Practical research group to establish Shimakutouba immersion school

Practical research group to establish <em>Shimakutouba</em> immersion school

On January 27 at Uebaru in Naha, Shinako Oyakawa, the co-leader of the Okinawan Studies 107 group reads a book in Uchinaguchi to some children, telling them about the mythological creature called .

January 29, 2012 Yuki Nakasone of the Ryukyu Shimpo 

A practical research group plans to establish a Shimakutouba or Uchinaguchi immersion school at which children learn Okinawan culture and history through Shimakutouba. The members of the group aim to open the school in April, and they are now developing its curriculum and teaching materials.

Called Okinawan Studies 107, the group is organized by people who have studied in Hawaii, where they were inspired by a movement of native Hawaiians striving to revive aspects of their traditional culture and to reclaim their land.

Immersion schools normally use a language different to the mother tongue of the students as the language for teaching. However, in the proposed Okinawa Immersion School, the teachers will offer Shimakutouba lessons for children before they enter elementary school, through experiential learning, such as nature walks, cooking and playing the sanshin. The target age of the school will be gradually raised.

Shinako Oyakawa, the co-leader responsible for the Okinawan Studies 107 Shimakotouba Division said, “When I had my first child last August, I thought that I needed to work to prepare somewhere that children will be able to learn Shimakutouba.” She went on to say enthusiastically, “Through learning Shimakutouba, I would like our children to sense the connection between themselves and their native land. There are more than 20 immersion schools in Hawaii. At the start of the movement, six mothers worked on it to teach their native language to their children. We can do it too.”

Professor Masahide Ishihara of the University of the Ryukyus, who specializes in language policy, and has been assisting in the establishment of the Immersion School said, “The survival of Shimakutouba is at stake. It is important that people take action to preserve their native language. This school will be a model as the first step in spreading Shimakutouba throughout Okinawa.”

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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