MUNAKATA, Fukuoka — The southwest Japan city of Munakata is holding “English camps” where the city’s fourth graders spend an entire day only speaking English with foreign teachers in a bid to build up children’s confidence that they can make themselves understood in the foreign language.
The municipal government in Fukuoka Prefecture launched the program in the 2019 academic year with six schools to have students familiarize themselves with English before foreign language class starts in the fifth grade. In the following year, the project was expanded to all of the 15 municipal elementary schools in the city.
This academic year, the participating schools are taking turns to hold a camp at the city’s Global Arena multipurpose sports center between June and early July. A total of some 950 fourth graders will interact with international students from different countries including the United States, Nepal and Bangladesh and play games with them in English from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
In a program recently held at the sports center, about 60 students from Hinosatonishi Elementary School enjoyed games and interactions using English. When students broke the “no Japanese” speaking rule, they were warned by teachers posing as “English police.” There were also one-on-one conversation lessons between the children and teachers.
“I can communicate with many people if I can speak English. I hope one day I’ll travel overseas to help people in need,” Hinosatonishi fourth grader Reina Okada, 9, said.
A representative from the city’s child development division told the Mainichi Shimbun, “We want children to know that English can be fun and not to develop a distaste for the language. We hope to create opportunities for not just fourth graders but also children at afterschool child care centers to be exposed to English.”
(Japanese original by Toshinobu Hayata, Kyushu News Department)