MALACCA: It was a chance of a lifetime for some 30 students from Japan’s Hippo Family Club to learn first-hand the Malay language and culture through a homestay programme at a Malay village in Merlimau recently.
The students, comprising boys and girls between 10 and 16 years old, were selected from all over Japan to visit Malaysia with 120-year-old SK Sebatu playing host during their week-long stay.
Teacher Nishizawa Michiko, 54, said the club was set up to encourage young Japanese to learn foreign languages in a more natural environment rather than through classroom lessons.
“Homestay programmes are an effective way for students to learn a new language because it allows them to practise the foreign language while staying with their host families,” she said when met at the ceremony to introduce the children to their foster families here recently.
She added that club members would pick up more than one foreign language on such field trips.
“Besides using audio recordings to learn a new language, we have regular gatherings where members are encouraged to converse in the chosen language that they are trying to learn,” she explained and broke into a smattering of Malay, Chinese and English.
In return, Nishizawa said a group of students from SK Sebatu would be invited to visit Japan to learn the language and culture.
It was certainly a thrill for Konishi Yuka, 11, from Osaka, who said this was her first time out of Japan.
“Before coming here, I prepared by listening to and watching CDs on the Malay language.
“I am very excited to be here and cannot wait to experience life in a Malay village and speak Malay,” she added.
Arai Ami, 12, from Kanagawa, was amongst the most bubbly in the group and was seen laughing with her foster mother Aishah Rimin, 43, from Kampung Sebatu.
“I am eager to go shopping for a baju kurung as I think it is a very pretty attire,” she said, adding that she also wished to learn how to cook some of the local Malay dishes.
Sarimah Md Sham, 42, said this was her second time hosting children from Japan.
“I participated in a similar programme in 2007 and enjoyed it very much as it gave us the chance to show off the Malay culture and language.
“My son was later invited to visit Japan by the children who had taken part in the homestay programme here,” she added.
Malacca Education Department director Isa Abu said SK Sebatu was chosen as the host school because it was rich in history.
“We also believe that the students should be given a chance to experience life here in the village located next to the school.”
He added that the exchange programme was initiated by the Education Ministry and the Hippo Family Club two years ago, with families from Selangor and Langkawi hosting Japanese students.