The Pleasure of Living in Japan and Teaching English

NishikoriI’ve lived in Japan for a total of 16 years including eight years from 1978 to 1986 and eight more years from 2006 until now. I’ve worked for 3 major Japanese companies, 6 years in Japan and 20 years in the U.S. during which I traveled back and forth several times a year. But this time, I have really enjoyed my life here, working as a teacher in Kobe. I’ve had the pleasure to teach over 320 terrific people at the Smith’s School of English in Okamoto since 2006. Smith’s has provided a very good setting in which I’ve been able to meet many Japanese people of all ages and have many fun experiences.

This week I joined all of my students in the euphoria of Kei Nishikori’s run up to the final match of the U.S. Open Tennis Championship. The semifinal match was especially exciting for everyone. Besides his outstanding and powerful backhand stroke what I was most impressed with was Nishikori’s relaxed and confident use of English in the interview following his match with Novak Djokivic. Here is the interview Link: Kei Nishikori’s Interview after Beating Novak Djokivic in the Semifinal match

As you can see, using no interpretor he answers the interviewer’s questions very calmly and confidently. He is truly one of the best examples of what Japanese young people should strive to become when they learn English from now because the real purpose of English or any language is communication. So I hope that more Japanese young people will see Kei Nishikori as a kind of role model for their generation and strive to become like him: skilled, calm and confident to speak English as a second language in the world. It is a great time to be in Japan, a great time to be an English teacher and I think, the best time to learn English for Japanese students.

Enjoy learning! Enjoy teaching! Enjoy life!

Al Bartle (Head Teacher and Owner, Smith’s School of English Okamoto)

Enjoying Japanese Donbori at NAKAU (なか卯) in Tsukaguchi, Amagasaki

Japan offers a wide variety of tasty dishes to enjoy. I am a fond lover of Japanese donbori. Dondori dishes are simple yet so yummy! When I eat out for dinner during a day of teaching English conversation at Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi in Amagasaki, I often go to NAKAU (なか卯). It’s located just a few minutes from my English school by bicycle along a road called Gogo Bashi. At NAKAU, I enjoy tasty dombori dishes like katsudon and gyudon with miso soup and salad at very reasonable prices. You can see an example of a meal there in the photo. The medium gyudon cost me 350 yen and the miso soup and salad set cost 150 yen, so I got all that food for just 500 yen.  Great value and delicious! I love Japanese dombori! (^.^)

Derek

Practicing your Listening Skill with Movies

ディズニー壁紙_アナと雪の女王(エルサ)Everybody knows that watching movies in their original English language is a very good and fun way to practice your listening skill.  You can get used to the natural speed and pronunciation of native speakers talking to native speakers. If you do not understand so much, watching the pictures is still very interesting. You can also easily watch the movie many times over and over, or just a scene. You can watch it once in Japanese so you know what is going on, and then watch the same movie in English as often as you want. Even better, you can look for the original movie script in the internet, and if you are lucky, you can read everything that is said first and then watch it, and understand much much more. As I found out last week, the chances to find the movie script for the movie you like to watch are  actually really really good.

Last week, I was looking for the lyrics of “Let it go“, the theme song of the popular Disney movie “Frozen”. On of my students bought the DVD to practice her listening skill. She loves the song, as many of our girl students, and wanted to know the lyrics. While looking for the lyrics I was very much amazed to find the whole script of the movie on an official Disney site, also. It is a pdf, ready to download. Great service! With the script, she can actually read what is said ahead. It will make it much easier for her to understand, and she will also learn much faster to understand English because of this “discovery”! And anybody who likes the movie “Frozen” and wants to study his or her English listening skill with it can just follow her lead.

For me as an English teacher, this was just a start. Happy that I found the script of the movie “Frozen” thanks to the great service of Disney, I kept searching for all kinds of movies. “Frozen” is very popular in Japan, but my students like all kinds of movies. Next, I looked for the movie script of the classic love story “When Harry meet Sally” with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. Bingo! How about an action movie, like the now classic first movie of the X-men series? Here is the script. Found in less than five seconds. Just put the movie name and the word “script” into any major search engine and there it is. Soup? How about ER or the popular sitcom iCarly?

Not all scripts are as nice as the Frozen script from Disney. Some can be downloaded as pdf, but many cannot. Some include a description of the scenes, some do not even include the name of the speaker. However it is a great service for any learner of English. Do not only watch and listen to your favorite movies in English, read them as well! There is no better way to practice your listening skill. I for my part got busy telling all my students about this great opportunity.

A Day in the Life… of a Volunteer Fire Corps Member!

スミス英会話大津校消防団のエドワード先生On Sunday August 10th a large and slow moving typhoon hit mainland Japan. It made landfall and crept north across the Kansai district, which is where we live. Our city, Otsu, is located in Shiga prefecture, dead centre between the Pacific ocean and the Japan Sea. Because the typhoon was slow moving, it rained heavily and for a long time, causing waterways to fill up and the potential for disaster to increase.

At 10am I received an email stating that all Shiga prefecture fire corps members were on “home standby”, which basically means that we must stay within 30 minutes of our fire hall and be prepared to go to the fire hall should we be called. At 11:00 I received an email followed by a phone call, informing me that we were being activated. Our hall works with a phone tree system, so after calling the next person below me on the tree, I suited up and headed to the hall. About 15 members were available that day and once everyone had arrived we discussed strategy and then headed out. I rode in the fire engine with 4 other members, and 3 other vehicles were used. 2 were personal cars, used for patrolling the area and checking certain high risk spots. The other vehicle was a flat bed truck piled with sandbags. Everyone communicates through cell phone and we are in constant contact with the full-time fire fighters at Otsu City Fire & Rescue South Hall and also local community centre volunteers, who send us reports from their areas.

