The Student-led SUP! Language Exchange Program
A Teaching and Learning Relationship between Language Exchange Partners (vol. 1)
Ritsumeikan University follows the Ritsumeikan Learning Model, which focuses on the key phrases of 'acquiring intelligence, learning beyond borders, and learning together with your peers' and 'developing professional knowledge and ability to learn proactively beyond borders.' This learning model allows the students to learn and grow not only through the regular curriculum at each college but also through extracurricular activities.
One of the activities designed for that purpose is a program called ‘SUP! Learning Exchange Program', which is organized by SUP!, the name of the coordinating group. This program, consisting of eight to ten sessions, started last year and is getting more and more popular. In this semester, more than 470 out of 630 applicants were able to find a language exchange partner.
For this article, we interviewed some of this semester's participants.
Pair A from Friday 4th Period (Languages: English and Japanese)
Korawit Kittipalawattanapol (third-year student, APU) and Konomi Yamauchi (second-year student, College of Business Administration)
Korawit: I am studying at Ritsumeikan as a domestic exchange student from APU, where almost half of the students are from all around the world. I actually was going on to a graduate school in Europe after graduating from APU but was influenced by one of my seniors at APU. Then, I came to think about finding a job in Japan. To do so, I thought that I needed to practice my Japanese speaking skills and came to Ritsumeikan to put myself in an environment where many Japanese students were learning.
Konomi: I was seeking a chance to study abroad as an exchange student. In English classes, there is only one teacher and more than 10 students are learning at a time. Then, I thought I wanted to talk with an exchange student on a one-to-one basis and applied for this program. In most sessions, I bring something that I want to practice – for example, I sometimes make a presentation to Korawit and he gives some feedback to me. I have much English writing or reading homework from classes, but do not have many opportunities to speak English.
Through this program, I think deeply about the Japanese language that I use in my daily life and realize that I need to build up my Japanese vocabulary.
Pair B from Friday 4th Period (Languages: Chinese and Japanese)
Liyang Zhang (first-year student, Graduate School of Policy Science) and Shota Shibasaki (first-year student, College of Business Administration)
Liyang: I first learned about this program from the Ritsumeikan mailing list for international students and considered it as a good opportunity to learn Japanese language, especially some expressions mainly used by the younger generation. I hope to know about younger Japanese people while learning the Japanese language with Shota.
Shota: I take this opportunity to learn the Chinese language in a different way than those taught in classes. I use a Chinese learning material to learn some Chinese expressions and to practice Chinese pronunciation. This program is held on a one-to-one basis, so I realize my Chinese language level through the talks with Liyang for 90 minutes.
We also interviewed Kenta Arai (fourth-year student, College of Business Administration), the founder of this program.
Kenta stayed in Canada last year to attend a joint exchange program with the University of British Columbia (UBC), where he discovered a language exchange program named UBC Tandem Program. He was impressed by the program itself and its active atmosphere, so he made up his mind to introduce the program back at Ritsumeikan. He was originally going to organize a language exchange program intended for not only Ritsumeikan students but also local residents. Then, he realized that it was necessary that the program was officially organized under the name of Ritsumeikan University, not just as a student group. He knocked on doors of several offices at the University, but things were not so easy. He reconsidered his plan to put it into practice, and finally established the SUP! Language Exchange Program at Osaka Ibaraki Campus in the AY2015 fall semester with assistance from Ritsumeikan University Language Education Center.
Kenta says, “Ritsumeikan offers students lots of chances to study, but I still sometimes see students who come to university without definite aims. To encourage these people to change, it is necessary to change something such as their student life and their friendships.” He adds that ‘maintenance’ is important for learning foreign languages as well as building relationships.
Compared to the participants in the UBC Tandem Program, some of the participants in the SUP! Language Exchange Program were rather quiet at first, so SUP! coordinators tried to set the mood for the sessions. Now the participants are actively talking with their partners, and sometimes multiple pairs have a group session together.
In AY2016, the program is also being implemented at Kinugasa Campus and Biwako-Kusatsu Campus. Kenta hopes that other SUP! coordinators will improve their ability as facilitators and their ideas and ways of thinking will have some influence on the prospective applicants.