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Global Village thrives to create international friendships

Date Posted: 2012-04-06

Eriko Kuwahata started Global Village as an ordinary language school that targeted foreigners who wanted to learn Japanese, but her enterprise soon expanded to a concept to create a space where students and teachers of all kinds of nationalities could get together, and exchange views and learn a wide variety of subjects including culture, customs and life styles.

Kuwahata began her language school in Okinawa almost six years ago, but before that she taught Japanese in Australia, and later to foreigners in her native Kanagawa Prefecture. She found that many foreigners had worries and frustrations about their life in Japan, and were having a hard time adapting to their new environment. “I was shocked to hear that some of them actually started disliking Japan after living here for a while because they could not adapt to the everyday life style here,” Kawabata says.

She then thought that she could do something to help those expats, and create a place for them where they could learn the language and local culture. She began offering Japanese language and culture classes for foreigners first, but as the time went by, the number of her students and their nationalities increased. That lead to her increasing courses in other languages.

“I have found that having a place where people from different cultural and language backgrounds gather is a good way for people to expand their vision of the world,” she says, explaining that every year many students taking the Japanese classes study very hard, and pass the official JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test). Not to be outdone, Kawata is involved in this follow up aspect of language training. “We offer Japanese classes as group lessons, flexible private lessons, in kids’ classes and a JLPT preparation course,” Kawahata adds.

Currently, Global Village offers lessons in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, French, and Italian as well as English, both in groups and private one-on-one settings. She’s ready to expand to further languages if asked.

The school will provide a regular weekly Japanese lesson in Japan Update starting this week.

Recognizing that culture is more than language only, and that the language can’t be separated from local customs and environment, Global Village has classes in Yoga and dance, arts & crafts like Okinawan Bingata, as well as cooking classes featuring dishes from various countries. “Many of our local Okinawan students take those classes, and that in turn gives foreign students a good opportunity to meet and interact with Japanese and try their language skills,” she happily explains, adding “All those classes have translators present, so even people who are not so proficient don’t have to be shy to join.”

She says that Global Village organizers regularly set up international exchange parties for people who wish to make Okinawan friends, or make their life here better with knowledge of Okinawan or Japanese culture. “Everyone is welcome to join our party!” Global Village has its own café in the same building,” she smiles, so “feel free to stop by and savor the atmosphere of our school with a cup of our special coffee and original muffin to get started.”

Global Village is located in Futenma. From Camp Foster Legion Gate, turn right onto Route 330 and then left at the intersection in front of Futenma Shrine, and then right again at the traffic light before the MCAS Futenma back gate. Global Village is on the right about 200 meters from the intersection.

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