T. Sugihashi

Showa Women's University (JAPAN)
I introduce in this paper one of the most successful classes (entitled Volunteering in English) offered at Showa Women's University. The class has been effective in two respects: students' self-assessment of their cultural and perceptional development even while living in their homogeneous (98%) country, and the practical and vocational nature of the class.

I examine in this paper the results of a questionnaire given to third-year students who completed this 10-month-long class. The students had previously completed a study abroad program (ranging from 5, 10, or 17 months) in Boston, MA, USA. The survey results showed the students were able to further develop their cross cultural awareness cultivated in America even while living in Japan. I also highlight common mistakes students made in the translation of correspondence related to their volunteer work and show some of the drawbacks of the grammatical translation method of EFL in Japan.

The students were required to do more than 30 hours of volunteer work in addition to attending class, which involved the scheduling of volunteer work and assigning written and oral reports. The students chose volunteer assignments from various NPOs, including a church group and an international child support organization. They performed such duties as interpreters between church volunteers and tsunami victims in Ishinomaki town, and translators of correspondence between Japanese fund donors and the overseas recipients (i.e., children) of those funds. All the students gained new perspectives on different aspects of culture in the volunteer areas they chose. For example, students that chose to work with the church group helping tsunami victims learned about Christianity through this process. And students that translated letters sent from children overseas to their Japanese donors came across religious salutations and set phrases that do not exist in the Japanese language. This made them aware that children from other countries can have strong religious beliefs from a young age. And translating the Japanese letters of donors into English for overseas recipients also exposed them to differences in the way ideas are expressed between Japanese and English.

In the presentation, I would like to focus on two observational studies. The first was findings from student questionnaires conducted at the end of the class. I was interested to know whether the students' cultural and perceptional acuities would be further developed by being involved with foreign cultures in one aspect or another even in their native country. The questionnaire included fifty questions with four Likert scale answer choices related to four separate categories, such as emotional resilience, and flexibility and openness discussed in "The Cross Cultural Adaptability Inventory" (Kelly & Mayers, 1995), that measure each student's improvement. The results showed that the students gained a deeper interest in other cultures.

The second observational study is of students' mistakes in the translation of correspondence. Japanese-to-English translation was literal without consideration for context and clarity, a reflection of both the high context culture of Japan as described by Hall (1976), and the grammatical translation method of EFL in Japan. English-to-Japanese translation generalized or omitted content the students were unsure of how to translate into Japanese. Some typical cases will be demonstrated at the presentation.