CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- Rodney Holloway recalled how a chance meeting this past summer led to him teaching English to adults in the evening after spending his days doing the same for elementary-age students.
Holloway said he was at a community event talking with someone he’d met about his job as an English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher at Arnn Elementary School. He mentioned his desire to open an English conversational school after he retired. But more immediately, he was looking for opportunities to teach English in his community.
After their conversation, the acquaintance made some professional inquiries thanks to her position with the U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs Office. Soon after, Holloway was contacted and asked about the possibility of offering an English class for JGSDF members on Camp Zama, and he has been hosting a free one-hour session every Monday since June.
“I was very excited about the idea of teaching [this class], as I could only come up with positive reasons,” Holloway said. “[It’s] a chance to be involved with the community and the local nationals, a great experience for my future goal, and a great way to meet people to exchange languages and cultures.”
His class focuses mostly on teaching conversational English, Holloway said, with the hope that it will help his students make friends by being able to converse casually. Holloway said he tries to keep the class fun and believes it’s working when he sees his students smile.
“Even though people speak different languages, smiles are universal,” Holloway said.
Holloway said he hopes his students take away from the class something that sparks their interest to continue learning English.
“I look forward to bumping into one of my students outside of class and being able to hold an entire conversation [with them] in English,” Holloway said.
Holloway understands how challenging it can be to learn a second language as an adult, because he is currently experiencing the same thing trying to learn Japanese. He believes the key to being successful in that effort is to “listen, practice, ask questions, and make mistakes.”
Sgt. Oki Kariya, assigned to the JGSDF’s 4th Engineer Group, said after his third time attending Holloway’s class that he looks forward to coming back every week because the class creates a casual atmosphere that allows him to learn the material comfortably.
Kariya said the reason he wants to learn English is so he can know the types of topics Americans talk about in daily conversations, and to be able to better understand Americans when speaking to them. Kariya also mentioned an instance where he was not able to help a foreigner who had asked him directions, and hopes the class will allow him to help someone in the future.
Master Sgt. Hisaka Oda, assigned to the JGSDF Zama General Service Unit, studies English on her own and said she was looking for an opportunity to practice further. She heard about Holloway’s class and thought it would be great way for her to brush up her English skills.
Oda said that when she had previously deployed to Uganda as a liaison, she struggled to communicate with the local people. Despite the language barrier, Oda said she became good friends with many of the people she met there. After returning, Oda made it her goal to become fluent enough in English that she could hold an entire conversation with her friends when she goes back to visit them.
“I have a great time learning English in [Holloway’s] class every time I come,” Oda said. “I hope the class helps me reach my goal and I can reunite with my friends in Uganda after retiring.”