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AlumNews: Talon Articles

Group encourages cross-cultural relationships

Monday, October 1, 2007  
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By Ryan Holly

A weekly Japanese study group provides Oklahoma Christian University students with the opportunity to both learn a new language and develop new friendships.

“The Japanese study group centers on language, but we actually have a monthly Japanese movie night and also a Japanese dinner night that is free for all who come,” senior Amy Ives said. “When we meet on Thursdays, the focus is language but outside this one hour class period we just hang out and share our different cultures.”

The Japanese study group meets on the second floor of the library by the north side windows every Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m. Seniors Hitomi Yabe and Amy Ives lead the group. Yabe and Ives are native Japanese speakers. Yabe expresses enthusiasm for the program because of the improvement of her friends’ Japanese skills.

“For me being a Japanese student here, I am so glad that people are actually interested in both Japanese language and culture. Amy and I have been doing this study group for two years, and it is very encouraging to me to see how far students have improved and how my friends here can carry on a Japanese conversation with me,” Yabe said.

Oklahoma Christian is the current home to eight Ibaraki Christian University long-term exchange students, four degree-seeking Japanese students and about 15 short term Ibaraki Christian students. Many of these Japanese students are the teachers in the study group while they also learn more about the American culture and English language.

“We try to make the Japanese students be the teachers at the study group because they can also learn English as they teach Japanese and become friends with other American students,” Ives said.

Beginners in the study group learn basic Japanese language skills that enable them to spark conversations and initiate friendships with Japanese students.

“The first thing we try to teach is ‘thank you very much’ (arigatoo gozaimasu), and when I teach it to American students, I try to express its importance by saying ‘arigatoo gozaimasu’ at the end of each class,” Ives said.

The study group tries to begin with very simple words because learning a second language can be difficult.

“We also start out by teaching the basics like ‘hello’ (konnichiwa), ‘how are you doing?’ (genki desu-ka) and ‘good evening’ (konbanwa). We like to start out teaching words that can help start a conversation,” Yabe said.

Americans and Japanese students in this study session take time not only to learn the language, but also to learn more about each other and themselves.

“Many Americans think the Japanese language is really difficult to learn, but I have found through experience that Americans can learn Japanese and can continually improve with practice. Each time I see American students come to class, I notice their improvement,” Ives said. “For the Japanese students, the study group is a time when they can understand the beauty of their language and culture and also how Americans view their culture. It’s just that chance to see things from another perspective.”

Oklahoma Christian continues to grow as an international community because of the cross-cultural relationship cultivated through the study group’s atmosphere. It does not merely exist between Japanese and American students but also exists between Asian students.

“Another fun part of the study group is not only our American and Japanese students coming, but Chinese and Korean students are also coming to learn about another Asian culture,” Ives said.

Joining the Japanese study group is a way to meet Japanese students, but it is not the only way to help Japanese students feel more at home.

“Just talk to them. They came here to learn English, and they are very willing to learn more English. If you know any Japanese words, just talk to them when you see them. They will be glad to hear Americans speaking in Japanese, and they will feel more at home. Just be friendly because they are also very friendly,” Yabe said.

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