For my CIP, I volunteered at 末光先生’s home as an assistant English teacher working with elementary school and middle school students. Every week, I would arrive to 末光先生’s house before the lesson to speak with her about what we would be doing that day, as well as just talking and getting to know each other better.
During the lessons, there would often be opportunities for me to answer questions that the students had for Americans. At first, I feel like it was difficult to know what the right speaking pace would be for the students, as well as what kind of vocabulary might be a bit difficult for them to understand, but I gradually got more confident. It was definitely easier with the older students as they had been studying English for longer. In general, I think it was really beneficial to be able to see how children speak to each other in Japanese as generally speaking, there aren’t many opportunities as a student to do that.
Something I really got an appreciation for was how despite Japanese having a reputation for being an ambiguous, context-based language, the same can often be true of English, making it a similarly difficult language. One of the lessons involved going over the song Beauty and the Beast from the movie of the same name and it wasn’t as straightforward as I thought, as at points I really had to wonder what actually was meant by this line or that line.
I also think it was interesting to see how foreign language education differs in Japan. The materials were somewhat similar in the sense that children use very child-oriented textbooks that, in the case of a couple of the middle school students I worked with, they might feel they’ve outgrown, but the materials felt very similar to what I used in middle school when learning Chinese. That being said, there was greater emphasis on using Japanese to explain what something means whereas in my American foreign language classes, Chinese and Japanese at all levels, there was greater emphasis on using the language in order to answer content based questions to show understanding.
Overall, it was a very valuable experience and I regret that I wasn’t able to participate more before the program was ended.