Startup Helps Japanese Seniors Become Language Teachers for Foreigners

With the help of an IT company’s initiative, some Japanese seniors are given a worthwhile and productive role in the community as language teachers for foreigners.

Kashiwa-based IT company Helte Co. recently began employing elderly people living in nursing homes to teach the Japanese language to overseas learners through video-to-video communication.

Instead of just being isolated, the elderly citizens are given a chance to connect with others, while fulfilling the need of foreigners who are in need of learning Japanese with a native speaker, reported The Japan NewsLaunched on a trial basis in August as a free service to the learners, the project seemed to be a hit for both the teachers and the students who have participated.

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Helte Co. president Manabu Goto recalled that when he was still studying at a university, his mom introduced him to a woman living in a U.S. nursing home whom he’d occasionally speak to via video calling. Goto then came up with the idea for his project after meeting young foreigners in Southeast Asia who studied Japanese but had little chance of practicing the language with an actual Japanese person. 

To make his project work, he devised an easier system for elderly people that would incorporate large-sized text on tablets to be used to communicate.  After visiting several elderly housing facilities and nursing homes and reaching out to universities in Bangkok, Goto was able to sign up 11 elderly language tutors at three separate facilities.

“I’d like to create a place where various people can connect and overcome the differences of age and nationality,” Goto was quoted as saying.

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Goto added that he is hoping to expand the number of users to enable his system to become a viable business, in which nursing homes can sign agreements with universities abroad.

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