Friday, 10 August 2007

English Summer Convention at Shiga Highlands, Nagano Prefecture

Three foreign friends and I were invited by the Takasaki City University of Economics English Language Club to attend their annual convention in the Shiga Highlands near Nagano City in the Nagano Prefecture.

Basically every year this group of university students have a three day summer event where they totally immerse themselves in the English language and go about having a whole lot of fun at a hotel far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. They invite some foreigners along to give guidance and to help facilitate some of the activities.

Jacob, Brooke, Meagan and I set out on Wednesday morning with the group of 80 students in buses from Takasaki City in the Gumna Prefecture to Nagano which was about a three hour bus trip. We arrived mid-afternoon at the mountain hotel. The trip up into the mountains was simply amazing - Japanese don't build highways anywhere on the ground. If the highway is not on a bridge it's in a tunnel - standard rule it seems.

Through the event we played heaps of interesting games, some of which were uniquely Japanese and others we were very familiar with. There were competitions, challenges, study groups and general stuff aimed at promoting English communication.

What was interesting about this was it is the first time I have witnessed at length Japanese being Japanese but communicating in English. It was certainly interesting to see how they interact with each other and see them carry out their customs in the Queen's own language.

It was also interesting to fully realise the value of learning a language from a native speaking teacher. These university students hadn't and had developed their own unique style of English which was great amongst their group but for anyone external it was very difficult to understand. We were getting annoyed at them because they were so far off on their own tangent and they were getting annoyed at us because on occasion no matter how hard they tried we couldn't understand them. Us four foreigners would escape to our hotel room at night to consume beverages of the alcoholic variety to relieve our tensions.

By Friday morning we were pleased to be on our way. The event was fun but it was a strain on the patience. The students were staying at the hotel an extra night so we made our way by bus and train back to Nagano City where we spent part of the day sightseeing there before returning home on the Nagano Shinkansen Service later in the afternoon.

It was hard to believe that Nagano City hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1998. Apparently the city put on a good show for the games but returned to a modest state once the event was over. This was obvious. It was a very relaxed place.

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