SUNDAY MORNING EDITORIAL — A memorial service will be held Monday for Betty Inouye, who passed away this week at the age of 79.
Betty was well-known in the community both as a teacher and through her involvement in community organizations.
We come to know people in many different ways, and we tend to know only parts of the person’s whole life and personality. One of Betty’s community activities was with the Kamloops Japanese Canadian Association.
Through that group she made a particular contribution to Kamloops — and she made many — you wouldn’t know about unless you happened to be part of it.
Back in the 1990s, Kamloops was approached by the city of Uji, in Japan, to considered partnering in a Sister City program in which delegations from various walks of life would visit each other’s cities.
Some people question the value of this program but it’s undeniable that it has been highly successful in fostering international understanding and friendship. When the Sister City program was first considered, Japan was a mysterious place to many Canadians; now, it’s a familiar friend.
Betty played an important role in building that relationship, as did many in the Japanese Canadian association. Several members of the group have acted as liaisons over the years, and Betty, as both a teacher and a linguist, made a unique contribution.
When you’re getting to know people from another country, it’s important to try to communicate with them in their own language. This writer well remembers Betty setting up Japanese language classes that included the mayor, his wife and young son.
Working patiently from a text called Japanese for Busy People and a cassette-tape series called Rapanese, she taught basic terminology, the numbers system and common conversational phrases.
The mayor never got past the basics; his wife was already conversant in Japanese from having lived there; and their son went on to become proficient in the language and to fall in love with Japan.
Betty was a good teacher. Because she was Canadian-born, she had a valuable perspective on what it takes for people in our culture to learn the language and culture of a language as complex as Japanese. Language and culture are tied inextricably and she played an important role in building bridges between the two cultures.