Thursday, November 8, 2012

Japanese Elementary Schools [ 小学校 ] (Daniel)

As I had mentioned before, part of being a Hippo intern includes traveling to various elementary schools in Tokyo to give presentations about the HIPPO Family Club as well as multilingualism and multiculturalism.

A Typical Japanese Elementary School

Interestingly, multilingualism and multiculturalism is sort of a big deal in Japan. Japan is an ultra-homogeneous nation with a population that is 98.5% ethnically Japanese. 

Although Japanese study English, schools only focus on reading and writing. As a result, people don't have enough practice speaking and are too shy to try. Many of them are left believing that it is impossible to be proficient in more than one, maybe two, languages.

HIPPO members and I go to elementary schools to demonstrate that isn't true. Language acquisition is based on the language spoken in one's environment. If you create a multilingual environment, you will create a multilingual person. That is exactly what we do in HIPPO.

 Multiculturalism At Its Finest

During the school visits, I give a small presentation in English and in Japanese about my life in America. Although I don't know very much Japanese, I memorized the words of my presentation, to make it seem like I do. The children are surprised to hear me speak Japanese and try to talk to me afterward, thought I have no idea what they are saying.

 My friends and I

An interesting thing about Japanese schools is that you have to take your shoes off before you enter. The students put their shoes into these cubbies and change into their special school shoes.

There are also a bunch of rubber slippers, usually dark green, for visitors.

Wearing these green rubber slippers is no ordinary task for me.

My American Bigfoot Feet Don't Really Fit Into Japanese Slippers.

Oh well. At least they make a fun photo!

I have never been a famous, but I assume that it feels similar to what I experience in Japanese elementary schools. The kids crowd around me, hug me, tickle me, fight over who gets to hold my hand, all while yelling "Danieru! Danieru!" [my Japanese name.]

At one elementary school, the kids crowded around their classroom window to yell goodbye to me as I was leaving.

These kids are such cute little angels.

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