Language Learning is Like Mountain Climbing

スミス英会大津校 Climbing an English Mountain!At Smith’s School of English Otsu we have a student who is an avid mountain climber. Although he has always loved the outdoors, mountain climbing is something he started later in life. At first he would climb small mountains in and around Shiga, sometimes by himself and sometimes with a friend or two. Then he joined some climbing circles where he would climb with small groups. Eventually he decided to challenge himself by climbing the highest mountain in Africa: Mount Kilimanjaro. He joined a private tour group with professional guides and enjoyed climbing and camping for a week in Tanzania. Since then he has climbed the highest mountain in Russia (Mt Elbrus), the tallest in SE Asia (Mount Kinabalu), plus climbing in the Himalayas, Taiwan, India and Mount Fuji in winter! All of this he has accomplished thanks to the help of professional climbers and guides. His next goal: the tallest mountain in the Americas, Mount Aconcagua (6959m) in Argentina!

Learning a language is a very similar process. At some point in your life, you decide to try it. You start out by yourself, studying a little bit at home. Then you join an English circle or make a few English study friends. Finally you desire to really improve, to climb a higher mountain so to speak, and you seek out a professional. This is where I come in, this is my job. Every student comes to me with Read More »

Mars Opposition May 22nd

IMG_5063[1]English Conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 have long known about my astronomy hobby.  It has been in a temporary hiatus because, thanks to El Ninyo, the atmospheric conditions in Japan have been poor since 2012.  Well, all that has finally changed with the general improvement evident since January.

Our third nearest neighbor in the cosmos will be at opposition on May 22nd, followed by a closest approach on May 29th.  Anytime between May 10th and June 15th is a good time to view it, though it never rises more than 30 degrees above the horizon so it will always be shrouded in a murky atmosphere.

Have you noticed a bright orange beacon in the low southern sky around midnight?  It’s Mars.  You’ll need access to a telescope and eyepiece of very high optical quality on top of a night of perfect atmospheric transparency, meaning no wind, in order to make out surface features.  The planet’s angular size of around 18.6 arc seconds and strong brightness are enough to make this possible, although upcoming oppositions in 2018 and 2020 will be better.

Martin Werner Zandernice Smith's logo


Smith’s School of English Kotoen 月謝制 Real Monthly Tuiton English Conversation School

スミス英会話 甲東園 甲東園校 仁川 門戸厄神

Language is Culture and Vice Versa

スミス英会話大津校 Language & CultureAs an English language coach, I am responsible not only for teaching the elements of the English language, but also the culture which is included with every language. In the case of English, this covers a huge range of cultures, from Europe to America to Australia and more. For example, when a student asks me why the Rolling Stones sing “I can’t get no satisfaction” instead of “I can’t get any satisfaction”, I have to explain the difference in British dialects and how the north and south of England are vastly different places, with different culture, which affects language. A student may also ask why we don’t have an English equivalent for the Japanese expression “having a cat’s tongue”. This expression refers to people who are sensitive to eating really hot food, i.e. people with sensitive tongues, like cats have. Here again, I have the task of explaining differences in food culture. Japanese cuisine includes a lot of cooking at the table, eating directly from the fire, hot and fresh food. Western cuisine is usually served in the kitchen and carried to the table, before being eaten. This means that even the hottest western food is somewhat cooled off by the time it reaches our mouths, whereas many Japanese dishes are eaten steaming hot. this has resulted in the above expression being prevalent in Japan, but not in the west.

This is an aspect of working at Smith’s School of English that I really love. Not only am I given the time and opportunity to Read More »

The Best Season is … Now!

Spring in JapanI often hear that Japan has “4 seasons” and although I agree with this, I believe that this statement needs a slight adjustment. Summer is hot and humid, but not too long. Winter is cold, but not too cold and not too long. Spring and Autumn are perfect, and both are quite long and wonderful.

Spring usually arrives perfectly on time for Golden Week, and this year was no exception. Though we never left Shiga prefecture, we took advantage of, and absolutely enjoyed the outdoors and the perfect weather. What a great season to be in Japan! We enjoyed a few short hikes, picnics, splashing in a stream, walks by the lakeside and lots of park time with our kids and their friends.

Every city has some green spaces in which to enjoy nature and reconnect with mother earth, but Otsu city is a truly wonderful place. Only 15 minutes from Kyoto and 45 minutes to Osaka, and yet so much green space! Otsu is neither a big city or a country town, but somewhere right in the middle. Lots of parks, lots of waterways, lots of forests and mountains. I love living in Otsu!

Read More »

Rugby World Cup Japan 2019

Hello dear readers!

Some of you must be watching the NHL Stanley Cup Division Playoffs right about now.  Others are IMG_7349[1]very much looking forward to the Olympic Games coming up in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

But did you know?

Japan was selected to Host the 2019 Rugby World Cup !  Now for all you Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, British and Irish, and obviously Japanese rugby fans, this must be interesting and exciting news.

The Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 is fortunately located very near to the home field of one of the strongest, if not THE strongest junior US Football teams in Japan, Kwansei Gakuin University, or KGU for short.  They’re getting  better on the rugby pitch as well.  I am very pleased and feel fortunate to work with English Conversation students coming from the university, and especially those who are in some way associated with the various sports KGU is involved in.

Being a Smith’s School of English Franchise operator is an ideal way to get involved in community activities in Japan.

nice Smith's logo

Luckily, the games are still a very long way off, but no matter what we do, 2019 will soon be here so mark the event on your calendar!  The exact schedule will probably not be known for quite some time yet.

