Elkins resident Akiko Endo works once a week with literacy volunteer Sue Core to improve her English skills.
"I moved from Japan to the United States in 2001," Endo said. "I came here to go to a university and earn my degree."
Endo said she did not know much English when she arrived.
Literacy Volunteers of Randolph County volunteer Sue Core helps Elkins resident Akiko Endo with her pronunciation skills. Endo, who is originally from Japan, speaks English as a second language. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart)
"In Japan, I took a class in basic English in middle and high school," Endo said. "After high school, I went to another school to study English. Coming to the United States and actually having to talk was horrid in the beginning. People in the United States speak very fast."
Davis & Elkins College's International Language Institute brought Endo to Elkins.
"I spent a semester studying at D&E and working on my writing, reading and listening skills," Endo said. "The program is no longer available. After that semester, I went to West Virginia University where I earned a bachelor's degree in Political Science."
Core works weekly with Endo, who said she wants to learn the correct pronunciation of words.
"English has more sounds than Japanese," Endo said. "I want to be better understood when I speak English and increase my vocabulary."
Endo said English is a hard language to master for many reasons.
"The Japanese language is monotone, and English has accents on syllables," Endo said.
Also the same word can be pronounced different ways, there are so many exceptions to the rules and sometimes a word can be different depending on what part of speech for which it is being used."
Core, of the Literacy Volunteers of Randolph County, said she started volunteering after her husband passed away.
"I was looking for things to do, and I went to Romania with a group called Global Volunteers," Core said. "We worked with elementary school children teaching them English for two weeks."
Core considers herself lucky to be working with others.
"I think everyone should be able to communicate and be understood," Core said. "I am fortunate to work with intelligent young ladies right now. I help them, but I also learn so much from them about their countries and cultures."
Originally, Core became involved with the Literacy Volunteers of Randolph County through then-president Judy Seaman.
"She was very dedicated to literacy and very hard-working," Core said. "I took a class from her and learned the basics. It is a good organization if you are looking to volunteer."
Core said she would like to visit more countries and help others learn to speak English.
"I hope to travel to a university in Mexico to help students with English as their second language," Core said.
This week, Endo and Core were working on words ending with "d."
"Aki tends to add an extra 'a' when a word ends with the letter 'd,'" Core said. "That is what we are working with today."
Endo currently works translating English to Japanese and Japanese to English. She also teaches classes at the Randolph County Community Arts Center and teaches art in Randolph County elementary schools through the ArtsBank program.
In a proclamation signed earlier this month, members of the Literacy Volunteers of Randolph County said that more than 20 percent of Randolph County adults experience literacy issues that severely impact their lives and families, their ability to work productively and their full participation as citizens and residents of our city.
The Literacy Volunteers have a long-standing commitment to help bridge that gap by offering their services with reading and writing, or with English as a second language, by tutoring people age 16 and older.
The Literacy Volunteers of Randolph County office is located at 400 Davis Ave. in the YMCA in Elkins. More information about services and volunteer opportunities is available by calling 304-636-4515 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Beth Christian Broschart by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @ITM-Broschart.