Zama soldier learning Japanese by teaching English

Zama soldier learning Japanese by teaching English

by Noriko Kudo
U.S. Army

CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Nov. 30, 2018) Major Gregory Costello, with the U.S. Army Japan Staff Judge Advocate office, understands just how difficult it is to study a foreign language.

Costello has put many long hours into studying Japanese, and has experienced his own frustrations with self-study, including not having a partner to practice with or a place to learn.

So when he learned about a Camp Zama Army Community Service "English as a Second Language" class, he jumped at the opportunity to volunteer his time to help others.

"It's a highlight of my week coming here," said Costello.

Cheryl Rendon, an ESL teacher and Exceptional Family Member Program manager at ACS, said the class is part of the Relocation Readiness Program and is geared toward families with foreign-born spouses.

She said each class averages between 10 and 14 students, and includes military spouses, local national employees, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members.

"Maj. Costello has been a wonderful addition to our class," said Rendon. "He is very friendly and the students enjoy his company."

Rendon said Costello's plate must be quite full being active duty and having responsibilities to his mission and family.

"I am in awe of his willingness and dedication to volunteer his time," said Rendon.

Costello explained he stumbled upon the volunteering opportunity to teach English while in-processing at ACS and was actually looking for an opportunity to expand his Japanese.

"From that perspective, if somebody wants to practice English and I have the opportunity to go and support that, I'd love to do that," said Costello.

Costello said he realized he actually ultimately learns more Japanese preparing the lessons for the class and interacting with the students.

"It's just a lot of fun and it's really rewarding as well," said Costello.

Costello said he always leaves happy meeting people who he wouldn't able to meet otherwise.

"This is a great community event," he said.

One of his students, Marlynn Tabelual, said the more he teaches the more interesting the class becomes.

"He is a good teacher and always provides us with something new to learn," she said.

Tadayuki Matsumoto, a Japanese employee at Akasaka Press Center, said it took him by surprise to see an active duty Soldier voluntarily teaching English in the class because he hadn't had the chance to interact closely with Soldiers outside of work.

"It helped me feel much closer to Soldiers knowing that they are just like us: have a family and show emotions," he said.

Matsumoto said the class provides him with not only a learning opportunity but also an opportunity to connect with people who share the same interests and goals.

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