By Ben Mirin, CIR
3. Photographs of my family and of Concord, MA
Recently, I prepared a PowerPoint presentation about myself for all of the English classes I will start teaching in the coming months. The presentation is framed almost entirely around the most common questions I’ve received from locals during my first week in Nanae. They are, in no particular order:
- Who is in your family? How old are they and what are their names?
- Where does your last name come from? (I half-expected this question because of my name’s convenient overlap with a popular Japanese cooking wine, but in reality, it has more to do with my distinct position as a foreigner in Nanae.)
- Do you have friends back home? What are they like?
- What are your hobbies?
- What is your favorite food? (Best to pick a Japanese dish, and doing so isn’t hard. Japanese food is generally delicious.)
- Where have you traveled?
- Where did you go to university? What did you study?
- What is your favorite color?
- Have you ever studied Japanese? (This one’s easy: Hai demo sukosidakedesu. Mada jozuja arimasenn.)
Obviously the content of my slides will change somewhat depending on my audience, but the basic idea will be the same. These are some sample slides from my first presentation at Nanae High School:
4. My Pimsleur ® recorded series for Japanese
No matter how many textbooks you buy, a recorded language series with directions given by a native English speaker is very helpful for learning vocabulary and practicing conversation by yourself. I’ve only attended one Japanese class and one tutoring session at the Seinen (Youth) Center in Hakodate, but there is a serious lack of language instructors who are comfortable in both languages. Fortunately, we all seem to be good at hand gestures.
5. Japanese DVDs
A few days ago I had what I thought was a great idea: I could practice Japanese by watching a collection of familiar movies and TV shows in Japanese. I have a very good ear, and have several television shows and movies committed almost entirely to memory (most of the South Park compendium and the Star Wars Trilogy come to mind). Certainly, these are available on DVD throughout Japan, but I’ve been told that the typical price for a movie in Japan is approximately 2,440 Yen, or $30! Back to the drawing board.
6. Snow pants
During my recent trip to Niseko, I was able to borrow a pair of snow pants, but skiing and snowboarding are very popular winter sports throughout Hokkaido, and many of my coworkers pursue one or the other actively. I won’t spring for my own skis just yet, but some snow pants will definitely come in handy for the inevitable wipe-outs I will endure in my future attempts on the slopes.
Until recently, I also had to walk to work every weekday morning. During the winter it snows almost daily in Nanae, and drifts up to 92cm (3ft) high cover many of the sidewalks. I always opt to trudge through these obstacles, however, as the cars passing by on the snowy streets have little control and absolutely no chance of stopping.
–To be continued–
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