Nancy Nguyen: Assistant English Teacher at Hiyoshigaoka High School

For my CIP activity, I volunteered as an English conversation partner at Hello Village at Hiyoshigaoka High School. Hello Village is a center at the high school that encourages Japanese high school students to practice their English conversational skills. Originally, I intended to take a bus every week after class to go to the school to practice English conversational skills. However, because Japan’s academic calendar differs greatly from that of the American academic calendar, there was a long gap in which I was not able to volunteer because the students were on spring break.

Regardless, I’ve had various interesting experiences during my time as a volunteer, and also discovered many similarities between Japanese students studying English and American students studying Japanese. I particularly remember one time when an ALT was helping a student prepare for a pronunciation test. Seeing the difficulties with pronouncing certain consonants in English such as “v” and “b” reminded me of my own struggles with pronunciation in Japanese such as with “su” and “tsu.”

Also, what was interesting to me was that there was differing types of students that I would meet at Hello Village. Some students were particularly more outgoing than others and more excited to speak English: some were because of their participation on the English debate team and others, I found out later, were known to be the “boisterous” of their class. But many students I encountered were more reserved and self-conscious about their English ability, and it was interesting to see that whenever I spoke with them, they would often consult each other as a group first before responding as a whole. However, even with the vastly different personalities, every student I encountered at Hello Village was eager to practice and improve their English. Their eagerness inspired me to examine my own reasons for wanting to learn Japanese and doing study abroad.

Even though there were difficulties because of differences in academic calendars, I still found my time at Hello Village to be a worthwhile experience during my semester in Japan.

6 thoughts on “Nancy Nguyen: Assistant English Teacher at Hiyoshigaoka High School

  1. Did you make any friends at the high school that you were able to hang out with outside of your CIP? Could be students, faculty, or other volunteers.

    • Before volunteering, we’re required to sign a form agreeing to not meet with students outside of CIP, but I was able to talk a lot with the ALT’s! Unfortunately, because of the school break, there wasn’t much of a chance to meet.

  2. It seems like you had a really interesting time working with high school level English learners. I can definitely say that when I worked with a younger demographic the pronunciation difficulties were more pronounced. Do you think this might stem from a use of katakana while teaching English vocabulary? I really had to emphasize that katakana is not English with my students!

    • I think this was the case for many of the students, and it was hard to many of them to let go of speech habits that developed from using katakana. Although, I was an Assistant Teacher, the ALT’s who were present were the ones who were most involved in helping them improve their pronunciation because they would be the ones testing them later.

  3. That is interesting how their different personalities affected the way they approached English, especially the group of people who consulted with one another before responding in English. Do you think that consulting with each other would eventually make them less confident in speaking by themselves eventually?

    • I think consulting helps them become more confident. Often times, they’re consulting each other because they’re not sure of what is the English translation of a word, so I think by asking others who know, they’re gradually able to become more confident in speaking by themselves eventually.