Monthly Archives: July 2014

Learning

Today I’d like to write about one of my favorite topics: learning.  I would have to say my favorite part about teaching is watching people learn.  When we learn, we grow.  When we grow, we become more mature, more autonomous, more confident.  We can take care of ourselves better and do things we couldn’t do before.  And I’m not just talking about language learning, I’m talking about learning anything.  If you can learn English, what other languages can you learn?  What other things can you do?  Where can you go?  It’s exciting to think about all the possibilities.

But sadly, I think so many people have so many deeply ingrained misconceptions about what learning is.  I think this is very important to address, so I’d like to create this post, maybe a series of posts, about what learning actually is.

First, let’s start with what learning is NOT:

  • Learning is NOT simply memorizing information or facts.
  • Learning is NOT the ability to provide correct answers to narrow questions.
  • Learning is NOT a passive process.
  • Learning is NOT a straight, linear process.

So what is learning?  Well, it’s basically the opposite of all those things!

It is not enough to remember information.  Learning requires understanding that information.  What does it mean?  How can I use it?  Why is it true?  Learning requires more than just putting data in your head; you have to be able to apply it, too!  If I tell you how to swing a golf club, does that mean you can actually do it?  Of course not!  Learning requires experience AND understanding.

Learning requires making mistakes, especially when learning language.  Remember, the point of language is not to construct sentences accurately, it’s just to communicate!  If someone is about to get hit by a car, which would be better, to take the time to perfectly make a sentence or to just shout “Car!”?  We cannot learn without making mistakes; it is the mistakes that identify what we need to learn!

Learning requires activity.  It requires us to be involved in whatever activity we are doing in order to get as much as possible out of it.  This includes listening and reading.  We need to actively be inquiring – what does that mean?  when can I use that?  how else can I apply that?  why is that the case? – while we are learning, in order to glean as much as possible from it.

Learning proceeds on a curve.  Sometimes it goes up, sometimes it goes down.  Setbacks, challenges, obstacles and frustration are NORMAL.  We should not expect to be getting incrementally better consistently, we are not machines.  We are human beings, and we get tired sometimes.

If you’re thinking learning is hard… you’re right!  Being active, experimenting, taking chances, making mistakes and having setbacks is hard… but that’s exactly why it is worth it.  When such things happen, most people give up.  This is why most people never manage to master many skills.  But when you accept that such things are a normal part of the learning process, they actually become easier and easier to deal with.

So why do we have these misconceptions in the first place?  Well, I think traditional education has a lot to do with it.  Throughout our childhoods we learn that if we make fewer mistakes, we get better results.  We learn that if we can just retain certain information until a certain date (the test date), we can get good results.  We learn that if we keep quiet and just listen to the teacher, we will get good results.  But in the real world, learning doesn’t work like this.  Learning is a complex and sometimes frustrating process.

But learning is vital.  It changes us in so many ways.  It forces us to integrate new information into our current knowledge.  It forces us to see the world differently.  It forces us to make different choices, and so to behave differently.  It forces us to work harder and be more involved.  It may force us to change our values.  But all of this is part of life, it necessary to take control of our lives.

But above all, learning is an extremely rewarding process.  The cognitive ability to understand what we couldn’t understand before is liberating.  The physical ability to do things you couldn’t do before is thrilling.  Maybe most importantly, the joy that develops in your heart from the self-confidence and the self-reliance you’ve earned… is beyond words.  Learning is one of the most emotionally and mentally broadening experiences you will ever have, whether it’s a sport, a dance, a language, an instrument or even just travelling abroad and experiencing things you’ve never experienced.  I honestly cannot think of any reason NOT to learn.

In the future I hope to elaborate on some of the points I brought up here: how to learn more actively, how to deal with frustration, how best to spend time studying, etc.  In the mean time, I hope you consider YOUR paradigm on learning, and I hope you feel more inspired now.  Please feel free to leave comments or contact me directly, either through my website or on twitter.  Take care, and have a great day, and study hard!

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Group Discussion Topic: School!

Hey everyone!  Sorry about last week!  I completely neglected to put up a new topic!  In any case, our next topic will be school.

Also, for my students: July 21st is a national holiday, so there will be no class on July 21st or July 22nd.  The next classes will be July 28th and July 29th.

