An intercultural exchange in a language classroom

By Mrs. Mirta Oramas, Upper School World Languages Faculty

Gulliver students are exposed to many cultures from an early age and can begin taking world languages classes in Middle School in French, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. At the Upper School, students can continue their studies at a variety of levels in those languages in addition to Italian and Portuguese. Below, World Languages Faculty Mrs. Mirta Oramas shares an intercultural exchange between two International Baccalaureate Programme world languages classes.

After reading the novel "Kitchen" by the Japanese author Banana Yoshimoto, my IB Spanish Language and Literature class invited Mrs. Chiho Cotton's Japanese students to an open discussion of Japanese culture, literature and language.

As part of the curriculum of this advanced IB Spanish course, students were required to read a literary work in translation. I chose this novel to expand the students' global perspective and develop their intercultural understanding and respect. The Spanish class, after reading the book and doing extensive research on the author, her style and Japanese customs and traditions, were prepared to ask relevant questions to their panel of experts, who enjoyed sharing the culture they are so passionate about.

The two classes discussed topics such as the role of women, family dynamics, ethical and moral values and how young people like themselves express their emotions in Japanese society.

"As a class, we were able to research and understand specific areas of Japanese culture that aren't typically discussed in a classroom setting, such as death, homosexuality and transgenderism and religion. And being able to share our knowledge with students of another culture was an exciting opportunity," commented one of the Japanese class students.

The goal of the IB Programme is to develop internationally minded adults who will help to create a more peaceful and understanding world. IB students are encouraged to be caring, open-minded, reflective and inquiring. Intercultural discussions such as this promote the desire to become more responsible members of local, national and global communities. Victoria Paredero Quiros '19 was interested in learning the ways in which Western culture has influenced Japan, while Samuel Regueros '19 had questions about the rights and treatment of the LGBTQ community and Teddy Bueres '19 was curious about rites of passage that integrate Japanese youth as full members of society.

Mrs. Cotton added, "This experience enabled students taking Japanese and Spanish to get up close and personal with the Japanese culture and enjoy sharing it with each other."

The Spanish and Japanese students collaborated effectively, listening to each other's perspectives with curiosity and respect. This celebration of "Bananamania" (the phenomenon in the 90's that followed the rise to fame of this young author, Banana Yoshimoto) was fun and educational! The discussion was very engaging while enjoying everything banana: munching on banana bread, banana yogurt, fresh bananas, frozen chocolate dipped bananas and banana chips and sipping banana-pineapple juice.

Arigato, Cotton Sensei