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April 30, 2002

Four Words Make Good

I came across an interesting site named The Four Word Film Review via the article on 100SHIKI (Japanese). This site lets its visitors submit their four-word review on films. Just four words! Doesn't it sound fun?

I like "Don't see when drunk." (Vanilla Sky) and "Fun, but not magic." (Harry Potter).

Giving opinions or explanations in the least amount of words is a challenging and interesting job. A few words could explain it all. That's what I keep in mind in teaching. (Oh, really?)

Let me review Vanilla Sky:

"Joyful before, speechless after."

No good? Hahaha.

April 29, 2002


Seems like that flat tire comes across my mind every time I take the wheel these days, if not haunting. Getting a flat tire can be one of the most worrying things for drivers even though the chances are not so high.

The first time I had a flat tire was about fifteen years ago. Ironically, after that, I got two more flat tires in a brief period of time. Was I haunted? What happens twice will happen three times? Come on. That made me a skillful tire changer, kind of. But I haven't had one since then.

So for the first time in years, I changed a tire. I had forgotten how to do it. Maybe I was given a chance to practice changing tires so that I can confidently offer my help for a woman staring at her flat tire. ;) Like a language, if you don't practice it for a long time, you will lose the feel. Uh-oh.

April 28, 2002


In a holiday mode. :)

My wife and I went to a nearby city to do some shopping yesterday. Nice weather. Nice drive. No flat tire. No speeding. I saw several police cars hanging around on the way. They are tightening control over speeding for this Golden Week time. Oh, I saw a couple of radar traps set up. Phew.

Along with the Golden Week holidays, the climate this time of year is suitable for outing; not too hot, not too cold, less rain. The only trouble is -- congestion. Argh!

April 27, 2002


Printed on a student's sweat shirt:



Hmm...I'm very curious about what the "preasure" is like.

April 26, 2002

Golden Week

It's Golden Week! The "Golden Week" is a week from April 29th through May 5th, during which period a cluster of holidays fall on.

April 29th is called "Greenery Day", the former Emperor Showa's birthday. On May 3rd it is Constitution Day and the 5th comes as Children's Day. May 4th is a fairly new national holiday designed to fill the "gap" between the two holidays; this day is called "kokumin no kyujitsu" (National Holiday). Hey, legislators, haven't you guys thought of any wittier name for this, like "gap-filling holiday" or "nothing-in-particular holiday"? (Agh) Anyway, depending on the calender, you can expect more consecutive holidays about this time of year.

This year, April 27th is Saturday, making three holidays in a row. And though May 5th is Sunday, if a national holiday falls on Sunday, the next day, Monday, will be a substitute holiday. Good for holiday seekers.

We have no special plan for this year's Golden Week except for going to Sapporo. Just relax and idle away. Yea.

April 24, 2002

Does this look right?

I haven't noticed how awkward this page looks on Internet Explore 6.0. Hmm...this could be A layout. haha... Actually, I want the navigation placed on the left, and the content on the right, lying side-by-side. I'm using IE 5.5 and it has looked OK. There must be something wrong with my stylesheet setting. I'm figuring it out. *sigh* Next time you come here and this page still looks weird, please let me know.

Great thanks to bcj. for kindly letting me know about this. :)

April 23, 2002

Stressful English

It is kind of stressful for Japanese learners of English to recognize where the stress in each English word should be.

In every English word that has more than one syllable, there is one stressed syllable -- Word Stress. On the other hand, Japanese has no distinct word stress; we pronounce each syllable in a word with equal emphasis. For example, when you pronounce "Yokohama" (a city in Japan), you will want to say like "yo-ko-HA-ma", whereas we say it "yo-ko-ha-ma", giving each syllable equal stress, length and fairly flat intonation. So if we use word stress in speaking Japanese, we can imitate the way a person from an English-speaking country speaks Japanese. And can you say "Makudonarudo" correctly? Hehe. The fact is, it's a Japanese way of saying "MacDonald".

Yesterday, during a class, a student pronounced "Canada" as "caNAda". And, alas, it was transmitted to some other students. -- Before that, they had learned "baNAna". That must be kinda "Banana-Syndrome". Oh. Needless to say, their assignment for the next class is to pronounce "Canada" correctly.

April 22, 2002

Nostalgic Music

It seems there is a retro-music boom going on here. Good old songs are heard here and there. I'm sometimes surprised to hear my students singing some pop songs of the '70s. Wow. Remix versions of the old hits are also popular in the music scene.

This phenomenon is not limited to domestic ones. Nostalgic songs by, say, Sylvie Vartan, Janis Ian, The Mamas & The Papas, Rolling Stones, ABBA, Carpenters, and a lot more, are used for TV commercials or dramas. It's interesting that even the ones that I didn't like very much in those days sound comfortable to my ears now.

A typical analysis will put it that people are going after something "healing" in this stressful society. That could be a point. Nostalgic music comes with memories. And to the young, these songs may sound like something "new". That's good.

April 20, 2002

Hair Talks

Nice collection on bcj. That tells how different you look by your hairstyles.

