English Tips

Top 3: False Friends

2016年 05月 18日 English Tips

We all need friends, but what if those friends are “*false friends”? When English teachers talk about false friends, they are talking about English words that look similar to words we use in Japanese, but that have very different meanings. In other words, they look like friends but are not really.

These days, Japanese borrows many words from English (as well as many other languages). Sometimes these words are known as Japanese-English or 和製英語. Think of a television tarento (personality/star), car handoru (steering wheel), and meiku (make-up).
To be honest, there are many false friends so choosing the Top 3 is almost impossible. So, here are my personal “favorites”.

1. Claim

Japanese people may often claim when something is done poorly. For example, when a person has a problem with a hotel room, he or she may claim to the front desk about it. In English, however, claim generally means either saying that something is true or that something belongs to you. The correct word to use for the hotel situation is complain– it sounds similar to ‘claim’, but the meaning is very different.   

2. High tension

In Japan, a person who has a lot of energy may be described as high tension. In English, this phrase would probably best be used to describe a wire that is held very tightly. Better words Japanese students should use to describe their high tension friend are excited, excitable, enthusiastic or lively.

3. Consent

The hole in wall that we plug electrical devices is known as a socket (UK) or power outlet (US). In Japan, the English-sounding word  コンセント(consent) is used.  In English, *consent is very similar in meaning to permission. So, you can imagine why foreigners in Japan often look confused when they first hear that they need to plug their device into the consent.

As I said, these are just 3 of many false friends. Of course, if you hear a word in English that sounds similar to something you’ve heard in Japanese, you should consider that the meaning may be similar. However, remember that some friends aren’t true friends!


*false friends:空似言葉(そらにことば)-2言語間で形態は同じだが、意味が異なる単語や成句


Top 3 Tips on saying hello

2016年 04月 20日 English Tips

First impressions are very important. So, if you want to make a nice, natural start to a conversation, you should carefully choose the words you use. There are a numerous things that influence how people greet each other, but according to research*, the words or phrases we choose to say hello are influenced the most by age, gender, and formality are social setting (formal vs. informal).

One study into the words and phrases that are spoken most often in American English found that there were common patterns in how native speakers begin a conversation. The study concluded that the top 3 tips to saying hello naturally are:

1) hi is the usual and most frequent greeting in spoken American English, hey is a more casual form and hello seems to be more frequently used when you want to show respect to someone.

2) First names were common in casual situations, but more formal terms of address* (for example, Mr Jones) are used in more formal settings. Last names are also commonly used  when speaking to someone significantly older.

3) If a greeting question (how are you?) is posed*, it is usually answered with a short reply that gives little real information (E.g. A: How are you? B: Fine), or just repeated without an answer (A: How are you? B: How are you?

Greeting a person is the best way to begin a conversation, so next time you want to talk with someone are you going to say Hi, hey, hello or how are you?

* terms of address: 呼びかけの言葉
* posed: 提示される

*Rydblom, Oskar. 2014. You still say hello!: A corpus study of the greeting words hi, hey and hello in spoken American English. Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Languages.

Top 3 ways to say NO politely

2016年 04月 06日 English Tips

We generally all want to be helpful, considerate, and friendly people. And so, most of us have become accustomed to*saying “yes” to all requests, offers and invitations that come our way. We often say yes even though we may actually be too busy, too tired or simply not interested in doing something. As a language learner, you may sometimes also agree to things because you are worried about being impolite if you say “no”. The truth is we can’t do everything, so we must say no occasionally. To help you gain confidence saying no, here are three useful tips:

1. Let the person know you wish you could help
Show your desire to help (or join an event) before you say no. The other person will feel good knowing that you wanted to help or join them.

I would love to help you; unfortunately, I am working that day.
I really wish I could come, but I have to work.
Normally, I would love to, but…

2. Tell them like it is*
Not everybody likes the same things. People understand this. So, if you invited to an event or offered some food or drink that is not appealing to you, thank the person for thinking of you before declining.

I appreciate the offer, but I don’t eat seafood.
Thank you for the offer, but I’m not really an opera fan.
It’s so kind of you to offer, but…

3. Suggest an alternative*
One of the best things you can do when you say “no” is to suggest an alternative. You might be able to meet another day, or you may know someone else who can help or would love to accept the offer.

