A Simple Story: Tom’s Foreign Visitor

スミス英会話大津校 あなたの町で楽しく英会話This is a story. This is a story about Tom. Tom was not an English speaker. Tom was not an English conversation school student. Tom is an office worker in Amagasaki City in Hyogo. He has a wife and 2 kids and a house in the suburbs. One day, Tom was at his desk. His boss was also at Tom’s desk. His boss had a special assignment for Tom. His assignment was to host a foreign business colleague from a subsidiary company in Canada, and to take him for a factory tour at their factory in Shiga prefecture. Tom had a problem. Tom had no confidence in his English speaking ability. Tom had many English textbooks. Tom had many English drill books. Tom was a good self-studier. Tom is good at reading and writing in English but he does not have any chance to speak English in his daily life. He is worried about the upcoming visitor and his role in hosting him.

Tom is clever and he is keen. He doesn’t despair. He does not wait. He has to do something. He decides to go to an English conversation school. He looks online, he calls a school, he books a trial lesson. Tom is ready for his trial. He is nervous but the trial is fun and he is able to feel comfortable. The teacher at the school is kind and professional. Now, Tom is an English conversation school student. He is more confident. His job as host is successful. The factory tour is successful. Tom is proud of Read More »

Solar impulse 2 (ソーラー・インパルス) is landing in Hawaii from Nagoya

solarimpulseovercloudsHave you heard of the plane solar impulse 2(ソーラー・インパルス)? It is a very light plane, flying only with solar energy. It can store the energy in batteries, so the pilot is able to fly through the night, too. The solar impulse team is trying to fly around the world in about 13 trips. They started in Abu Dabi in the United Arab Emirates and  came to Japan this June! Now they landed in Hawaii. I think that is really amazing!

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Storm Warning System

Lake Biwa -  Whitecaps = Storm Coming!Our students are often shocked when I tell them that we don’t have a TV. This is a choice we have made as a family and we have been happy with the results. The one downside to not having a TV is that we are often behind when it comes to news. Of course we can always check an online news source, read a newspaper or listen to the radio, but usually we don’t. We don’t actually need to check the news because we have a fantastic word-of-mouth system in place. Neighbours, friends, our students all tell us the most important news. When Japan’s national soccer team made it to the final in the recent world cup, our neighbour shouted the news to us from her balcony. When that same team lost in the final, every student came to school a little sad and a little proud. All were happy to tell us about the stoic loss.

This week a typhoon is coming. We heard about it first from a student who had been vacationing in Okinawa (typhoons pass through Okinawa about Read More »

Living the Dream!

Hitomi began studying at Smith’s School of English, Hashimoto in 2010 with a long-term goal of going abroad for further study in English and art. She started as a beginner, improved quickly, and one day told me she was going to Vancouver. After about two years of studying with me, she sold her car, quit her job, and disappeared for a long time. During that time, she went to an English school, as well as an art school in the state of Maine, USA. She traveled a bit, and returned to Vancouver oWIN_20150712_161013n a working holiday visa.  She is back in Japan now, awaiting her next visa approval from Canada.

Hitomi came back to my school in Hashimoto, Sagamihara today to catch up and tell me about her adventures. How nice it was to see her again, listen to her, notice the improvement in her English and confidence! This is one of many reasons I love my job.  She is truly living her dream. Vibrant, happy, full of smiles while talking, made me so happy to see this young woman moving forward. She likes living in Canada, and I suspect she will eventually call it “home” in the not so distant future. It was a very proud day for me. A former student, now friend; I have the highest respect for someone that sets a goal and works so hard to achieve it. She’s done it, and is surely going to go much further. Good for you, Hitomi! Thank you for the visit and good luck in your future endeavors!



Measuring Achievement Part 2

Spoon Life On Works, Zeze Parco 3F 膳所パルコ3F

This is the cafe where we host our annual Christmas party. Students have a chance, annually, to show their schoolmates how much they have improved in the previous year.

How can achievement be measured? How do we know we have progressed? For the language learner, measuring success can be difficult. In Measuring Achievement Part 1, Masako’s story is told, about how she uses games results to show how she is progressing. Here is another way English conversation school students can measure their progress- by using time.

