Read Read Read

スミス英会話大津校図書館 Smith's Otsu Library 1Reading is such a key tool to learning any subject. At our English conversation school in Otsu, we encourage our students to read, read and read! Reading is one of cheapest and most fun ways to study at home. In Otsu, we have a huge library of books for students to borrow: over 200 graded readers, kids picture books, novels, magazines and newspapers. Once you catch the reading bug, you can’t stop. The benefits of reading on language learning are numerous: increase in vocabulary, improved reading ability leading to better test scores on TOEIC and other language tests, better understanding of sentence structure from continuous reading of proper sentences and paragraphs and increased knowledge about the world in general. Reading is also convenient- next time you walk by the station, pick up a English newspaper at the convenience store. Why not take a trip to your local library? There are many great English books at the both municipal and prefecture libraries. Or just ask your teacher- very likely your school or teacher has books for you to borrow. Your teacher can also help to pick the correct level for you, so that you get the maximum benefit without the frustration of reading above your level. The best part is, the more you read, the better you get! Onwards and upwards.
Good luck and happy reading,
Edward, Smith’s School of English Otsu

Student Talent

スミス英会話大津校 日本の地図 Smith's Otsu Japan MapThe students at our English conversation school come from a variety of backgrounds: engineers, students, civil servants, scientists, teachers and so on. One student in particular comes from a very artistic family- her husband is a lighting designer, her nephew is a comic book artist, and she is a designer. She is also a fantastic listener and a caring person, so it came as little surprise when she brought a wonderful gift to class. What did she bring you ask? Having overheard me complaining about how hard it was to find a simple prefecture map in English for use in the classroom, she went home and designed one! She took a standard Japanese map, colour coded it by prefecture and region, made an English legend, printed 3 copies, and laminated them. We now have this great visual resource for use in our classrooms, plus I have a better understanding about the political and regional layout of the Japanese archipelago. Thanks Masako!Edward, Smith’s School of English Otsu

Pride in a Student

“Hiroko” joined Smith’s Hashimoto one year ago as a private student.  During her first few months, she was very shy and reluctant to take chances with the language, and I (wrongly) assumed that she was a beginner. A very serious person, not one to smile much, she absorbed each lesson very well, always acing the following week’s review.  One day I decided to try a less-structured lesson and give her a “push” toward using English in a real conversation, and to my surprise she began talking about herself and what she had done with her life so far.

She went to a university in Tokyo, and during the last year she lived alone in Ikebukuro near the school.  At some point she fell into a serious depression, but she was able to graduate and find a job in this area. She felt the need to do something for herself, face her fears and get active, so she began taking guitar lessons. Not long after that she came to me. I was very touched with her honesty and trust in me for sharing such personal information, moreover, blown-away at her hidden ability to speak English.I-did-it_1

Having never been outside of Japan, six months ago she told me she wanted to take a trip, and finally settled on going to San Francisco-  by herself. To make a long story short, I walked into her first lesson of 2015 to see a huge smile on her face as she said “I did it!” She did some truly amazing things-  jumping on buses, trains, ferries, ordering food, talking to people, etc.,  beaming as she told me about her trip while showing me photographs. This young woman is a perfect example of what we try to do with our students, and that is build confidence in using the English language. She is on fire now, already thinking about where to go next, and I am delighted with her progress, especially over such a short period of time. Learning and using English has done her a world of good, and given me a huge dose of satisfaction. Thank you, Hiroko!

Enjoying Food in Katsura (桂)

英会話 桂 Party FoodEvery time Smith’s Katsura (スミス英会話 桂) holds an event there is some nice food on the table.

Last weekend was our New Year Party and I’ve decided to prepare something special. I cooked “goulash“. Cooking this dish takes almost four hours, but I’m glad I spent the time making it. Students had the opportunity to taste this food for the first time and we could talk about goulash history and my style of preparation. Good topic for an English conversation.

I wasn’t the only one bringing food to the party. Everyone came with sweets or snacks. Some made a big effort and brought homemade dishes. Toshiko prepared spicy chilly beans, Emi created a beautiful fruit platter and Aya brought many ingredients for  sweet dessert cups. All delicious.

Thank you for making our time together so special. It was a treat!

Smith’s School of English Kawanishi Starting To Use Smith’s Digital Media

I am happy to announce that Smith’s School of English Kawanishi is now set up to teach lessons using Smith’s digital media. We’ve been doing so since the beginning of the year. We teach using a computer in addition to a whiteboard. We are having fun and the students seem to be having fun too. I look forward to a great year teaching in Kawanishi.


