NAGO CITY, OKINAWA, Japan -- Camp Schwab Marines and undergraduate students of Meio University taught English to 30 Okinawa middle school students during the 2nd annual English Day Camp Feb. 28 at the Nago City Youth Center as part of a Nago City Board of Education Program.
The schoolchildren had a chance to observe English conversations and practice using the language in an informal environment as they interacted with the volunteers. The experience gave context to their largely book-based English curriculum.
“The agenda for the day was simply to get the Japanese students to interact with the native (English) speakers through games, lunches, sports and play,” said Capt. Takashi Okamoto, an assistant logistics officer assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Getting the students to hear the pronunciations and word choices the Marines use in their daily conversations was a valuable experience for those (children).”
The day camp began with an icebreaker activity in which the undergraduate students, Marines and schoolchildren became acquainted. They asked each other about hobbies, likes and dislikes, and then taught each other how to write their names in the corresponding language.
At first, the children were so nervous that they weren’t speaking much, according to Okamoto. However, by the end of day, everyone was “all smiles.”
Observation of pronunciation became key when the students and Marines played the “telephone game.” Sitting in lines that alternated Marines and students, the first participant in each line whispered an English word to the next person, who would whisper it to the next one in line until it reached the last student. The last student had to properly pronounce the word in order to score a point for the team.
English education is more important than any other subject for the future leadership of Okinawa, according to Fumio Iha, the day camp director and community relations liaison for Camp Schwab.
“The Marines’ attendance is very critical because they are a reflection not only of the English language, but also American culture, and that is rare for the local students to experience,” Iha said. “Marines were the backbone of the event and helped make it more comfortable and memorable for the students.”
The Camp Schwab Marines are assigned to various units on the installation, and many stressed the importance of getting off base and engaging with the people of Okinawa.
“Needless to say, the experience is great,” said Cpl. Howard Brown, a supply clerk assigned to 3rd Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. “The opportunity to interact with the children and make a memorable difference in their lives and in turn, learn about their culture as we share ours is something I would not willingly pass up. Volunteering out in town is one of my greatest and most stressed suggestions to new Marines (on Okinawa).”