So, it seems that after a month of empty promises, spring has finally arrived in Sapporo. Even though this past winter was not the worst I have experienced in Hokkaido (I was actually able to ride my bike until mid-January), there is always a pleasant feeling when the weather begins to warm up and the snow begins to melt away. It might not be the best season in Sapporo, but there are still some great things about spring.
Just like the bears that inhabit the island, it seems as if everyone comes out of hibernation★. The streets are full of people with smiles on their faces and the whole city is in a happy mood. And just like the hungry bears, Sapporo residents have an appetite★ for life. The positive energy that exists is the thing I like most about this time of year. This energy often means people think about taking up★ new challenges or getting back into their favorite summer pastimes: running, camping, and hiking, to name a few. For me, it’s golf.
Golf is not usually seen as a young person’s sport, so perhaps it is a sign of getting older (I will turn forty in a few months), but I have been eager for the golf courses to open so that I can get out and start playing again. So, whether you are looking forward to viewing the cherry blossoms or, like me, are keen to dust off★ the sports equipment, I hope you all have a lovely Sapporo spring!
You probably all know that I hate snow, so I thought I’d take a little break from winter this year in Guam.
I don’t know if you’ve ever visited the island, but this was my 4th visit, and it was a lot of fun. What I like about Guam is that it is has some great hotels and restaurants, but is very laid back★and not very crowded.
Of course, the beaches aren’t quite as nice as those on some other resort islands (or in Australia!), but it’s still a lot of fun and it’s great to get some sunshine in January. One of the other things I like is that the food is good . . . especially the local favourite -- steak & lobster!
Despite★ there being quite a few★ Japanese and Korean tourists, it was also a lot of fun to speak English everywhere I went. I know of lot of students in Japan study because they want to communicate better when travelling, and I realized (again) just how much fun it is to talk with people from other countries. I hope that we at Wordwise can help you all communicate better on your next trips overseas!!
Anyway, here are a couple of pics . . . hope these might encourage you to visit Guam sometime too.
There are some limited occasions where quotation marks★ can be used in spoken English. Knowing how they are used can help you better understand the speaker’s thoughts and feelings. Also, knowing how to use them yourself is important in order to avoid offending★ other people.
If the speaker is describing something they have heard or read that they do not believe or agree with, they might highlight the information by making quotation marks in the air with their fingers as they say it.
They do this to show that they are using someone else’s words similar to the use of direct speech in writing e.g. John said, “The weather has got very cold.” There is, however, one major difference between using quotation marks in writing and in speech. Whenever a speaker puts a word or phrase in quotation marks, they are always showing they do not truly believe the words. This meaning is special to spoken English only. In writing, any feelings toward the words in the quotation marks are expressed in the sentence written before and after.
So, it’s easy to see how knowing this can help you understand the speaker’s feelings, especially when you are watching English-language movies or TV shows. However, I will offer one word of caution before you use it yourself. Be sure you select the correct word to finger quote. Remember it shows others that you don’t actually believe what you are saying, so naturally they should not believe you either. Have a look at this clip of the 90’s sitcom★ Friends, in which Joey confesses that he doesn’t know how to use these finger quotes correctly… then makes Ross even angrier. As you watch, please note their intonation during the conversation and how it matches the use of quotations. It is an important part of using quotations effectively in spoken English.
I definitely wouldn't call myself an art aficionado★. In fact, I have only visited the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art Art twice in the last ten years, been to the Makomanai Art Park (Geijutsu no mori) just once in my entire time in Hokkaido, and despite living only five minute walk from Nakajima Park, I have never seen a performance inside Kitara Concert Hall.
However, like many people I do enjoy a good film. On average, I watch three or four full-length movies a week. Between the video rental store down the road, my own collection and the new streaming service Netflix, I have a steady supply from which to choose. But for a change of pace, I really enjoy short films, which differ greatly from feature films not only in length but always content and style. And so, I am really looking forward to attending the Sapporo International Short Film Fest 2015 this month (October 7-12). This year marks the festival's 10th anniversary of showcasing★ some of the best Japanese and international short films.
