マンツーマン指導による子どものための日本語教室を展開する、調布市国際交流協会
This month's Close Up features Chofu International Friendship Association (CIFA), which marks its 15th year in promoting international exchange by the effort of citizens. In 2005 (Heisei 17), CIFA started offering Japanese language classes for non-Japanese children in the community and is currently the running Chofu City Municipal School Japanese Classroom, which is more familiarly known as Kodomo Kyoshitsu. The program aims to support children whose mother language is not Japanese to make their school lives easier by offering one-to-one language lessons by experienced volunteer tutors. Toshihiro Masuzawa, Director of CIFA, introduced us to the association's key staff members, Akira Sakuma (Kodomo Kyoshitsu volunteer leader) and Kazuko Amari (volunteer coordinator).
Classroom scene from CIFA’s “Kodomo Kyoshitsu
CIFAに子どものための日本語教室が誕生した経緯を教えてください。
Kazuko Amari supervising a lesson


CIFA has been offering Japanese conversation classes for adults since 1996 (Heisei 8). As the classes began getting participants of children, we came to recognize the need for Japanese classes for children. The Agency for Cultural Affairs just launched a new policy to promote the acquisition of Japanese language among foreign-born children, which also inspired us to eventually open a Japanese class for children in 2005 (Heisei 17). We began with two junior high school students, but the number of students soon grew to 14 to 15 students as more people in the community came to learn about the class by word-of-mouth. In 2008 (Heisei 20), with a commission by the city's Board of Education, we renewed our classes and started a new program, Chofu City Municipal School Japanese Classroom, which we call "Kodomo Kyoshitsu" today. This year, about 30 students from local elementary and junior high schools are participating in the program.

「こども教室」に通ってくるのはどのような子どもたちですか。
A student engrossed in his studies


They are elementary and junior high school students who are either Japanese and have lived in foreign countries before moving back to Japan, or those who are from foreign families living in the community. Because of their limited Japanese language skills, these children often have difficulties in their lives at school. We used to accept the application for the class directly at the CIFA office, but since the program is now sponsored by the city, the application is taken only through their schools to the city's board of education. It is very important that parents as well as school teachers pay close attention to the students' needs in language assistance. Generally, these children quickly pick up daily conversation skills from their classmates, which may appear to us adults that they are doing fine in the classes as well. Therefore, when those students have difficulties in academic work, people often disregard the possible influence of their language skills and instead assume that these kids just don't like to study. Again, it is important that parents and teachers understand their language barriers in academic work and give appropriate support if needed so that they can keep up with the class work. However, it is true that we have not been able to cover all children who need language support. It is also regretful that some students stop coming to the class as they get busy with other schoolwork, club activities, or some situations in the family. I hope that many students continue to study with us until their Japanese language skills are well established.

マンツーマン指導を基本とされているそうですね。
a Direct, one on one teaching by a volunteer


It is our belief that the one-on-one approach is the most effective way in teaching children who come to the class with various backgrounds, such as their first language, age when they first come to Japan, current skill level, current grade, and so on. Our rule is that each student is taught by the same volunteer tutor every time they come to the class. For 13 years, CIFA has been teaching adult students privately according to the skill levels and interests of each student, and our experiences and knowledge from the adult classes are directly reflected to our children's classes. In addition to using textbooks, tutors often incorporate games to help students better understand Japanese language and culture. They help student's homework progress as well and give academic advice and support when necessary. For junior high school students, we consider their needs for preparing for high school entrance exams. Each class lasts 2 hours and is held during after school hours twice a week. All of our students are working really hard in the class although they must be very tired from regular classes at school.

日本語ボランティアはどんな方々がいらっしゃいますか。またボランティアになるためにはどうしたらよいのですか。
While our volunteers range widely in their ages, the majority of them are women whose children have grown up or who have retired from their fulltime work. We get help by college students during the summer, which our kids really enjoy as well. Currently, we have two male volunteers for Kodomo Kyoshitsu,who have been a great support and encouragement to students as well as to other volunteers. In total, about 140 volunteer members are registered as language tutors at CIFA. To become a tutor, we ask entry-level volunteers to participate in a workshop during the summer to obtain basic skills and understanding of teaching Japanese language. The workshop is not required for those who have taught before or took other courses in Japanese teaching. Our volunteers are hard workers and are committed to helping children.
Two male volunteers,
on the right is volunteer leader Akira Sakuma
ボランティアをする上で心がけていることはありますか。
My goal is to make Kodomo Kyoshitsu a place where children would come not only to learn Japanese but also to take a break and relax. Their parents who have come from other countries are often isolated in the community, so we also want to be someone whom they feel comfortable to talk to. If they have language difficulties, we invite them to join CIFA's adult Japanese classes. Above all, our hope is that the students continue to value their identity. Learning Japanese is important, but it should not be done in exchange of losing their native language. It will be great if they can keep both Japanese and their native language and become proud of themselves being bilingual. It is very important for them who are going to live in a global society. It is also our hope that more and more Japanese people would take part of nurturing the international environment in their community by creating friendships with foreign people in their neighborhood or at local schools.
Students and their families come to Japan for various reasons. I believe our role is to help them establish their lives in Japan in which they can be themselves. The majority of parents of our students hope to live in Japan for a long period of time, suggesting that many of their children eventually face a major challenge of getting into high school. Therefore, it is also our important role to give such students enough support for preparing themselves for high school entrance exams. In addition to teaching them in our classroom, we occasionally accompany students when they visit high schools they want to attend. For us tutors, the students' success on high school entrance exams also means the success of our language support. For example, it was so rewarding to us when one of our students who studied with us for three years during junior high school years came to see us with his parents after passing the exam for the high school to which he wanted to go. Our job is tough, but the children's cheerful smiles and their efforts for progresses keep us going.
  
Teaching materials used in the lessons

CIFA Japanese class latest information

This September, CIFA started a new Japanese class for parents with young children. For this class, childcare is provided while dads and moms are taking lessons. Starting with adult students, CIFA continues to expand and improve its Japanese classes and various other services to accommodate today's needs of the international community.


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