Personal Soundtracks

2015年 03月 07日 インストラクターブログ

I started watching a movie the other night. It mustn’t have been very good because I fell asleep after only ten minutes. But, before I did, I heard a comment that appealed to me:

“Now, it's a great feeling when you find the right (music) track to go with the day.
And today, I have found the absolute perfect song.” – Will Hayes (Definitely, Maybe, 2008)

Of course, personal playlists are not new, but with today’s smartphones we can listen to absolutely any song anytime anywhere. Now, I’m always open to new music and welcome recommendations. So, even though a playlist is a personal thing, an insight into your personality, you can find links to a few songs that have been on my recent “soundtrack” below. Hopefully you’ll enjoy these songs, too.

Remember, listening to English songs can be not only fun but also a good way to learn English. Listening to music in English helps you to catch the sounds of English words and get used to the melody of the language. You will learn new vocabulary and remember these words better. (Note: song lyrics are easily found on the Internet.) And, perhaps most importantly, it can keep your motivation high because it keeps English fun! Listen and the learning will follow.

When choosing songs to help you study, you should choose music you like. Obviously! There is no point listening to music that doesn’t suit your taste. Also, it is best to listen to a song that tells a story so that you can learn a story line. Finally, it’s best to stay away from songs with profanity or inappropriate content.

Here are some songs from my recent playlist. I’d be interested to hear what songs you’ve been listening to and/or a suggestion for a good song to help learn English.

1. Locked out of heaven – Bruno Mars: Good to play at the end of work. It’s upbeat and funky.

2. Lonely Boy – Black keys: Also good for after work, or during the quiet periods during the day. Like most good rock songs, the band uses only three chords to make this gem. Check out the video – I’ve been told this is how I dance. I sure hope so! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV5OGh8D-ok

3. Let her Go – Passenger: This one is for quiet reflection, so usually I’d listen to this late at night.


「その日に合う曲を見つけるととてもいい気分だよ。それで、今日はピッタリな一曲を見つけたんだ。」-Will Hayes (Definitely, Maybe, 2008)



1. Locked out of heaven – Bruno Mars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-fA-gBCkj0

2. Lonely Boy – Black keys: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV5OGh8D-ok

3. Let her Go – Passenger: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBumgq5yVrA


Memories of a Japanese Learner

2015年 01月 09日 インストラクターブログ

As I am about to go back to France, I have started to look back over my “Sapporo years”. Of the many things I have learned, the Japanese language is obviously a most precious one. When I arrived in Japan, all I could say was こんにちはand ありがとう. Fourteen years later, although my Japanese is still nowhere near as good as it should be or as I’d like it to be after all this time, I am somewhat proud of the fact that I can now converse rather comfortably in this language. However, it didn’t come easy and, for my last blog, I’d like to share with you some of my funniest memories as a Japanese learner.

I have made mistakes with vocabulary. For instance, there was this one time when I wanted to wish a friend sweet dreams via text message and I wrote よいうめを. That’s right, I wished my friend sweet plums! I have also been betrayed by intonation. After dinner with a friend, I wanted to suggest that we meet again sometime, but used the wrong intonation on いつか, so my friend thought I wanted to meet again on the 5th. That led to a weird misunderstanding.

I have also sometimes learned new words in rather funny ways. A few years ago, I was in a bar, and I don’t remember exactly what I was talking about, but I wanted to use the word “rub” and I didn’t know how to say it in Japanese. So, I asked the bartender while rubbing the counter with my hand: “こうする (gesture)、日本語でなんていうの?” He replied: “擦る。” So, I said, “Yes, that’s what I want to know. こうする (gesturing again) 日本語でなんていうの?” The bartender was getting a little frustrated and repeated in a louder voice while mimicking my gesture: “こうするは擦るっていうよ!” I still wasn’t getting it and needed to ask one more time. When I finally understood, the bartender was laughing out loud. I felt a little embarrassed, but I had just learned a new word and made someone laugh, so it was all worthwhile.

These three anecdotes happened a long time ago, but I still remember them years later and I will never make those mistakes again. So, keep studying, enjoy discovering, laugh heartily at your mistakes and learn from them.







Umbrellas: urban weapons of mass destruction

2014年 10月 10日 インストラクターブログ

Although I much prefer warm weather, the rainy days we have had recently have given me at least one reason to look forward to the winter: umbrellas will be off the streets for a few months.

