Group Discussion: Politics

Hello and thank you for checking out the Start Gate English blog!

Every week on Monday at 3pm and Tuesday at 7pm we have a one-hour group discussion on a different topic. This class is open to any and all students, but recommended for intermediate and advanced. We have 2-4 students in each class. The teacher asks questions and discusses the answers with the students, and students can ask questions to each other (and the teacher, too!). You are welcome to bring a dictionary or ask the teacher if you need help. One lesson is 1500-2500 yen, depending on how many tickets you buy. If you are interested, please check out the website or contact me directly. If you are not available on Monday at 3pm or Tuesday at 7pm, but would like to join, please tell me your available days and times and I will be happy to set up another class for you!

On to the discussion!

First, here is the lexical set (a group of words and expressions necessary for the discussion):

Politics lexical set




Citizen(s) [公民]

Government(s) [政治]


Mayor(s) [市長]

Part(y/ies) [政党]





Vote(s) [投票]


Agree (with)


Think (of)

Vote [投票する]


Compulsory [義務的な]





Get s/o to do s/t  [誰かに説得して何かをしてもらう]

Stay the same [そのままである]

s/o = someone

s/t = something

1. What is the minimum voting age in Japan?  Do you think it should stay the same?

The students told me it was 20.  The students said they thought it should stay the same, because that is the age of an adult in Japan.  We talked about the history of voting ages.  For example, in the past, only people who paid a certain amount of tax could vote.

2. Have you ever voted before?  How old were you when you first voted?

The students had all voted before.  They were all about 20 when they first voted.  They vote almost every year!

3. Should voting be compulsory?

This was a hard question for the students.  One student asked if I meant it should be compulsory by law.  The students concluded that it should be compulsory, but not by law.  In other words, there shouldn’t be any kind of legal penalty for not voting.  They thought people should at least go to the voting booth and register.

4. Is voting an important responsibility of a citizen?  Why is it important?

The students thought so.  One student said it’s an important human right for ordinary people to participate in politics.  Another student it determines our lifestyle.

5. How can we get more people to vote?  Have you ever persuaded someone to vote?

The students thought long and hard about this one.  This was also a challenging question.  One student suggested we make it easier and more accessible to vote.  For example, we could allow people to vote on the internet or on the phone.  One student said he has been able to persuade his family members to vote.

6. Has the voting rate gone down?  Why?

The students agreed that fewer people vote nowadays because people are losing interest in voting and politics.  One student said that even though political parties change, citizens don’t notice any changes in their lives.   So no matter who they vote for, young people don’t see a difference.

7. How do you decide how to vote?

One student said he votes based on the person, not on their political party.  Another student said a candidate’s age is important.

8. What different types of governments do you know about?

The students were aware of .  The students did not know that the United States is not a democracy… it’s a republic!  Many European countries are Socialist Democracies, and the students seemed to believe that Japan was, too.  While Japan has a constitution, it can be changed if most people vote for it.  If most people vote against it, it cannot be changed.  In other words, it requires a majority vote.

9. What do you think of the Japanese government or politicians?

The students didn’t seem to be huge fans of the current government.  One student said he wished Prime Minister Abe was more moderate and less radical or extreme.  Another student said he sometimes aggravates other countries.

10. What are some of the political parties in Japan?

The students named the Liberal Democratic party, the Democratic party, the Communist party, the Social Democratic party and the Clean Government party.  Some are more moderate, some are more radical.

11.  Have your political views during your lifetime?

One student said he used to vote for the communist party!  He used to protest or hold demonstrations when he was in college.  But now he doesn’t any more, so he doesn’t vote for radical parties any more.  He has become more moderate or conservative.  Other students said their political views haven’t really changed.  One student said he has always been progressive.

New vocabulary used during the lesson:

Types of governments:

Aristocracy 貴族政治

Autocracy 独裁国

Communism 共産主義

Democracy 民主国

Dictatorship 独裁制国

Republic 共和国

Socialism 社会主義

Totalitarianism 全体主義国

Political Parties in Japan:

The Clean Government party 公明党

The Communist party 共産党

The Democratic party 民主党

The Liberal Democratic party 自由民主党

The Social Democratic party 社会民主党

Adjectives and Adverbs related to politics
  • a certain amount of: ある数量

– A specific but unknown amount

Example: You can only bring a certain amount of money, but I don’t know how much exactly.

  • accessible: 入手しやすい、利用がしやすい

– easy to access/use

Example: The internet makes all kinds of information very accessible.

