Category Archives: Culture

Can you Understand these 21 English Accents?

English is the universal language – meaning it is spoken all around the world, in various countries.

英語が世界共通語だと言われています。様々な国で、世界中で話されているからです。

As can be expected, English accents vary from country to country – and even several different accents are used in the same country.

英語のアクセント(発音)は国によって異なり、同じ国でも、いくつかの異なるアクセントは使用されています。

Watch the video above to hear 21 different accents by this one lady. She is very good.

上記のビデオを見て、21種類のアクセントを聞いてかだし。

Can you hear the difference and understand each one? You may need to listen a few times.

あなたは違いを聞き、それぞれを理解することはできますか?何回か聞く必要があるかもしれません。

It’s interesting to learn and recognize the various accents used throughout the world.

世界中で使用される様々な英語のアクセントを学び、認識することが興味深いです!

First Flag 留学 – Do you want to Study Abroad?

This week, I met with the owner of First Flag – a company that assists in arranging Study Abroad trips for students, adults, retirees and basically anyone who wants to go overseas to study and experience home stay.

Have you ever wanted to visit an overseas country and study English? I know it’s very popular with Japanese people. If you’re curious, this article might help you learn how to smoothly experience a trip abroad.

The owner, Nanako Shiaraishi explained to me what her company is all about and her job as the owner. She is the “connector” who assists mainly Japanese people, to successfully and smoothly complete everything for their study-abroad experience.

She offers many services completely free of charge as seen on the company website.  Services such as free counselling,  free quotes for costs of schools, free assistance with arranging visas. It is quite impressive that Nanako would offer such time consuming services for free.

One other thing that surprised me was that FirstFlag can also assist people from other countries, not only Japan, with their study-abroad experience. Nanako takes care of Japanese people and her agent (in Spain). So for example, when someone who lives in Spain who wants to study abroad in France, First Flag can provide assistance.

Nanako runs and promotes her business mainly through the internet with her website http://first-flag.com being the central place. Please visit the website to learn all about how to get help with your study abroad trip.

Stuart

今週、私はファーストフラグと言う と留学をアシストする会社のオーナーに会いました。学生、成人、退職者と勉強と経験のホームステイ、海外行きたい人のための会社です。 あなたは今まで、海外の国を訪問し、英語を勉強したいことがありますか?日本人にとても人気があることでしょう。

もし興味があれば、この記事では、スムーズに海外旅行を体験する方法を学ぶのを助けるかもしれません。

オーナー、白石さんは所有者としての仕事が何であるかを私に説明しました。彼女が成功したと円滑に留学経験のためにすべてを完了するために、主に日本人を支援する「コネクタ」である。 会社のウェブサイトで見られるように、彼女は無料で多くのサービスが完全に無料で提供しています。カウンセリングや学校紹介やビザなどを無料支援をしてくれます。そうやって、時間のかかるサービスを提供しるなんて、非常に印象的です。

また私を驚かせたことの一つは、ファーストフラグは日本人が海外に行く​​のに役立ちますが、他の全く異なる国の人もアシストします。日本人、または日本語を話せる人をサポートするのは白石さんですが、スペインにはエージェントがいらっしゃって、それぞれの国の留学したい人々を介助できます。例えば、フランス人はカナダに留学したい。ファーストラグは支援を提供することができます。

白石さんは主にインターネットをとうしてビジネスを推進しています。是非、ウェブサイトhttp://first-flag.com をご覧ください。すべての海外留学の旅でヘルプを取得する方法について学ぶことができます。 スチュー先生

Unagi Day

eel

I always ask students to tell me about Unagi day. Many people don’t know much about the origins of this tradition and eat unagi, simply because it is promoted. One of my high school students explained the history of Unagi day as coming from a simple promotion strategy for eel catchers back in the edo period.

Unfortunately it seems that Japanese eels have been over consumed to the point where they are becoming extinct. A news report that i saw today says that the volume of imported eel has dropped by 35% this year due to decline stocks even from outside Japan.

Undoubtedly prices have gone up but the problem is really that people don’t seem to care that species extinction has a real impact on our environment.  People buy eels because its “tradition” (ie. doing something for the sake of doing it) or because people are told to do so, and now people will buy it as a luxury item as it becomes rare and expensive.

http://japandailypress.com/japanese-eel-now-officially-seen-as-endangered-0422595/

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/07/12/business/imports-of-mature-eels-fall-sharply

Japenglish?

Japans-ageing-population-007

This week i found an article about a man who thought that modern Japanese is using too many English words. He represented a group of people and tried to sue NHK for “not speaking Japanese”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/27/japan-broadcaster-sued-english-words

As a person learning Japanese it often seemed a bit strange that words such as

kea (care),toraburu (trouble), risuku (risk) and shisutemu (system) didn’t seem to have native Japanese words. I wondered how people expressed these ideas before these words were created.

Of course there were native Japanese words! However,  now a days it seems that using these half English words have become more popular. I don’t agree with replacing Japanese with English, i think it causes many problems for people who are trying to learn real English, and it also causes problems for older Japanese people who have no idea what others are saying. If we have two people speaking the same language that can’t understand each other, it might be a problem.

As strange as this seems i can say that we have similar issues in Canada as well. Recently, French speaking parts of Canada have tightened language laws to the point where there are now real language police, and people can get into trouble for using the wrong language!

A weekend in Sakata

highway

This weekend i attended the 44th Yamagata Aikido demonstration.

I went to Sakata city which is in the north of Yamagata. The travel took about 3 hours but i drove by some of the most beautiful mountain scenery.

I saw many small lakes and rivers, and even mount Gassan.

