English and me

I learned English from Japanese teachers for 6 years at public junior and senior high schools. Studying English those days was centered on grammar. The conversation was not included in the curriculum. My pronunciation had a strong Japanese accent and I was very poor in listening to English. Despite majoring in English language at university, I could hardly speak English when I graduated from it. I always had wanted to speak fluent English, however, I was aware that I was not good at English.

In my twenties, I wandered around Europe alone for a year.  I was curious to know my unfamiliar countries. I enjoyed the trip, but I had difficulty talking to the local people everywhere I went. Even though I could understand what they said, it was difficult for me to keep the conversation going.  They often asked me about Japan; its politics, culture, food and so on. I realized how I didn’t know about my country.

In 1992, I founded a cultural exchange organization. Part of my responsibility was instructing the Japanese people on how to introduce a variety of Japanese culture to foreign people in basic English. This situation helped me learn English with clear goals and deepen my interest in Japanese culture. In addition to that, I started to present Japanese culture to foreigners.  As I repeated this practice, I was able to enjoy conversation in English as much as I wanted.  Through my experience, I realize that introducing Japanese culture in English can be a fun way to learn English.

6年間学んだ公立の中学、高校では、英語教師はすべて日本人でした。当時の授業は文法が重視され、学校以外でネイティブの英語を学ぶことをしなかった私の発音はカタカナ英語で、ネイティブの英語を聞き取る能力はありませんでした。そんな状況でネイティブ講師の授業がある大学で英語を専攻したのですが、それは苦痛以外の何物でもなく、卒業してもほとんど英語を話すことはできませんでした。 思うように英語が話せるというのは、当時の自分には実現できそうもない夢だったのです。