In high school, I was one of those guys with long hair. In university, I was one of those guys with permed hair; when I graduated from high school, my "Let's groove tonight" cousin advised me to get a perm because it looked "cool". Not really, though, looking back at it now. I kept getting my hair permed because it was an easy-care hairstyle. But when it got much longer, it became like an Afro haircut, and someone said I looked like a matchstick. The beautician girl always complained in a playful manner that my hairs were so hard that it was hard for her to roll them into curlers. So I was made to invite her for a drink.

And now -- nothing special. No perm any more. My hair is graying little by little, but shows no sign of balding. That's good for my age, eh?

I've never been satisfied with my hairstyles, though.

April 19, 2002


Gee, a week passes so fast.

The sixth and seventh grade beginners' class. The students seem very eager to start studying English. That reminds me of myself in the seventh grade.

The first goal for this class is to aquire the alphabet. Most of them can already read it, probably thanks to the popularity of the variety of "ABS Songs", but can't write it correctly, especially lower case letters. One thing I find interesting when teaching the pronunciation of the alphabet is the letter "z". How do you pronounce it? I guess Americans may be the only people in the world who believe its pronunciation MUST be "zee". In Japan, American English assumes the mainstream in the English-teaching field. So the students learn the letter "z" as "zee" at school. But strangely enough, people in Japan almost always pronounce it "zed", or more precisely "zetto", in their daily lives.

Incidentally, I think my English is neither American-like, nor British-like, but,er, Japanese-like. ;)

April 17, 2002

Stormy Wednesday

Wednesday is a hard day. I have a 1st and 2nd grade class. Honestly, I'm not very good at handling younger kids. Really. They are restless, carefree, noisy, ready to cry, and cute. A mother once advised me that younger kids in elementary school are like space aliens. So they are. I don't know what space aliens are really like, though. Anyway, I've been struggling to draw their attention to learning English. Compared to them, the 3rd grade class that follows after this seems way much composed.

This year, to my relief, most of them are fairly precocious. But, you see, there are two boy gangsters. Aha! I think I'll need some "discussions" with them sometime soon. :)

There is, however, a joy, too -- their flexibility in learning a language. They are not biased. They are all ready to accept a language they don't know. That's amazing.

April 15, 2002


So, here goes some of the funny names:

The first one is "Peaman". The sound itself means "green pepper" in Japanese -- maybe it's from "pimento". I guess the student chose this nickname because it sounds just funny. He was an excellent student.

Next, "Betty". Nothing funny? It is funny if a boy named himself "Betty", isn't it? Sure one student did. Uh,.. I have to say, I don't think he was inclined to that taste. I asked him why he liked that name, but he wouldn't say. That's all right as long as he was happy with it. haha He also was an excellent student.

What about "Taro"? This is a typical Japanese name for boys (a bit dated). I usually don't accept Japanese nicknames, but, in the textbook for his class, a Japanese boy named "Taro" appeared as one of the leading characters. So I let him have it. Actually, I was taking it for a giggle.

Well, as one of the funny names of the current students, I should mention "Clinton". He later changed his name to "Calinton", and now he is called "Cal". He is a promising boy. Meanwhile, his little brother entered my school last year, and, alas, he announced himself "Bush". Now he seems to start regretting it, and seaching for a new name.

April 14, 2002

Forms of address

One of the first things my new students are supposed to do is to decide their English nicknames. Yes, in class, I call my dear students by their nicknames, not by their real names, because it's easier and more comfortable for me, and probably for the students.

In Japan, when addressing people, you usually add an honorific to their names (first names, last names, or both) unless the persons are your close friends, siblings, children, enemies, and the like. There are various honorific forms to choose from. Calling people by their family names is a common practice here; first names are reserved for such persons as mentioned above. Oh and the first name is not literally a first name in Japan, that is, the family name comes first, and the given name last, no middle name. So in Japanese, my name is Hatano Kiyoharu, and in English, I write my name as Kiyoharu Hatano in case you confuse it.

That being so, addressing has a bit sensitive element here. I can't think of a proper form of address when calling my students. That's that. And, why, this is an English class, so it's relaxing and fun to call each other by their English nicknames.

Basically, students can decide their nicknames as they like, as long as they sound "English" anyway. Funny names have been coming out up to now. I'll write about some of them for the next entry.

April 12, 2002

Japanese Engrish

OK, let's enjoy the non stop fright.

Yeah, a Japanese flight attendant saying "Have a nice fright!" is a classic joke. I didn't know this joke has rived such a rong rife. Intelesting. Hab hun?

Seems like nobody in the flight company noticed the misspelling. Isn't that fligh...oops, frightening?

April 11, 2002

Modest Needs

I found this site today.

Philanthropy -- that's a word I learned in my early twenties from Word Power Made Easy. Actually, I don't think I have paid much attention to the likes of philanthropic deeds.

At this website I stopped in by chance, I started, as usual, browsing the webmaster's words without much thought, but next thing, I found myself reading them intensely. I'm not sure this site is for real, and free from significant abuse or corruption. But it's true that his words touched my heart. It's something I'd like to pay attention to.