Short films can be far more entertaining than full-length feature films because they are often quirky. The filmmakers have more freedom to experiment with techniques and artistic styles, and the results can range from the weird to the wonderful. In fact, I've often turned to friends at the end of a short film and asked, "What WAS that?" In a similar way, there is always an element of surprise with short films because unlike Hollywood blockbusters★ there is basically no promotion for individual films. As a result, the audience has little idea about what to expect. Will it be a comedy or a serious drama? Who are the main characters? What is the story about? What country is it from? This last question touches on yet another reason that short films are great. Through them, we gain a glimpse★ into the people's lives and culture in other countries. One showing generally includes seven or eight films, so in an evening we might see films from the UK, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Korea, Spain and elsewhere. You won't get such a multicultural experience many other places...and you can also practice using your English!
So for a night of entertainment with an eclectic mix of stories from around the world, check out the link below. http://sapporoshortfest.jp/
I have been living and working in Sapporo for over 4 years. I moved here from Ireland after I graduated from graduate school in Dublin. Before Wordwise, I worked in a Japanese sales company that imported products. I spent my time communicating, in Japanese, with Japanese colleagues, customers and employees of supplier companies. This was a challenging(!), but very rewarding★, experience.
I really enjoy living in Sapporo. I spend my time during the summer months meeting friends at BBQs or playing sports together, and go snowboarding in winter. Since I was a child I have played soccer, rugby and tennis. Basically, I like to have fun and meet new people.
I'm studying Japanese in my spare time★, too. I love to learn new words and phrases, and to motivate me to study more, I’m planning to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). Learning Japanese is very rewarding, but reading Kanji and adjusting my language to the correct level of politeness are still difficult. I have much more to learn, so I will continue to try my best!
I am sure that you have similar feelings to your English study – some parts are easier than others. I look forward to helping you overcome★ those challenges and reach your English study goals!
Well, I can’t believe our two years in Sapporo is nearly to an end! My husband Alex and I came here in October 2013. We had visited Japan on holidays in the past, but visiting a place is quite different to living there. At first, it felt like just another fun holiday, but once we realised we were residents, we experienced some culture shock.
An obvious challenge was the language barrier★. I can now appreciate how lucky we were to have grown up with English, an international language, as our mother tongue! English uses a simple alphabet, while Japanese has 3 completely differently forms of writing!? As my work in Japan has involved speaking English everyday, I feel like I haven't had the time or opportunity to practice speaking Japanese. So, although I've had a great experience with many memorable moments, I wonder if perhaps I might've gained deeper insight and meaning from knowing the language better. Still, this inability to communicate has led to some funny encounters★, which have reminded me to laugh along the way!
The extreme weather was also a bit of a shock! But the seasons in Japan are so clearly defined, yet equally wonderful. Lush green foliage and flowers in summer, colourful leaves in autumn, snow in winter and beautiful blossoms in spring. The change of seasons also corresponds to★ changes in fashions, food, decorations and activities. I didn't know that there were so many different styles of coats, hats, gloves and shoes!! There’s warming food in winter and cold refreshing food in summer. Decorations in shops and arcades imitate nature and there are so many festivals to celebrate the seasonal changes, like Setsubun, and, in Sapporo, the spectacular Snow Festival, the Pacific Music Festival and the Beer Garden.
We’ve been very lucky to have lots of visitors while living in Japan, and with them we’ve had some great travel experiences. We’ve been to the summer festival in Fukuoka, the temples of Kyoto, Universal Studios in Osaka, amazing artworks on Naoshima, and the natural beauty of Shiretoko. We’ve enjoyed singing many songs at karaoke, great classical concerts, craft markets, and probably averaged about one soup curry every week! I’ve heard that you can experience a ‘reverse culture shock’ when you move back to your homeland. There will be things I’m sure we’ll miss about Japan: the fashions, the karaoke, the food, but mostly we will miss the great friends that we’ve met over these last 2 years. But for now, I’m looking forward to no longer being ‘Absent Aunty Abby’ to my nieces and nephews and seeing Tasmania from a fresh perspective. I encourage everyone to keep living and learning, and most importantly, don’t forget to laugh along the way!★
*This is the title of my favourite book in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, and very appropriate given the large amount of fish we've eaten in Japan!!
