Contributed by: Alan & Kristen - SHARE! host parents
When Masaya first came to us in August, we knew there would be a language barrier for a while since that tends to be common among most students. It took him longer than some past students to really catch on, but we learned just as much about ourselves in the learning process.
To help him understand things, we would find different ways to describe meanings which in turn increased our own vocabulary. During the fall, we would make an effort to sit with him one-on-one and "make" him talk since was always afraid to talk for fear of making a mistake at that point.
After a while, think he finally believed us when we said that making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn and explained that even we native Hoosiers make grammar and spelling mistakes. We would start conversations with hi on simple topics, such as having him describe a typical day in Japan for him; wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, what does he eat?, head to school, how does he get there? how far away is it?. We also asked about what he does after school and to describe what he can of his routine. I'm pretty sure he had a feeling of dread every time I would sit across from him and say, "Let's talk." But I promised him it would not be painful, that he would survive and understand a little more English each day we did it.
Our school was amazing at working with him too. During his Study Hall, he would sit with the Guidance Counselor and do Rosetta Stone programs which required him to speak aloud. If his English wasn't correct, the program had him repeat it until it was good enough to be understood. Now, you can imagine a typical teenager groaning at what they have to do. I'm sure this wasn't fun, but now that we are coming to the end of the exchange year, he's seeing how much all of this effort paid off.
We are at the point now that he doesn't want to think about packing up his stuff, shopping for souvenirs to take home, or leaving at all. He says he still doesn't understand when people talk too quickly, but I can tell he understands our Hoosier "twang" and most of what is said. He has really come far this year, in comprehension and maturity.
We are doing our best to prepare him for the return into Japanese life. We don't want him to stop learning English, because it is so useful in the global workforce. He is also continuing his Spanish lessons on his own, as he enjoys that too. We will miss him so much, but are grateful that he put up with us and was an active part of so many lives. I know the kids & teachers at school will miss him as much as we will. He has had such an impact on everyone!