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Marines teach English during weekly cultural exchange

Date Posted: 2005-08-17

CAMP COURTNEY - Imagine trying to explain what Spam is to classroom full of people from another culture.

Eight Marines volunteered to help teach English to more than 30 Okinawan students during the adult English class at the Camp Courtney Education Center July 25.

Ichiro Umehara, class instructor and Camp Courtney community relations specialist, brought Japanese news articles for the Okinawan students to translate to English. Previously, the class worked with fast-food and restaurant menus, English textbooks and short stories. The Marines would assist by verifying that the English translation was grammatically correct.

"It's a good opportunity for the Okinawan people to interact with the service members," Umehara said. "Some Okinawans have a stereotype of the image of a Marine, but this class helps give them a positive image of the Marine Corps."

Masumi Kozaki, a student in the class, enjoys being around the U.S. military. He is originally from Tokyo and has lived on Okinawa for seven years.

"Living on this island is great," Kozaki said. "I respect the American forces. They keep world peace, justice and freedom."

One or two Marines taught a group of six to eight Okinawans. They also exchanged cultural information, insights and language.

Lance Cpl. Aaron Borcherding, a duty driver with Camp Courtney Camp Services, had six students in his group.

"(The class) helped break the language barrier," Borcherding said. "Plus, it gives Marines a good opportunity to volunteer and learn more about this country."

Borcherding was excited about the opportunity to help improve the relationship between Americans and Okinawans.

"I really enjoy it," Borcherding said. "I get to meet new people and learn Japanese too."

The students don't always know all the words they need to express an idea, so some Okinawans brought hand-held electronic translators to help break the language barrier on more difficult words and phrases.

"When (the students) first start the class, sometimes they say it's too difficult," Umehara explained. "But after a couple tries, they started to communicate better with the Marines."

Classes are taught in 10-week cycles every Monday from 7-9 p.m. For more information on volunteering, contact Umehara at 622-9561.

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