Summer’s here, and it’s time to hit the road★. I first read Jack Kerouac’s★ On the Road in my first year at university. I’d just moved from the wide brown landscapes of my hometown in western New South Wales to the wet, green suburbs of Melbourne, and Kerouac’s novel awoke in me a desire to travel to some of the more isolated areas of the country. That summer vacation, along with two friends from the university rugby club, I took a road trip from Melbourne, though the bush and desert, all the way the Darwin in the far north of Australia and back again – around 8,000 km!
Since that time, I’ve always associated★ summer with★ travel: not a few days at a beach resort in Thailand, but long-distance road trips through the countryside, getting a firsthand★ look at rural life and roughing it a bit.
Real road trips, however, take time and these days work seems to take up★ so much of our lives, that for most of us it’s not that easy to get away for 2 or 3 weeks or more. Still, I’ve found that rural Hokkaido provides a great opportunity to hit the road, even for those with limited time. Last year, I was able to travel from Sapporo to Obihiro, and from there up to Mombetsu, Wakkanai and back down to Sapporo. The whole trip only took 5 days, but the varied scenery and multitude of small country roads to travel made it a real adventure.
This summer I hope to get time for a similar trip, maybe to the Shiretoko area. It’s great to get out of the city and the crowds, and follow a road you’ve never been on before to a destination you have never visited. I guess it’s even more exciting doing it in another country . . . so if you have time this summer, why not make the most of your chance and get on the road?
～～～これ知ってた？～～～ ★hit the road 出かける、旅にでるという意味。札幌にも夏が来ましたね！旅に出る時期ですね^^
★Jack Kerouac ジャック・ケルアック。アメリカの小説家、詩人。
★associate with =～を連想する。ここでは、夏といえば旅を思い出す・連想する、という意味です。 例えば、 "I associate reindeer with Christmas."で、「トナカイと言えばクリスマスを思い出す」となります。
Not a day goes by without someone asking me where I’m from. This usually leads to an in-depth conversation about Tasmanian Devils (which, for the record, don’t really look anything like the Warner Brothers character ‘Taz’ and are actually more kowai than kawaii!) It seems that Tasmania is often viewed as a magical faraway place, entirely different from Hokkaido, but actually, I’ve found that there are a lot of similarities between the two. Although they couldn’t be much more opposite on the map (Hokkaido is 420 North; Tasmania is 420 South!) there are some connections that make them not so distant.
Firstly, Hokkaido and Tasmania are both small islands off the mainland of their respective countries, and are roughly the same size - although Hokkaido has more pointy bits and resembles a stingray while Tasmania is more compact and heart-shaped! Both have strong agricultural industries. Tasmania is known as the Apple Isle, while Hokkaido is famed for its Yubari melons. Also, both grow lavender in two of the world’s leading lavender farms: Tasmania’s Bridestowe Estate and Hokkaido’s Tomita Farm, who actually exchange their unique varieties of lavender for flower lovers to enjoy. The people of Tasmania and Hokkaido also share a fondness for handmade crafts, which are sold in makers’ markets. Perhaps such creations and events arise from the ‘waste not, want not’ (mottainai) attitude of country folk.
