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Japanese students to learn English, Canadian culture

Twenty teenaged girls from Japan will be arriving next Friday (July 23) for two weeks of English classes and Canadian culture.

Twenty teenaged girls from Japan will be arriving next Friday (July 23) for two weeks of English classes and Canadian culture.

The girls, aged 15 to 17, will stay with Coast families as part of the English and cultural immersion aspects of the program.

"They would love to learn more about our culture and how Canadians live and how so-called typical families live and then share some of their culture at the same time," said Tamara Forsyth, program co-ordinator and instructor with the exchange, which is sponsored by Muskoka Language International (MLI).

The exchange runs from July 23 to Aug. 9. Forsyth said it's structured with English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in the mornings and activities in the afternoons that will draw on their morning language lessons.

Forsyth said the students have been taught English since kindergarten, and they have passed an English interview indicating that they have at least "minimal" language skills. The exchange will help them improve their speaking skills.

On the cultural front, the students will learn both from their Coast home-stay families and from activities ranging from softball and ultimate Frisbee with local youth to making crafts such as friendship bracelets and dream catchers.

Forsyth, an aboriginal education support teacher with School District No. 46, said the students will learn some First Nations culture as part of a diverse Canadian cultural experience.

As an example, each class will start with students forming a circle, which is based in aboriginal teachings.

"It will be a check-in every morning with a circle and get the students involved by orally sharing what they've done the night before and how their day went and how their night went," she said.

And at the end of their stay on the Coast, the students will have an opportunity to share some of their own traditions - such as music, dance or the traditional tea ceremony - with their hosts.

"When they do their farewell ceremony and they're in charge, they get to decide what kind of activity or skit or whatever it is that they'd like to do, and it will be their culture that they're now giving back to their home-stay family," she said.

And this visit could be the beginning of many more international student stays on the Coast.

"We haven't had [MLI] before and they're hoping to begin a relationship with [the Coast] so they can continually bring students over," Forsyth said.