Japanese Classes Partner with a School in Japan


Courtesy of Yumi Lawless

Lisa Benjamin (11), Nathan Fillion (11), Rayden Tran (11), Kevin Nguyen (12), Jerri Hickman (11), Anthony Raymond (11), Scar Emmerson (10), and Angelina Phan (10) opening presents from their partner school in Japan.

Throughout the 2022-2023 school year, Falls Church High School’s Japanese language classes have been participating in the Global Classmates Program. This program provided experience for students taking Japanese that may not have been available in a regular classroom setting.

Within the Global Classmates Program, students from Falls Church High School share a virtual classroom with students in Japan, providing students a chance to communicate in Japanese more naturally as well as giving Japanese students an opportunity to practice English. While the program has been around for around 11 years, it began at Falls Church under Japanese teacher Yumi Lawless four years ago.

“I hope that students will not only learn the language, but also gain the opportunity to exchange cultures,” Lawless said. “The program also lets students sound more like a native speaker.”

The program involves a school social media platform where students in both America and Japan are connected. They post messages, typing what they want to say in both English and Japanese.

“[The program] also gives students a chance to practice their typing skills in Japanese,” Lawless said.

Throughout the program, the students were given prompts to spark discussion between the students. In these prompts, students wrote about things such as their favorite movies or phobias they have. This also provides a chance to compare culture in America and Japan, with prompts discussing the origin of student’s names, trendy words and slang, and food reports. The end of the program culminates with a gift exchange between the students, sending presents to each other from across the world.

“The present exchange is always the most exciting part for students,” Lawless said. “It gives them a physical connection to the students in Japan.”

Overall, the Global Classmates Program provided an opportunity for students learning Japanese at Falls Church to gain a more in depth understanding of the Japanese language and culture.

“It gave me a better understanding of Japanese culture and how teenagers like us live on the other side of the world,” said Hrishika Bista (11), a participant in the program.