Podcast #30: English language tips for intermediate learners and up!

We did it! Hitoshi and I found time to do another English podcast. Our plan is to do two a month and the next topic will return to Japan/Canada differences.

Podcast 30 is about differences but more similarities. We tend to agree on tips to help Japanese speakers learn English. The ideas are targeted towards intermediate speakers and above and would likely work for learners of other languages. We even toss around the idea of a love/language partner. Tune in to find out who thinks it’s a bad idea!

Hilary and Hitoshi in Japan

We didn’t sound like each other, yet.
October 2007, Japan

If you teach or have taught English, do you agree with the tips? What else would you add? If you are a learner of any language, what tips have worked for you? Comments in English and Japanese are welcome!

Listen in Soundcloud, iTunes or the player in this post.

Follow us on Twitter @JCM_Annex, Hitoshi’s Japanese site and Hilary @JapanCanMix

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8 thoughts on “Podcast #30: English language tips for intermediate learners and up!

  1. I still smiling from your husband’s reference to Japanese is like ‘playing catch’ and English is like ‘dodge ball.’

    I think the ‘test mentality’ rings true in Taiwan as well. Everyone is trying to pass the test, to get the best grade possible. And as for the TOEIC and TOEFL, I think the TOEFL is way harder to pass as you require knowledge about such a wide variety of topics.

    Also, I sometimes think my husband sounds like me but then he goes on about stocks or some technical term in engineering and then he sounds nothing like me! 🙂

    Do you guys speak English or Japanese or both at home?

    • Ha ha ha! I am still *laughing*. An image from the movie Dodgeball (not that I have seen it but the promo images) and from my own elementary school days and imagining Hitoshi as a boy tossing me the giant, red dodgeball nicely and me flinging it back at him are top of mind.

      Yup. TOEFL is a tough one to get a score high enough for admission to many academic institutions in Canada. And even if your score is above the minimum, you may be competing with everyone else with much higher scores. Do you see both in Taiwan?

      But I also want to know if *you* sound like your hubby! Are there differences for male and female ways of speaking?

      We speak both Japanese and English. I would say it is mostly English but I am trying to use more Japanese with our child. Hitoshi speaks mostly Japanese with baby-chan. What about between you and your hubby?

      • I think there is the same mentality about TOEIC in Taiwan as in Japan. A lot of jobs are based on the score. One of my friends, who is pretty fluent in English, got an amazing grade on the TOEIC test and her salary was based on her TOEIC score. And one of my husband’s friends is interested in writing the TOEIC test as it will help him get the promotion he has his eye on.

        I have taught both TOEIC and TOEFL privately. I ‘trained’ one girl for the TOEFL speaking test for nearly 1 1/2 years and her speaking portion was the best grade (which surprised me because usually Taiwanese do well on the reading portion). I saw her a couple of weeks ago and she is half way through her 3rd year and she transferred to a way better university last year.

        My husband and I speak English most of the time. I couldn’t speak Chinese very well when we met so I guess that has been the language we have communicated with from the beginning.

        • Yikes! That’s awful that a salary would be connected to the TOEIC score. Is that pretty common? I can see it for a promotion but hopefully it’s not the only measure.

          Good for you! What did you find worked well for helping her improve? I’m always interested to find out what can be useful. I’d love to do some research around language acquisition. I’m still baffled, after almost 10 years, as to why some students improve and others don’t. Any ideas??

          You’re fluent in Chinese now though?? I’ve committed to practicing for 30 minutes a day to get my Japanse better than it is.

          • I think it is not! But, I do think there it is sometimes a requirement for promotions.

            I think improvement has a lot to do with work ethic and attitude. I know my former student who did well on the TOEFL had an amazing work ethic – whatever I told her to do, she did that and then some. However, it took awhile for me to break her out of her shell and it took a serious talk with her to actually get her to realize that her doubt and ‘It is too hard and I can’t do it’ attitude was holding her back. Sometimes, I feel like I am a teacher and a counsellor in that sometimes I need to get them to believe in themselves.

            My speaking and listening is good but my reading and writing, well, sucks. If I need to read something and my husband is not with me, I usually just ask some random person what it says.

            • Yes, that would make sense with the TOEFL or TOEIC being needed for promotions. That’s the same from what I noticed in Japan.

              Definitely. Work ethic and attitude are important for language development and well, just about everything else. I know what you mean about being a counsellor. That’s certainly a part of teaching and I think any role where you have someone you are coaching in some form. That “it is too hard” mantra is so deeply ingrained in students in Japan and teachers teaching English that I fear it will take a major shift before much progress is made. You can have perfect curriculum, methods and textbooks but if teachers and/or students don’t believe in their hearts that improvement is possible, it won’t happen. Is the belief that “English is hard” period pervasive in Taiwan, too?

              I imagine it takes a while to improve reading and writing! Plus a lot of dedication and time. I’m not saying this is you but it certainly is me and if you were my Japanese teacher, you’d be giving me a lecture, too. 😀

              • I think it depends on the age, too! That is one of the reasons I love teaching kindergarten students. They don’t think it is too hard, they just adapt to their surroundings and go with the flow. I taught at an all English kindergarten for several years and they even whispered to each other in English. And when they had Chinese class they would speak English. The Chinese teacher even came to me and told me to tell them to speak Chinese not only to her but their classmates because she had no idea what they were taking about. Ok, totally off topic so I should stop now.

                • Agreed with Kindergarten students adapting. My favorite class in Japan was my 5-6 year olds. While they continually were exasperated with me not understanding anything they said to me (in Japanese), they were completely open to having a good ol’ time with me in English. 😀 I would love to teach Kindergarten or grade 1 here. The younguns are my favs. And as for the Chinese teacher who wanted you to tell your wee charges to get off the English in class, oh no! I wonder if she felt threatened in some sense or it was a secret plea for English lessons from you since you were obviously creating quite a bit of excitment amongst your students. 😀 Well done!

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