Originally designed to protect us from the rain, the purpose of the umbrella has been largely perverted and it now often seems to be used by some as a weapon.
Umbrellas have become the nemesis of the urban pedestrian and cyclist that I am.
If you have ever almost lost an eye to an inconsiderate airhead opening his umbrella in your face on his way out of a store, you probably know what I mean.
But that’s not my only grievance, far from that.
If there is one type I despise above all others, it’s the people who deliberately wield their umbrellas like swords ahead of them to force their way through a rush hour crowd.
And don’t even get me started on those wannabe circus artists who try to ride their bicycles with an open umbrella.
It truly amazes me that there aren’t more accidents.
And umbrellas don’t have to be open to cause mass destruction.
I often see people swinging their umbrellas about as they walk, as if to mark off a zone of terror around them.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been hit in the shin. Anyway, soon I’ll be able to walk around safely again.
In the meantime, until the winter settles in, let’s all get some inspiration from the people in Hong-Kong who have turned the umbrella into a symbol of peace and democracy.





Autumn Fest

2014年 09月 13日 インストラクターブログ

Yes, I’m afraid it’s true – summer is over for another year. At this time of the year, it is easy to begin to look sadly ahead towards winter. Sure, the thought of freezing temperatures, limited daylight, and endless snow shoveling, may make many of us feel blue. But wait, there is some good news! We are entering what in my opinion is the best season - autumn. This means cool temperatures, changing leaves and, of course, the Sapporo Autumn Fest!

We are blessed here in Hokkaido. Thanks to the climate and geography we are able to enjoy wonderful local food, and the Sapporo Autumn Fest is one of the best opportunities to sample the wide variety of delicious produce. This year, due to the popularity of this festival, organizers have extended it to West 11. Apparently, more than 1.6 million people will make their way to Odori Park to get their fill. The Sapporo Autumn Fest runs from Sept. 12 (Sunday) – Sept. 28 (Friday), 10 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. every day.

Personally, my favorite part of the festival is having a glass or two of nice wine while savoring the scrumptious seafood. That, for me, usually means oysters and a “dry white”, but a nice grilled scallop and “a full-bodied red” is also very good. Last year, I also took advantage of the international food that is available. I can’t recommend the Turkish Kebabs highly enough.
This year you’ll also find a German-style beer garden (1-chome), a Ramen Festival (5-chome), Sake & Wine bars (7-chome), a harvest market (8-chome) and a Chef’s Kitchen (11-chome). Actually, it looks like there is so much good stuff that it will probably take me a few visits to enjoy all my favorite dishes. Lucky for me, Wordwise is right next to Odori Park!





More information can be found at:


Study abroad . . . and change your life!

2014年 08月 08日 インストラクターブログ

If you check the many blogs about study abroad that are out there on the internet, you’ll soon see that most of the reasons given for studying abroad revolve around travelling, making new friends and having a generally great time while you’re still young. Of course, these are all perfectly good reasons, but they do study abroad a disservice.

The one great reason for studying abroad is that it can make a huge difference in your future! Recently, there have been many reports of major Japanese companies becoming disenchanted with the typical graduates being produced by Japanese universities, graduates that are often described as insular and inward-looking and who are not seen as capable of working overseas or even for the many global corporations based in Japan.

One way of getting a competitive edge in the job market is to become more global in outlook, and there is no better way to do this than to study abroad. I was very lucky to be able to study abroad in the UK as a post-graduate student. Of course, I made new friends and got to travel around the UK and Europe, generally having a great time. However, the greatest benefit was how it changed my outlook.

Attending a university in a country with a very different attitude to teaching and learning, while sharing ideas and opinions with students from quite different backgrounds, gave me a great advantage when job-hunting after graduation. I haven’t always made the most of opportunities studying abroad has given me. However, I still appreciate the fact that study abroad gave me much more than good memories: it gave me a chance to become globally oriented, and this continues to benefit me even today.

For more information about studying abroad in the UK click here.







What’s in a name?

2014年 07月 26日 インストラクターブログ

賢一, the wisest, 虹子, daughter of the rainbow…when Japanese parents choose a name for their children, they don’t only go for one that goes phonetically well with their surname or that has a ‘lucky’ number of strokes, they choose a meaning.