  • by law: 法律によって

– be true according to the law

Example: You are required to file taxes every year by law.

  • conservative: 保守主義の

– preferring traditional views and values.

Example: My dad doesn’t want to see many changes in politics, he’s very conservative.

  • extreme: 極端的

– beyond what is normal

Example: Communism is a bit extreme, don’t you think?

  • moderate: 穏健な

– against radical or extreme ideas

Example: Too much change is dangerous, we need to be more moderate.

  • progressive: 前進的な

– preferring progress towards better or different views or values

Example: President Obama is trying to change healthcare and welfare, he’s very progressive.

  • radical: 急進的な

– preferring revolutionary changes

Example: America has been a democratic republic for a long time, changing it to a communist state is pretty radical!

  • revolutionary: 革命的な

– resulting in a radical change

Example: America’s independence was revolutionary at the time.

Nouns related to politics
  • demonstration: デモ、示威運動

– publicly showing one’s opinion or view, usually in a group.

Example: We’re going to hold a demonstration downtown tonight, do you want to join?

  • human rights: 人権

– something that people deserve to have or be able to do

Example: The freedom of speech is one of the most important human rights.

  • majority vote: 多数決

– a vote which more than half of the voters cast.

Example: In order to pass this bill, we need a majority vote.

  • penalty: 刑罰

– a punishment required for breaking a rule, usually money.

Example: What is the penalty for driving through a red light in Japan?

– the place where people can vote

Example: Why is the voting booth in Sakai city?  That’s so far!

Verbs and Verbal Expressions related to politics
  • protest: 異議を申し立てる

– formally showing or expression disapproval

Example: I often see people protesting nuclear weapons on the street.

  • see a difference: 違いが分かる

– to recognize, notice, realize or understand that something is different

Example: Did you cut your hair?  Sorry, I don’t see a difference…

  • vote against: 反対して投票をする

– express one’s disapproval through election [選挙]

Example: I didn’t like that presidential candidate, so I voted against him.

  • vote for: 賛成して投票をする

– express one’s approval through election

Example: I liked that presidential candidate, so I voted for him.

New pattern!
  • no matter Q/W S-V(-O): たとえ疑問詞~でも

– It doesn’t matter Q/W S-V-O.  This is used to express that the action or event is irrelevant; the result will be the same.

Example: No matter what I say to her, she won’t listen. (Q/W is “what”)

This means What I say to her is irrelevant, because she won’t listen.

Q/W: Question Word [疑問詞]

S: Subject [主語]

V: Verb [動詞]

O: Object [目的語]

Politics Collocations:

Nouns related to politics can be hard, make sure you are using them correctly!

  1. run a campaign
  2. accept responsibility (for N)
  3. take responsibility (for N)
  4. cast a vote
  5. hold a demonstration/protest

Some words are very similar, especially when talking about a topic as complex as politics.  Be sure you understand the differences between these words before using them!

  • stimulate vs. aggravate

Stimulate is often translated a 刺激する in Japanese, but sometimes this doesn’t work.  The problem is that in Japanese, 刺激 can be negative or positive, but in English it’s only positive!


1. My teacher is great!  He always stimulates me to study harder.  O

2. I hate that guy.  He always stimulates me and makes me irritated!  X

The first example is correct because it’s positive, but the second sounds funny because it’s negative!

If you want to express 刺激する but negatively, use the word aggravate instead!  Aggravate is often translated as 怒らす, but it’s actually very similar to 刺激する.


2. I hate that guy.  He always aggravates me and makes me irritated!

So remember:

Stimulate is positive, aggravate is negative!

  • demonstration vs. riot

One of my students said he used to hold riots, which really surprised me!  Then I realized he didn’t mean riots, he meant demonstrations!

A demonstration is usually translated as デモ, sometimes as 示威運動 in Japanese, and that is usually correct.  But remember, demonstrations are almost always peaceful!  No one gets hurt or killed and nothing is damaged.  A riot, on the other hand, is damaging and violent.  People get hurt, sometimes killed, and something always gets damaged.  So riot is better translated as 暴動 in Japanese.


1. 300 people marched in protest of nuclear weapons on Sunday, holding signs and chanting.

2. 300 people broke shop windows and started fights on Sunday.  12 people were taken to the hospital, property damaged totaled $500,000 and police were called.

The first example is a demonstration (or a protest!), the second is a riot.

That’s it!

Do you know the differences between the types of government?  What type of government is Japan?  Do you vote?  Have your political views changed?  Let me know on twitter or in the comments section!


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