Every year, language teachers from all over Japan get together for a conference to share new ideas, make new friends and of course meet old friends. This year’s conference took place over the long weekend at the beginning of November in Tokyo. I was pretty excited to go there, as I do not usually get the chance to visit the Kanto region. There are many reasons for visiting Tokyo, and I felt lucky to stay in Shinjuku and experience the big city. The conference site was by Yoyogi Park, so it was actually a beautiful place. The venue was the National Olympics Memorial Youth Centre. More on that below. I was curious about the Olympic Games in Japan, as it was held so long ago. For example, the bullet train or Shinkansen line from Tokyo to Osaka was built at that time to connect the country. During the 1964 Olympics, an Olympic village site was built, and part of that came to be used as the Youth Centre. It is sometimes said that Japan’s true recovery from World War 2, both economically and psychologically, came with the pride of hosting the Olympics. (I observed the same pride in China when the Beijing Olympics were held this year.)
According to what I have read, the Youth Centre was set up to help the development of young people and youth education. That’s why I was especially glad that this year’s conference hosted the Asia Youth Forum (AYF). The conference also hosted the Pan Asian Consortium (PAC), as well as the Japan Association of Language Teachers (JALT). I am sure you can guess that with so much going on there were a lot of people attending it, perhaps between two and three thousand delegates!
Since the AYF is the most interesting part for you as new college students from next year, I’ll describe what it is and what it does. Basically, it is an international youth event which brings together university students with an interest in English from across Asia. There were 100 students at the conference, including 30 from the host nation Japan. Those 30 students included some from two universities in the Kansai region. Which means students just like those at CUBE. They worked together for a week of intercultural workshops, social events and seminars, together with students from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, etc. See <www.asianyouthforum.org> for more details of their activities. It sounded like an amazing experience for the students who took part. I hope that our students will get involved in organisations like AYF to make the most of their four years at university.
I met some very interesting delegates for the PAC part of the conference. It is similar to AYF in that it is a network across Asia with members from Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, the Russian Far East, Singapore and the Philippines. The difference is that it is for language teachers, not students!
How about JALT? It is for language teachers in Japan, people like me, so that is why I’m a member. There are lots of groups within JALT, and they are really diverse. For example, there is a Study Abroad group which publishes a newsletter called Ryugaku. This is for teachers (and their students) who want to find out about all aspects of overseas study. Here is their poster which was displayed at the conference:
For example, how do teachers and students get information about the best countries to visit, the best cities, the best colleges and the best home stays? How should students prepare themselves before they go? What kinds of things can go wrong, and how do you prevent these things from happening? It sounds pretty useful to me to be able to access and share this kind of information. Here’s a picture of their conference desk:
You might even recognize them, as they both live and work at universities in Kansai.
Well, I have counted 19 special groups within JALT. I am a member of the Bilingualism group. They publish a newsletter called Bilingual Japan. It gives information for anyone interested in bringing up children in two or more languages in Japan. I wonder if any of you were brought up speaking more than one language, as many of my students were. I am also a member of the Materials Writers. They are interested in helping people who want to become writers, especially language teachers who may want to write textbooks.?
In CUBE, an important part of our study will be about global issues, and JALT has its own group dedicated to this, Global Issues in Language Education. Of course, we will be taking an active part in issues associated with this group, such as global, peace, environmental and human rights education. How will our management studies and projects for economic development go together with these other issues? What can we find out about Amnesty International, Educators for Social Responsibility and UNESCO?
Well, that’s quite a lot to consider for one day! We can think about all these things in the coming months and years. Enjoy this beautiful season.