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Older students as both teachers and learners

Writer(s): 
Tadashi Ishida, Director of English Academic Research Institute

 

My students and I founded People’s Educational and Cultural Exchange (PEACE) in January 2010. A social educational organization, it is authorized by the Board of Education of Taito Ward in Tokyo. PEACE brings people from all over the world together for intercultural workshops, social events, and interpersonal exchanges. The aims of PEACE are to promote international understanding and intercultural communication through the medium of English and thereby develop deep bonds of friendship between Japanese citizens and people from abroad.

We organize both regular and special events offered free of charge for non-Japanese to help them gain a better appreciation of Japanese culture and customs. We also have a program of presentations by non-Japanese in order to help Japanese people gain better respect for foreign cultures and customs.

Regular events include demonstrations of Japanese culture, the performance of Japanese musical instruments and English Rakugo, and guided tours for non-Japanese guests. Special events include a cherry blossom viewing picnic in Ueno Park, participation in the Sanja Festival and the Tanabata Festival, and enjoying fireworks in downtown Tokyo.

 

Japanese culture

In order to meet the increasing worldwide interest in Japan, the program for Japanese culture includes calligraphy, origami, tea ceremony, playing the shamisen, making rolled sushi, and trying on kimonos. My students want to serve as ambassadors for Japan to people around the world by introducing Japanese culture in these areas.

 

English Rakugo

Rakugo is sit-down comedy, usually ending with a punch line that provokes laughter. Japanese jokes are frequently based on a play on words, which is often missed in translation, but the story itself is quite understandable in English. To get this across more easily to foreign people, the names of characters and ideas in the story may be changed to make them more adaptable to western culture.

 

Sightseeing Tours

Ueno Park is a beautiful place to take a stroll, visit temples, shrines and museums, and appreciate its imposing statues. You will certainly learn interesting history and acquire general information at the very least.

 

Sanja Festival

The Sanja Festival is one of the biggest festivals held in Tokyo each year. It is famous for its parade of about 100 portable shrines around Asakusa in Tokyo. Each of the shrines is carried on the shoulders of 20 to 30 people. Twenty-five international students from Waseda University have been given the opportunity to join a team carrying a portable shrine with special permission from PEACE members living in the Tokyo area.

 

Tanabata Festival

Participants can view the display of decorations made from bamboo branches for the Tanabata Festival and taste some of the traditional food offered at such festivals. They can also visit the nearby specialty stores selling restaurant supplies, including the models of plastic food that you often see in restaurant display windows in Japan.

 

The application of the eventsto English education

(1) Japanese cultural programs

My students teach Japanese culture to foreign visitors and therefore can practice their English in real communicative situations with our guests.

(2) Sightseeing tours

My students show foreign visitors around Ueno Park. After doing considerable research and preparation, and armed with notebooks, cameras, and voice recorders, they not only manage to explain the highlights of the tour to our foreign visitors, but are also able to write their own combination text and guide book in English based on this experience.

(3) English Rakugo

The performer is Mr. Tatsuya Sudo, a lecturer at Kanda University of International Studies. He believes the Japanese can improve the ability of their spoken English and simultaneously acquire a sense of humor by following the Rakugo method.

Rakugo is a story based on conversation and is suitable for acquiring spoken English. You need to recite the story hundreds of times before you present it to an audience. This process of reading aloud is crucial to developing one’s skill in spoken English.

Also, since Rakugo is a solo performance, you don’t need a conversation partner. It is true that the number of foreigners is increasing in Japan, yet it is still hard to find a partner to talk to in English when you live and work in Japan. In Rakugo, you talk to imaginary characters such as your friends, your parents, and siblings, so you can practice the conversation and create your own story.

For more information about PEACE, please visit its website at <peace2010.web.fc2.com/e_index.html> or the Lifelong Language Learning SIG forum at JALT2010.

For information about English Rakugo, please visit <www.k5.dion.ne.jp/~canary/> or one of the social events at JALT2010.

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