Uchinaguchi class of the Okinawa Association of America marks its 9th anniversary
June 20, 2011 by Sadao Tome, correspondent of the Ryukyu Shimpo
Nine years have passed since 2002, when Chogi Higa started up Uchinaguchi (Okinawan language) classes as one of the cultural activities of the Okinawa Association of America.
Two-research scholars from the University of the Ryukyus went to observe the classes. In addition to their classroom visits, University of the Ryukyus professor Shinsho Miyara, the head of the Association of Okinawan Language Teaching, and Moriyo Shimabukuro, associate professor of University of the Ryukyus, conducted interviews with students and teachers and collected questionnaire survey sheets that had been sent to the class in advance.
The course was created to help keep the Okinawan language alive in the immigrant community in the United States as the number of first generation Okinawan immigrants who can speak Uchinaguchi decreases with the passage of time.
Content includes instruction in Uchinaguchi, Okinawan history, culture, customs and folk songs with humorous explanations used to explain the meanings of words.
Most of the students are second and third-generation Okinawan immigrants to the United States, second-generation Okinawan immigrants to South America, and Americans interested in Okinawa. Some Japanese students also participated in the class.
Each student brought some kind of Okinawan food along to the class and enjoyed each other’s company.
University students majoring in Asian studies or linguistics also took the class during their summer vacation and linguistics scholars from various Japanese universities visiting the class give it a unique atmosphere.
On the day in question, Higa taught the monthly Uchinaguchi class and had the students introduce themselves and give their opinions in a group discussion.
Professor Miyara explained the Association of Okinawan Language Teaching, saying “We teach Uchinaguchi to young children, and recently think that they are becoming even more enthusiastic about learning the language.”
Shimabukuro said, “We are making a textbook of Uchinaguchi in English, and plan to publish it through the University of Hawaii soon.”
Ryoko Onishi, who teaches Japanese at Los Angeles Harbor College and studies Japanese in University of California, Los Angeles, and Nobutaka Takara, Ph.D. Candidate in linguistics of University of California, Santa Barbara, participated in the class as guests.
(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey）
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