In the 13 years I have been in Japan, I have been asked a number of times what my name means, and I’m ashamed to say that, until today, I hadn’t had the curiosity to google it. In fact, most people in Western countries have no idea where their first name comes from. “So, how do parents choose a name for their children?” you may ask. Well, most of the time, they opt for a name whose sound they like or one that reminds them of an old friend or of one of their idols, provided it doesn’t ‘clash’ with the family name. For example, the first name Thomas was never an option for my parents to pick for me or my siblings although it’s a very nice name. Can you imagine Thomas Thomas? I’m still not entirely sure why they decided to name me Sebastien, but now that I’ve checked the original meaning of my name, I’m not sure it suits me very well. As a matter of fact, Sebastien comes from an old Greek word, sebastos, which mean “august” (恐れ多い). Hardly my most obvious trait, wouldn’t you say?

While I was at it, I also checked the origins of the names Garry and Adrian. Of the three of us, it’s Garry who has by far the coolest name. It comes from the old Germanic word ger, meaning “spear”. As for Adrian, his name literally means “the one who comes from Hadria”, an ancient town of the Roman Empire. While I’m fairly sure that Adrian has never been to Hadria, he still has a lot to live up to as his name was born by a Roman Emperor, Hadrianus, and six popes.
Good luck Adrian!






What’s cooking?

2014年 06月 07日 インストラクターブログ

Living in Sapporo, we are blessed with various culinary treats every season. Hotpot nabe in winter, oily grilled sanma in fall, and delicious spring vegetables. But as we move into summer, it seems to me that something strange is happening. Rather than eagerly awaiting barbecues and watermelon, food store executives and restaurant owners across the country appear to have gotten too much early summer sun. Their delusional state has led to some interesting innovations for customer to enjoy this year. Take a look at these for example.

1) Strawberry Cones Baked Kit-Kat and Mango pizza – Japanese pizza toppings have always been a source of bewilderment for many foreigners who can’t help but shake their head at a “Western” pizza covered in potatoes, corn and mayonnaise, but this new menu item belies belief. But who knows? The combination of chocolate, mango, gorgonzola cheese, nuts, honey and maple syrup may just be a winner!

2) Lotteria’s Menya Musashi Ramen Burger – Too hot to enter your favorite noodle shop? No problem! Cool off in air-conditioned comfort as you carbo-load on a bun full of lightly fried noodles topped with a thick pork cutlet, and a cup of ramen broth. Why would anyone do this, you ask? Why not? Not to be outdone, MosDo (Mos burger and Mister Donut) have hit upon the wacky idea of donut sandwiches. The Mos Burger French Culler with Round-and-Round Chorizo Sausage is sure to be a hit.

This phenomenon is not restricted to Japan either. It is quite well known that the image many uneducated non-Japanese have of sushi is the classic California roll. However, a quick search online turned up a number of more recent odd interpretations of this traditional Japanese fare. Two of the most notable are:

1) Akemasa Sushi, Hong Kong – Here you will sit in awe as an array of weird and wonderful sushi pass by on the conveyor belt. From sweet azuki beans slathered in mayonnaise to fruit-flavored gelatin topped with wasabi and all sorts in between. There is something for everyone!

2) In the Ukraine, it seems that “sushi” is not only inside-out, with rice and sometimes a layer of fish on the outside of the roll, they all contain strange smelling cheese and a heavy slathering of mayonnaise!!

Now, I’m all for creativity in the kitchen, but in my humble opinion, things are getting a bit overdone. This summer, give me some simple slices of char-grilled beef and pork, and a vanilla ice-cream any day.



①「ストロベリーコーンズ×ベイクドキットカット マンゴーピザ」

②「ロッテリア 麺屋武蔵ラーメンバーガー」





Spring herbs

2014年 04月 09日 インストラクターブログ

As many of you know, I was raised on a farm and growing my own vegetables is quite a hobby of mine. Now that spring seems finally to have arrived and the snow in my garden has all but disappeared, I think it’s time to start thinking of what herbs I will plant this year.

I like Thai food and make green or yellow curry once a week, and tom yum soup even more often. To add a little freshness to the dishes I usually add fresh coriander. I know that some people find the smell and taste of coriander to be a bit off-putting, so a nice alternative here in Japan is “mitsuba”. The great thing about both herbs is that you can grow them simply from seed. Just sprinkle the seeds over the area to be planted and cover lightly with soil. If you want to keep it producing, cut it back regularly to stop it seeding.

