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Volunteers teaching English is ‘elementary’

The local children from Takahara Elementary School enjoy a day of learning English through motivational games with volunteers from Kadena Air Base, Japan June 12. 
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

The local children from Takahara Elementary School enjoy a day of learning English through motivational games with volunteers from Kadena Air Base, Japan June 12. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

Kadena Airmen visit Takahara Elementary School to enable local children to learn English through conversational exchanges and motivational games June 12. 
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

Kadena Airmen visit Takahara Elementary School to enable local children to learn English through conversational exchanges and motivational games June 12. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

The local children from Takahara Elementary School enjoy a day of learning English through motivational games with volunteers from Kadena Air Base, Japan June 12. 
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

The local children from Takahara Elementary School enjoy a day of learning English through motivational games with volunteers from Kadena Air Base, Japan June 12. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

Kadena Airmen visit Takahara Elementary School to enable local children to learn English through conversational exchanges and motivational games June 12. 
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

Kadena Airmen visit Takahara Elementary School to enable local children to learn English through conversational exchanges and motivational games June 12. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

The local children from Takahara Elementary School enjoy a day of learning English through motivational games with volunteers from Kadena Air Base, Japan June 12. 
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

The local children from Takahara Elementary School enjoy a day of learning English through motivational games with volunteers from Kadena Air Base, Japan June 12. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- For more than a decade, Kadena Airmen have been visiting Okinawan Elementary schools to enable local children to be comfortably introduced to learning English through conversational exchanges and motivational games. 

The Kadena Public Affairs Office's community relations section has provided an avenue for Americans to interact with children from all school grade levels and expose them to real English language conversation exchanges. The focus is not to explicitly teach in the traditional sense of the word, but rather to enjoy time spent together introducing and using English and hence to motivate the children to learn more. 

"I have noticed that our 4th grade students find it easier to understand English conversations through games," said Ms. Hiroko Kaneshima, fourth grade teacher at Takahara Elementary School in Okinawa. "You can get more attention from the students and they will focus on what they are learning." 

The teachers from Takahara believe it is very important for the students to have these English skills and at the same time benefit from learning a different culture. 

"I have been given a great opportunity to enjoy the culture here and being able to experience the integration of our culture with theirs," said Jeffrey Wysong from Kadena.
Ms. Mayumi Kinjo, also a fourth grade teacher, said it's been very helpful to have American volunteers at the school. Just having them there is like a cultural experience for the students. 

"The volunteers are very good at praising the students and also have a way to motivate them to speak or interact," Ms. Kinjo said. 

The more they come, the more the kids will be eager to learn the English language, she added. 

Each student had an opportunity to have a conversation with the American volunteers. Staff Sergeant Laurie Montgomery, 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron communications systems operator evaluator, was amazed how well the students spoke English at their age. She in turn attempted to pronounce Japanese names and words they tried teaching her. She said they are much better at learning English than she is at learning Japanese. 

"Volunteering to teach English at the local schools has been one of the most enriching and rewarding experiences I've had while living on Okinawa," Sergeant Montgomery said. 

During their regular English class with an assistant language teacher sent by the board of education office the students cannot provide such an opportunity to all students to speak English because of time limitations, Ms. Kinjo said. With the help of American volunteers all students have been given a great opportunity to learn the language and interact. Ms. Kinjo said she believes the future of her students will expand by learning English. 

"It's not just the teachers but parents that want their kids to learn English because this is an international society we are living in," she said. To see the world and have their future open to many opportunities is what we and the parents want, she added. 

"Our hope is that they understand that interacting with others from another country and culture can be educational, rewarding, and fun," Mr. Wysong said.