That sounds fun, but I can’t tonight. How about next Friday?
Thank you for the offer, but I’m not really an opera fan. You should ask Jane. She loves it!
I would love to help, but I am so busy right now. Michael might be able to help.

Saying no in the right way is good manners and maintains good relationships. So, please practice the phrases above and try using one of them the next time you need to say no.


*become accustomed to: 慣れる、身につく、身に付く
*Tell them like it is.: ありのままを言う、正直に言う
*alternative:(可算名詞) 選択肢、二者択一、代わり

Top 3 Facebook sites to follow (Part 2)

2016年 03月 23日 English Tips

As promised, we are going to pick up where we left off last time and provide you with some more interesting Facebook pages that you may wish to follow. Remember, the idea behind these pages is to give you a chance to interact daily with English in a fun, informative and relaxed way.

Suggestions in the last post were lifestyle/food pages. This time pages give you the chance to get in touch* with the world around you and learn more about what is happening in a variety of areas.

1. National Geographic Magazine. This page introduces you to some amazing places, people and environments that exist around the world. The photographs are perhaps the best thing about this page – they are simply breathtaking*! The short descriptions and articles that go together with these photos are a great way to get your daily English!

2. TED. If you don’t know about TED here is a little information.TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. Speakers talk on a wide variety of topics and are entertaining and interesting. They are meant for native speakers, so the language can be advanced; however, I encourage you to watch some of the talks. You may just find an amazing presentation that will change the way you think. 

3. a. Lonely Planet. As the description for this page says, “Amazing experiences start here.” Lonely Planet guide books have been a source of inspiration and information for travelers over forty years. Their Facebook page is exactly the same! The articles are interesting and the videos give you a real taste of so many exotic places. A great way to start the day!

 b. Japan Today. This page posts original content including translations of pop culture articles from popular Japanese magazines and newspaper. It might surprise you to see what is happening here in Japan…in English.
Hopefully, you find one or more of these pages interesting and choose to follow them on Facebook. Simply spending 10-15 minutes a day engaging with and enjoying English will make a huge difference to your learning.


*get in touch with:  連絡を取る、接触する
* breathtaking:  息を飲むような、あっと言わせるような、はらはらさせる

Top 3 Facebook sites to follow (Part 1)

2016年 03月 09日 English Tips

At Wordwise, we strongly suggest students “get some English” everyday. 10 to 15 minutes of English a day will have a huge impact on your learning, and it will help you stay motivated. This doesn’t mean you always have to study grammar or vocabulary. It just means you should interact with English in some way. Magazines, music, or TV shows are good ideas, but these days, one of the easiest ways is to use Facebook. If you regularly check into Facebook, I suggest following two or three interesting pages. Then, click on a link that appears in your newsfeed and just like that, you’re interacting in English.
Of course, there are so many Facebook pages that finding an interesting one can take time. Here are three pages you can try. I follow them because they’re interesting and fun, and discuss a wide range of topics. And remember, you’re interacting, so you don’t need to understand everything.

1.   Bright Side. This page tries to focus on the bright side of life as a way of balancing out all the negative news we receive these days. The page often posts creative suggestions to improve your lifestyle, fun photo galleries and heart-warming stories. One of today’s posts was “14 heart-warming images which remind us that kindness conquers all”. It is a pleasant way to start the day. 

2.   Tasty.  This is a food page. It has videos of recipe that all look delicious and are easy to follow. A post from the site in the morning is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. The recipes use simple English and you may not learn about grammar, but it's a great way to interact!
A similar pages is Tastemade  . Both link to longer video cooking lessons, so if you like food, it’s a great way to get your daily English.   

3.  George Takei. George is an actor/director. His most famous role was Mr. Sulu in the original Star Trek series. He tries to promote equality and dignityof all human beings. His page links to sites that are often funny, sometimes serious, sometimes a little sad, and always interesting. Recent posts include “jokes written by kids that will make you laugh” and “a goodbye letter from his dog.”

Now that, I’ve listed the “Top 3”, I realize that there are actually so many more great pages to follow. I hope you check these out and enjoy them. If they are not for you, please look out for next “Top 3”, where I will continue with Part 2.

