Camp Courtney hosts 14th annual summer English program
CAMP COURTNEY, OKINAWA, Japan -- Excited chatter filled the room as high school students took their seats, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to practice their English-speaking skills.
Camp Courtney hosted its 14th annual Summer English Program Aug. 18 in the common area of Legends Officers’ Club for Okinawa high school students from Uruma City.
Over a six day period, the students had conversations in English with service member volunteers to improve and practice their verbal communication.
Someone may know how to read and understand English, but they could have trouble verbally communicating, according to Dr. Ray Welch, the deputy camp director, Camp Courtney.
“A large part of the world speaks English as a second language,” said Welch, a Lake Arrowhead, California, native. “The students here (in the program) have most likely learned to read and understand English already, but speaking and reading are two very different things. Children learn to speak long before they even think of picking up a book, so we’re going with the same principle and teaching them how to verbally communicate.”
The program began in the summer of 2000 with a great success that has carried it to what it is today, according to Ichiro Umehara, community relations specialist, Camp Courtney.
“I got the idea for this program from a mother in Uruma City,” said Umehara. “She asked why we don’t have a program to help the children learn English. I brought the idea to the command and they were happy to give it a try. Fourteen years later and we’re still doing it.”
The day began with a welcoming from Dr. Welch followed by a speech from Toshio Shimabuku, the Uruma City mayor. Both men expressed the importance of the class and why the students should learn English.
“Having English as a second language opens up a lot of opportunities for these students,” said Welch. “Should they desire to travel abroad for education or job opportunities, they will have a second language already prepared to assist in communicating with the people around them.”
After the speeches, the 29 students were divided into groups led by one of the service members. In the groups, the students asked the service members questions in English. The questions were simple, like what their favorite music was and what their hobbies are. The service members would offer a response to the students’ questions and then would discuss the topics with their group.
In the afternoon, the students were taken on a tour of some of the facilities at Camp Courtney. The students went to the Child Development Center, the library and the Courtney Ironworks Fitness Center.
The group ended their tour back at the officer’s club where they boarded their bus, eager to return the next day, according to Airi Tsukayama, a first year student at Yokatsu High School.
Throughout the rest of the week, the students continued to practice their English with the volunteers. At the end of the week, the students watched a movie and were tested on how well they understood the material by answering questions about the movie.
“It was very interesting,” said Tsukayama. “I had fun talking to the Americans and learning to speak English.”