Another great herb to start in spring is parsley. I prefer Italian parsley to more common form, and its great added to salads of sprinkled on pasta dishes. As with coriander, it’s important to keep cutting the parsley back so it doesn’t seed and the leaves stay tender and tastier. A good tip that some people use with parsley is to soak the seeds in hot water for a day prior to planting as the seeds produce more sprouts.

Another favourite of mine is basil. Like parsley you can add it to salads or top pizza or pasta with it. If you plant a lot, you can also make your own fresh pesto! Most people know that basil likes warm weather, but it is quite resistant to the cold too, so you can plant it early in a sheltered place.

Fennel prefers it a little warmer, so sow the seeds directly into the ground in late spring. The fine leaves of fennel are great seasoning for fish, or you can hill up the soil around its bulb as it forms and harvest it later in the year as a vegetable.

Ok, so these are my recommendations for spring. Give them a try and enjoy the taste of fresh herbs in your summer meals.









Big Fish

2014年 02月 26日 インストラクターブログ

Although March is just around the corner, Hokkaido dwellers know better than to start planning the first picnic of the year just yet; rather, we brace ourselves for another couple of months of long wintry evenings. If you sometimes wonder what to do at home, here is a movie that could disctract you for a couple of hours from the blizzard that’s raging outside.

It’s called Big Fish. Made in 2003 by Tim Burton, it features some great actors, such as Ewan Mc Gregor, Jessica Lange and Albert Finney. It takes place in the Southern United States and tells the story of Edward Bloom. As a former traveling salesman, Edward was often away from home, and would come back with incredible tales that he claimed had happened to him. His talent for storytelling and larger-than-life personality have made him much loved by everyone who has known him except his son, Will. Will resents the fact that his father never tells the plain truth and feels like he doesn’t know him at all. In fact, father and son haven’t talked to each other in years. One day, Edward falls suddenly very ill, and Will and his pregnant wife fly over to visit him. Despite his failing health, his appetite for entertaining people with his stories is intact, and he takes advantage of the presence of Will’s wife to tell his tales one more time and to take us into a world full of fantastic and colorful characters. The world of Edward Bloom.

With Big Fish, Tim Burton, a wonderful storyteller himself, doesn’t just deal with the serious topics of parent-child relationships and the loss of a loved one, but shows us an alternative way to live one’s life, halfway between dream and reality. If, like me, you like to think that fact and fiction don’t always have to be very different, Big Fish might soon become one of your favorite movies.






Beginner’s guide to effective naps

2014年 01月 29日 インストラクターブログ

When feeling rundown during the day, the idea of closing your eyes and taking a short nap can seem perfect. Unfortunately, for many, even a very short nap is considered an impossible luxury. Yet, recent studies have confirmed what I have always suspected to be true – naps are necessary because they keep you fresh and alert.

The first reason napping may be necessary is, obviously, a lack of sleep. Did you know that most adults aren’t getting the 7-9 hours a night sleep they need? Also, poor nutrition, such as lunches high in carbohydrates and sugars, may make you sluggish later in the afternoon. Finally, the desire to nap is actually just the body following its natural circadian rhythms. In other words, it is how we are programmed.

So then, what’s the most effective way to nap? Well, according to researchers, the following information can help tired workers get the best “bang for their buck” when it comes to afternoon naps.
According to sleep experts, if you want be more alert but get back to work quickly, a 10-to-20-minute power nap is usually adequate.
However, they also say that a 60-minute nap is better for improving your memory. This amount of sleep helps with remembering facts, places and faces. The downside is that you may feel groggy when you wake up.
Finally, a 90-minute nap probably means that you have slept through an entire sleep cycle. This aids your creativity and procedural memory, such as learning how to drive.

For extra benefits you might want to try the following:
- Sleep in a slightly seated position. This stops you falling into a deep sleep.
- Surprisingly, drinking coffee before a nap can help. Caffeine takes 20-30 minutes to start working in the body. So, if you time it so that the caffeine starts kicking in just as you wake up, you can get some rest and an extra boost all in one.

So next time you feel in need of a break or just can’t keep your eyelids open any longer, consider these guidelines. You may just be napping your way to a successful and healthy future.