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Language Buddy deepens cross-cultural understanding and friendship

February 2, 2023

The Language Buddy system, which started under the restrictions imposed due to Covid, is now operating in face-to-face. Paired-up CJS students and local students are expected to interact with each other at least once a week for over 30 minutes in Japanese and over 30 minutes in English or other languages. Students have learned each other's languages and cultures and enjoyed international exchange.

Aliagha Abasov, a CJS student from Azerbaijan, and Shunsuke Akagi, 2nd year student of the Faculty of Economics, became good friends through the Language Buddy system. Their interactions are not limited to the campus, but extend outside the campus as well. They also made more friends through each other, which has led further exchanges.

Aliagha Abasov, CJS student from Azerbaijan:

My buddy, Akagi-kun, is a really nice person. I'd been in touch with him from before I arrived in Japan thanks to an introduction by the Center for International Affairs, and we met on September 20, 2022, just after I entered the Center for Japanese Studies. Since then we communicate using Instagram and LINE.

My Japanese has improved thanks to Akagi-kun. Now when I am saying something in Japanese, I am thinking in Japanese as I am speaking. Also, thanks to Akagi-kun, I've made many Japanese friends. I spend a lot of time enjoying myself with three or four Japanese friends. We've been out together to places such as karaoke, restaurants and parks. Most of the time we speak in Japanese, but Akagi-kun wants to improve his English, so sometimes we speak to each other in English. He speaks in English and I reply in Japanese. So with this, His English is improving and so is my Japanese. It's a lot of fun to spend time together. He's from Miyazaki Prefecture and sometimes he tells jokes in the Miyazaki dialect, so of course I can't understand what he's saying.

When we meet, I tell him things about my country and he teaches me things about Japan. It's really interesting to talk about our countries' culture. When Akagi-kun asked me to tell him what is different between Japan and Azerbaijan, I told him all sorts of things that are different between our two countries. For example, there are many subway lines in Japan, and the staple food in Azerbaijan is bread, but here in Japan it's rice. I also told him that while in Japan little children are freely able to go to school or shopping by themselves, in Azerbaijan that is not possible until a child is 10 years old.

Akagi-kun enthusiastically tells me about aspects of Japan that I don't know about. He showed me how to use chopsticks and taught me some Japanese songs. I was majoring in Japanese Language and Japanese Culture at university in Azerbaijan, but I think it's a wonderful to come to Japan and be taught about the "real Japan" by a Japanese person of my age.

Shunsuke Akagi, 2nd year, Department of Economics, Faculty of Economics:

I signed up for the Language Buddy system after an acquaintance told me about it in the 2nd Quarter. I am now a second year student, but when I was in my first year I wasn't really that interested in getting involved in international exchange. The pandemic played a part, but I had no real contact with foreign languages or interaction with foreign students. I felt that I'd like to try something new when I became a second year student and so I began going to the World Plaza. From that point on, I became interested in international exchange. I heard about the Language Buddy system from a person I met at the World Plaza. At that stage, I could only manage basic greetings in English, and so I wasn't very confident, but when I became a second year student I took advantage of the system because I wanted a new challenge.

My buddy, Ariaga (a.k.a. Aki), spoke extremely good Japanese, so the feeling of nervousness I had before soon disappeared. He is from Azerbaijan, a country about which I knew very little, but he told me lots of interesting things about his country. Our conversations were basically in Japanese, but when there was a word he didn't understand, or when I spoke to him in English, we'd converse in English. At first, we'd just talk at school, sometimes having lunch together, but as we became better friends we started to go out for meals, even spending time together singing karaoke or going shopping.

Through my experience of the Language Buddy system, not only did I build a good relationship with a "Buddy", but I also managed to rid myself of my unease towards having contact with other cultures. Now, thanks to Aki, I interact not only with CJS students, but also with foreign students studying in the faculties.

I think that the Language Buddy system is a step in the right direction for those people who would like to become involved in international exchange but can't quite pluck up the courage to do so, or for those would like to try something new. This was a wonderful experience in terms of changing some of my previous thinking. I would like to continue my involvement in this system and to become even more proactive in international exchange.