Also, it looks like there is some interest in a Saturday class, so if you are available on Saturday and would like to join, please let me know!

If you are a student of mine, I hope to see you at one of the discussion groups. If anybody (student or not) has any questions about this blog, please let me know: Post a comment here, find me on twitter, or email me through my website. Thanks!

During the next group discussion class, we will be talking about school, both your experiences with school and schools nowadays. Here is a list of the lexis and possible questions which we may use during the lesson:

Lexis
Verbs

Fail

Skip

Nouns

Advantage(s)

Subject(s)

Uniform(s)

Adjectives

All-boys/girls

Co-ed

Private

Public

Strict

Expressions

Be allowed to V

Be part of

Keep in touch (with s/o)

Least favorite

Like about N

Play in/on

Monday Questions:
  1. Did you go to a public high school or a private one? What are the advantages of each type of school? Which type of school did you want to go to?
  2. Was your school strict? What were some of the rules you had to follow at your high school? Which rules did you think were unfair?
  3. Did you have to wear a uniform in school?  Do you think a school uniform is a good idea? Why/Why not?
  4. Did you go to co-ed schools?  Which do you think are better, co-ed or all girls and all boys schools?
  5. Were you part of any clubs in high school?
  6. Did your high school have a band? If so, did you play in it?
  7. Do you still keep in touch with your best friends from school?
  8. What subjects did you take in school?  What were your favorite?  What were your least favorite?  Why did you like or dislike them?
  9. Which subjects are you good at? Which subjects are you bad at?
  10. Which subjects did you think are not useful or needed anymore?
  11. Who was your favorite teacher? What course did he or she teach? Why did you like him or her?
  12. What did you like best about your school? What did you like the least about your school?
Tuesday Questions
  1. Did you go to a public high school or a private one?
  2. Was your school strict?
  3. Did you have to wear a uniform in school?
  4. Did you go to coed schools?
  5. Were you allowed to eat food in the classroom?
  6. Were you part of any clubs in high school?
  7. Have you ever slept in class?
  8. Do you still keep in touch with your best friends from school?
  9. What subjects did you take in school? Which subjects are you good at?  Which subjects are you bad at?
  10. Who was your favorite teacher? What course did he or she teach?
  11. How did you get to school? How long did it take?
  12. How much homework did you do every day?

Celebrities Discussion Wrap Up!

Good morning! Sorry it’s late, but here’s the wrap up of the celebrity discussion!

Today I have one useful word (some vocabulary!) and an interesting expression that you can use in daily conversation.

Every week on Monday at 3pm and Tuesday at 8pm we have a one-hour group discussion on a different topic. These classes are open to any and all students, but the Monday class is recommended for intermediate and advanced students. The Tuesday class is for high beginner to intermediate. 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 the scheduled days, 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! We are still looking for students interested in a Friday night and Saturday afternoon class.

On to the wrap up!

Let’s start with some new vocabulary

Vocabulary: Reputation

Reputation is a word that we use fairly often in English, but I rarely hear it from English learners. Why? Well, let’s look at what the dictionary has to say about “reputation”:

Reputation:【不可算名詞】 [また a reputation] 評判,世評 〔of,for〕. (http://ejje.weblio.jp/content/reputation)

The two translations it comes up with are 評判 and 世評. The problem is, these two terms are very serious and so not very common in Japanese. Reputation is not as serious and is more common in English. In fact, we often use “reputation” instead of “image”!

A reputation is just what other people think of you. It is used towards people or groups of people (like companies or organizations).

Examples:

1A. His image is not so good. X
1B. He doesn’t have a very good reputation. O

2A. I need to improve my image. X
2B. I need to improve my reputation. O

So next time, try using the word reputation in a conversation, especially when talking about people!

Next is an interesting expression.

Expression: Once… Always…

We brought up one of my favorite English grammatical patterns/expressions during the lesson that I really want to teach now! It’s “Once…, always…”. There are two ways to use it:

1. Once N, always N

AND

2. Once S-V(-O), S-always-V(-O).

N means “noun”, S-V-O is a sentence.  So you could say:

1. Once a liar, always a liar.

OR

2. Once a guy cheats (on you), he always cheats (on you).

 

The first pattern is a lot more common, though.