*Interact: (…と)相互に作用する、互いに影響し合う、接する 
*heart-warming: 心温まる、うれしい
*dignity: 威厳、尊厳、品位、気品、(態度などの)重々しさ、荘重、位階、爵位

Top 3 memory tricks for correct spelling

2016年 02月 24日 English Tips

Spelling is an aspect of English that is often overlooked* or not prioritized* by students - and teachers, too. And to be fair, if you are writing a letter or report in English, you should definitely use the spell checker provided by your computer software.  However, as many of our IELTS and TOEFL students have discovered, spelling errors can have a big negative effect on how people judge your written English.
As children, most native speakers learn popular mnemonics to help spell difficult words correctly. Mnemonics are special devices, or tricks, people use to help them remember something. Here are the top 3 tips for making mnemonics that you can use to help improve your spelling.

1. Make it rhyme. By making a rhyming poem, spelling rules may be easier to memorize. Below is perhaps the most famous.
I before E except after C
Or when sounding like “ay”
In neighbor and weigh.

2. Give yourself a clue. Make a sentence that uses the correct spelling of the word you need to remember in an interesting way. For example, to remember the difference between “principle” and “principal” you can learn the sentences:
A principal at a school is your pal, and a principle you believe or follow is a rule.

3. Spell it out for yourself! This common type of mnemonic uses each letter of the word as the first letter in words to form a sentence. Look at this example,

Arithmetic: A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cream.
So, whether you are preparing for an English test in which spelling is important, or just want to give a good impression to others, you should start paying a little more attention to spelling. And if any particular words are proving troublesome to recall, try giving one of these memory tricks a go. 

*be overlooked:   見逃される、 見落とされる、 見落とされる
*be prioritized: (…を)優先させる、 (…に)優先権を与えられる

Top 3: Using a dictionary to help you study

2016年 02月 10日 English Tips

A dictionary is essential* for anybody learning a language. Whether you have an electronic, paper dictionary, or prefer to look up* words online or via* a cell phone application, developing good dictionary habits is important. Using a dictionary effectively will make studying easier and more enjoyable. Here are the top 3 tips for using a dictionary:

#1 – Choose the right dictionary. For most ESL students, an electronic dictionary is the best option. They are quick and easy to use. You can get translations and explanations in Japanese, see example sentences, and listen to the pronunciation of the word. But, they are expensive. Cheaper options include using online versions of popular dictionaries, such as http://dictionary.cambridge.org/ or applications such as Dictionary. by Fairfex, Inc.
Hint: If you already have a high standard of English, it is best to use an English-only dictionary.

#2- Use it at the right time. Don’t look up* every new word that you see or hear – you will never get anywhere!  Instead, when you come across a new word in a reading, don’t stop. Finishing the paragraph can help you to guess the meaning of the new word. If you can’t, and it still seems important, then you can look it up. If you hear new word, don’t jump straight into the dictionary. Wait and continue listening because often the meaning becomes clear (and the information that comes next may be important). If you still need to check the meaning, ask the speaker, or look it up in your dictionary.

#3- Translate back into Japanese. When you look up a word in English in a bilingual dictionary, you will probably find that there is more than one Japanese translation. If you are not sure which to use, you could try a back translation. This means checking each Japanese translation one by one. If a word has a definition that matches the word in your language, you are safe to use it. Also, read the example sentences. You can usually see if the word is a good fit for the sentence you are making.
Dictionaries are important, and it is important to use them correctly. I hope these tips help.

*essential: 必要な、欠かせない
*via: ~経由で、~によって、
*look up: (辞書で単語を)ひく、調べる

Top 3 things to remember when making small talk with a native-speaker

2016年 01月 27日 English Tips

So, you’ve been studying hard in class, and want to speak English to someone other than your teacher. Great! But how? Many students have trouble making small talk*. Some have tried, but have been unsuccessful. Don’t give up!  If you are friendly, open and chatty, things should be okay. To help you, here are the top 3 things to remember when making small talk with native English speakers:

#1: It is not a lesson – Most native-speakers are friendly and happy to talk to you. After all, most have chosen to visit or live in Japan because they want to learn about the country and the people. However, some people (especially English teachers) will not be interested if it is not a “real” conversation.  So, avoid saying things like, “I want to speak English,” or “Please teach me English.” Also, the other person may want to practice Japanese, so try using both languages. Good communication should be your goal.

