Wednesday, July 4, 2007

English Education at Elementary School by M.Kanaya

Our government has a plan to teach English at elementary schools. I know that there are a lot of problems in today’s English education in Japan. Most people study English for more than six years, but most of them can not speak. They don’t need English in their daily life like they don’t need equations or functions. But on the other hand, they have a kind of feeling that if they could understand English they will get a good job and have a better life. In fact, English speaking countries lead world politics, economy, culture and other things. Yes, English is important in these fields, however, should English education at elementary school be discussed from the same view point?

Recently I often hear that people use very strange Japanese. Not only young people but also even elderly people sometimes use the wrong Japanese. One day when I was listening to the radio in my car, an announcer said midorii kaeru – green frog. I know that ao-blue or aka-red can become an adjective - aoi or akai, but midori or pink can not, so we have to say midori-no or pink-no. I often hear midorii and pinnkui, but I was very surprised that an announcer used that word. How do they get their positions? Or am I out of date? Of course I know that language as a way and means to communicate is changeable. If many people use the new words and expressions, we will accept them someday. But I think we should resist and try to keep our language as beautiful as possible. That’s why I think children have to study our own language before studying foreign languages.

Elementary school children will enjoy using English, but how many of them will keep their interest in the future? Most of them will lose their interest rapidly after they enter junior high schools. It’s only a subject to get good scores in the same as other subjects. It’s already not a language for communication for them. If they really need it or are really interested in English in the future, it’s never too late to start studying it. Necessity and interest are the biggest motivating force to acquire something.

One of my friends said that singing English songs everyday is a good way to memorize English words. Her elementary school teacher gave the students ten to fifteen minutes every morning to practice kanji. Thanks to that practice, she could keep her kanji ability for a long time. I agree that it is very good way to memorize something by repeating it. In addition the melody and the rhythm are very helpful to memorize words. It might be a good way to sing an English song every morning, and to start practicing the next song after they master one song.

I’m against English “education” at elementary school which is forced by the Ministry of Education and Science with many rules, but I think it might be a good way to keep in touch with English a little every day like her idea. Then students won’t loose the time for other subjects, and may keep their interest in English.

Good luck and Thank you!

Last night marked the end of my term as the English teacher for the Nyuzen eikaiwa class. It was a great two years. We've had endless interesting discussions (approximately 80) covering every topic from rugby to fireflies, American politics to how to make salsa and Japanese funeral customs to education reform. It's been a fun learning and teaching experience for me. And hopefully the students learned a new phrase or two in the process.

Keep up the blog! I'll be checking in to see what your latest discussion/zine topic is!

Best of luck and please keep in touch!

Our LAST Tuesday Evening Together!
Oh no!! Everyone was supposed to make a funny face!

It's a hook, rainbow, sock....

Playing to perfection!

Tackle someone else next time!

The FAREWELL Party!!

Presented with a beautiful Japanese fan!

Dinner at Sakura Sweets

Too much food and too much to drink!

Getting to know the new English teacher, Ms. Linea!

Friends Forever, ne!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

One of my favorite things about Japan by Kanaya

(picture taken from Wikimedia Commons)

Japanese people didn’t have peculiar letters before they imported Chinese characters in the early fifth century. Chinese characters had their own meanings, so our ancestors gave them Japanese readings that had the same meanings. Then they used those letters as phonograms as well as ideograms. About 400 years later, they made “hiragana” from running hand and “katakana” from the parts of “kanji” to use only as phonograms. “Hiragana” became especially popular among the noblewomen, and at that time, the golden age had come to Japanese classic literature.

I think this history shows that Japanese people are very good at taking something in and arranging it according to our own style. This characteristic may come from Japan being an island country. We haven’t been getting influence from other countries compared to countries with borders, and have had enough time to expand on one thing. Anyhow, I like this characteristic of Japanese people and I think we can be proud of it. Aside from this, I’m sorry that we may be slightly lacking in originality.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

You Are My Lover by Reiko

I am a dreamer

Lying in the field

Smell grass, flowers and trees

Feel the comfortable wind blowing

I left from the crush of the great city and you

I was too busy there, then I couldn’t have enough time to meet you

You can come and stay here with me

Have my room key

Touched by the secrets of nature

Nature heals my strain

Let’s talk together more and more

Let’s talk about our future

You are my lover

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Making Easter Eggs

It was a little pre-mature, but I had the dye from another easter egg project earlier in the day. I was a little nervous about bringing a kids art project to an adult English class, but it went over really well. Everyone really enjoyed coloring eggs and watching them turn brilliant colors! The eggs turned out really well. Here are a few pictures from the evening! The lesson: you are never too old to make Easter eggs!!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Japanese New Year Holidays by S.Tobita

January 1st is the beginning of the New Year holidays. Japanese make OSECHI dishes for New Years. We put them in OJYU a Japanese square container like a lunch box.
They are 2 or 3 tiers in the beautiful box. We usually eat foods with various meaning. For examples,we eat sweet black soybeans. Bean in Japanese is MAME. MAME means health.So people eat and hope the black beans will bring health in the coming year. In addition,we make soup with vegetables, fish and rice cakes. The name is ZONI. Traditionaly Japanese people ate rice cake after they putting them on their household Shinto alter. It represents that we have been given God’s power.

Traditinaly, many women wore KIMONOs during New Year holidays, but recently that tradition is disappering. Many people go to Shinto shrine for worship during New Year holidays. We can see some people wearing KIMONOs there. People take out money for a money offering. It’s called SAISEN. Then pray for their happiness, health and so on. A Daruma doll or a New Year's exorcising arrow(called HAMAYA) are sold. Many people also buy it for good luck.

Many relatives come and we also go to their homes to celebrate together. Adults give money to children for a New Year's presents it’s called OTOSIDAMA. In the old days, we played with kites, tops or HANETUKI it’s like a badminton. But lately children like video games so they spend OTOSIDAMA on toys. I don’t give my children video games. And last year my father and my grandfather past away. So my family enjyoyed HANAGARUTA a Japanese picture card game this year.

I hope everyone will be happy this year!  

*The pictures were taken by Kirsten during New Years celebrations in Chiba in Jan. 2006.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My Life in Nyuzen by T. Yamaguchi

Hellow, everyone.

My name is Tetsuo Yamaguchi, and I will soon be 80. I was an English teacher, I retired at age 70. Now I live with my son's family in the country. I have a small vegetable garden around my house. I grow peas, eggplants, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, cucumbers, water melons and pumpkins. I don't use pesticides, because I have a dog. It usually plays in the yard, and I don't want it to eat vegetables polluted with chemicals. I use only organic fertilizer. I don't use insecticide , either. Our family enjoys safe and fresh vegetable. We also have kiwi, persimon, citron and kumquat trees.

Growing vegetables is a constant job. But it gives me a moderate amount of excercise to keep me in shape.

I know we can't stop growing old, but I hate to get senile. So I try to read as many books as possible. Fortunately I have a lot of free time on my hands. I also have lots of books to read. mostly English books. I've forgotten many English words since I retired. Yes, ten years is a long time.

I think I stopped learning when I retired. The proverb "Teaching is learning" has taught me a good lesson. I have found my English is rusty. I know I have to start over. That's why I decided to join this Nyuzen English Class in order to prevent senility as well.


Mr. Yamaguchi doesn't have a computer or email, so I typed this out for him but did not change any of his words or sentences. He can't check the comments or leave comments for others, but if you leave him comments, we will print them out and give them to him.
The pictures are of gardens in Nyuzen that I've taken in the last two years.