Cara Moriwaki: Church and English Assistant


In the past month, I have been meeting many more Japanese people through church!  One of the people I talk to often at church helped me to contact the leader of a Bible study circle at Doshisha, so I have been able to go to two of their meetings so far.  At the meetings, which are on Friday afternoons, we read a passage from the Bible and answer questions from a worksheet.  I bring my own Bible in English, but I still have trouble understanding the conversations because the vocabulary is difficult and they get deep, but I’ve learned that I don’t have to understand everything to enjoy myself!  The most important thing for me is this chance to meet many different people in Japan.  One of the girls who attends this circle regularly is not Christian, but she is interested in reading the Bible and learning about Jesus.  Even though I don’t always understand and don’t often contribute to the conversation, they have been very accepting of me.  By going to these meetings, I have learned a lot of different vocabulary and have been able to work on my listening comprehension, which has really taught me to make the most of any difficult situation!

For the last two church services that I went to, a lot of things happened!  We had communion!  Because it was very much like any other communion, I felt at home, and as though I have been going to this church for a significant amount of time, instead of just visiting.  I got to eat lunch with everyone afterwards, too!  The following week, I got to watch two girls get baptized.  After a group of the younger people sang songs to congratulate them, the two girls gave their testimonies.  Although, again, I couldn’t always understand what they were saying, I could still feel their emotions as they told us about their spiritual journeys.  I’m very happy that I had the chance to witness these girls take such an important step in their lives.

I’ve found that, at least at church and at the Bible study circle, Japanese people are not very different from Americans in their customs.  Just like the people I met at churches that I have attended in the United States, people here have been very inviting and patient with me.  Recently, I have had to go to church by myself, but I’ve learned that if I have even just a little bit of confidence in myself, I can have a lot of amazing experiences!  It is also thanks to the many people that I have met for very warmly welcoming me into the church community.    Despite my KCJS A-class status, I can still connect with many people!  Matthew 17:18 “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”

At Kamigyou Intermediate School, I have continued to help students with their English competitions.  There were two competitions, one which was for recording the story on a tape to be submitted, and the other for which the students had to perform their speech with arm motions.  Within one week, I saw that the students had improved in their intonation, pronunciation, and energy in their movements.  I remember that the school’s Vice Principle asked a student to do her best in one of the competitions, which made me realize that these students are pressured to represent their school as best they can.  Their determination to do their best for themselves and for their school is inspiring, and makes me want to ganbaru at Japanese, too!

Twice, I have had to casually converse with a couple of girls who were very shy about speaking.  Although the students are not shy about reading aloud their passages, they are not comfortable with normally speaking English.  Unlike my language teachers who speak to me in their foreign language, the English teacher here usually only speaks Japanese to her students.  I’m not sure if the emphasis on reading rather than speaking is a good thing because one of the people I met at church said that even though he studied English since he was little, he cannot say anything in English.  Well, in the end, I let the students speak mostly in Japanese to me, but I’ve realized that sometimes, it is more important for them to enjoy English rather than feel stressed out about it.

With only a few more weeks here, I want to make the rest of my limited time here as meaningful as possible by meeting more people and deepening my relationships with the people I have met!






Brandon Syms : Assistant English Teacher

My experience with CIP has been excited, yet a little unfulfilling. I say that because although I enjoyed going to the school to partake in the activities with the students often I was unable to because I was scheduled on a Friday and it seems that many field trips and holidays fall on that day. I originally decided to become an Assistant English Teacher for my CIP because I was thinking of doing the JET program and I wanted to be sure that this type of work would be something I would want to do. I got quite a few other things out of the experience as well. For instance, I got an insight into the Japanese education system. The thing that shocked me the most of is how relaxed the atmosphere is while still managing to maintain the same structure. The teacher has a friendly relationship with is students and yet he still holds together this structure. The role I played was at first more difficult that I had expected. Not using Japanese with the Japanese teacher was strange to me. I felt as if it kept the students outside of the conversation. Something I realized about the English classes in Japan, is that it is taught in much the same manner that Japanese is taught to native English speakers. However, I still don’t quite understand why it is done in such a strange manner, yielding very few that are able to fully master the other language due to things like limited vocabulary and intense grammar. A suggestion that I have to offer to the English Education Department is to perhaps focus on two things, vocabulary themes (lists that cover all the words of the same theme) and more frequent speech practice. I understand that not all students want to learn English but with the way it seems to be structured, those who do want to learn won’t be able to do so to the extent of their full potential.

On a lighter note, I really enjoyed getting to know one of the classes, I remembered a lot of their names and they really enjoyed my lessons. One lesson in particular I really enjoyed because I got the chance to explain the grammar point in Japanese to the students. Unlike Japanese classes in America, English classes in Japan are taught in English at the middle school level. I can only imagine how difficult that must be to grasp if you do not understand the language of instruction. When I explained it to them in Japanese, they were more enthusiastic and they began to correctly use the grammar point.

Being a foreigner in that setting is also very interesting. Unlike adults, children are not as accustomed to foreigners since they wake up early and go directly to school where they socialize with other Japanese children and leave later to go home where they spend time with their family. So as a foreigner I at first felt a little awkward because I didn’t understand from their point of view why I was so astonishing. But little by little I grew very comfortable and eventually feeling more prideful able being a foreigner. For the most part Japanese children thing foreigners are cool and mysterious. So all the students are just very curious of me and about where I come from. I think in all, my experience was different. I am just glad that I got the chance to see what a Japanese school is like in a hands-on way. I’d recommend it but only if you can go more than once a week.