Martin Werner Zander


Smith’s School of English in Kotoen 月謝制 Real Monthly Tuition English Conversation School

スミス英会話 甲東園 甲東園校 仁川 門戸厄神

The Art of Photo-Bombing

IMG_4932[1]Hello everyone.

Photo-Bombing : Another new English word !

In the 1980s, thousands of new vocabulary were added to the English language because of computers and role-playing games, and thousands more came in the 1990s and 2000s because of the information age.  Now, with 4G LTE and the global mobile internet phenomenon, we are seeing yet another huge increase in our daily vocabulary.

One of these new words, one that every English Conversation student at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 knows and loves to use these days is “photo-bombing” or “to be a photo-bomber”.

A quick look at the famous photograph clearly shows the concept is not new.  Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe famously sat together at a ceremony in what I believe must have been 1956, but look at the faces in the background!  What an extraordinary photo-bombing opportunity that would have been!  A picture does indeed tell a thousand words, especially when you consider the sizeable impact this event may have had on jazz music and the budding civil rights movement in the USA.

Martin Werner Zandernice Smith's logo


Smith’s School of English in Kotoen 月謝制 Real Monthly Tuition English Conversation School

スミス英会話 甲東園 甲東園校 仁川 門戸厄神

Cherry Blossom(花見) pick nick 2016 of Smith’s school Fuse(スミス英会話布施校)!

On Sunday the 10th, we had a nice relaxing pick nick in Sannose park (三ノ瀬公園)in Fuse(布施)! The weather was mild and comfortable. There were still enough blossoms for having a really enjoyable cherry blossom pick nick this year!

Hanami Picture

All students who joined came to Sannose park (三ノ瀬公園)at 12pm and sat down to relax. We chatted for a while and when everybody had arrived, we ate together our lunch. The young daughter of one of the English students (英会話生徒)took most of the attention and kept us entertained. Another English student (英会話生徒) brought a friend from Italy who came to Osaka for a short visit. So he could experience a real cherry blossom viewing while he was here in Japan. We all enjoyed talking with him about his impression of the country. What a great opportunity for everyone! There were many children so my son also enjoyed playing with the other kids.

Sannose park (三ノ瀬公園) is a nice park in Fuse (布施) only about ten minutes from Fuse station and from the school  on foot. Most students live quite near and could come by bicycle or even on foot! It is also very relaxed but not overcrowded, so it makes a perfect place for a cherry blossom pick nick (花見)in the area!

For the Smith’s school in Fuse (スミス英会話布施校), this was the first cherry blossom pick nick (花見)in four years. For three long years we had very bad luck with the weather and had to move the party inside. So I was very relieved that we could have this nice party this year!

Japan’s Funicular Railways

Hello dear readers!IMG_7169[1]

Did you know that Japan is one of two countries in the world with the most number of funicular railways?  It seems that funicular railways are among those super-cool attractions that still go unnoticed by so many holiday-makers, and that is really a shame because they are so much fun.

Invented in the 15th Century as a method for getting goods and supplies up steep hills, many funiculars were built in Europe for economic necessity centuries before their tourist value was identified.  English Conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 have noted my interest in funiculars in Japan and have begun compiling a list worthy of visiting.

nice Smith's logoSo now comes the question:  What is the other country with so many funicular railways?  Hint:  It is safe, wealthy and beautiful to visit in any season!

Martin Werner Zander


Smith’s School of English in Kotoen 月謝制 Real Monthly Tuition English Conversation School

スミス英会話 甲東園 甲東園校 仁川 門戸厄神

Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi/Kawanishi Hanami Event at Wonda Park in Tsukaguchi

IMG_2042On April 3, I held a hanami (cherry blossom viewing) event in Tsukaguchi, Amagaski for the Smith’s Tsukaguchi and Kawanishi English schools. Rain was forecasted for that day but I decided to hold a hanami event anyway as it looked like we could beat the rain. I invited students from the Tsukaguchi and Kawanishi schools just one day before and was happy that 3 students of English were able to join on short notice in addition to my family. After all, it didn’t rain until later in the day. Lucky us! The hanami event was held at Wonda Park (椀田公園), a nice park in Tsukaguchi which has cherry trees and playgrounds for kids to play too. On April 3, the cherry trees were almost in full bloom so they were so pretty. After having a wonderful time at Wonda Park, most of us went to my house in Tsukaguchi where we enjoyed teatime. We had a great afternoon together! (^.^)

Derek, Smith’s School of English Kawanishi

New TOEIC – スミス英会話 甲東園

It’s test time again!   For all company employees and Sophomores, it should not be much of a IMG_7339[1]surprise that a new TOEIC test format is upon us starting in May!

The Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 gets regular enquiry for test help, mostly I think because Kotoen is Education Central, but also because the word has gotten round that lessons at my school are consistently helpful.  Just yesterday I had two existing students ask about the new test as well as one new student joining now with an eye towards getting a TOEIC score for work.  Thanks to the new test, veteran TOEIC people who have for a long while been content with their existing scores are looking to come back into it again.

Studying for TOEIC is a worthy challenge, and a clear direction given by a skilled coach committed to identifying the right way to help students reach their goals is a by far the best strategy.  This test puts pressure on people to improve their working English and I really love helping everyone improve their scores and assist with their career and educational objectives.

A Smith’s School of English Franchise is the ideal platform on which to do this job.nice Smith's logo

Martin Werner Zander


Smith’s School of English Kotoen 月謝制 Real Monthly Tuition English Conversation School

スミス英会話 甲東園 甲東園校 仁川 門戸厄神

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