Another interesting link between Tasmania and Japan (though not specifically Hokkaido) is the famous animated film by Hayao Miyazaki. A small, unassuming bakery in the rural town of Ross, in central Tasmania, is rumored to have been the inspiration for the setting of Kiki’s Delivery Service (Majo no Takyuubin), though strangely there is no evidence Miyazaki ever visited Tasmania! Around 50 tourists daily venture to the small bakery to witness the uncanny resemblance to the one in the movie, and the bakery owners admit that they have redecorated the loft upstairs to look more like Kiki’s room in response to the ever-growing interest. Over the last decade, this phenomenon has grown so much that someone even wrote their PhD thesis on it! Here’s a link to an article in a Tasmanian newspaper if you’re interested in reading more:
Recently, I passed a street entertainer while walking in the city. I had some time, so I decided to watch his show. As he finished a rather impressive juggling routine, I noticed something quite shocking - nobody was applauding! In fact, everyone else had their faces hidden in their phones! They were more concerned with taking a picture of the performer than actually enjoying his performance!
There are more cameras today than ever before, which means more pictures are being taken than ever before. And with gigabytes of memory, we don’t need to worry about taking too many. But is that a good thing?
I read some wonderful advice online about when to take, and when NOT to take, a photo. It made me rethink how I used my camera. Since then, come up with my own simple rules for camera use that I would like to share!
1) Make sure the image is really worth capturing Or put another way, “Will I ever look at this photo again?” It’s a simple question, yes, but the most important one. I often find my answer is, “No!” So, rather than worrying about finding the right angle or trying to get my camera to focus, I just enjoy the moment.
2) Ask yourself, “Can I find this picture online?” I used to take many pictures of famous locations, but then I realized there was no point. Unless, you are an avid photographer looking for a special shot, you can find hundreds of (better) pictures online. Again, perhaps it’s better to actually experience the place than trying to capture it.
3) Try to include a person. I always try to include a friend or family in any photos I take. A picture of a nice garden is wonderful, but a picture of a good friend enjoying the garden is even better! Having someone in the picture makes it more meaningful and later, it can help you remember when and where you took it. I have many pictures of cities at night, but I can't for the life of me remember where or when I took them! Seeing a friendly face would solve that problem.
4) Limit your time When I actually decide that something is picture-worthy, I always limit the amount of time spent snapping the photo! If it's worthy capturing on film, it's worth appreciating in the moment. Take the photo and put the camera away. A photo is supposed to be a quick snapshot, so I try to keep it that way!
Well, those are my four basic rules for taking photos! I hope they have given you some food for thought. These days, I take far less photos, and honestly, I don't really miss them. In fact, I feel like I actually experience far more than I did before.
All languages change. The English of 500 hundred years ago is very hard for us to understand. Just ask any high school student who is being forced to struggle through the works of Shakespeare! I am certain that the same is true of Japanese. But, significant change can happen over a much smaller time-frame, perhaps only a few years. While this makes communication interesting, it can be a challenge for students (and teachers!).
So, why does language change? There are various reasons. First, speaking is a mentally and physically complex task. Unsurprisingly, people try to make things simpler, so unnecessary sounds or words tend to disappear over time. If enough people become “lazy” like this the whole language may change. For example, in England, February is often pronounced ‘Febry’.
Second, the world changes. Google didn’t exist twenty years ago, then it was just be the name of an Internet search engine. Now, it’s a verb. “If you don’t know the answer, just google it.” And a smart phone is pretty smart for a teenager!
Third, the world is getting smaller, and other languages are having more influence. We see this often here in Japan with more and more borrowed words being used in the masu medeia. This can help Japanese learners of English because words like anime, manga, sushi, and ramen have become widespread in English.
Finally, some words and expressions get worn out and become ‘uncool’. Young people who want to freshen things up and separate themselves from their boring, old parents often create new expressions or new ways of using old ones. Recently, a Wordwise teacher, Abby, visited her home in Australia. According to her, the type of speech had changed and now people were cutting off the ends of many of the words to make things shorter and faster. I thought it sounded “Tots ridic cray cray!”(totally ridiculously crazy!)
What does this mean for students? Don’t panic. While change is happening, your English ability will change, too. The most important thing is to be a flexible learner. In other words, to be open to new words and new ways of saying things and you’ll be able to keep up with the changes.