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Letter To The Editor: Volunteerism In Tsukuba

Author: Ferenc Divos, Issue: March 1996, Topic: Letters To Or From The Editor

In the December issue of the Alien Times, you asked for contributions concerning voluntary groups in Tsukuba. I would like to offer a short article about our experience concerning the voluntary parents - international group at Takezono Nishi Elementary School.

I received a 1 year fellowship and arrived in Tsukuba at the end of February last year together with my family. We have 3 sons and we entered Peter (12) and Gyorgy (10) to Takezono Nishi Elementary School from the beginning of April last year. At that time, my sons were able to communicate only in Hungarian and some German. Thus the only language of communication at the beginning was body language.

The school offered foreign children a special language program. The school established the "voluntary parents - international group" several years ago (under the leadership of Yuko Boyle) to support the foreign children at the school. The Japanese name of the voluntary group is "Hikari no kai" (Association of Light). Takezono Nishi Elementary School is located very close to Takezono House and has about 20 foreign students. Sakai sensei, the teacher who is responsible for the foreign children, teaches Japanese and coordinates the activity of the voluntary group. The membership of the voluntary group is made up mostly of mothers whose children go to the same school, but there are also mothers whose children have already graduated but who continue to help. Likewise, there are a few student members from Tsukuba University who are majoring in "teaching Japanese as a foreign language". Almost all of the members of the group speak at least one foreign language, mainly English.

During the "Kokugo" Japanese language class time, the foreign children move to a separate classroom called the "international classroom" where they are provided with a special Japanese language class fitted to the level of Japanese language ability of the child. During this time, a voluntary teacher teaches one or two foreign children. This program is extremely efficient. In the case of my sons, within 10 months, they moved from an absolutely zero level to a good level of language ability, and they can now read and write hiragana, katakana and a few hundred kanji. For example, my sons are able to translate for us the conversations in the TV series "Hideyoshi" each Sunday. My sons are not special cases. With the help of the volunteers, some children are able to adapt even more quickly. How is this possible? Each member of the voluntary group have become skilled language teachers, and they do their job with enthusiasm. By the way, I do not know the voluntary parents' real professions, but, based on the result of their teaching, they are really highly skilled language teachers. Just one more point: my sons favorite class at school is the Japanese language class.

In my country and probably many other countries as well, this kind of high quality service would not be available absolutely free as here in Japan. This is wonderful! I would like to thank all the members of the voluntary parents - internal group for the big help we got. Finally, let me mention the names of the group members: Ritsue Hamada, Atsuko Takeuchi, Yoko Harada, Yuko Boyle, Keiko Unten, Chieko Miyamaru, Kumiko Shirouzu, Noriko Suzuki, Toshie Iezumi, Masako Yokui, Keiko Iwami, Kazuko Nagai, Yuko Hashizume, Suzuko Nakayama, Toshiko Shimada, Fumiko Nakagawa, Izumi Kurasawa, Midori Kamimura, Toshie Tago, Akiko Yasue, Aiko Matsuda and student members, Hiroko Uchida, Natsu Hayashi, Miwa Nakazawa, Sonju An, and Ayako Shindo. Thank you!

Ferenc Divos

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