SAGAMIHARA FAMILY HOUSING AREA, Japan – The organizer of a free monthly Japanese class here said she gets positive feedback from the participants, who tell her the phrases they learn have helped them to better explore their host country.
Teruyo Noguchi, a library technician at Sagamihara Family Housing Area, said she is proud knowing the students will be more confident and willing to dive into Japanese culture after having taken the class.
“Don’t let your language ability determine what you want to do or where you want to go,” Noguchi said. “Learning just a few phrases can help you get around more comfortably.”
The class is held at the SFHA Library on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month from 10 to 11 a.m. and holds up to 10 participants. It is meant for beginners but is open to those of all levels of experience with the Japanese language.
Regular participants in the class laud it for being able to freely ask Yuki Atsumi, the lead instructor, about various words and phrases they would like to learn.
Atsumi is a volunteer instructor and has also been coming to the installation to learn English from American spouses for more than 25 years and has had more than 10 tutors over that time.
One day about 10 years ago, one of her tutors asked her if she was interested in teaching Japanese to community members. She jumped at the opportunity because she wanted them to have the same great experience she’d had from learning another language.
The experience of teaching is rewarding if the students are able to use even just one word or phrase they learn from the class in a conversation or situation, Atsumi said.
“I feel like this opportunity [to teach] is my way of paying back the Camp Zama community,” she said.
Christine Poomi, who has been attending since March, said this is her first time taking a class to learn a local language. She is excited that she has been able to apply what she has learned so far to her daily life in Japan.
As an instructor, Atsumi is enthusiastic, energetic and passionate about what she does, Poomi said. So far, Poomi has learned words and phrases that have helped her order food at restaurants, ask for directions, and understand the various questions cashiers ask her during the checkout process.
“This class has surprisingly not only helped me navigate in Japan, but I also had the opportunity to help a local woman with directions when I was out in the town,” Poomi said.
Poomi highly recommends the class and said that learning some of the Japanese language has allowed her to better enjoy life here with her family and when interacting with locals.
ShanDreaha “Shay” LaNedtra Hudak, who arrived in Japan in February, said she has attended other Japanese classes, but this one is the best because Atsumi teaches phrases based on real-life scenarios the students might encounter and incorporates conversational role-playing between the students.
“It seemed scary at first, but Yuki prepared us to be able to communicate confidently with the [other] people here,” LaNedtra Hudak said.
The students learn common helpful phrases, such as introducing oneself and how to ask for directions, and also learn how to read and write hiragana and katakana, two forms of the Japanese alphabet, which allows them to be able to write things like their own name.
“The class has honestly helped me a lot,” LaNedtra Hudak said. “Being able to know a few words, phrases and sentences can go a long way.”
LaNedtra Hudak said she was nervous when she first began attending the class, but now she feels more confident to step outside the base and go to restaurants, for example, adding that her husband looks to her to order the food when they go out to eat.
“I would recommend this course to anyone who wants to learn, regardless of what level you are at,” she said. “You can also meet new people and build relationships. It will be an amazing experience.”
One class consists of six sessions, and sessions begin every January, May and September. The next session will begin Sept. 12, and registration for the class, which can be done in person at the SFHA Library, opened earlier this month.