?
I totally understand not being motivated to study a foreign language if you have no personal interest in it. I took French for four and a half years, but stopped because I realized I wasn’t enjoying it at all. Learning a foreign language is a difficult challenge. In my opinion, the amount of commitment required to do it well is nearly impossible to achieve if your not passionate about what you’re learning.
I don’t know the reason why I chose this CIP. I just thought that teaching English would give me an interesting insight about how non-native speakers learn English from a perspective of a fluent speaker of the targeted language. It made me wonder about how we KCJS students try to learn Japanese in the classroom. Mostly, it is unbearable for me to see students try something they do not have a slightest interest in. However, there are few students who make my day when they actually ask questions about English language or when they simply want to have a casual talk with me.
Right! I completely understand your story about learning French. It was the same case for me learning Spanish. For Spanish, I learned it for its usefulness and broad applicability. However, I was not truly passionate about it.