During her time at Nishimachi International School, our co-founder, Motoyama Toshiko focused on the education of returnees from abroad. As a teacher specializing in linguistics, with experience as an instructor in America, she developed a curriculum for students to maintain and continue to develop the English that they had learned while overseas.
For language, the critical learning period is said to be 7-12 years of age. During this time, foreign languages can be learned with the same ability that was used to naturally learn a first language. However, students forget language in the order of grammar, vocabulary, word order, and pronunciation. Therefore, in contrast to simply retaining your speaking ability, retention classes can help students retain the ability to read and write at their previous level, and also provide for continuous improvement from that level.
In a class environment that is "English-only", the classes generally focus on reading and discussion. In order to engage children, we also incorporate the student of Science, Art, and Social Studies, to create an environment where students feel comfortable talking and taking risks in their learning.
In retaining the ability to speak English fluently, or vocabulary that can be easily forgotten, the key is to begin and continue retention classes as soon as possible. Reading is particularly important to maintaining English proficiency. Even for children who return from overseas when they are quite young, we aim to raise them to be able to naturally enjoy reading in English, which will, in turn, allow them to consistently maintain a high ability level for English.
Compared to when living overseas, the time in which returnee students are exposed to English is often significantly reduced, and student's abilities can diminish rapidly. Familiar tasks, such as writing a long sentence, which were natural before, become difficult. Through continuous practice and a balanced allocation of time to the key skills, English ability can be maintained.