CAMP ZAMA, Japan – A free conversational English class called the “English Language Hub” began being offered in April at the Camp Zama Library on the second and fourth Thursday of the month.
The class is meant to provide a welcoming environment for participants to learn English, learn about other cultures, and strengthen bilateral ties in the community, the class facilitator said.
“The class welcomes any community members who would like to strengthen their English skills, including local-national employees, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel, and foreign family members,” Cheryl Rendon said.
Rendon’s role as facilitator for the semimonthly sessions is to devise cultural activities and games that encourage the participants to speak English.
“I was really surprised and delighted that we had a full house, with a wide range of participants who took time to come see an introduction of the class,” Rendon said at the first class April 13.
It had been almost three years since the last time Rendon hosted the English class for the community, and she had started getting several inquiries about when it would restart. Seeing both new and returning faces on the first night was a pleasant surprise, she said.
Rendon said she hopes that the participants socializing with each other and sharing personal experiences and cultural exchanges in the class will help them feel better connected.
James Lacombe, the Camp Zama librarian, said the library provides its multipurpose room as the venue for the class—a fitting match because the library houses a large collection of English-language learning materials.
“We strive to create a non-threatening environment that is open to participants with different levels of proficiency,” Lacombe said. “The only way they’ll improve their conversational ability is by speaking, which requires overcoming their fear of making mistakes.”
Lacombe mentioned that the library on Sagamihara Family Housing Area also hosts an “Introduction to Japanese” class for any community members who want to learn or strengthen their Japanese conversational skills on.
Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Sgt. Yuta Ida, assigned to the JGSDF’s 4th Engineer Group, said he participated in the class because he felt a strong need for English language skills at his work.
Ida said interacting with others in the class who had a similar goal helped motivate him to continue leaning. He is very appreciative that Camp Zama provides such an opportunity and hopes the class will continue even as facilitators leave Japan.
“I hope the class helps me become fluent in English so that I can converse with U.S. Soldiers and hopefully become an interpreter in a bilateral engagement environment,” Ida said.
Ryo Inoyama, assigned to the 403rd Army Field Support Brigade at Sagami General Depot, said he joined the class because he works with U.S. Soldiers every day and he wants to be able to communicate with them better.
“It was great to know there are many more people in the community who want to get better at their English ability,” Inoyama said. “It was a refreshing environment for an English learner like myself.”
Like Ida, Inoyama thanked the facilitators and the library for hosting the class, and said he hopes other community members take the opportunity to attend.
“The English Language Hub” class is held every second and fourth Thursday of the month from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. in the Camp Zama Library’s multipurpose room.