I was really moved by how beautiful the country is and was very glad that i spend my time traveling all around Tohoku to appreciate it.

chainsaw

The demonstration showed some of the best Aikido in Yamagata and i was again very impressed. There was a small but good number of young people studying seriously and a fair number of middle aged people with great experience.

I find it rare these days to see people commit to life long disciplines such as Aikido since most people quit right before entering high school, or university, or  before starting their careers. Many traditional japanese arts require a lifetime of study but today’s busy lifestyles seem to prioritize working more than anything, sometimes even over making money! Do you know what i mean?

Receiving Gifts

turkish delight
Turkish Delights

One of the students at English house came back from a trip to Turkey recently. She was very kind and brought back Turkish Delights!

I had never tried Turkish Delights but I’ve read about it in the book “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”. She also gave me some fish snacks from southern Japan called “Karasumi”. She is always modest about her gifts but her gifts are always very expensive, rare and from far away places.

karasumi2
Karasumi

I’ve noticed that people often downplay the gifts that they give me, always saying “well its nothing”, or “this isn’t anything special, but here you go ….” but in reality the gifts that i receive are actually quite expensive and rare!

In many cases I receive traditional Japanese foods which I have never seen or heard of before. i never know how much the presents are worth and then later i would find out from another friend that what i received was very expensive or very high grade! i would always be surprised because sometimes it would be food that I didn’t really like but other times it would be food that i absolutely loved! Either way it becomes a shock to me after i realize how expensive it is!

In this case i loved the Turkish Delight! i want more!! but I didn’t enjoy the Karasumi so much, though it was very good that i know what it is now.

Needless to say, i appreciate gifts from students always, but i sometimes wonder if they realize that i  have no idea of the value of these items. i sometimes feel sorry that maybe their presents are wasted on me. On the other hand, it is because of these presents that i have discovered and learned to appreciate high grade Japanese foods which i would normally never have the chance to try.

Downhill Skateboarding

Its Spring, and the weather is warmer but most importantly the roads in Fukushima are dry and ready!

I’ve been skateboarding for over ten years now, but it has always been freestyle. Freestyle skateboards are the most common now and usually what you see most people riding. These boards are great for tricks and jumping, but what they have never been good for is speed.

Since I’ve moved to Fukushima and discovered the mountains, i”ve realized that i really want to take full advantage and experience what i could not experience in my flat home town of Toronto.

I’ve changed my freestyle snowboard to a mountain board, and now this spring, I’ve changed my freestyle skateboard to a downhill longboard.

As i talked to my students i realized that many people don”t know what downhill long boarding is! So take a look, it is this…..

I’ve been practicing some basic slides and speed control techniques but last Sunday for the first time, i went to the top of Shinobu Yama and just rode down to test myself. It was very fun and very fast and of course i crashed many times.

I was very fortunate to be wearing my helmet and protection pads because i slid into trees, rocks, and guard rails. It really is exciting to be traveling so fast on a skateboard, and its also very fun to be sliding around corners.

I was fine on Sunday but this week my whole body hurts from all the crashing. At one point i was sliding on my butt and burned a hole in my pants, it hurts when i sit down now, and it really hurt when i took a bath. i think it will take about a week for my muscles and skin to recover.

What do you Canadians think of the character of Japanese people?

A student asked me recently about what Canadians may think of Japanese character. She meant “character” as in personality, not as in a TV or anime character. She also asked what the character of a Canadian is like.

First i must say that this question asks me to generalize two very large and diverse groups of people. i don’t like doing this because it suggests that whatever i say may be thought of as being true in all cases. Of course, this is not possible.

What do i think about the character of Japanese people?

i have close associations with many people from a good mix of society, i have lawyer friends, an accountant, doctors, teachers of various traditional arts and culture as well as many sempai and kohai, a monk, parents of many of my students, etc. What i can say is that the use of “honne and tatemae” makes most people feel that everyone is friendly and polite, unfortunately it is difficult for me to know how people really think, in a sense people hide their true character, and only display one part of themselves publicly. So generally i would have to say that everyone is friendly and polite although i still often feel confused.

Even more confusing however was the great earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that happened 2 years ago. When things are in chaos i imagined that i could learn more about people’s true character. From this experience, i might say that Japanese people are very well organized and tend to follow directions well. People are very community oriented and make many decisions thinking very much about what effect their choices will have on their communities. On the surface people could be said to be friendly and polite, considerate, and supportive, however is this “honne” or “tatemae”?

I know of some people who feel that they wanted to make certain choices but could not because of the pressure of their communities. i’ve seen situations where others were blamed for making certain decisions about safety which may give their family a bad image.

Finally i can say that even in such an extreme situation, there were so many different choices and people, it would be reasonable to say that people’s characters were diverse and that would likely be true in any country.

What are Canadians like?

This is an easy question for me. i would say that since Canada is a salad bowl of so many countries, Canadian character would be as diverse as all the different people from different cultures that live there. People bring their own cultures to Canada and share it and also learn about other cultures not their own. In the end we have people who are very diverse, but simply due to the expanded knowledge and experience through shared culture, Canadians are more interested, and tolerant of diversity then most other countries i would say. However at the same time, being in an environment of such diversity also creates opportunity for the opposite. Racial, religious or political intolerance is much more obvious in Canada than say in Japan.

In the end

In the end, people are people and have very different characters, they express their characters through their cultures. Looking at modern Japanese culture, i think that a good image seems to be very important, and everyone’s character is expressed through this idea. By contrast Canadians aren’t image conscious in quite the same way when they express themselves, so we have more upfront confrontations, and direct expressions which can be stressful sometimes.