Japanese students hone language, research skills through pilot program
By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer
A few hours before making her group presentation, Kaoru Yamamoto sat quietly in the conference room of the Queen’s School of English. The Kwansei Gakuin University (KGU) student’s nervous appearance was understandable. She had rarely given presentations up to that point in her university education, and now she had to do it in her second language.
“In Japan, there are not a lot of presentations. We are not used to making presentations,” she says. “I didn’t know how to choose the information or how to make a good presentation.”
The class presentation was the final component of the two-week cross-cultural exchange pilot program that Ms. Yamamoto and 18 other KGU students recently participated in. During their visit, the students received intensive English instruction in the mornings, while in the afternoons they worked on their group research projects.
The pilot program developed by the Queen’s School of English is tied to the university’s participation in the KGU Cross-Cultural College program. For the past two summers, undergraduate students from both countries have worked, studied and lived together in Japan and Canada. The collaborative initiative also includes students from Mount Allison University and the University of Toronto.
KGU asked the School of English to develop a program that would help its first- and second-year students meet the Cross-Cultural College program’s English proficiency requirement and improve their ability to conduct research and present their findings in their second language.
“I was a bit concerned when we sent this group because there was a big difference in English proficiency. However, they did really well and I am impressed,” says Takamichi Mito, the chief academic director of the KGU Cross-Cultural College. “They are working together, and they are intellectually engaged.”
The students formed five groups based on their background disciplines and selected a research topic around the theme of human reproduction rights. They were asked to compare and contrast the situation in Canada and Japan. A Queen’s student led each group, with four of the five leaders having previously participated in Cross-Cultural College programs. Queen’s philosophy professor Christine Overall, a visiting professor at KGU in 2011-12, gave a guest lecture to the students on the topic.
“One of the most important things for students starting to research a topic is determining the key words they will need in order to do searches. So we really tried to develop their vocabulary around culture, cultural studies, reproductive rights, and issues related to gender,” says Karen Burkett, the coordinator of the program for the School of English.
The students also experienced some local culture during their visit. They went cross-country skiing and fed the birds at Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area, and they attended a Kingston Frontenacs game. They lived with Kingston families during their visit.
“I couldn’t speak Japanese with Canadians. It was challenging and interesting for me. It was tiring because I couldn’t translate some of the unique Japanese words. After three or four days, using English was something I found fun and interesting,” says Ms. Yamamoto.
Queen’s students who are interested in participating in the Cross-Cultural College this summer can learn more about the various programs by visiting the International Programs Office website. The deadline for applications is Friday, March 28.