At our English conversation school in Otsu we truly believe in providing as many opportunities to speak as possible. For this reason we organize many regular events, such as bowling & karaoke parties, monthly English circles, and annual parties. One of the wonderful benefits of regular events is that we can see our progress at regular intervals. We host an annual Christmas party in December, usually attended by 30-40 people. At the party we ask everyone to make a self-introduction. We go around the room, one by one standing up and giving an introduction.
This is such a clear and easy way to measure students’ progress. Take Mr Y for example. At our party in 2007, Mr Y made the simplest of introductions, short and shy and completely Read More »

Creating Community

スミス英会話大津校 Creating Community 1The thing I love most about my job, about Smith’s School of English, about my role as head teacher at my school, is being able to create a mini community of language lovers. Since becoming a communication coach at Smith’s School of English in Otsu in December of 2007, I have had the privilege of teaching the most wonderful students, and together with these students, as well as other Smith’s coaches, I have been able to build a small but wonderful community of English lovers. My students are always eager to create opportunities to speak, keen to meet other English enthusiasts, ready to face new language challenges. Since 2007 we have hosted dozens of events, we have created a monthly English circle, students have created their own cliques, small groups who meet up outside of class time for coffee or doing crossword puzzles. Our English conversation students join our events and even create their own. Smith’s coaches get together for coffee, we have regular meetings at head office, we organize group curriculum development sessions. I am so happy to be part of this community, to be able to constantly build upon it. This makes going to work every day such a pleasure.

Edward, Smith’s School of English Otsu

The Peace Sign

Almost everybody does it when being photographed. I have been watching it for years, and recently began wondering how this became a part of Japanese culture. I have asked students and friends “why the peace sign,” but no one seems to know, so I did a small amount of research on my own. This is what I came up with.

In the late 1960’s it was prevalent in the USA during the Vietnam War. The “hippy movement” also caught hold to some of the younger people in Japan. In the early 1970’s American figure skater Janet Lynn was famous in Japan for giving the peace sign, and it has also been linked to a Japanese television commercial for Konika/Nikon cameras in 1972. The peace sign started catching on, slowly replacing the word “cheese.”11136291_10204469498242492_199705433705346308_o (1)

I must admit, it is contagious, and really does become a reaction when being photographed. I don’t know about other people, but I like “peace” better than saying “cheese.” It helps me smile too!



Learning Something New

Once again, I had a chance to learn something new about Japan from a student. This time I found out more about ramen. The delicious noodle soup that is so popular among locals. There are five “ramen restaurants” near my house, that’s how popular ramen is in Japan.

スミス英会話 桂 student Hisako prepared for her man-to-man lesson an English presentation: “Ramen from Japan to the world”.

She explained the origins of different types of Japanese noodles like udon and soba. Hisako also talked about the old times when cart vendors started selling hot noodles on streets.

I learned about Momofuku Ando, the creator of the world famous Cup Noodle. How Mr Ando came to the idea of dried noodles and why he later decided to sell them in paper cups.

I was also showed examples of ramen being used in various types of pop culture.

It was an interesting, well prepared presentation and a big effort from Hisako.

She practised extensively her English writing and speaking skills and I  learned a lot about one of my favourite dishes. Great lesson for both of us.

Students at Kotoen 甲東園 Love Science

Hello Readers.  There are a considerable number of English Conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 interested in science.  Most of those students have science-baスミス英会話 甲東園 NASA JUNOsed jobs or are studying a field based on science in school.   Indeed, in my former life in Canada, I was an environmental engineer, an applied science profession working in the forest industry.

In recent years, the topic of NASA, ESA and JAXA often comes up in conversation classes at Kotoen 甲東園.  It’s a great topic considering the large number of wildy succesful missions that have been carried out.  The media loves to focus on the failures and give society one impression or another, but the fact is that the successes of all three space organizations greatly outweigh the failures, and most of the failures are experimental steps in which failure is only a temporary setback and sometimes a necessary learning stage.

This story introduces three of NASA’s major core missions currently underway that are a little less well-known compared with the monumental Cassini-Huygens mission for Saturn and Titan and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Global Surveyor Missions with their much-loved Curiosity, Spirit and Opportunity Rovers.  The DAWN Mission is right now busily securing a close orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, NEW HORIZONS is preparing for an epic fly-back of Pluto on July 14, and JUNO is most of its way onward to a Jupiter orbit.  Pictured above is the ultra-high-tech Atlas V rocket that NASA developed as core launch vehicle for several missions including JUNO back in August 2012.

Martin Werner Zandernice Smith's logo


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

スミス英会話 甲東園 甲東園校 仁川 門戸厄神

A Wonderful Reunion of Strangers

スミス英会話大津校 Hockey in Nagano!

Old friends and new friends brought together by a common love. Hockey is not the national sport of Canada, but it is the most popular, much like baseball in Japan!

One of the saddest things about living far from home is that you can’t attend reunions. I moved to Japan immediately after graduating from university and so far have not been able to attend a single reunion. Another one of the tough things about living far from home is being homesick. I haven’t been home in a couple years and although I love my life here and I love my new home town, I sometimes miss my family and my childhood friends. Read More »

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