We patrolled for about 1 hour, stopping at each of the community centres within our area to meet face-to-face with local leaders. We stopped and checked areas that had been flooded during last year’s large typhoon. At this time all was well so we returned to the fire hall and Read More »

Kenrokuen – Hokuriku Road Trip

080815_1315~0001Hello readers!

This is Martin Werner Zander from the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen マーティン・ワーナー・ザンダー  スミス英会話 甲東園 !  I am hoping everyone has been enjoying their much-deserved time off during this Obon holiday season.

My wife Yoko and I wanted to go camping in Toyama and Ishikawa, but because of the unpredictable weather caused by Typhoon Halong (TS 1411), we just decided to stay in hotels along the way.  We took a drive up the Echizen coast of Fukui and Ishikawa Prefectures and came back down through Toyama and Gifu Prefectures, along Routes 156 and 158.  This is a drive that we have taken several times before, including two previous visits to the famous Wajima area in Noto-hanto and enjoy this environmentally clean and culturally rich region very much every time.  If you haven’t been, you really must, and allow for lots of time to explore the mountain roads and hidden villages.

Despite the less than ideal weather predictions, we saw more tour buses than ever before.  Tourists from China to Europe are flooding the region and we therefore recommend going during a quiet season.  Obon and Golden Week should perhaps be avoided if at all possible, but going at any other times will reward you with unrivalled experiences.

Drive safely and watch out for motorcyclists!nice Smith's logo

マーティン・ワーナー・ザンダー

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

Street Presence At Smith’s Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園

IMG_3428[1]Hello everyone!

I wanted to point out the good kharma that comes from getting known in the local community where you have your Smith’s School of English franchise スミス英会話.  At the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園, there is a Family Mart convenience store on the corner at the main street, Nakatsuhamasen.  The peculiar habit of this store is allowing local produce vendors to set up a temporary food stall at the corner of the parking lot right alongside the sidewalk.  Those stalls are set up right next to my Smith’s tank and flag on the corner.

Every few weeks in the spring and summer the town officials send out hedge cutters to trim the hedges along the street, and in a good effort to avoid damaging my flag, the workers neatly moved the tank out onto the sidewalk, well away from their saws.  This was a pleasantly unexpected gesture.

However, when the workmen left, they accidently left my tank and flag standing out in the middle of the sidewalk.  What happened next is the real surprise …… one of the part-time workers from the food stall went over and put the tank and flag back into the correct position, properly visible and also out of the way of pedestrians.  This was much appreciated and I didn’t even have to lift a finger myself.

The school’s long-term establishment in the area is the main reason for this good fortune.nice Smith's logo

Martin Werner Zander

マーティン・ワーナー・ザンダー

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

The Newly Improved Japanese Dairy Industry

IMG_3416[1]Hello readers!  Here is Martin again from the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen, スミス英会話 甲東園.

Check it the Kotoen school website at the link below:

http://www.smithweb.co.jp/school/kotoen.shtml

It may not always be easy, but most of us like to be optimists.  In ongoing conditions of hardship, and especially in the face of sudden difficulty, having the courage to be optimistic and proactive are major advantages.   Everyone makes mistakes, even entire countries, but failures large and small are learning experiences that teach us what not to do, what to improve upon next time, and where and how to channel our future efforts.  That courage to move forward without looking back negatively rewards us with improved chances of success.

English conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen have correctly applied this doctrine to a small but meaningful improvement evident around us :  the new dairy industry.

The milk pictured here is delicious.  I come from a country where dairy products are heavily monitored and tightly controled to meet health standards, and the regulations apply to taste and consistency of quality as well.  In the sixteen years I have been in Japan, I have not had the pleasure of a dairy product of this consistent quality until now.  Most likely it is a new dairy farm born from the fallout created by recent strict policy changes, necessary changes made in the face of extreme hardship for a great many people.  The right decision is not likely the easiest one.  Try this ice cold!

Martin Werner Zandernice Smith's logo

マーティン・ワーナー・ザンダー

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

スミス英会話 甲東園校 甲東園 仁川

 

Lalu – Indian Home Cooking In 甲東園 Kotoen

IMG_3421[1]When the need arises to acclimatize quickly, a hot, spicy meal from India or Thailand may be exactly what you need.  It may seem rather odd, but actually having hot food and hot drinks on a hot day helps one to cope with the heat and humidity just a little bit better.

One of the best places for this in Kotoen has long been a favorite with the English conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園.  Lalu is owned and operated by well-educated Indians who are friendly, take great pride in their culinary craft and are deeply respectful of the Kotoen area.

Lalu serves the usual style commonly seen in Japan:  a piece of tandoori, a small salad dish, saffron rice, two or three curries in steel cups and a huge piece of naan which I believe can be replaced when the first one disappears.  Where it gets interesting is in the array of home-made sauces the restaurant specializes in, and upon request will be happy to make it mild or dangerously hot depending on your personal favor.

Lalu is open nearly every day and is well located in the Paseo Koto building, convenient for lunch whether you have 30minutes or two hours to spare!

Martin Werner Zander

マーティン・ワーナー・ザンダー

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

 

“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

Lawnmower

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

マーティン・ワーナー・ザンダー

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

 

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