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Let’s Make Use of the Foreign Language Resources at Local Libraries!

The setting is a Japanese language class somewhere in Tokyo. Yukari, a university student volunteer, is chatting with Chae Yeon and Clare, two of her students. While chatting, the eyes of the latter two fall on an English book in Yukari’s bag.

Let’s Make Use of the Foreign Language Resources at Local Libraries!

Chae Yeon

What’s this? Yukari-san, I see that you are reading a book written in English.

Yukari

Yes, I borrowed both of these from a local library. This one is a picture book, while this here is a children’s fairytale. They are both English books written with young readers in mind. However, I heard that they are a good resource for people who are learning the language. Thus, I have borrowed and read a variety of them. That reminds me Clare, you’re an English teacher.

Clare

That is correct. In the classes that I teach, I also make use of some English picture books that I brought with me from America. That being said, I wasn’t aware that such things could be borrowed from local libraries.

Yukari

In actual fact, there are a number of libraries that have set up shelving specifically to display picture books that are written in English. In that I am the type of person who likes to read as much as I can, I tend to make great use of libraries in that their books can be borrowed free of charge.

Chae Yeon

Yes, I must admit that I also sometimes visit a library with my children and borrow picture books that are written in a foreign language. Although my children have only been in Japan for one year, their language skills have progressed to the point that they almost feel no disadvantages whatsoever when mixing with their Japanese friends.

Yukari

That sounds encouraging!

Chae Yeon

Yes, I must say I feel very relieved. Furthermore, in that I don’t want my children to lose their fluency in their native tongue, occasionally I will visit a local library and borrow their Korean picture books in order to read them to my children.

Clare

So local libraries have picture books in other languages as well in addition to those in English?

Yukari

That is correct. However, the languages in which they have picture books, and just how many books they have, varies from library to library. What about you Clare? Have you had the opportunity to visit a local public library as yet?

Clare

No, I’ve only been here a month. As such, I’m still trying to get my act together and get a grip on daily life. However, once I am sorted, I might just go and have a look.

Yukari

Please make a point of doing so! Depending on the library, some don’t just have children’s picture books, but also foreign language magazines and books that are targeted at adult readers.

The three friends continue to talk about libraries.

Yukari

Recently, more and more libraries are providing “multicultural services” to their users.

Clare

Is that because there are more and more foreign people living in Japan?

Yukari

That is correct. Libraries now have collections of foreign language books that allow non-Japanese who live locally to come into contact with their native languages and cultures. There are also texts for learning Japanese and books for helping people find out about Japanese culture. There are even libraries that have materials that can give you valuable hints on how to live in Japan.

Chae Yeon

The library near where I live offers foreign book reading events.

Clare

That sounds interesting!

Chae Yeon

Yes, I took the children along once. The participants were a mixture of Japanese and non-Japanese, and they all seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Yukari

While multicultural services are for library users whose native language is not Japanese, the same services are also an opportunity for Japanese people to come into contact with foreign languages and cultures. By doing so, the hope is that an understanding of other cultures will be promoted among the population.

Chae Yeon

The idea is for libraries to become locations where people from different backgrounds can deepen their understanding of one another.

Yukari

Although such ideas should be done at every library, I get the impression that such thinking is still a work in progress.

Clare

Yes, whatever the case, I think it would be a good thing if more and more libraries start to work on the provision of multicultural services!