Tag Archives: culture

Teaching kids of all ages

It’s been a while since I last wrote about the international education classes I do at some schools (I wrote about it here and here). Today I’d like to share some experiences and pictures. But not many pictures, as Japan is very protective of their children’s privacy and likeness.

I have talked to elementary, junior high and high school students, and the image they have about Spain and how the world or the people are outside Japan is quite limited and stereotyped (as one could expect). Also with all due respect, most teachers don’t have deep international knowledge or much experience. But this is not a problem and it’s what the Kokusai Hiroba program I work with is all about and I’m very happy to help with this.


Tenpai Middle High School

I spend a fair share of my time with the kids trying to break their preconceptions, maybe attacking directly the most common ones or giving them uncommon information to increase their field of view. For instance I usually stress the alphabet not being a character code strictly associated to the English language, but being shared by a number of languages (English and Spanish among them). So the fact that a word is written in Latin characters doesn’t always mean it is an English word. This is obvious to most English or Spanish speakers, but note that most Latin characters a Japanese person sees in her life are English words and also they have a thing for mixing the character set and language concepts (Chinese heritage, I would guess).


Sharing a stage with Mexican Manuel Medina

I also like sharing some music and dancing or playing with them some game where they can move their bodies. I’m not that confident about traditional music, but my rendition of España cañí played with a Game Boy is usually well received. Students often research or think questions for me, too. Sometimes they even have presents!

The kids at Tenpai Junior High School gave me this Maneki Neko.

And at Onga High School I got to taste some varieties of jam made by the students, with fruits they made themselves. I love this job!

Speaking about Spain

Last week I spoke at Kokusai Hiroba, a space for international activity in Acros Fukuoka. My lecture was for a program they have for fourth-graders to understand the international world.

話し中

What I did here is explaining the multicultural world using three axis: the space axis, the language axis and the culture axis. For instance, if you take a look at the space axis you’ll figure that Spain and Latin America are far, but share a language and some common spots in their culture too.

Axis
A not very serious graph for you to picture the axis

To understand the world as a whole, I think one has to understand there are spaces which hold several languages or cultures. Japan, the Japanese language and the Japanese culture, however, are in a very unique position and don’t overlap in a significant way with any other regions on any axis. I think it’s important for Japanese children to understand this, as they have no examples in their own environment.

But this time it had to be explained for fourth graders (10 years old) so I couldn’t use the axis expression. I spoke about this without using the “a word”, and mixing in pictures and stories about Spain so that the kids had tangible references.

Christmas

And when one explains things about far places, it’s better to do that through comparisons with things they all know. For example, if we tell the children Spain’s area in square kilometers they will ignore the information. But if we tell them Japan’s area is 3/4 of that of Spain they will get an idea. Actually, I like explaining things this way for adults too.