The Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE) hosted a karuta tournament, inviting students in the UAE city of Sharjah to play the traditional Japanese card game.
On Feb. 13-14, 18 students from Khawla Bint Tahlaba Girls’ School and 19 students from Secondary Model School for boys, Sharjah joined the competition as part of JICE’s ongoing series of supporting activities contributing to cultural exchange between Japan and the UAE.
Karuta, a traditional Japanese card game, is a game of wits and speed. Simply put, the first one to determine and grab the correct picture card corresponding to the word read out loud gets to keep the card, and the participant with the most cards wins. While it’s a fun game, it’s also great for language learners as it challenges their reading and listening comprehension.
The UAE has an objective of cultivating global citizens who are familiar with the languages and culture of a wide variety of countries. As part of these efforts, the Emirates Schools Establishment (ESE) is implementing second foreign language education in public schools across the UAE. And the more fun they are, the more they resonate with students and prospective students.
In 2021, classes began in UAE public secondary schools under the guidance of Japanese teachers. Not only are the students learning Japanese language, but they also have the opportunity to learn about Japanese culture. In fact, it’s often Japanese pop culture that’s behind their desire to learn the language.
Currently, two schools in Sharjah are conducting classes for students in Grades 9 and 10. JICE and the Japanese teachers share a goal of demonstrating that language-learning can be fun, for both students and their greatest supporters, parents.
The karuta tournament was part of this, and the students’ enthusiastic participation showed that language learning doesn’t have to rely on traditional methods. By building teams and naming them themselves, the students had the opportunity to put their skills to the test, in a fun and creative environment. Japanese and Arabic foods were served after the tournaments, and the students were enthusiastic to talk to Japanese teachers and members of JICE in Japanese to practice their language skills.
Moe Hirose, Japanese language teacher at Khawla Bint Tahlaba Girls’ School, believes the activity helps to encourage more students to study Japanese in future.
“I have had the opportunity to teach Japanese language to almost 100 students. Through activities such as the karuta tournament, with students working together to improve their language skills, we can encourage more students to embark on the study of Japanese. They even designed the 40 cards themselves with their own drawings,” she said.
Jamila Almoqahwi, Principal of Khawla Bint Tahlaba Girls’ School, also said: “I hope the Japanese language knowledge and skills will broaden the students’ horizons in the future. We appreciate all the efforts and assistance from JICE and other Japanese organisations to make this possible.”
Shigeto Aoki, General Manager of the JICE Abu Dhabi Office, hopes this activity will encourage more similar ones. “The karuta tournament was a great example of the power of language learning to broaden horizons and instill a sense of fun into education. I hope this will be the first of many similar events, and we will see even more students engaging enthusiastically with Japanese language and culture.”