The Yokohama Association for International Communications and Exchanges lends a helping hand to foreigners who want to learn Japanese and become part of the community — a service essential to those struggling to survive in a land far away from home.

Wilfred Hirota, who came to Japan from Brazil almost two years ago and works at a fast food restaurant, is one of many people taking Japanese conversation lessons through the group. They sit around a table together with Japanese teachers to discuss various topics, such as their favorite foods.

Although their Japanese is halting, they make lively gestures while doing so and at times burst out with laughter.