Each month, our new feature "Support Group of the Month" introduces an organization from different communities in Tokyo who aims to promote international exchange and support the lives of foreign residents in their community. For this month, we visited the Association for Nakano International Communications, who is known for its extensive effort in providing quality learning opportunities of Japanese language for foreign residents. We talked to Mariko Oku, Managing Director of the Association, and Mariko Nakayama, specialist in charge of Japanese language education of the Association.
Our association was established about 20 years ago. Since then, Japanese language classes have been at the center of our activities. Our classes target non-native residents who plan to live in Japan for a relatively long period of time. We also recruit and give adequate trainings to citizen volunteers how to teach Japanese to foreigners. We have members who took our first volunteer training 20 years ago and are still teaching with us today. Over 120 local citizens work as our volunteer Japanese teacher, every week.
Mariko Oku (managing director, left) and Mariko Nakayama (Japanese language education specialist, right)
Anyone who wishes to be a volunteer teacher for us is required to complete our 3-month training program, regardless of his/her previous teaching experiences on qualifications at other organizations. The training takes place in a simulated classroom where participants learn how to teach Japanese most effectively to foreign people. Even after officially becoming a volunteer teacher, they are required to continue to brush up their skills by participating volunteers' in study session every week to practice various situations through role-plays.
Children's Japanese class is always full of energy. "The wonderful thing about our language program is that volunteer teachers can also continue to improve their skills by participating in volunteers' study sessions," says Kumiko Komiya, who has been teaching with the association for 19 years. "For me, working as a volunteer is a lifelong learning process."
"I enjoy learning Japanese because I can play and sing with my Japanese friends," says Akifumi Yoshihara, freshman of local junior high school (left)
The number of foreign residents in the city is increasing. The largest community is Chinese, followed by Korean (South/North) and Filipinos. One of our recent concerns is that there has been a strong and increasing need of language support for school-age children. We believe this is an issue that many other cities with foreign population are dealing with. Being unable to understand Japanese is not the only problem that these children may have; because of the language barrier, they are also experiencing different types of anxiety and uncertainty about their lives at school, including academic work. Many of their issues can be solved by improving their Japanese skills, however. We now offer a Japanese class just for children. We, in cooperation with the Nakano Board of Education, send our licensed volunteer teachers to children's regular schools to help their school work. With an approval of junior school principals, we also accept students to our regular classes.
In addition to Japanese classes, our volunteer members, each uniquely talented and skilled, support our various activities. Members who know how to dress kimono, for example, help at one of our new year or summer events where foreign members can try on kimono. Our volunteers are all passionate about helping foreign people to have as many positive experiences as possible in their lives in Nakano City as well as in Japan. We want to create community where everyone helps each other. This is our volunteer spirit and we are very proud of it. More than 5500 volunteers actually work in a year.
Association for Nakano International Communications (Japanese only)
東京都国際交流委員会 BacknumberJapanese