Futenma USO hosts 6th MCAS Futenma English Discussion class party

MCAS FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan— The smell of fresh curry, baked goods and other food filled the air as Marines and local nationals brought their dishes of choice to the United Service Organization building during the 6th MCAS Futenma English Discussion class party Aug. 15 on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

Beginning at 6:30 p.m., tables were set up, and food was provided by the local students and Marines to share throughout the party while they played games and mingled.

The English Discussion class started about two years ago by Kiyoko Somei, an administrative specialist at the Chaplain’s office. She was inspired to start this class by the English class aboard Camp Kinser.

“I don’t want people to make this class difficult,” said Somei, the coordinator of the English Discussion class. “I just want people to come and communicate with people of different nationalities. I want to help bridge the two cultures through learning. To do so, we provide simple discussion topics in class such as, sports, daily news and holidays.”

The English Discussion class provides a way for service members and local nationals to build lasting friendships that last beyond the classroom.

“Every time I come, I go with the same group. They’re very nice people,” said Kaho Higa, a student who travels from Urasoe City to attend the class. “I come here to improve my English. The Marines are very patient with me. Every time I come, I always try to speak English, but I get nervous a lot. I don’t think my English is very good, but when I get to communicate in English, it is a lot of fun. Talking with the Marines helps me feel less nervous.”

Throughout the party, Marines and local students of the class played pool and ping pong, told stories and enjoyed musical performances.

“When I teach, I critique my own language, learning while I teach,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher Montalvo, a class volunteer and cryogenic equipment operator with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 36, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Also, being with the local community members is really cool. They’re very interested in learning English, it’s really fun teaching them. Other Marines and I meet with the local students, go out to eat and practice their English. They also teach us Japanese and about their culture. I think it builds morale. Meeting the local residents is a great way to experience Okinawa and learn all we can about the culture.”

The class is constantly introducing different cultural traditions such as, Eisa, the traditional drum performance and Sanshin, a three stringed Okinawan musical instrument.

“I like to explore the island with the students,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan Glover, a class volunteer and flight equipment technician with MALS-36, MAG-36, 1st MAW, III MEF. “I think it helps build the bond between the local and military community.”

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