#2:  Ask good questions – Foreigners living in Japan have been asked the same basic questions many, many times –and some may resent* being asked again. While it’s fine to ask, “Where are you from?” and “What brings you to Japan?” these don’t have to be your first questions. You should definitely avoid* questions such as, “Can you use chopsticks?” and “Do you like (natto)?” Finally, some people don’t like being asked personal questions, such as “Are you married?” It is best to ask questions connected to the situation you are in; for example, if you are at a concert, ask them about music.

#3: Read the atmosphere – You don’t want to be KY (kuuki yomenai). Consider how you would begin chatting with a Japanese person. If someone is having a serious discussion or seems tired, wait for a better time to introduce yourself. Similarly, once you start chatting, don’t stay too long. Look for signs (e.g. body language or facial expressions) that the person is still interested in the conversation. If they seem bored or distracted*, politely say, “Thank you for talking. Hope we can talk more soon.” And leave. If your first conversation is short and friendly, that person will be more likely to want to talk with you again.
These tips are things to consider, but don’t panic about them. Naturally, the more you practicing making small talk, the better you will get. Good luck and enjoy chatting!

*small talk: 世間話、雑談、ちょっとした会話
*resent:  怒る、憤る
*avoid: 避ける
*distracted: (注意等を)散らす、そらす

Top 3: Tips to setting goals

2016年 01月 13日 English Tips

So it’s the start of a new year and you’re feeling refreshed and reenergized. You’re excited to make the most of this year and may have even made some New Years’ resolutions*. Unfortunately, for many people that enthusiasm wanes* and plans are forgotten. This doesn’t have to happen to you!

Here are the top 3 tips on how to stick to plans and achieve your goals.

#1 - Set specific goals. The key is to be specific*. A goal such as, “I want to improve my English,” is a great idea. However, it is very general, and so, doesn’t help you focus your efforts. You should ask yourself, “Which parts of my English do I want to improve?” Also consider, “How much do I want to improve?”

“I want to improve my writing, vocabulary and grammar so that I can achieve a 7 on the IELTS test,” or, “I want to learn 150 new words every month this year,” are much better goals.

#2 – Be ambitious* (but realistic). Set targets that are challenging, but not impossible. For example, it is unlikely that you can go from a beginner to native-level speaker in 12 months. Also, review your goals every few months. If you think they are too easy or too difficult, adjust them. Having ambitious, realistic goals is the best way to stay motivated.

#3 –Share your goals. You may be shy about sharing your goals for various reasons. But, if your friends, family and teachers know what you’re trying to achieve, they can help keep you motivated and focused.  It is also a good idea to write down your goal and place it somewhere you will constantly see it (e.g. on your textbook, computer, or refrigerator). This way, you will never forget it!

Learning a language is tough, but good clear goals make it easier. Good luck with your studies this year!

*New Year’s resolution:  新年の目標
*to wane: 衰える、弱くなる
*specific: 明確な、具体的な
*ambitious: 野心のある、意欲的な

Top 3: Ways to study English without studying English

2015年 12月 27日 English Tips

The New Year break is a chance to stop, relax and recharge your batteries. Many students will choose to take a short break from their studies, which can be a good way to refresh your mind. But, if you want to practice your English a little over the holiday, here are the top 3 ways to study English without really studying.

#1 – Watch a DVD. This is a great way to improve your listening, vocabulary and natural expressions because you can switch between Japanese and English and turn the subtitles (字幕) on or off. Watch the whole show as usual, then go back to your favorite scene and watch it a few more times – first, with the subtitles, then without. Record and practice any new words/phrases.

Hint: A drama series is better than a movie because you are more familiar with the characters.

#2 – Listen to music. This is a popular way to relax and it is a fun way to practice listening. Song lyrics do not always follow English grammar rules, but they are easy to remember. If you search Youtube, you can usually find a version of your favorite song with the lyrics written on the screen. To make it even more fun, try this website: http://lyricstraining.com/. You will amaze your friends the next time you go to karaoke!

#3 – Play a game. Studying a language can be tough. Even the most motivated students can get bored at times. To avoid this, try doing things differently. Playing games is a great way to make English study fun again. Why not check out the following site? http://eslgamesbox.com/eslgamesforadults/