April 10, 2002

Time Flies

It is 18 years since I started teaching English in this small town. It's a bit of a history. I have seen various types of students up to this day.

Now, I'm thinking of a student I taught more than a decade ago.

She entered my school when she was in the eighth grade. My first impression of the student was that the expression of her eyes was telling all about her strong will. Sure enough, she was a keen student. She did exactly as I advised her to, and made remarkable progress as I expected her to. As a teacher, I learned a lot from her. And if I were to choose the best students I've ever had, she would be, undoubtedly, the first nominee.

Today, her daughter, now a first grader, will come to my school as a new student.


April 7, 2002

Flat Like Gumby

I went shopping in Kitami, a city about 100km away from my town, with my wife yesterday. Going for a drive on weekends is refreshing for me. Compared to other prefectures in Japan, Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's four main islands, is more spacious and less crowded. Broad,straight roads and beautiful landscapes -- just suitable for a nice drive. Oh, but drivers' manners here, I should say, are awful; Speeding, tailgating and aggressive driving. Me? Um, don't ask. :)

So it was another neat drive and we got home safely, and happily. And when I got out of my car, to my horror, I found the right rear tire -- flat! Yes, beautifully flat. That means I have to change the tire, which I haven't done by myself since I last did some seven, eight years ago. Wow, sounds like a tough job. I looked for the jack and wrench, trying to remember what I should do with them. With my wife's assistance, I jacked up the car, removed the damned flat tire, and put on the spare one. Done. No big deal, huh?

Strange thing is, we hadn't noticed the flat tire until we got home. So I have no clue when that happened. No strange feel or noises while driving. Can it be possible? Hmm..my lovely car must have been flying.

April 5, 2002

That Clay Puppet

Writing the last entry reminded me of various American TV cartoons/animations and sitcoms broadcast here back in the 60's and 70's, dubbed in Japanese. One I remember vividly is Bewitched. I was watching with the expectaion to see the moment when Samantha would twitch her nose!

And the one I liked very much but whose title I can't remember --
It was an animation of a funny rectangular clay doll with its top part cut off at a slant. I was both amused and amazed to see him roll, crushed, and return to his original form. That was a great animation.

April 3, 2002

Japanese in English

When browsing the Web, I often see such words as Pokemon, Pikachu, and Anime. This means Japanese animation has gained much popularity in international level. Hmmm...when I was a kid, I would often enjoyed watching Popeye, Tom & Jerry, and Space Family (Right? I forgot the title) on TV. I was very curious about what the canned spinach tasts like. Er, aside from that, the thing I want to talk about here is that a lot of Japanese words seem to have been getting into the English language.

What I find amusing is the word skosh. It's derived from the Japanese word sukoshi, which means "a little bit" as a noun and "a little" as an adverb. Skosh seems to be used mainly as a noun in English like "Just a skosh." In Japanese, along with the use of its literal meaning, sukoshi is a very convenient word to moderate the tone of your speech, I mean, to avoid sounding offensive. So if you say something like "I think his opinion is skosh strange.", in many cases, your real message will be his opinion is very strange.

Also what interests me is the pronunciation. How do you pronounce karaoke? Something like "Carry-Okie"? In Japanese, it's pronounced like "Car-Lah-OK". To be more precise, the vowels are pronounced short.

The same thing can be said about English-derived Japanese - vice versa. A vast number of English words are in the Japanese language. Once in Japanese, they are altered and pronounced in quite a Japanese way. Video is "Bee-Day-Oh", television is "Tele-Bee" (last-half omitted), yakitori is "Yuck-It-Orley" (Oh, it's Japanese)...

By the way, my first name is Kiyoharu. How do you pronounce it?

April 2, 2002

Let's Study English

"Everyone, repeat after me! 'Sheep', 'peach' ..." --

This is the very first scene I remember of the English lesson as a seventh grader. I was excited at coming into contact with a foreign language - so foreign to me at that time. As a country boy who never had a chance (in those days) to meet English-speaking people, I was building up expectations for more joyful English lessons to come.

That was an illusion. The seemingly enjoyable lessons soon turned out to be the ones just for exams. English was, after all, nothing but one of those subjects that you have to learn at school. But, strangely enough, my interest in the language never faded away. I don't know the reason exactly. Maybe I was into the "foreignness" of the language. Everything looked in contrast.

English had become my favorite subject. I always got good grades. But when I became a university student, I found myself unable to speak English..at all. Alas, my English abilities were specially tuned for getting high marks in exams only. That's one of the reasons I joined the English Speaking Society (ESS). I wasn't able to speak for the first six months or so, but by the time I became a sophomore, I had felt fairly at ease in making myself understood in English. That, I think, is thanks to the English education I got in high school, ah, to some extent or a large extent or whatever. You get knowledge at school, and you need to do some "tuning" to make it work.

The new semester has begun. I want to pass on the joy of learning English to my students. Learning a foreigh language means a lot. And it also gives you a deep understanding of your own language.

April 1, 2002

April F...

Today's words:

I shall update my blog every day! Yea!