Marshall University has partnered with Huntington High School and initiated a new Japanese sister school program to allow more students learn the Japanese language and more about Japanese culture.
The efforts have been led by Shintaro “Shinn” Takase, a Japanese outreach coordinator appointed to Marshall University through a grant program from the Laurasian Foundation in Japan, and Dr. David Pittenger, interim associate vice president for outreach and dean of graduate studies. With their help, Japanese students at Huntington High have developed a sister school program linking them with students at Yokosuka High School in Japan.
The program has helped the American students improve their Japanese language and cultural education and the Japanese students improve their English while learning about American culture.
Beginning in January 2018, students at both schools started sharing general information about themselves. The assignment allowed students to write in a foreign language and learn about fellow students in another country. They will continue to learn through collaborative projects such as the creation of videos of introducing daily school scenes, town, food, stationery, or writing and sending the letters to each other.
Meagan Joseph, a 2014 Marshall University graduate, teaches Japanese at Huntington High School and said her students are already invested in the relationships they’re building.
“Every day the students ask, ‘Have we heard from our sister school today?’” Joseph said. “When our students here at Huntington High read the information cards of the students from Yokosuka High School, they immediately began making connections, not just about themselves, but to their cultures at large.
“While the world is becoming more and more connected via technology, it is nice to see students able see that someone in another country really isn’t much different. I am extremely grateful to all those involved who have made this cultural exchange possible for our students.”
Helping Joseph teach the class has been Kei Yamaguchi, who has been assigned to Huntington High School by the Japanese Language Education Assistant Program, a program to promote Japanese language education in K-12 schools in America and other countries.
“At the moment we heard about this sister school program, we felt it will be such an amazing opportunity for students,” Yamaguchi said. “Most of the students want to go to Japan someday, and they are looking forward to experience Japanese culture, or talking to Japanese people. Furthermore, since this program connects students to these areas, they are more motivated to go there. As a result, the first time our students visit Japan, they are able to meet Japanese people they actually know and are already connected. We believe that this program will make students more motivated and that they will appreciate the opportunity.”
Sho Kato, who teaches English at Yokosuka High School in Aichi prefecture, Japan, said he greatly appreciates Takase’s efforts in establishing the new partnership.
“We are certain that both students in Japan and the U.S. [will] learn various cultural differences through this program, and this opportunity will surely make students want to study languages harder and help think about their future,” he said.
Takase is thrilled to help, though it wasn’t necessarily an easy start-up, he said.
“It took time and energy to start up the program since I needed to go through all official and administrative agreement from both schools,” Takase said. “However, I consider this cross-cultural activity as fantastic educational opportunities for students and I hope that mutual understanding of both countries will go continue more in a grass-root level through their learning projects.”
Photos: (Above) From left to right, Meagan Joseph, Japanese teacher at Huntington High, poses for a photograph with student Heather Ratcliffe, teaching assistant Kei Yamaguchi and Shintaro “Shinn” Takase, Japanese outreach coordinator at Marshall University. (Middle) Meagan Joseph teaches Japanese at Huntington High School, where students are involved in the Japanese sister school program, partnering with Yokosuka High School in Japan. (Below) Shintaro “Shinn” Takase (far right) poses for a photograph with students at Yokosuka High School in Japan.