“Lawnmower” is an important TOEIC word!

Lawnmower riding 4500 When I was giving a TOEIC practice test to one of my students I was surprised to hear a conversation about lawnmowers among the listening exercises. Then I wondered if it was a common TOEIC word. So far I have found the word in every TOEIC vocabulary book and list I have seen. This got me thinking about why it is included. Then I realized that cutting grass


and grass itself is an important part of English culture.

This made me remember the hundreds of hours I have spent in my life mowing the yard of every house I have ever lived in since I was about 12 years old. I have lived in 8 different houses so far in my lifetime and I have had the “pleasure” of cutting grass around each one of them!

So there you have it! Grass and lawnmowers are a cultural phenomenon in English speaking countries. I even have some grass at my current house. You can some pictures of it in this video of a BBQ party at my house in 2009. Grass certainly is important so it might be good to study about lawnmowers, lawns, grass-court tennis, football and golf. You see! Grass plays an important role in English culture. Enjoy the video! 2009 Smith’s Schools of English Okamoto, Tsukaguchi and Kawanishi Joint BBQ Party.

Sample conversation:

A: Hey Bill, can I borrow your lawnmower? Mine seems to be on its last legs! I can’t get it started.

B: No problem Jim. Just make sure to refill the gas and sharpen the blade if you run over any rocks.

A: You bet Bill! I’ll have her back by sundown.   (Note: Men often refer to their cars and machines with engines as if they are females. That’s why I used “her” in the last sentence.)

Al Bartle (Owner and Head Coach of Smith’s School of English in Kobe-Okamoto)

Kansai Fireworks Schedule Update – スミス英会話 甲東園

SA2A0005Hello all you summer revelers!

The final Kansai fireworks schedule is approved and ready with the major festivals summarized below.  This is one of the major reasons why my wife and I love living in Japan, the very fun-filled, holiday-spirited, summer festival season which starts around the middle of July.  It starts now actually, and ends in the first week of September.  The smell of barbecue fried squid and the sound of giant cicadas chirping everywhere are great ways to forget that it’s 37 degrees with 75% humidity outside!

In this article I have chosen to list the festivals by date.  Rather than the usual method of  listing by location, listing by date was suggested by one of the English conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園.

7/25 Fri Tenjin … 7/26 Sat Ashiya and Ayabe … 7/27 Sun Maizuru

8/1 Fri PL Tondabayashi

8/2 Sat Kobe Minato … 8/4 to 8/14 Nara Tohkae

8/5 Tue Nagahama, Shiga

8/6 Wed Takarazuka … 8/7 Thurs Kameoka … 8/8 Fri Otsu Biwako … 8/9 Sat Yodogawa

8/11 Mon Ujigawa … 8/14 Thurs Nantan

8/16 Sat Inagawa … Tsuruga … Daimonji … Miyazu

8/23 Sat Itami

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nice Smith's logo



20140715_190640 One of the things that I love about being an English Instructor/Coach at Smith’s Eikaiwa Kyobashi is sharing things with my students.  We share stories about traveling, photography, sports, family, etc.  I often to talk to my long term student Takahashi san about his love of scuba diving, underwater photography and music.  I was very impressed when he told me that he plays in an orchestra.  I’m hoping to be able to see one of his concerts in the near future.

Yesterday we had an enjoyable Eikaiwa session.  Takahashi san had a birthday this month so I surprised him with a little cake and some cool drinks.  The best moment for me was seeing the surprised look on his face when I brought the cake into the classroom.

It was one of the greatest feelings I have had so far in Japan.  I’m looking forward to sharing many more happy moments with my students.







OGGI Cycling Club and Bike Shop – Azamino あざみ野

cyclingSeveral months ago I joined the OGGI Cycling Club (which is located between Azamino あざみ野 and Eda 江田 after being invited out by one of the employees Masa-kun.  OGGI is an excellent shop which has a great selection of road bikes at reasonable prices.  They gave me an excellent deal on some new wheels for my bike and even serviced them for free after I rode them for a while.  Now despite my limited Japanese ability, during the Sunday morning rides I have been able to make some friends and really have a great time going out with the cycling club.  There are typically between 10 to 25 cyclists and we ride to Yokohama and go to Tully’s for a snack, then ride around the bay area, but we also change it up and go to the Tama Hills area for some good hill climbing exercise.  One of the people I usually ride with is 70 years old man who is an amazing rider.  Two days ago we rode from Azamino on an 82 kilometer ride at a pace above 30km/hr for most of the way.  It was quite a hot day and a pretty challenging ride.  It certainly felt like I was with someone 20-30 years younger!  Overall I am very happy I joined, I am making some good friends, I have a trusted shop to service/repair my bike, I am practicing my Japanese, I have lost about 5kg, and the best part is: I am meeting local people who are very happy to show me around Yokohama!!!   Oh and I should mention that the Sunday club rides are free, so if you enjoy cycling meet us at OGGI Sunday morning at 8am.  I am usually there and pretty easy to see since I am the “only western guy”.  So stop by and say hello, I’ll do my best to speak Japanese, or better yet, use what ever English you know.   After all, I am an english teacher and would be glad to help you out!


