It’s been a good start to the new year here, with new experiences and challenges continuing to come! Chief among them was last week’s visit to the firefighter training facility in Moriyama, where I participated in drills aimed at helping firefighters to be able to rescue and support foreign people during emergencies.
There were 15 firefighters (actually all firemen, but for the purposes of equality let’s stick with non-gender specific terminology!) who attended the training; 8 from the fire service which serves Yasu, Moriyama, Konan, Kusatsu and Ritto, and 7 from the adjacent Otsu fire service. The morning was separated into three components: 1) an opening forty-five-minute English lesson, where I taught the necessary language that could be used in an emergency situation. 2) practice within the same room, with pairs of firefighters assisting a foreign victim in a role-play scenario. 3) The emergency drill in the outside training area.
For the purposes of parts 2 and 3, it was decided that it would be better to have two foreign people to assist the practice and the final emergency drills. On that basis I invited my buddy Dan to come join, and thankfully he was able to make the time to come. The whole morning was something a bit new and a good life experience, so it was good to share it with a friend of mine.
I took the lead during the opening English class, which, thankfully, went quite well. I’m quite an experienced EFL teacher, but there is always the issue with adult classes as to what types of activities you choose for language practice; some ‘fun’ language games can go down badly, especially if the atmosphere of the classroom is too serious. During the meeting with the fire chief a couple weeks prior though, he mentioned that last year’s similar event, run by my predecessor, was found quite fun and that the learners probably didn’t want the atmosphere to be too serious. On that basis I decided to use some activities which I’ve previously used with elementary school students!
As a warm-up, I asked them to give me some English words/ phrases connected to fire and rescue. A few people were forthcoming with ideas, but the atmosphere didn’t relax as much as I had hoped. Anyway, we were in English mode somewhat after that warm-up, and I brought in a game of Jakarta to check their understanding of the phrases we were to study. I, and Dan, would speak aloud an English phrase, and the firefighters had to select the corresponding Japanese phrase from the cards spread out on their table. They engaged well and enjoyed this activity, and, most importantly, gained a greater connection with the language.