Differences Between Japan and America

Talking with our hands!I have just come back from a brief visit to my home town in Michigan. Travelling there with my wife and daughter is nothing new, but this time my in-laws came as well! Not only was it their first trip to the United States, but it was their first time leaving Japan. Needless to say there were a lot of new experiences for them. It’s always interesting to me to see what differences between the U.S. and Japan different people pick up on when they visit for the first time and my father and mother-in-law found a very interesting one.

One night at dinner with my family my mother-in-law said that I must be turning Japanese. When I asked her why she thought so, she said it was because everyone else was using more gestures than I while they talked.  And while I don’t thinking I am becoming Japanese, she is right about people using a lot of gestures. Americans can be very expressive and using gestures is one way they can express themselves more. So using more gestures may be one way you too can speak English more like a native English speaker. Please give it a try sometime!

Chris, Smith’s School of English Otsu

Kansai Summer Festival Update

スミス英会話 甲東園 Fireworks 1Hello fellow festival lovers !

So many marvelous attractions and distractions are happening this summer and the most difficult thing is to make sure you don’t forget to do your work!

In downtown Kobe last Saturday Aug 8, we saw the Kobe Minato Hanabi Taikai fireworks festival, one that has always been among the favorites of English Conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園.  Friday night had the hugely successful Biwako festival in Otsu, Saturday Aug 8 also lit up big in Osaka at Yodogawa, and tonight is the world famous Uji-gawa Hanabi Taikai in southern Kyoto.

Every night a short summer thunderstorm has blazed and tonight promises to have one also.  We hope that it ends just before the marvelous Uji show is scheduled to start.  That way the crowd can be kept to a minimum.

Next up is the Tsuruga Summer Festival on Aug 16, our favorite show in Kansai.  Oh, but it isn’t technically Kansai is it?   :)   Take care in the crowds and brings lots of drinking water.

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nice Smith's logo


Ice Cream Week in Fuse (布施) !

As every year, we got some ice cream (アイスクリーム) for all the conversation students (英会話生徒) IceCreamWeek2015LastDaywho continue to diligently study English (英語) despite of the heat of August. I always love to see the happy conversation students (英会話生徒) eating ice cream and relaxing a little from the heat outside. This year, we got an ice cream waffle filled with vanilla ice cream and chocolate from Hershey’s. It is a nice delicious treat on a hot day.  Read More »

Smith’s School of English Kawanishi Student Comments on Their English School

FullSizeRenderI recently put together a video on Smith’s School of English Kawanishi. You can watch it by clicking here. Ten of our English students were asked why they liked this English school.  Here is a summary of their comments:

Smith’s School of English Kawanishi is a very friendly English school. The English lesson time is wonderful and English lessons are fun.  Students of English can relax while speaking English.  The teachers are very good people, friends and so nice. There are few people in lessons, so Smith’s students have more chances to speak English. Also, the teachers are very friendly, so speaking English can be done easily. Finally, the English lesson fee is affordable making studying English here in Kawanishi possible.

Great! I thank our Smith’s School of English Kawanishi students for their wonderful comments. They are so kind! It is a pleasure coaching them English conversation. (^.^)


English Conversation Students Studying World Sustainablity

英会話福島区福島英会話の持続可能性English conversation is very useful to cover international topics of interest. At Smith’s School of English Fukushima-ku we study many subjects. One subject we like to study often is world sustainability. Recently we based an English conversation on the topic of the Brazilian Olympic Games and found two good messages for Japan within our discussion.

Here in Japan we rely on our marine seaways to deliver so many products to a huge variety of ports. The more ocean traffic a country sees the greater chance of some pollution. The troubles in Brazil might be used as a timely warning for us here in Japan.

ISAF (International Sailing Federation) has been asked to work closely with Brazil to answer sailor concerns of pollution and objects floating in the water on the sailing courses of Aqueco Rio International Sailing Regatta 2015. Sailors have complained that floating objects pose a danger to sailors.

In response local government has committed US$11,000,000 to clean up the area and is working hard to comply with WHO (World Health Organisation) requirements.

Here in Japan we may listen to the Brazilian troubles as a challenge to ensure our own Japanese waters are clean and safe by 2020. On a positive note it is great to see that the Olympics have provided motivation for Brazil to continue to clean up their waters.

Every English Conversation student who has considered this topic within lessons at Smith’s School of English Fukushima-ku has commented that they would like to spread the word about keeping Japanese oceans clean. How about you?

Encouraging Talk

英会話桂 Hi

Last week, I had an encouraging talk with one of my students at Smith’s Katsura (スミス英会話桂).