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 あざみ野校)

Pride in My Daughter

Rachael has had an interesting life so far.  Her first language was English, but her mother-tongue is Japanese. Born in 1991, she attended American childcare centers and socialized with American kids from the beginning, giving her a good foundation with the English language. At four-years-old, our family moved to Japan and she began acquiring her Japanese through childcare centers  here,  going through Elementary, Junior High School, High School, and College. She practiced karate and played on a boys baseball team in Elementary school. She took Flamenco dance lessons and performed with women three or four times her age. In Junior High School, she joined the volleyball team and was selected to represent the Kanagawa Prefectural team in tournaments in Osaka. Continuing in high school, she held the ace attacker position on her team, going to the All-Japan National Finals in Tokyo for two years. An athlete.1934614_1041207915449_7692279_n

Majoring in English in college, she continued playing volleyball, and now works very hard in her job at an aesthetic clinic in Yokohama. Over the years, she has found some time to occasionally sit-in some of my classes and meet the students. I am very proud of this young woman, and what she has become so far. Japan has been good to her.  Her future is very bright, and I look forward to seeing which direction life takes her in the future. Yes, I am a very proud father. Her brother, my son, has also done great things with his life, and I look forward to writing about him soon.

Jim  10460182_488580211288264_2670874726078581026_n


Shirokiya Kotoen 白木屋 Smith’s School スミス英会話 甲東園

GRL_0039Once in a while the English Conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 need a moment to unwind.  The summer is hot, and rainy season has proven to be quite formidable.  An easy way to beat the fatigue is to head to one of the many low-cost watering holes in the Kotoen area, places that are very popular with the university student crowd as well as working adults.

Shirokiya has branches in many favorite, happening locations and the one in Kotoen is no exception.  In recent days it has been very lively with students going out in packs, after class, after sports and events and definitely after EXAMS!


The menu is extensive with a great many food offerings and the beer mug can be ordered bottomless for a pre-arranged duration.  Non-alcoholic beer-like substitutes are also available.  Food is normally the salty, fried variety served with glee in pubs around the world and Shirokiya has a healthy focus on fresh seafood in addition to the usual fare.

Don’t plan to drive and go for the 2-hour, all-you-can-eat-and-drink option!!

Martin Werner Zander


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

スミス英会話 甲東園 甲東園校 仁川

nice Smith's logo


What is Canadian food?

スミス英会話 Canadian Food 1What is Canadian food? A commonly asked question, yet the answer is anything but simple. The easiest and most obvious answer is “anything maple, such as maple syrup, maple cookies, maple sugar” but this is not what Canadians eat, this is what is sold in souvenir shops and at airports. This is the equivalent of saying that Japanese food is “Tokyo Banana” or that Belgian cuisine is chocolate. Try again. The USA is often called a “melting pot society”, while Canada is often referred to as a multicultural land. As such, Canadian cuisine can easily be described as multicultural so that all culture’s foods become Canadian foods. Does this mean that sushi is Canadian food? How about sweet & sour pork? Pizza and pasta? This doesn’t quite ring true, since sushi is definitely Japanese, sweet & sour pork from China, and pizza and pasta are Italian. But there is Canadian sushi, Canadian sweet & sour pork and so on.  There are also ingredients which are truly Canadian, such as buffalo meat, sockeye salmon and of course maple syrup.

Let’s step back and take a look at the history of Canada. Canada was part of Read More »

Chatting with a Kawanishi Local about My Kawanishi English Conversation School, Quebec, Canada and Céline Dion

Last month in Kawanishi, I had a chat in Japanese with a local of about 70 years of age. I told him I was teaching English conversation in Kawanishi at Smith’s School of English Kawanshi, just across the street from Hankyu Kawanishi-Noseguchi Station. He asked me where I was from. I said I was from Quebec, Canada. “Isn’t that where the singer of “Titanic” comes from?”, he asked. “Yes, that’s where Céline Dion is from”, I replied. “She began her career singing in French then later began singing in English too. Now she’s famous internationally.” I enjoy having chats like these with Japanese people.


Cheers great weekend

Have updated the School board again, have also attached a photo of my dinner Sat night, wife was away and told me to cook something for my self. Well i did, a couple of pieces good old Australian meat, (meat marinated in red wine over night). Fried onions and tomato. And of course a glass of red wine or 2. Yum, was so good we had it again the next night. Pat. Nagaokakyo.
Photo07.photo 2

Picnic with Katsura(桂) Students

Kyoto has many good places for picnics. People like to stay by the Kamo river or in one of many beautiful city parks. Students at Smith’s Katsura(スミス英会話 桂) like to have a picnic with some friendly English conversation. Because our school is about having fun both inside and outside the classroom, we sometimes meet and spend more time together.

In April, we decided to have a ”sakura picnic” in the park around the Imperial Palace. The park wasn’t too busy and we found a great place. Soft green grass under a big sakura tree. We had the place just for us. My wife and daughter came too, and I could introduce them to my students. My daughter was so excited to play with so many people. She is still very young and speaks very little, but I asked students to talk to her in English. They could try to use their English conversation skills with a little child. Thank you all for the effort!

We stayed in the park for a couple of hours, but the weather became little colder around 4 pm so we decided to clean up and go home. My family and I had a nice time and I’m looking forward to our next picnic.

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