Tokyo Institute of Technology: Tokyo Tech-MIT Japan Language Exchange Program 2022 held online


The Tokyo Tech-MIT Language Exchange Program was organized for the third time from June to July 2022, with 22 students — 11 students from MIT Japan and MIT’s Japanese language classes, and 11 students from Tokyo Tech — participating. Tokyo Tech and MIT Japan have been conducting this exchange program since 2020. Students from the Institute and MIT have a history of joint activities through other programs such as the Tatara Steel Making Workshop.

This language exchange program has been conducted for three consecutive years, and there has been a large number of applicants every year. Selections at Tokyo Tech were made based on criteria which prioritized Global Scientists and Engineers Course(External site) students and those who complied with the course’s completion requirements.

In this program, students from Tokyo Tech and MIT were randomly matched, and 11 groups were formed. The objectives were to 1) develop communication skills in a second language, that being either English or Japanese, and 2) understand different cultures and ideas, and broaden perspectives through language exchange.

After the plenary introductory session in mid-June, each group held online language exchange sessions at least three times after adjusting to the 13-hour time difference between Tokyo and Boston. Each exchange session lasted approximately one hour, with 30 minutes in one language and 30 minutes in another language. Many groups met more than three times.

After the language exchange sessions, each group created a short movie about what they had learned about their partners’ countries. The groups spoke about various topics such as differences in school life, recommended places in Boston and Tokyo, music, summer holidays, celebrations, slang, part-time jobs, favorite anime, pop idols, and recipes and cooking. As the student movies were made freely without any instruction, each group produced informative, unique creations.

At the end of July, one month after the individual language exchange sessions, participants again gathered online for the final session. A movie digest compiling all of the movies by the 11 groups were shown, and each participant made a short comment in their second language. After voting, three prize-winning groups were selected. Two groups received first prize for their presentations on “Slang” and “Why is One Piece popular in the US and Japan” respectively. The third-place team presented their ideas on “Pop idol culture in the US and Japan.”

Comments from voters included the following:

Learning about slang was both interesting and practical.
It was great to see the students talking about the same theme but sharing different perceptions about it.
The presenters looked like they were enjoying each other’s companies and had created a good atmosphere.
After the program, a certificate of completion was provided to each participant, along with gifts from MIT Japan and Tokyo Tech.

According to the feedback from participants, all students would recommend this activity to their friends. It was a good opportunity for them to learn from each other through an equal balance of “teach and learn.” Even after the completion of the program, students from MIT and Tokyo Tech may meet online regularly and conduct language exchange. Many students commented that they enjoyed meeting new friends from other countries and exchanging ideas about the same topics in Japan and the US while practicing communication skills in a second language.

Organizers hope that this activity will continue between MIT and Tokyo Tech, and wish for a lasting friendship among participants in the Tokyo Tech-MIT Language Exchange Program.

Comments from participants
I really liked the program, and it was great to be able to talk to my partner. I think the length was pretty good, and I think I will continue talking to my partner after this. (MIT)
It was my first time to speak English in a casual way and I enjoyed it very much. I would like to keep in touch with my partner and continue having conversations. I would be glad to meet my partner in person in the future. (Tokyo Tech)
I hope this program can be longer! (MIT)
Having a partner for the one-on-one conversation and the video-making assignment was helpful for me to proceed with the sessions. In fact, we had five conversation sessions in one month, and we were able to get along better than we had imagined. (Tokyo Tech)

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