Learning another language challenges your courage
Why do we learn another language? For most, learning a new language can usually be related to work, travel or holidays.
However, languages also broaden and open your mind to new cultures and people, evoking a greater sense of compassion, empathy and acceptance of differences. Languages can also provide health benefits with research finding language improves hearing and working memory. Studies have also shown adults who speak two or more languages can experience delays against Alzheimer’s and dementia.
So it seems the reasons for learning new languages can be social, academic, economic, physiological and emotional.
During my recent Study Tour to Japan with a group of 18 St Catherine’s Years 9 to 11 students I discovered another reason why languages provide deeper learning and life skills than just understanding new words and sounds.
Learning another language challenges your courage.
The Study Tour involved a 16 day learning experience for our Japanese students who had been learning Japanese since Year 7. The Tour immersed the students in the culture of Japan and required the girls to utilise all the knowledge they had acquired in the classroom, to find their way around the new country.
During the Tour we spent time at St Catherine’s Sister School, Aichi Shukutoku Junior/High School in Nagoya. St Catherine’s has been privileged to work in partnership with Shukutoku School since 1991 with our reciprocal student exchange program. In August 2015, 16 students from Shukutoku School spent time at St Catherine’s School, where our students hosted them. This time, we stayed in their homes.
Without a doubt, the home stay element of the Study Tour was the biggest challenge for our students. Immersing themselves in a totally foreign culture and language required great courage from all of our students. They had to overcome their fear of speaking Japanese and making mistakes in front of their peers and their host families. It was gratifying to witness the personal growth of all our students as they gained confidence, not only in the Japanese language, but also in themselves.
The Study Tour provided the students with first hand experiences in the Japanese culture including kimono wearing, Koto (traditional Japanese stringed musical instrument), calligraphy and Art classes. They also visited various form groups where they played games, had question and answer sessions in English and cleaned classrooms or corridors with Japanese students (in Japan students clean their classrooms after school every day).
The girls also participated in club activities, which they learnt is very different to the multitude of options and flexibility provided at St Catherine’s, with Japanese students usually only joining one club, and rarely changing until graduation.
The opportunity to learn a language at School and experience Study Tours such as this provides our young girls with access to other cultures and promotes friendship across the world, this was evidenced in the warm welcomes and strong bonds our girls received from the Japanese students welcoming us at Shukutoku who had spent time at St Catherine’s.
It is a personally enriching experience to guide my students through their navigation of the Japanese language and culture and sharing my love of language with them.