So what does it mean?  It means “if someone does something one time, they will continue to do it.”  So let’s take the examples:

1. Once a liar, always a liar. = If someone lies one time, they will continue to lie. OR if someone lies one time, they will lie again (and again).

2. Once a guy cheats, he always cheats. = If a guy cheats one time, he will continue to cheat. OR If a guy cheats one time, he will cheat again (and again).

So when do we use it?  We often use it as a warning.  For example:

“I wouldn’t go out with him.  He cheated on his last girlfriend.  You know, once a cheat, always a cheat!”

OR

“You shouldn’t start smoking.  It’s hard to quit.  Once a smoker, always a smoker.”

But we can use it in a lot of ways!

“That band has some serious fans!  They say once you’re a Westlife fan, you’re always a Westlife fan.”

“After you take this job, you have to keep it for life.  Once a soldier, always a soldier.”

How else can you use it?

Hope that was helpful!  Let me know if you have any questions!

Tuesday Group Discussion Topic: Hobbies!

Hey everyone! Here are the lexis and questions for our discussion groups. If you are a student of mine, I hope to see you at one of the discussion groups. If anybody (student or not) has any questions about this blog, please let me know: Post a comment here, find me on twitter, or email me through my website. Thanks!

Last week we talked about celebrities and fame. It was interesting to hear everyone’s feelings on celebrities and being famous. I apologize the notes are not up yet, they will be up by Friday night, I promise!

In any case, this coming week we will be talking about hobbies; not only your hobbies, but hobbies in general. Here is a list of the lexis and possible questions which we may use during the lesson:

Lexis

Verbs

Spend

Try

Noun

Hobb(y/ies)

Adjectives

Any

Expensive

Inexpensive

Popular

Some

Expressions

How often

How long

How much

There are/is

Used to

Questions

  1. What is a hobby?
  2. Which hobbies are popular in Japan?
  3. What are some expensive hobbies? What are some inexpensive ones? Are there any hobbies that you can do for free?
  4. Do you have any hobbies? What are your hobbies?
  5. What hobbies did you used to have?
  6. How long have you had or been doing your hobbies?
  7. How often do you do your hobbies?
  8. How much time do you spend on your hobbies?
  9. Are there any hobbies you would like to try?
  10. Are there any hobbies you can do in other countries, but not your own?

That’s it!  Also, we are going to try a different format: we will all take turns asking questions to each other, so try to make two or three of your own questions about hobbies, too!

Hope to see you at the next group discussion!  Don’t forget, if you have any questions or comments regarding the lexis or questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me!  Take care!

Monday Group Discussion Topic: Hobbies!

Hey everyone! Here are the lexis and questions for our discussion groups. If you are a student of mine, I hope to see you at one of the discussion groups. If anybody (student or not) has any questions about this blog, please let me know: Post a comment here, find me on twitter, or email me through my website. Thanks!

Last week we talked about celebrities and fame. It was interesting to hear everyone’s feelings on celebrities and being famous. I apologize the notes are not up yet, they will be up by Friday night, I promise!

In any case, this coming week we will be talking about hobbies; not only your hobbies, but hobbies in general. Here is a list of the lexis and possible questions which we may use during the lesson:

Lexis

Verbs

Interfere

Spend

Noun

Hobb(y/ies)

Adjectives

Any

Own

Popular

Expressions

How often

How long

How much

There are/is

Questions

  1. What is a hobby?
  2. Which hobbies are popular in Japan?
  3. Do you have any hobbies? What are your hobbies?
  4. How long have you had or been doing your hobbies?
  5. How often do you do your hobbies?
  6. How much time do you spend on your hobbies?
  7. Why did you start your hobbies?
  8. Do any of your hobbies interfere with your work/study/personal life?
  9. Are there any hobbies you would like to try?
  10. Are there any hobbies you can do in other countries, but not your own?

That’s it!  Also, we are going to try a different format: we will all take turns asking questions to each other, so try to make two or three of your own questions about hobbies, too!

Hope to see you at the next group discussion!  Don’t forget, if you have any questions or comments regarding the lexis or questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me!  Take care!