Christmas & New Years with Smith’s Azamino English School スミス英会話 あざみ野

Caves in Ha Long Bay

Caves in Ha Long Bay

Over the Christmas and New Years holiday I took 9 of my Smith’s English School (スミス英会話 あざみ野) students on a trip to Vietnam.  On December 21st we began our journey by departing from Tama Plaza(たまプラーザ) at 6am using the Haneda Airport Express bus.  For many of them it was their first time to go to Vietnam and travel without a pack tour so it was a great experience for my students to learn how to travel cheap and put their English skills to good use. We first spent time in Hanoi exploring the city, seeing the sites, eating street food, and enjoying the night life.  To get around we rented some motorbikes and went to many areas of the city often overlooked. It was quite an exciting adventure for everyone.  Then we went from Hanoi to my wife’s hometown where they got to experience a few days living in a Vietnam village.  In the early morning hours we went shopping


Ha Long Bay

at the morning markets, walk around the beautiful scenic area, and later had an amazing traditional dinner. After that we traveled by bus to the city of Ha Long where we visited Ha Long Bay, which is a World Heritage site.  We spent two days in Ha Long and stayed at one of my friends beautiful hotels and rented a boat for 5 hours to tour Ha Long Bay. Then just before New Years we went back to Hanoi so we could celebrate in the city.  There we enjoyed the lively New Years Eve celebration, went to the night markets, did more site seeing, trips to museums, and enjoyed the city and its food.  Overall it was quite a successful trip.  We saw many beautiful sites and had many experiences pack tours often neglect. My students got to use their English and also gain confidence in organizing their own trip and traveling alone.  Definitely a worth while experience!


Exploring Hanoi by Motorbike


Owner/Teacher (英語の先生/フランチャイズ店のオーナー経営者)
Smith’s English School  (スミス英会話 あざみ野)

Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi/Kawanishi Christmas Party 2014

Last December, I held a Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi/Kawanishi Christmas party at my home in Tsukaguchi, Amagasaki. Students, friends and family attended. We had a potluck lunch. There was tasty food, talking and playing. We had a great time! (^.^)

Here’s a video on the event. Enjoy!  →


School Improvements at SSE Otsu

スミス英会話大津 Otsu Drink Bar 2Over the holidays, my son and I enjoyed building a new drink bar at our English conversation school in Otsu. In the past we offered drinks to students but we always served them ourselves and the selection was limited to either coffee or green tea. Over the winter holidays, we enjoyed building a new bar area so that students may serve themselves and enjoy more selection. We built a counter-top around 3 bookshelves. After we finished the counter-top, we rearranged the books and bought some baskets for the bottom shelves in which to organize things. We were very happy with the final product. So far, students seem to be enjoying serving themselves and we are enjoying being able to offer them a wide variety of drinks. I am happy to be able to offer some of my favourite drinks such as spicy chai tea, Earl Gray and fruity herbal teas. Our next project is building new shoe and slipper shelves for the entrance.I love building things and improving my school.
Edward, SSE Otsu

Growing Together

20140711_151317The little things sometimes do mean a lot and words can bring a sense of complete happiness beyond all imagination.  I have had a most incredible start to the new year.  There is a student who has been studying English with me at Smith’s Eikaiwa Kyobashi for only 6 months.  Over that time, I have seen how well his language ability has been improving. During the holidays, he traveled to the U.S. for a brief vacation.  At our first lesson of the year, he told me that because of his classroom time with me, he was able to understand a lot of what people were saying when they spoke to him.  He went on to say that he felt very confident communicating to English speakers as well.

Also, some years ago, he had visited The United States but was not able to communicate well and did not have confidence or the understanding he has today.

Hearing him tell me about this filled me with an incredible sense of accomplishment knowing that together we achieved the goal of not only improving his English, but also in building his confidence in speaking. Truly, there is no place that I would rather be or anything else that I would rather be doing. This is a great thing that we are doing because the rewards are plain to see.

Crisp Snow in the City

大津市に雪の夜!Over the holidays, I enjoyed playing in the snow. From January 1st to 3rd we enjoyed about 30cm of snowfall in Otsu city. On the evening of the 1st I went for a walk around 11pm to look at the fresh fallen fluffy white stuff. I took my tripod and snapped some monochrome pictures. The snow was white and the moon was full and the effect was that we could walk through the woods without a flashlight. Otsu city was still and quiet and the only sound was the crunch of my boots on the fresh snow and the click of my camera’s shutter. The next day, my son and I enjoyed sledding, making a snowman and having a snowball fight. This was his first time playing in the snow and he loved it. We went to a nearby park and played with other families. Afterwards, we went home and had hot cocoa and cookies. For me this was very reminiscent of my childhood winters. I was so happy to be able to make such memories with my son and I hope that when he is older he will look back happily on this Read More »

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