At the beginning of our conversation lesson my student Yoshitaka said: “Tom, I have something to tell you”.

I asked what was it and he replied that his long term trip abroad has been postponed. He is too busy at work and cannot leave Japan this year.

I asked Yoshitaka what does it mean for his English conversation studies here in Japan, and his answer was this : “Nothing changes. I’ll continue studying English here. I enjoy your lessons and  I have more time to prepare for going abroad.”

I thought that his reply was great. There are some obstacles on the way, but he is not going to give up.

I told Yoshitaka that his answer makes me very happy and I appreciate his determination.

These types of conversations are big encouragements for me to continue helping my students all the way to reach their goals.

How to learn kanji(漢字) – and vocabulary(語彙) with vocabulary cards (単語カード)

KanjiLearning1Recently, I have decided to learn to write kanji (漢字). I already can fairly read Japanese texts, but when I want to write even a small text, I could not remember the kanji, so I always  had to use a computer or phone. That is why I started to study kanji again.

I prefer to use a card system. I learned this system in University and I have already studied words (vocabulary, 語彙) of many languages  with it. It is easy and reliable, a really good system, but it needs an effort to study every day for about 20 minutes. Once a week you will need more time.

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Hamaotsu Summer Jazz Fest and BQ Gourmet

スミス英会話大津校 大津市のなぎさ公園 浜大津夏祭り日本語のはこちらです。

Last weekend my family enjoyed the annual Hamaotsu Summer Jazz Festival. We go every year and always have a great time. This year the Jazz Fest was combined with another event, called the BQ Gourmet, which I learned means B-Grade Gourmet. This is a food event involving over 80 Shiga area restaurants, each offering 1 dish. Dishes ranged from kebabs to hamburger to fried chicken, from Hokkaido style ramen to spicy Korean somen to beef udon. Many dishes included the local speciality beef, called Ohmi Beef. Though not as famous as Kobe Beef, it is nonetheless incredibly delicious. This festival is held over 3 days, from Friday to Sunday. Each day includes live events on the central stage, the food vendors, kids area and fireworks to finish each day. We enjoyed watching dance performance and eating on Friday. On Saturday we couldn’t attend because of work at our English conversation school (which is only a 5 minute walk from the festival location). On Sunday we enjoyed the whole day, including live jazz and food! Did I mention the best part about this festival? It’s held in Nagisa park, which is a lakeside park in Otsu, and the festival is free! Beautiful scenery, green space, live music and delicious gourmet food. Life is good.

Edward, Smith’s School of English Otsu

Coaching English in Tsukaguchi, Amagasaki

IMG_9948At Smith’s English schools in Japan, we do not call each other English teachers but instead Coaches of Communicative Confidence. We coach confidence in previously taught English skills, these skills being the English all Japanese are required to study in school by law in Japan or any additional English they have studied. All of my English language students here at Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi have studied English for at least 6 years before coming to my English school. They have a good base in grammar, can read English and can normally understand some English when spoken to. However, they need work on their English speaking skills. As their English coach, my job is to coach confidence in their English so that they can eventually converse in English with ease.

I recently talked about this with Masami, a Smith’s student studying English here in Tsukaguchi, Amagasaki. She found it quite interesting. A few days ago, she gave me a lovely summer greeting card. On her card, she thanked me for coaching her for the last 7 months, said she could now speak English with a little confidence and that she enjoyed communicating with friends in English. I was happy to read that! Thank you again, Masami and congratulations! Keep up the great work! (^.^)




スミス英会話 甲東園 Student Homework

Remember to do your homework !

I regularly promote the importance of homework at the Smith’s School in Kotoen ( スミス英会話 甲東園 ) and about 80% of the English Conversation students do it.  Regular review is key to success, and the type and amount of homework usually reflects the student’s specific need or learning objective.

One homework I really enjoy focusing on is our very own weekly 1-Point.  Not only is it interesting and useful for the students, it also provides a measure of togetherness between us all.  It’s really fun.

It would be worthwhile to get every student doing regular review and I believe with proper guidance it should be possible.  Most of the students do it as a matter of habit.  However, while the majority of adults at the Kotoen School are high-intermediate level professionals, a percentage of the more senior folks are not especially Internet-savvy so I have been experimenting with different ways of directing their interest towards it.

One of the most rewarding things about our jobs working within the Smith’s School of English ( スミス英会話 ) system in Japan is the opportunities we create to allow people to improve their lives.  This traditional approach to learning person-to-person is timeless and sustainable.

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

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