The Japan Foundation, Mexico
There are about 6,300 Japanese-language learners in Mexico according to 2006 survey by the Japan Foundation, and most of them have little chance to speak with Japanese native speakers except their language teacher.For Japanese learners, speaking with Japanese except their teachers is very effective not only in practicing what they learnt but in getting confidence in their command of Japanese and increasing their desire to continue learning.
To improve the situation, the Japan Foundation planned Volunteer Program for Japanese-language Education in cooperation with Asociacion Mexicana del Idioma Japones A.C.In this program, we ask Japanese expatriates in Mexico to become volunteers to have conversation with Japanese learners in Japanese.As a way to give shape to the program, we tried to compile a manual for the volunteers to participate in the Japanese-language classes to talk with the learners.We hoped that the volunteers can work in many schools with this manual.
From February to January in 2008 the program was tried at three Japanese-language schools, using the manual.In the trial, several groups with one volunteer and a few students were made and they talked freely on a theme in Japanese in each group.
Japanese-language learners were not always good at conversation, but it seemed that they enjoyed a talk with the volunteers and they became highly motivated.The teachers for the classes said the students expressed themselves so lively, which they never did in the class before, that they were much impressed.
The volunteers who participated in the program also made positive comments, saying it was a good opportunity for them to contact with Mexican people and to have another look at Japan.
In this way, we made sure that Volunteer Program for Japanese-language Education is as effective as we expected.We hope that many Japanese-language educational institutions will have such classes using the manual to enhance learners' motivation and mutual understanding and exchange between Japanese and Mexicans at the grass-roots level.